SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A European Union police mission in Bosnia ended on Saturday after a decade of training local police forces and overseeing law enforcement agencies that were rebuilt almost from scratch after the 1992-95 war.
The pullout of some 130 European Union Police Mission (EUPM) officials came as the small Balkan country is hoping to apply for EU membership this year.
Bosnia, which is lagging behind its west Balkan neighbors in the queue for EU membership, will have to show Brussels that its law enforcement officials are now capable of fighting widespread corruption and organized crime.
The EUPM, the first police mission set up by the EU, was deployed in 2003 and it initially comprised some 500 police officials in charge of training local police and monitoring law enforcement agencies. Over the years, the mission has been reduced to about 130 officials.
The operation, replacing a United Nations police mission, was seen as a litmus test for the EU's common defense policy.
"We leave behind a system of police organizations and institutions in the criminal justice that have achieved a level of professionalism in providing security and the rule of law that makes them prepared for what is coming now," said EUPM head Stefan Feller.
Bosnia is still struggling to build a viable state from the wreckage of the war. An international envoy and a peacekeeping force remain in place in the country, which since the war ended has been split into two autonomous regions.
Bosnia's progress toward EU accession talks remains hamstrung by rivalry between its Serb, Croat and Muslim communities, which took 16 months to agree on a central government after an election in October 2010.
Feller said some of the EUPM functions would be handed over to a new unit of the EU delegation in Bosnia, with Special Representative Peter Sorensen serving as mediator between local law enforcement agencies and EU counterparts.
(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Alessandra Rizzo)