15 August 2000


Press Release
SC/6912



BRIEFED ON BOSNIA/HERZEGOVINA BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING, COUNCIL HEARS RANGE OF VIEWS ON IMPLEMENTATION OF DAYTON ACCORDS

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United States Says Greatest Obstacle to Progress 'Still Belgrade'; Russian Federation Warns That Nationalist Forces Slow Political Change

During a Security Council briefing this morning by Bernard Miyet, Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the representative of the United States said that the greatest obstacle to progress in that country was still Belgrade, capital of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The authorities there continued to obstruct progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, repress their own people and threaten democracy in Montenegro, she continued. The efforts of the international community to bring the Balkans into Europe would never fully succeed until the current regime in Belgrade was gone. Yet, despite such obstacles, she said, Bosnia and Herzegovina was beginning to knit together.

Mr. Miyet focused his briefing on the Secretary-General’s last report, which had identified police restructuring, police reform and strengthening of the common institutions in the police sector as the main priorities for the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH). Overall, he said that UNMIBH continued to move forward in the implementation of its mandate.

He told Council members that it was important to note, however, that although UNMIBH had instituted mechanisms for minority recruitment, more needed to be done by local authorities to ensure that adequate minority representation in local police forces was reached, in line with existing agreements.

The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that implementation of the Dayton Accords was moving only slowly. Nationalist forces slowed political change and exacerbated the situation of internally displaced persons and returnees. Continued disorder in that area had shown that there was a real problem in providing alternative housing. Whatever solutions were reached to address those and other issues must be all-embracing.

He noted that the Mission was taking steps to normalize the transition to statehood within the region. Progress had been achieved, particularly in the reorganization of police agencies, which now more adequately reflected the ethnic diversity of the region. However, UNMIBH still had much to do to combat narrow ethnic approaches in other areas, as well as illegal activities by the police force.


Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6912 4188th Meeting (AM) 15 August 2000

The representative of the Netherlands said Bosnia and Herzegovina was going through many simultaneous transitions, but without efforts to curb crime and corruption, successful implementation of the Dayton and Paris Peace Agreements was at risk. An estimated $500 million in revenue, for example, was lost every year due to smuggling. The scale of that activity was so huge it implied high-level government involvement.

He also underscored that gaps in the budgets of the Federation and the Republika Srpska were a major concern, as was the relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the world's financial institutions. Low revenues were the result of weak duty and tax collection mechanisms, which had yet to be reinforced by effective institutional structures.

The representatives of Bangladesh, France, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Argentina, China, Tunisia, Canada, Namibia, and Malaysia also made statements in this morning's meeting.

The meeting began at 10:50 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:20 p.m.


Briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

BERNARD MIYET, Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that he would focus his briefing on the Secretary-General’s last report, which had identified police restructuring, police reform and strengthening of the common institutions in the police sector as the main priorities for the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH).

In the context of police restructuring, he said that because of the introduction of the State Border Service and reduced needs in some of the smaller Federation cantons, the International Police Task Force (IPTF) Commissioner had reduced the allowed maximum police strength in the Federation by about 1,000 to 10,600. Meanwhile, since 2 June, more than 2,800 additional officers had been registered. The Mission was on track to conclude the registration process by mid-December 2000, resulting in the first transparent and comprehensive Law Enforcement Personnel Registry in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Parallel to the registration of the current police officers, he said, UNMIBH continued to assist local authorities in fulfilling their obligation to ensure an adequate minority representation in their police forces through recruitment of minority cadets for the police academies, voluntary redeployment of serving minority officers between entities, and encouragement for displaced and refugee police officers to return to their pre-war homes to rejoin local police forces. In total, nearly 450 minority officers were currently attending or had graduated from the two academies, and 130 minority officers had been identified for redeployment across entity lines.

Turning to police reform, he said that UNMIBH had continued its efforts to institute police commissioners in the Federation police in order to create a professional, non-partisan civil-service-type leadership for the police and insulate the force from the direct political influence of the Ministries of the Interior. In Sarajevo, which had been selected as a pilot project, the appropriate laws had now been adopted and preparatory work had begun in Central Bosnia, Posavina and the Federation and Republika Srpska Ministries of the Interior.

With regard to inter-entity police cooperation and the strengthening of the common institutions, he said that a major initiative had been undertaken on 27 June with the establishment of Joint Entity Task Forces on Illegal Immigration and Organized Crime through the Ministerial Consultative Meeting on Police Matters. Inter-entity police cooperation had also been admirably demonstrated at the commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Weeks of preparation led by UNMIBH and closely coordinated with the Multinational Stabilization Force (SFOR), ensured a peaceful event that had been attended by more than 3,000 people.

A visible and significant step towards building State institutions was the inauguration of the State Border Service entry point at the Sarajevo airport on 6 June, he said. Another significant step was the opening of three additional State Border Service crossings. The opening of the Service had enabled authorities and UNMIBH to gather reliable data on movements through the Sarajevo airport and the apparent organized use of the airport as a point of entry for illegal migration into Europe. It was also important to note that UNMIBH’s judicial system assessment programme was finalizing its work. In conclusion, he reported that minority return movements continued to progress across Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those included returns to the formally hard-line areas of the Republika Srpska. All in all, during the last six months, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered over 19,500 minority returns to Bosnia and Herzegovina, compared to over 2,000 returns registered during the same period last year. Governments, such as the United States and Germany, had provided additional funding to encourage sustained returns.

Overall, he said that UNMIBH continued to move forward in the implementation of its mandate. There were also inter-entity law enforcement arrangements and growing day-to-day cooperation between the Republika Srpska and the Ministries of the Interior. It was important to note, however, that although UNMIBH had instituted mechanisms for minority recruitment, more needed to be done by local authorities to ensure that adequate minority representation in local police forces was reached in line with existing agreements.

Statements

NANCY SODERBERG (United States) began by saying that, while her Government was disappointed by the outcome of the 14 August Lusaka Process on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was encouraged by the consensus achieved among the non- Congolese elements. Broad consensus had been achieved on a number of issues, including ceasefire agreements, the continuation of the inter-Congolese dialogue, and completion and implementation of the disengagement plan. Unfortunately, the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had not been part of that consensus. The United States supported the Lusaka Process and the ceasefire agreement and urged the Congolese Government to do so, as well.

Turning to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she said her Government supported UNMIBH and the international community’s important priorities -- refugee returns, economic reform, and the strengthening of State institutions. The United States had set aside significant resources for work in those areas, including $67.2 million to support minority refugee returns and close to $2 million for the new State Border Service. It was inspiring to see the dramatic increase in refugee returns, even of minority groups, to areas that saw some of the most dramatic violence during the war.

She said there was a need to continue common efforts to ensure that all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s joint institutions were vigorous and effective. The signs that nationalism and hatred of the past were slowly giving way to new respect for democracy and the rule of law were encouraging, as well. Obstructionism, however, could not be tolerated. In that regard, her delegation fully supported the aggressive use by the High Representative and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia and Herzegovina of the mandate provided by the international community.

The greatest obstacle to progress in the country, as in the rest of the region, was still Belgrade. The authorities there continued to obstruct progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, repress their own people and threaten democracy in Montenegro. The efforts of the international community to bring the Balkans into Europe would never fully succeed until the current regime in Belgrade was gone, she warned. Yet, despite such obstacles, and a mixed picture, Bosnia and Herzegovina was beginning to knit together.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that following the establishment of the first State Border Service on 6 June at the Sarajevo airport, other such services had been established in a number of points in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That was a sign of progress. He believed that progress would be further accelerated by adoption of the Law on the Border Service by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly. Progress in judicial reform must also be accelerated, he stressed. In that context, strengthening of the Constitutional Court and the establishment of a State court must be among the major priorities.

The return of refugees and internally displaced persons was still a real test of commitment to the peace process, he said. While some significant progress had recently been made, the will of citizens to return to their pre-war homes had not been matched by the action of the authorities at all levels. Also, in order to achieve the objective of self-sustaining growth, efforts should focus on encouraging private sector-led development and creating conditions for a single economic space in the country.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France), thanking Mr. Miyet for his informative briefing, said that other regional crises should not take the Council’s attention away from the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In that regard, it was important for the international community to continue to take action to ensure that the local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were given primary responsibility for the people in the region. They must, indeed, look to the future, as UNMIBH was only transitional.

France, he continued, was the largest contributor of police to the region, and the European Union was the largest contributor of aid. In that regard, it was important to note that a summit of the European Union and Western Balkan States was being prepared for next fall.

Turning to the assessment of the judicial system, he wondered about the status of that programme after December 2000. How would the programme continue? How would it be financed? On internally displaced persons, he wondered about the progress of returns on the basis of ethnic origin.

VALERI KUCHYNSKY (Ukraine) said he was pleased to hear that progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been substantive, and noted that a significant contribution had been made possible by the strenuous efforts coordinated by UNMIBH. It was hoped that the Mission would continue to play a crucial role in the civilian aspects of the peace agreement, particularly including the establishment of a mechanism for the institution of the rule of law within the region.

He went on to say, however, that much more remained to be done in the area of minority recruitment on the police force and in providing security for minority refugees, as well as cross-border returnees.

One of the Mission’s main tasks was to ensure that the leaders and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina were totally committed to implementing the peace agreement. The future was their own responsibility. There was still a long way to go, he said, and the Security Council should continue to give support to UNMIBH and promote the Government’s continued cooperation with the Mission.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said that UNMIBH and the IPTF should be commended for the sustained efforts that had contributed to the various positive developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would also be vital for the Mission to maintain its pressure on the Bosnian authorities to tackle problems such as organized crime, smuggling and illegal immigration. Close cooperation and coordination between UNMIBH and other international organizations would be crucial as the formal agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina moved forward.

He said that when the Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina briefed the Council in June, he had indicated that work had started on an exit strategy for the Mission. His delegation would welcome more details from Mr. Miyet on how that work was progressing, and would also like to see a written plan. The financial implications of that move and other elements would have to be considered by his country and others as early as possible. The exit strategy, he stressed, should also be time-tied to the achievement of crucial objectives.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that five years after Dayton there was progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it was slow and left much still to be done. One area of spectacular progress was the rate of refugee return to minority areas, which had increased threefold over the past year. However, there were reports of growing tension in the Republika Srpska on the issue of returnees, and in light of those reports called on all parties to work towards a democratic and multi-ethnic environment.

Because of the budget gaps shown by the Federation and the Republika Srpska, he was concerned at the relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the world's financial institutions, in particular the World Bank. One reason for the low revenues of the two entities was the weakness of the system of duty and tax collection, which had yet to be reinforced by effective institutional structures. Another reason for the budget deficits was corruption and crime. An estimated $500 million was lost every year due to smuggling, particularly in cigarettes, and smuggling on such a huge scale implied that high-level government officials had to be involved, he said.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was going through many simultaneous transitions, but without efforts to curb crime and corruption, successful implementation of the Dayton and Paris Peace Agreements was at risk. He concluded by stating that Bosnian authorities must be aware that foreign aid was not an infinite commodity.

CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said that reform of the police force and judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina should, indeed, continue to be a priority. While there were still many challenges, the incremental steps reported by Mr. Miyet still proved that progress could be made even in difficult crisis areas. Continued cooperation with authorities and people within the region was most necessary.

Turning to a specific query based on this morning’s briefing, he said that there were concerns about reports that local authorities had been slow to act in cases of illegal occupancy. That was said to be one of the biggest hindrances to returns to the region, and he wondered if Mr. Miyet could shed any light on that important issue.

HOLGER FEDERICO MARTINSEN (Argentina) said that today's briefing had shown that there was some political optimism in the efforts to establish a democratic State in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Significant among such efforts were those combating smuggling and illegal immigration. The creation of a single passport in the region was also a positive step.

He went on to say that while there was particular cause for satisfaction in the increased rate of returns to areas where there had been the greatest difficulties in the past, he regretted that the United Nations High Representative felt bound to remove government officials from their posts due to failure to cooperate with all aspects of the peace process. However, the Council should continue to support the work of the High Representative as he moved ahead in the effort to build a democratic government in the region.

CHEN XU (China) said that the situation with regard to recruiting members of the police from among minority groups was still not what was expected. Addressing the peace agreement, he said it should be understood that the process of implementation was far slower than had been expected by the international community. The establishment of self government, harmonization among the different ethnic groups and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons were all issues that still warranted a lot of work and attention.

The international community, he said, must help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve self-government and reduce dependence on foreign aid. While he realized that reconciliation was a fundamental prerequisite for the people of the country to live happily and peacefully, there was still a long way to go, as radical elements were still active.

JERANDI OTHMANE (Tunisia) said his delegation agreed that it was important for progress to be made in implementing the Mission's mandate. There was a need, however, for the peace process to proceed on its own merits. The establishment of a multi-ethnic society based on multi-ethnic institutions would ensure the success of the process. Obstruction, however, had hampered the full implementation of the Dayton Accords.

In that context, he continued, extremist nationalist groups should be restrained. Citizens should be able to declare themselves without fear of discrimination. It was up to the police, at this crucial stage, to promote social peace and prevent conflict based on ethnicity. It was also important to continue efforts aimed at the full return of refugees and internally displaced persons to ensure the establishment of a multi-ethnic society in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

DAVID ANGELL (Canada) said that continued political and judicial reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be a main priority of the United Nations mission there. He referred to the Government's Minister of Agriculture, who had continually opposed the spirit of the Dayton Accords and was subsequently removed from office by the United Nations High Representative. He supported filling the position in a way that would validate the efficiency of the election process. Implementing the rule of law was essential.

He went on to say that all situations surrounding the return of refugees must be considered a top priority. The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must encourage -- at all levels -- not merely returns, but safe and secure returns, particularly to areas there had been severe difficulties in the past. In that regard, the international community must keep the pressure on Croatia and the Republika Srpska to ensure that they stood by their commitments to two-way returns.

Finally, he said he was encouraged by the progress being made to change the composition of the police force to make it representative of the communities in which the police worked.

GENNADI GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that it was important that the agreed mechanisms instituted in Bosnia and Herzegovina should help develop democratic change and ensure the rights of all people. But the basic responsibility for continued progressive social, political and cultural growth lay with the people themselves. He hoped that a new generation of politicians would be able to address that issue, as well as the many remaining tasks the region would confront in the future.

Unfortunately, he continued, implementation of the Dayton Accords was moving slowly. Nationalist forces had slowed political change and exacerbated the situation of internally displaced persons and returnees. Continued disorder in that area had shown that there was a real problem in providing alternative housing. Whatever solutions were reached to address those and other issues must be all-embracing.

It was important to recognize, he said, that the Mission was taking steps to normalize the transition to statehood within the region. The Mission played an important role in coordinating the efforts of the international community with those of the various agencies within the United Nations system. Progress had been made, particularly in the reorganization of police agencies, to give a more accurate reflection of the region's ethnic diversity. But UNMIBH still had much to do to combat narrow ethnic approaches in other areas, as well as illegal activities by the police force.

TJI-TJAI UANIVI (Namibia) noted with appreciation the overall improved situation within which the programme on police reform and restructuring continued to make incremental progress. In that regard, he acknowledged the activities of the Mission in assisting local authorities to meet their obligations. These obligations included increasing minority police recruitment by attracting displaced and former police officers to return to their pre-war homes and rejoin local police forces, as well as the ongoing registration programme geared towards establishing a personnel databank of authorized police officers.

While acknowledging the rate of return of refugees and internally displaced persons to pre-war areas, Namibia took serious note of the open obstruction and lack of political will by local authorities with respect to the implementation of property laws. He concluded by commending all personnel of the various international institutions, including UNMIBH and the IPTF, who had dedicated their time and energy to help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina reconstruct their lives. HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said UNMIBH continued to strengthen the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina and help consolidate the path towards peace and progress in the country, which still fell short of expectations. Much had to be done, however, before prosperity could be enjoyed. One main challenge was to strengthen the principal State institutions -- all obstacles to their smooth functioning had to be removed. Leaders must also exercise their political will collectively for the common good of the country instead of for narrow agendas.

The new State Border Service was welcome, and efforts to expand and strengthen it were essential in the fight against trafficking and transborder organized crime. A unified Bosnia and Herzegovina could also not afford to have two separate armies. In addition, the ongoing process of returning refugees and internally displaced persons was an important ingredient for lasting peace and stability in the country. Yet political obstructions still hindered that process, as did violence and intimidation. Criminals were still at large, and they continued to behave with impunity, he said.

Response by Under-Secretary-General

Mr. MIYET first responded to a question on the future of the judicial system's Assessment Programme, its financing and the way it dovetailed with other programmes. He said that much of that programme would continue to be part of a broader programme covering the whole judicial system, and including the Council of Europe. The responsibility for financing the Assessment Programme was no longer the Organization's. It would be up to donor countries and the High Representative to determine how it would be funded in the future.

Answering a question on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said he did not have any specific figures on returns on a canton-by- canton or community-by-community basis. The High Representative and the International Organization for Migration could probably provide such figures. He said that of all the groups, however, Croats were not moving from one area to another: there had been no great return movement by them across the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the context of returns, he continued, the issue of illegal occupancy was clearly a key problem. While 30 to 50 forced evictions could be registered within a week, availability of accommodation was still a major difficulty in trying to relocate people. More assertive measures were, therefore, needed.

Turning to exit strategies, he said that those were tentative at the moment, although measures were being put into place. In that light, what needed to be considered was the possible impact of such an exit on peace and reform and the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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