Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Email Incident of 7th December 2007

The Activity Report of the Joint Supervisory Body of Eurojust for the year 2009 (PDF) was sent to the Council last week. I was taking a look through it to see if there was anything on preparations on data protection, particularly on anything SWIFT-related towards the end of 2009. The report does mention co-operation between Europol and Eurojust, and that the Lisbon Treaty will impact on data protection - however, the analysis of the impact of data protection provisions in the treaties will be in next year's report.

A section heading did jump out at me, though - "Email Incident of 7th December 2007":

"...a disruption of the e-mail service at Eurojust had taken place on 7 December 2007, as a side effect of an attempt to solve a problem caused by an accident in the use of the system the previous day. This incident had been investigated by the JSB in 2008 and a report presented to Eurojust. Eurojust’s final response to the JSB’s evaluation... was presented by the Acting Administrative Director of Eurojust, Mr Jacques Vos, at the meeting in February 2009. He outlined the measures that were being taken by Eurojust on the basis of the JSB’s recommendations to restore the trust of users in the integrity and inviolability of the e-mail system. Eurojust admitted that mistakes in judgement had been made at the time and recognised the considerable operational consequences that this incident created, but it was hoped to put this issue aside, to learn from it, to follow the JSB’s recommendations and to be better prepared to deal with future incidents."

What happened? Was it just a downed system? A hacker? Was information lost?

I looked up the previous year's report to see if it could shed more light on what exactly happened and what recommendations were made. The 2008 report (PDF) stated:

"Upon the request of the President of Eurojust, an ‘on the spot’ check was carried out at Eurojust on 17 March... The members of staff involved in this incident were interviewed and the log files were inspected. Subsequently, a report was submitted to the College of Eurojust on 24 April making several recommendations."

The report? "Confidential document."

It sounds like a security matter rather than a simple system failure, though I can't say for sure. I wonder how much information was lost, and how sensitive it was?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

SWIFT II: European Data Protection Supervisor's Report to Council

The European Data Protection Supervisor yesterday sent a report (PDF) on the SWIFT II agreement (or TFTP agreement) to the Council. Given the criticism of the agreement from Parliament (though there is recent news of some agreed compromise), the EDPS report is interesting.

For example, at paragraph 5, the EDPS notes that the proposal does not see Article 16 TFEU (on data protection) as a legal basis, though the agreement and proposal note the data protection concerns. The report tersely notes: "...the EDPS reiterates that this agreement not only relates to the exchange of personal data, but also to the protection of these data. Article 16 TFEU is therefore not less relevant as legal basis than Articles 82 and 87 TFEU relating to law enforcement cooperation that have been chosen as legal bases."

The scope for future agreements on data protection and for a general agreement between the US and EU on data protection is discussed as well, particularly in paragraph 8. The EDPS recommends that the current proposal (agreement) be amended so that if there's a general agreement on data protection, it will apply - or at least get an agreement that it would apply to TFTP circumstances.

The EDPS takes a look at the question of privacy rights and the security question through explicitly rights-based language (Para 15):

"15. Against this background, the Commission proposal highlights the usefulness of the TFTP Programme, as put forward by the US Treasury and by the eminent person's reports. However, the condition laid down by Article 8 ECHR in order to justify interference with private life is "necessity" rather than "usefulness"."

The report goes on to flag up the same concerns that the agreement's critics in Parliament have highlighted: the retention of data for up to 5 years regardless of whether it's been extracted or if there's a "proved link with a specific investigation or prosecution.", and bulk transfers are the big concerns. In fact, paragraph 20 urges for a transitional approach to bulk data if it is to be used at all:

"...EDPS believes that solutions should be found to ensure that bulk transfers are replaced with mechanisms allowing financial transaction data to be filtered in the EU, and ensuring that only relevant and necessary data are sent to US Authorities. If these solutions could not be found immediately, then the Agreement should in any event strictly define a short transitional period after which bulk transfers are no longer allowed."

Also worth higlighting is the whithering criticism for handing the judicial oversight role to Europol:

"25. Moreover, Europol has specific interests in the exchange of personal data, on the basis of the proposed agreement. Article 10 of the proposal gives Europol the power to request for relevant information obtained through the TFTP, if it has a reason to believe that a person or an entity has a nexus to terrorism. It is hard to reconcile this power of Europol, which may be important for the fulfilment of Europol's task and which requires good relations with the US Treasury, with the task of Europol to ensure independent oversight.

26. Furthermore, the EDPS wonders to which extent the current legal framework entrusts Europol - especially without changing its legal basis pursuant to the ordinary procedure established by the Lisbon Treaty - with the tasks and powers to make an administrative request coming from a third country "binding" (Article 4.5) on a private company, which will thus become "authorized and required" to provide data to that third country. In this context it is useful to note that it is under the present state of EU law not evident whether a decision of Europol vis-à-vis a private company would be subject to judicial control by the European Court of Justice."

The report also criticises some aspects of the personal rights under the agreement when it comes to the correction/deletion of information. (As it's already turning into a long post, I'll let you read it [paragraphs 28-33], but it raises questions over the ability of people to exercise these rights). The EDPS also urges the inclusion of a sunset clause in the agreement to help encourage sustained work towards improving data protection under its provisions.

Overall the report echoes the concerns of the critical EP voices, while welcoming the changes make since SWIFT I. How much of an impact will it have in the Council? It's hard to tell how wedded the Member States are to the agreement, though it's interesting to note that the report mentions that the German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) considers the retention of data over 6 months to be excessive, so it is possible that some Member States could share worries over the diminution of privacy rights of their citizens. What will be the extent of any agreed amendments be? Hopefully these clear calls will have a positive impact.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Conclusive proof that Van Rompuy is now too powerful

I've just read conclusive proof that Van Rompuy has become so powerful that he has eclipsed the rotating presidency of the Council via Open Europe: apparently, neither he or Barroso thanked the Spanish presidency for its work during the last European Council meeting.

"Those who worried that the Lisbon Treaty and the creation of a permanent EU president would sideline the rotating presidency held by national governments have been proved right. Spanish Daily El Mundo notes that during a speech in the European Parliament yesterday, neither President Herman Van Rompuy, nor President Barroso mentioned or thanked Spain’s EU Presidency for its role in last week’s European Council summit. It seems that even the fact that Van Rompuy sat next to Spaniard Diego Lopez Garrido..., the secretary of state for the EU, failed to remind the officials of Spain’s role. Barroso managed to find the time, however, to thank Catherine Ashton, the Parliament, the Commission, and the Council."

Oh noes!

Obviously, this is an attempt to avoid embarrassing discussion about Spain, or something similarly nefarious or insulting to the pride of member states:

"The incident could be part of a larger EU effort to avoid any discussion of Spain, hoping people will forget it may be the next eurozone domino to fall. Or perhaps it demonstrates that the Brussels elite have little time for national governments..."

Or it could be a mistake or omission.

The short article seems to be very lazy and over-sensitive and it's a wonder that anyone took the time to write anything on it at all without anything more substantial. What substantive evidence is there that Van Rompuy is becoming over-powerful versus the rotating presidency? It's hard to measure this because the argument is neither defined nor backed up. Those who feared that the permanent presidency would sideline the rotating one? The aim of the permanent post was to give greater continuity and voice to the European Council, so how should we examine the "fear" that Open Europe had and the reality? If the rotating presidency went on as before, then Open Europe and others would (justifiably) be shouting that the permanent post was unnecessary and costly. If it does fulfil its role, then it would necessarily be more prominent than the rotating presidency, so where do you draw the line and say that the permanent post has infringed on the role of the rotating one?

So far, there have been no reports of Van Rompuy chairing Council formation meetings - despite all the European Council meetings to address the economic crisis and the eurozone crisis, I haven't heard anything about Van Rompuy chairing the Ecofin Council formation, which is the meeting of EU finance ministers. Van Rompuy has proposed chairing an economic task force, and other reforms to deal with the crisis, though this seems to me to be over-shadowing Barroso and the Commission. After all, the member states have not shied away from giving their own two eurocents on what reforms are needed (France and Germany unsurprisingly being the most vocal). Perhaps what holds Spain back in being vocal here is its own domestic crisis - in which case the question is, "if a permanent presidency can keep things going politically, and not just administratively, is that not a good thing to have?"

Again, it should be pointed out that neither Van Rompuy nor the Spanish rotating presidency could get these things done without the consent of the European Council/Council. Which consists of the member states. The member states are not co-opted or bullied by presidents into doing things; negotiation between them is the key aspect here.

Given that Madrid has ensured that there have been EU meetings held in Spain and not all in Brussels, and the willingness to promote its leadership role domestically and abroad (mostly to the detriment of the High Representative Aston), I don't think that the rotating presidency is dead or meaningless yet.

But it's good to know that Think Tanks like Open Europe are spending their time coming up with constructive policy proposals and not just wading through pages of information to pick up on irrelevant details to push a political message.

UPDATE: here's a link to an article on Ideas for Europe "President Paradox" which argues the opposite. As you can see from the comments, there are powerful counter-arguments to the article's reasoning (I largely agree with the counter-arguments), but at least the arguments and reasoning here is clear: clear arguments with a target, not just a lazy assertion.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Accreditable Bloggers

Last week the question was posed by M van den Broeke (head of the European Parliament Press Unit): "Should serious EU bloggers get some sort of accreditation to EU institutions? But on what criteria?". Twitterers debated about what the criteria for "serious EU bloggers" should be, and Stephen Spillane wrote a follow-up article here.

Defining "serious EU blogger" would be a very sensitive question, given the nature of blogging and the goal of an impartial accreditation system. Blogging is a hobby, in that people blog on whatever topic they what, if they feel passionate about it, for as long as they want. It's hard to say if there's a right way or wrong way to go about blogging - mainly because there isn't. Some blogs may be more successful than others, depending on their topic, the writing style, the engagement of the author with commenters and other blogs, the number of different media used and the extent of hyperlinking, etc., but given that people blog for different reasons and different goals, there's no real "right way" of blogging.

So how can we assess who is a "serious EU blogger"? If we say only bloggers who blog only about EU affairs are "serious", then we would be excluding a vast number of national bloggers who blog - or who might want to blog - about EU matters and how they affect their country. On the other hand, it should probably be more selective than anyone who has ever written about EU affairs since there would be a huge volume of potential bloggers, given its nature as a hobby. The number of articles and the "seriousness" of the articles is another sensitive measure of a serious EU blogger - who decides how often someone should blog and what constitutes serious content? This shouldn't be looked into too deeply, I feel, since taking more subjective factors into consideration may lead to decision-making that feels arbitrary to some bloggers. Still, for someone to qualify as a "serious EU blogger", some amount of time and effort would be necessary factors for consideration, though they would need to be as objective as possible.

So here's a (flawed) suggestion: a serious EU blogger is someone who has written about the EU for a year, over the course of the year. The articles wouldn't need to be spread out (or some figure like 2 posts per month given), but picking up on some matters of EU affairs as they affect the main theme of the blog over the year. For borderline cases, where the blogger hasn't written a lot/often about EU affairs, an extra condition of having contacted an MEP/Commissioner/EU official or institution for information that they used in a post would show some serious interest in following up and investigating an issue.

Is that too simplistic? Too easy-going and open? Not open enough and too restrictive?

It's good to see this issue being talked about, and hopefully it will lead to the institutions opening up more for citizens in general.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

SWIFT II Sent to Council and Parliament

The new SWIFT agreement (or the "Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme") has been reached between the Commission and the US, and the agreement has been sent to the Council and Parliament for assent. Green MEP Jan Albrecht has written about the new agreement and uploaded a PDF of it here. Statewatch also released a PDF of the agreement here.

So does the new agreement address the concerns of the Parliament? Privacy is the central issue, and the long preamble to the deal takes care to highlight the tradition of privacy rights and protection in each jurisdiction (though MEPs tend not to see US privacy laws in the most flattering of lights), but a few new changes have been introduced to try and reassure Parliament.

Elements of the deal include: some oversight by Europol; that the data, if relevant to tackling terrorism by European authorities, will be forwarded to them; data providers can seek redress; citizens can request the erasure, correction or blocking of their information; the deal can be paused or cancelled upon notification after the first 6 months (though the cancellation would take place 6 months after notification); after the deal expires, it is automatically renewed each year for a year unless cancelled; there are provisions for passing on the data to third parties in some cases.

The safeguards are unlikely to fill the EP will a lot of confidence. Europol is an agency to aid work against organised crime, etc. in the EU - and therefore more likely to have a "police" outlook rather than a more impartial judge's outlook on how legal the transfer of data is. Having Eurojust look at the transfer of data to ensure that it complies would be better, as it would have more legal expertise, but a specialised legal review board would be better, in my opinion. In any case, despite the constant references in the deal that applications for data will be on specific data, the net will be quite wide in reality, since Swift only deals with bulk packages of data, and cannot separate them out.

If the data being transferred is bulk data, then it devalues the oversight - some private data will be transferred anyway, so there will already be a high tolerance for its transfer. There would presumably have to be quite a big breach of the agreement for Europol to stop a transfer (though my understanding is that they check that the application is correct, rather than going through the data itself - I doubt they have the resources to do that). The US have undertaken to delete data irrelevant to the deal's purpose, but effective safeguards are what the EP's after.

It's hard to see how effective the citizen's right to erasure, etc. would be. It would be rare that people would discover that data concerning them has been transferred, so how often can these rights be expected to be exercised? Effective safeguards before transfer are vital under these circumstances. Ideally there would be an application to a judicial panel for specific information, which would then be passed on if it complied with the deal.

Jan also brings up the question of how long the data would be retained for in his post. 5 years is too much, though if it was an exceptional period for an exceptional investigation and subject to rigorous safeguards and scrutiny, then such retention may be justifiable. Clearly such conditions aren't satisfied here.

Will it pass in Parliament? I hope not, and there are plenty of reasons here for the EP to reject it. However, there may be pressure to accept it to prevent the US from making bilateral deals and circumventing the EP altogether (though the US would have to consider how that could sour relations with the EP on matters that it cannot circumvent them).

On L'Europe en Blogs, there's an interview with the Commissioner for Home Affairs (whose department this falls under) here.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

£60 million fine for Northern Ireland for CAP Errors

Northern Ireland gets some £300 million per year in CAP subsidy payments, but now the Executive (regional government) will be fined (or disallowed) £60 million for what seems to be a list of serious errors. The BBC has reported that claims were awarded where farmers were claiming for land that was built on (as agricultural land), ditches, and even different farmers claiming for the same piece of land.

The farmers submit claims to the Department of Agriculture, which are backed up with documentation including maps of the areas in question, and then on this basis the CAP money is given to the Department to be distributed amongst the farmers. The Agriculture minister (and my MP) Michelle Gildernew considers, it seems, that no one is really to blame. Since at least 2005 these faulty claims were being put through and these findings are obviously serious: how far did the department check up on how up-to-date the information it was provided with was? It may be hard to assign blame in many circumstances - some cases could be genuine mistakes - but farmers and the department should know about the differing values and qualities of land, and they especially should have the common sense to be able to ascertain whether or not land has been built on. From the minister's tone it doesn't seem as if she's open and willing to learn from past mistakes; hopefully she will have to anyway: after all, the department cannot risk fines in this economic climate, for it's the department and not the farmers directly who will bear the burden.

The department seems to be saying that it will push for a reduction in the fine, but last night we were treated to a very rare scene of a Commission Official explaining on local news that the fines cannot be altered by political pressure. The irregularities were discovered by Commission Officials who came in to check up on the NI situation. I wonder how seriously this will damage the Executive's voice in Europe. NI is far more rural than the rest of the UK, and has a big interest in the continuing of the CAP and seeing its interests represented in any reforms. Naturally, as a region, it's not likely that it would play a big role in discussions, but the example may provide more ammunition for those advocating more radical reforms and reductions in subsidies.

The EU has provided money to NI in the past in support of the peace process, and naturally enough the packages have decreased in size over time. It will be harder in the future for NI politicians to get a sympathetic hearing in Brussels.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

What Vodafone do not giveth, Vodafone cannot taketh away

The EU Law Blog has a great post explaining a recent ECJ judgment on the mobile phone roaming charges. The case concerned the legality of the regulation establishing the cap on roaming charges, and I'd recommend the article if you're interested or want to get a feel for how the ECJ decides such things.

Another interesting thing (though it's not very surprising) is the behaviour of Vodafone (and perhaps the others, but it's Vodafone that stuck in my mind). When the roaming charges legislation was passed and being announced on the news, it was noticable that Vodafone had quickly got advertising out pushing the idea that it was reducing roaming charges for its customers - as if it was an entirely voluntary decision for the good of its customers/the business. It's not surprising that Vodafone was a bit upset at loosing a nice stream of income, but the litigation proves how willingly it adopted the change.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Tobacco on Trial

EUobserver has reported that a Belgian Court has referred questions to the European Court concerning a case taken there by anti-smoking campaigners fighting to get a judicial ban on the sale of cigarettes and the collection of tax on their sale. The case is being referred to the European Court because the campaigners are relying on the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 in their case, so this case, if admitted, has the potential to have EU-wide effects. It's important to stress that this case has not yet been admitted, and if it is, it will be well over a year before there's a ruling. Still, the issue of tobacco bans and the EU reoccurs constantly.

Last year the Commission promoted a recommendation advocating an EU-wide ban on smoking in public places. I criticised this, because it was bandwagon politics: the EU does not have the power to legislate for such a ban. Worse, for the EU bandwagon politics backfires spectacularly, almost without fail: these kind of wishful, "wouldn't it be nice...?", recommendations devalue the perceived worth of the EU, and raise fears, or hopes, of European action that cannot be fulfilled, cumulatively leading to disillusionment and resentment of the EU that tars the European idea by implication.

So is the position different under the Lisbon-amended TFEU? The old Article 152 and the new (and renumbered) Article 168 both exclude the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States. Paragraph 5 of Article 168 states:

"The European Parliament and the Council... may also adopt incentive measures designed to protect and improve human health... [highlights cross border issues]... and measures which have as their direct objective the protection of public health regarding tobacco and the abuse of alcohol, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States." [Emphasis mine].

Case law also states that legislation cannot try to harmonise laws in an area that has been explicitly excluded from harmonisation in the Treaties by relying on a different article (say, on the free movement of goods). It's hard to see the Court circumventing this purely on the Lisbon-amended treaties to bring in such radical change.

When it comes to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention, I'm unsure of which specific articles to look at as I haven't read the actual case that the campaigners are putting, and how far the Charter and Convention could be considered applicable. From a quick glance over the Charter, the articles dealing with health, child rights, private life, etc., are, as you would expect, general rights that don't give much scope for the positive interventionism that a smoking ban would imply. The Convention is not an integral part of EU law, but could be drawn on as a part of the legal culture of the Member States (though it's hard to see this having a huge bearing on any ruling - at least any ruling as decisive as that the campaigners are hoping for).

Health policy should largely stay at the Member State level: it consists of a large chunk of public expenditure and would be best dealt with at the national level - particularly as dealing with health policy on any scale beyond what is necessary to deal with cross border matters and low-level integration logically implies a shift to what would be a high level of social and economic integration (to eliminate inequality of health care between all EU citizens), and there simply isn't the political will or political engagement to support such a project. Banning smoking isn't of this scale necessarily, but it would entail a significant extension of EU law.

The health and taxing policies of Member States when it comes to drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, etc., are very culturally sensitive. There are different drinking and smoking cultures in different states; Ireland was the first EU state to adopt a smoking ban in public places and in the work place, and Sweden and Denmark have high alcohol taxes. If the European Court was to look at the legality of the sale and/or tax collection of these drugs as something the EU and EU law should deal with, it could set precedent for the expansion of EU competences (which could lead to a clash with the German Bundesverfassungsgericht).

I have not been able to read the cases lodged with the Court yet, and they will be very interesting to follow should they be admitted, but on first glance I cannot see anything approaching the radical imposition of a ban being the result. This is for 3 main reasons:
1. I think that the exclusion of harmonisation, and the supporting case law, is strong enough to prevent such extreme judicial activism - it would require too many stretches of judicial imagination and intellectual squaring of circles.
2. A ban, or a ruling that implies that the Court/EU has more rights in this area than would seem to be the case on the face of the Treaties could risk a backlash from the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which has renewed its claim to the right to police the competences of the EU in its ruling on the constitutionality of the Lisbon Treaty.
3. The area is just too radical for judicial activism. Surely the argument that this is a matter for law-makers rather than the judiciary will weigh heavily on how the case, if considered, would be decided. Laws and taxes on drugs are well debated and discussed; how justifiable could it be, for instance, that the European Court could make such decisions on drugs on health grounds, when their place in society is regularly debated in each Member State? What about the liberal drugs laws in the Netherlands? Could the work of public debate and cultural considerations be overturned by the extension of principles established under a radical tobacco ruling?

Again, it will be interesting to see how the court deals with the cases, should it be admitted, and perhaps I'm judging it too much on face value and it will become clearer to me upon a full reading, but I think that the Court would be wise to resist the radical wishes of the anti-smoking campaigners.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Flotilla Diplomacy

Following the Israeli raid on the flotilla of activists carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza strip there has been a massive international backlash, but will the EU be able to forge a common policy? In some ways, it's a more opportune time, given the uniform "swing" of opinion against Israel, and the creation of the High Representative and European Council President roles creates some need to show that the institutional reforms will pay off - and shouldn't the EU be able to act in its own backyard?

It will never be easy to have a common policy on the Middle East Peace Process that goes beyond the outline structure of a two-state solution, but it's important that Europe gets involved to facilitate it, and this demands agreeing on the detail. Sarkozy has suggested European or international forces policing boats shipping in aid to prevent arms being shipped in. It's a good start, since it would hopefully go some way to easing the situation for Palestinians and allowing Israel to slowly back out of the politics of blockade - though it's important that we don't slip into a situation where we end up legitimising and helping the blockade. I'm tempted to suggest a Bosina-like solution or interim measure for Gaza (and maybe the West Bank too) - i.e. international protectorate that would build a functioning state, and hopefully police and prevent attacks from the territory while denying Israel the opportunity to attack or blockade it. But then, the Bosnia case hasn't been a proven success yet...

The EU also needs to demand and international element to the inquiry on last week's raid. Israel might be smarting after the last international report (the Goldsmith Inquiry on the settlements, which was very scathing of Israel's role), but the fact is that it took place in international waters, and there is a glaring question of international law that cannot be denied. PR-wise, Israel's attempts to spin the issue in a more favourable light haven't worked, and, though it may not agree, admitting error and having an inquiry with international involvement would be the best option for it. The EU should demand the international element because it is required of the situation and the EU's values - particularly the need to uphold international law.

Some states will favour a tough stance, like Ireland, which backed the last flotilla boat (the crew and passengers were returned to Ireland today), though other states, may not want to go as far as pledging action: how far would Germany feel it could go? Ireland has asked Ashton to put Israel on the agenda for the next Council meeting. Will Ashton be able to channel the differing views into some sort of coherent policy? It'll be an uphill struggle - reading the EUobserver article, it looks like Ashton is out of the loop to a large degree (it doesn't seem to have been a good week for her - there seem to be a few foreign policy ideas being pushed at the EU level without her being consulted).

The idea of another boat carrying MEPs seems to be floating about - perhaps we'll end up sending boatfuls of politicians until Israel gives up and ends the blockade? Diplomacy via flotilla.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

And the Special Representative for Bosnia is...

Ashton may reshuffle the deck of EU Special Representatives now that the Commission delegations are being upgraded to embassies around the world. This is entirely rational and a good move, even if it does mean, as ever, another round of backstage member state maneovering on who gets what post. In the end, it won't make sense to have SRs when the EEAS (European External Action Service) is in place and can do the job just as well. Having SRs for regions and attached to international and supranational organisations (African Union, Balkans, etc) is a good idea, since it would permit an overall approach to regions and promote good contacts and deep relationships between the EU and other regional organisations.

But one point of caution. Paddy Ashdown is being talked about as a possible SR for the Balkans. There is some opposition to his possible appointment on the basis that there shouldn't be too many UK nationals at the top in the EEAS, but there's no denying that he has experience in the region, as he has served as the High Representative for the international community in Bosnia - a very powerful and sensitive role that is key to the state building and reconciliation in the country. But this post is still just as important to the peace process in Bosnia today, and stripping Inzko (the current HR/EUSR) of his EUSR status wouldn't be a good signal to the country when it faces elections this year.

Bosnia still has a long way to go on the path to becoming a country at peace with itself, and it will not help for the EU to take, or appear to take, a more "hands off" approach. This is Europe's back yard, and we have a duty to be fully engaged in the process. I don't think that a SR for the whole Western Balkans would be enough: the HR in BiH needs to be a link between Bosnia, the international community and the EU to work as effectively as possible, and Bosnia needs to have a solid and stable link to the rest of Europe.