8 November 2006
Security Council
SC/8864

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DESPITE OBSTACLES, HANDOVER OF REFORM RESPONSIBILITY TO LOCAL LEADERS


SHOULD CONTINUE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD


High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling Briefs;

Council of Ministers Chair Highlights Republika Srpska Separatist Threat


The international community should continue to hand over responsibility for reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina to its leaders despite the magnitude of the challenges involved, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement in that country, told the Security Council this morning.


“ Bosnia and Herzegovina’s reality today is in many ways uncomfortable,” he said, noting the impatience of the international community for progress and the reluctance of local politicians to step forward and take ownership of the process, as well as the frustration of citizens who needed jobs.


Even so, he said, the international community must hold its course and continue handing over responsibility to those leaders, not so quickly as to overwhelm them, but not so slowly that they failed to develop a sense of duty towards the citizens who had elected them.


He said that, in many respects, the situation of the country was fortunate -- the direction in which it is travelling was clear and the European Union was offering it the prospect of membership, despite the problematic assertions of political leaders in Republika Srpska and lack of reform progress on the Constitution, the economy, education and other areas.


In regard to transitional issues, he said that he was overseeing the closure of the Office of the High Representative, as determined in June by the Peace Implementation Council Steering board, but many difficulties remained, and he recognized the wisdom of that Council’s decision to review the situation.


He also awaited the Security Council’s proposal on how to deal with the plight of police officers decertified by the International Police Task Force without the possibility to review or appeal.


He said he was concerned by the irresponsible rhetoric that had marred the recent election campaign and had helped generate feelings of insecurity among parts of the population, and also by the seeming inability of politicians to resolve problems within existing constitutional structures in the absence of intrusive international involvement.  In addition, the spectre of the final status of Kosovo hung over the entire region with the potential to be destabilizing.


The way forward, he said, was nevertheless clear.  The country’s politicians had an opportunity to demonstrate that the transition could proceed on schedule, by taking the initiative, enacting and implementing the outstanding reforms and, together with international support, working towards building a prosperous European democracy.


Adnan Terzić, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the electoral victory of the so-called “nationalists” had triggered disappointment among international stakeholders, but it had created a single platform on which to act.  That platform was Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Euro-Atlantic prospective, or its future membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was the Government’s top priority.


Any attempt at reform was bound to encounter resistance, he said.  Reform of the defence sector, intelligence services and customs and taxation departments was a genuine nightmare for any Prime Minister.  What had been done in Bosnia and Herzegovina was unprecedented, however.  The entity governments had joined the State Government in the “mission impossible” project, as they had adjusted laws in keeping with international norms and standards.  A single economic space had been set up and, as of 1 January, the one rate VAT had been introduced, thereby eliminating a great deal of the “grey economy”.


The biggest obstacle now was the third government of Republika Srpska, he said.  Instead of joining the ongoing momentum in fulfilling the Stabilization and Association Agreement criteria, it had blocked all reform processes, unilaterally deciding to withdraw from all the previously agreed agreements.  He maintained that the High Representative’s report, while very detailed, was too diplomatic on that problem, and it seemed like his Office, along with the international community, had decided to shut their eyes to the separatist threats of Republika Srpska. 


He said the transformation of the Office of the High Representative into the Office of the Special Representative of the European Union must not start until it was certain that Bosnia and Herzegovina was completely ready to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union.  He also called on the Council to quickly redress the injustice that had been done to the decertified Bosnian police officers.


In the discussion that followed, Council members supported the High Representatives efforts to ensure local ownership of the reform processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while urging that such reforms, as well as trust-building measures between ethnic communities, be accelerated. 


Given such progress, most speakers supported a timely transition from the Office of the High Commissioner to European Union authority, while saying that the schedule of that transition should be subject to review.  Many speakers also noted the importance of rendering the indictees who were still at large to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was pleased with the peaceful and orderly conduct of the October elections, and said it was ready to work with any coalition genuinely engaged in reforms.  However, conclusion of negotiations on the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the Union required implementation of police reform, as well as the


country’s stronger cooperation with the International Tribunal, particularly by authorities in Republika Srpska.


While noting that constitutional reform was not a precondition for the Stabilization Agreement, it was clear that the country needed more functional and sustainable State structures for European Union integration, and the Union was prepared to assist in that important effort.


Council members speaking this morning were the Russian Federation, Greece, United States, Slovakia, China, Denmark, Argentina, Ghana, United Republic of Tanzania, France, Qatar, Japan, United Kingdom, Congo and Peru.


The meeting, which began at 10:20 a.m., adjourned at 12:30 p.m.



Background


The Security Council had before it a letter from the Secretary-General (document S/2006/810) dated 13 October 2006 transmitting the thirtieth report of the High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which covers the period 1 February to 30 June 2006.


The High Representative says the Peace Implementation Council’s decision in June to authorize the Office of the High Representative to prepare for its closure and likely replacement in July 2007 by an office of the European Union Special Representative testified to the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina is reclaiming its full sovereignty.  Enhanced efforts by domestic authorities to take ownership of the necessary reforms and the international community’s consistent stewardship will, however, be required to make this happen.  The proposed changes in the nature and degree of international engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina also lent crucial importance to the impending general elections.  The politicians elected on 1 October will bear responsibility not only for ensuring effective and efficient governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also for maintaining the country’s progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration.


He notes that the reporting period was comprised of two very distinct parts, namely a period of high expectations resulting from the unprecedented agreement among the leaders of six of the country’s main political parties on 18 March to propose a package of constitutional amendments to the Presidency and Parliamentary Assembly, followed by a period of increasingly nationalistic vituperation after the narrow defeat of the reform package in Parliament on 26 April.  “The failure provided the context in which the parties defined their positions in an election campaign that has already generated more heat than light”, he adds, noting that the accentuation of dangers and divisions has not only made the passage of reform legislation almost impossible, but it has also envenomed political discourse.


Some progress was made, however, in the Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations with the European Commission during the first half of 2006, the report states.  Were it not for the preconditions set by the Commission in regard to police restructuring, public broadcasting reform and full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, it would be possible to predict a successful outcome to the Stabilization and Association Agreement talks by year’s end and the opening of a bright new phase in the country’s post-war development.  Unfortunately, failure to fulfil any one of the preconditions could yet scupper hopes of signing an agreement late this year or early next year.  Police reform has experienced difficulties since May, when Republika Srpska reduced its presence to observer status.


The pace of economic reform slowed during the reporting period, while public spending has risen considerably, the report continues.  Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities continued to engage actively in the process of public administration reform during the first half of 2006.  Despite the international community’s reiteration of the need for full cooperation with the International Tribunal, no progress was made in apprehending either Ratko Mladić or Radovan Karadžić.  Their continuing liberty once again disqualified Bosnia and Herzegovina from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace.  The unification of Mostar city administration slowed considerably and the lack of progress on education reform is also regrettable.  The domestic authorities have proved increasingly unwilling and/or unable to engage with reforms that provide no short-term political gains.


Statements


CHRISTIAN SCHWARZ-SCHILLING, High Representative and European Union Special Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that developments since June in Bosnia and Herzegovina had demonstrated the magnitude of the challenges involved in establishing local ownership of the political reform and development in the country.


“ Bosnia and Herzegovina’s reality today is in many ways uncomfortable,” he said, noting the impatience of the international community and the situation of local politicians who must step forward and take responsibility for progress, as well as the frustration of citizens who need jobs.


There was no manual that set out best practices for when to intervene, when to monitor and when to step back, he said, though, fortunately, there was considerable goodwill on all sides.  Unfortunately, however, there were some opportunists who had sought to exploit the difficulties of transition to play on old fears.


Even given that situation, he said the international community must hold its course and continue handing over responsibility, not so quickly as to overwhelm leaders of the country, but not so slowly that the country’s leaders failed to develop a sense of duty towards the citizens who had elected them.


In many respects, the situation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was fortunate –- the direction in which it was travelling was clear, and the European Union was offering it the prospect of membership, despite the assertions of political leaders in Republika Srpska that they were prepared to sacrifice the country’s European future rather than make compromises on certain issues.


The first negotiations for Union membership had opened at the beginning of the year, he said, with Bosnian interlocutors showing skill at negotiating the technical side of a Stabilization and Association Agreement.  However, difficulties in taking ownership and delays caused by the 1 October election had led to failure to complete public broadcasting legislation and insufficient progress on a higher education law and legislation essential to fiscal sustainability, which were clearly slowing the country’s progress towards Europe.


In addition, police and constitutional reform were at the heart of the country’s ability to function properly for its citizens, he said.  Progress in constitutional reform unfortunately had stalled, after an initiative had barely failed in Parliament in March.  He urged compromise from the parties, in order to gain agreement on such reforms, even if the outcome was not perfect.  In addition, he said that the fact that war crimes suspects like Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić remained at large continued to impede the consolidation of peace.


In regard to transitional issues, he said that he was overseeing the closure of the Office of the High Representative, as determined in June by the Peace Implementation Council Steering board, but many difficulties remained and he recognized the wisdom of that Council’s decision to review the situation.  He also awaited the Security Council’s proposal on how to deal with the plight of police officers decertified by the International Police Task Force without the possibility to review or appeal.  “Legally and politically, I am unable to resolve this issue,” he added, “the ball is squarely in your court.”


He said he was concerned by the irresponsible rhetoric that had marred the election campaign and had helped generate feelings of insecurity among parts of the population, and also by the seeming inability of politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina to resolve problems within existing constitutional structures in the absence of intrusive international involvement.  In addition, the spectre of the final status of Kosovo hung over the entire region, which had the potential to be destabilizing.


The way forward, he said, was nevertheless clear.  The country’s politicians had an opportunity to demonstrate that the transition could proceed on schedule, by taking the initiative, enacting and implementing the outstanding reforms and, together with international support, work towards building a prosperous European democracy.


ADNAN TERZIĆ, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said his statement would cover not only the reporting period, but also the last four years of his mandate.  Four years ago, the High Representative’s Office had been the sole body for preparing and controlling laws and political processes in his country.  The electoral victory of the “nationalists” -- so called, or rather stigmatized, by the international community -- had triggered disappointment among international stakeholders.  Despite that, it had been possible to gather around a single platform on which to act.  That platform was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Euro-Atlantic prospective, or its future membership in the European Union and NATO, which was the Government’s top priority.


Any attempt at reform was bound to encounter resistance, he said.  Reform of the defence sector, intelligence services and customs and taxation departments was a genuine nightmare for any Prime Minister.  What had been done in Bosnia and Herzegovina was unprecedented, however.  The entity governments had joined the State Government in the “mission impossible” project, as they had adjusted laws in keeping with international norms and standards.  Some 46 new laws had been adopted and 27 new State-level institutions established to meet European Union requirements in 16 designated areas.  For Bosnia and Herzegovina, that was an entirely new page.  The number of adopted laws alone was a remarkable thing.  The real success, however, was making State bodies function and the State’s exercise of its jurisdiction and powers in key areas.  A single economic space had been set up and, as of 1 January, the one rate VAT had been introduced, thereby eliminating a great deal of “grey economy”.


Judiciary reform had established the Office of the Prosecutor and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he continued.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first country in the region to satisfy international standards for the processing of war-crime cases.  In short, Bosnia and Herzegovina had managed in three and a half years to transform itself from a country struggling with conflict and with a cloudy future to a country with credible capacities that was in the process of defining its contractual relationship with the European Union.  2005 had marked not only the tenth anniversary of the biggest massacre on European soil and the closing of the door on Dayton and claustrophobia, but also the opening of a new door -- the “Brussels era” of Bosnia and Herzegovina -- with the official launch of the Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations with the European Union.


The biggest obstacle now was the third government of Republika Srpska, he said.  Instead of joining the ongoing momentum in fulfilling the Stabilization and Association Agreement criteria, it had blocked all reform processes, unilaterally deciding to withdraw all the previously agreed agreements.  In short, their retrograde, irrational policies were now holding the entire country hostage.  Their obstructionist behaviour and lack of respect for already agreed to obligations had brought about a radical change in the country’s political atmosphere.  At the brink of success and on the verge of the “grand finale”, it had not taken more than a couple of months to jeopardize everything that had been done and bring the country to a deadlock.


The High Representative’s report, while very detailed, was too diplomatic, he said.  The government of Republika Srpska had blocked all of the country’s positive processes.  It seemed that the international community and the High Representative’s Office had decided to shut their eyes to those threats, putting obvious separatist intentions in the framework of “harmless” rhetoric.  Republika Srpska’s government was trying to block Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress until Serbia was again ready to reopen the Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations.  While he wanted Serbia to achieve progress towards democratisation, it was unclear when Serbia would, if ever, make a crucial step forward.


“The international community is obviously ready to tolerate all of this,” he said.  Every day counted for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future and he strongly opposed any further waste of time.  The government of Republika Srpska was acutely aware of that.  The policy of silent, yet destructive, understanding for Serbia, because it had allegedly “lost” Montenegro and was about to “lose” Kosovo, was directly supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s destruction.  The Peace Implementation Council had, unfortunately, only added fuel to the fire. 


He said the transformation of the Office of the High Representative into the Office of the Special Representative of the European Union must not start until it was certain that Bosnia and Herzegovina was completely ready to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  That meant it was necessary to wait until Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities were able and willing to fulfil the expected conditions.  That would be the final test of the country’s political maturity.  The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement would provide the legal background and framework for the presence of the Union’s Special Representative.  Without it, the Special Representative would have to operate within a “legal vacuum”.


Elections were always a challenge for a democracy, he continued.  In October, Bosnia and Herzegovina had, for the first time, single-handedly financed and organized general elections.  Unlike most other transition countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina had demonstrated that there was no “reform fatigue”.  The general course set earlier had received the people’s support for the next four years.  Given the challenges he had outlined, he said it was crucial to form new governments as soon as possible.  It was also important to know that those governments would relentlessly adhere to the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.


He said he could not conclude his statement without returning to the issue of the injustice that had been done to Bosnian police officers by the International Police Task Force.  An international presence was meant to bring in the rule of law, not take it away.   In that regard, he called on the Council to facilitate the matters’ quick resolution.


IGOR SHCHERBAK ( Russian Federation) said the successful Dayton Agreement in Boznia and Herzegovina had relied on the building of trust and dialogue between the parties, and the High Representative had wisely adhered to that course.  Political and diplomatic mechanisms must be improved, however, to facilitate the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


He said it was understandable that reforms were going more slowly than would be ideal, but all steps should be weighed carefully.  He called for stepped-up efforts, however, to meet the deadline for the closure of the Office of the High Representative.  In addition, he said resolution of the problem of the decertified security forces must be achieved within international law.


ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece) said the High Representative rightly believed that now was the time to intensify the country’s transformation.  He had also explained his role as one to advise and oversee as the country assumed ownership and full responsibility, but also to advocate on behalf of the people concerning their principal priorities.  He fully supported that new outlook.  It was high time that Bosnia and Herzegovina completed its long transformation and dynamically pursue its future within the Euro-Atlantic family.


The satisfactory conduct of the recent elections was a good sign of the growing maturity of society and institutions, he said.  He hoped for the formation of a stable Government in the near future.  Bosnia and Herzegovina still had some way to go, and could not afford to lose more time.  It was regrettable that, after the initial success last March, the Lower House of Parliament had failed to adopt the package of constitutional reforms.  It was even more regrettable that the issue had polarized political life, when a new Constitution should bring people together in their effort to build a better country.


The Bosnian authorities were fully aware of what needed to be done and how, he said.  Police restructuring, completion of the public broadcasting reform and full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia were just three of the main preconditions, as far as further progress went in the negotiations for the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  The pace of economic reform must pick up again and public spending must be curbed.  Public administration reform must also continue.  The issue of education reform was central to all planning for the country’s future.  Progress in the unification of Mostar city administration must resume, and full compliance with the Human Rights Chamber’s decisions must be ensured.  What was needed first, however, on the part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leadership and political establishment was the realization and acknowledgement that the completion of reforms was the only way to achieve the country’s full transformation.  On the issue of decertified police, he fully supported the High Representative’s efforts to resolve the matter.


JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States) said that, while the United States welcomed the conduct of the 1 October elections, it was disappointed by the level of nationalist rhetoric during the election campaign.  She called on the newly elected leaders to set aside divisive rhetoric and form a Government as soon as possible that would move forward with urgently needed political, economic, defence and rule of law reforms.  On constitutional reform, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a Constitution that was shaped by the necessity to end the war, not by the need for functionality, fiscal sustainability and socio-economic development.  Constitutional reform would be needed to accelerate progress towards the European Union and Euro-Atlantic institutions.  The United States urged early adoption of the package of constitutional amendments agreed by the six political parties in March.  The package enjoyed widespread international support and would create more functional State structures that were better able to meet the needs of the Bosnian people and Euro-Atlantic standards.


Those reforms, she added, would only be the first steps in a longer-term process.  The United States was committed to supporting a next phase of reforms, once that phase was completed.  The United States continued to support the June 2007 time line for closing the Office of the High Representative and welcomed the European Union’s desire to establish an enhanced Special Representative mission.  After over a decade of peace implementation and State-building reforms, Bosnians were capable of assuming greater responsibility for their country’s future.  While the United States was committed to reviewing the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board’s decision to terminate the Office next February in order to take into account the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and regional issues, she did not believe that a lack of progress on reform was sufficient rationale to delay the return of sovereignty back to the Bosnian people.


She said the United States fully supported the European Union and the High Representative’s engagement on police reform.  Signing a Union Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the best ways to ensure that the country continued to pursue the political and other reforms necessary for a strong and stable future.  On police decertification, the United States remained committed to working with the Security Council and the Office of the High Representative to reach a solution.


DUŠAN MATULAY (Slovakia), aligning himself with the statement to be made by Finland on behalf of the European Union, supported the approach of the High Representative and the timely closure of the Office of the High Representative, as well.  He expressed hope that the outcome of the Kosovo process would have no affect on the process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


He urged dialogue between the parties in the country, and advocated a sensitive approach to security reform, so that all communities could feel secure.  In resolving the issue of decertified police, human rights issues should be considered.  He expressed hope that the country would turn out to be a success story, while he pledged the support of his own country in that effort.


JUNHUA LI ( China) expressed pleasure that much progress had been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the signing of the Dayton Accords, and that the European Union had made a large contribution to that progress in the past two years.  He expressed hope that, with the assistance of the European Union and the international community, the country would develop a mature political system, and he pledged China’s assistance in helping the country achieve long-term stability and development.


ELLEN MARGRETHE LŘJ ( Denmark) said she was encouraged by the peaceful and orderly conduct of last month’s elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina and looked forward to the timely formation of a coalition Government.  Denmark hoped that the Government would pursue a genuine course of reform, thereby paving the way for the deepening of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s relations with the European Union and NATO.  Reform was the only viable path for true progress for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnic background.  Further progress on internal reforms was also needed.


She noted that, in spite of the deadlocks and occasional setbacks, Bosnia and Herzegovina had, overall, made continuous and commendable progress since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords almost 11 years ago.  The reform of the defence forces in 2005 was a case in point of that progress.  Today, however, two areas were in urgent need of reform, namely the Constitution and the police force.  While there had been progress in both areas, constitutional reform had been stalled since April 2006 and the police reform of October 2005 had not been implemented.  She hoped the elections and the formation of a new Government would break the deadlock and pave the way for implementation of the reforms.


She said Denmark supported the approach by the High Representative to restrict the use of the Bonn powers to the extent possible, thus allowing the local authorities the greatest degree of responsibility and ownership.  She appreciated that there was a fine balance between using, proactively, the Bonn powers, on the one hand, and ensuring an appropriate gradual transfer of responsibility and political ownership to the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other.  Denmark supported the decision by the Peace Implementation Council in June to close the High Representative’s Office by June 2007, subject to review by February 2007.  The simultaneous development of the roll of the European Union Special Representative was of utmost importance.  She strongly urged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s newly elected leaders to look ahead and focus on tangible progress for the people, regardless of ethnicity.


CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) noted with appreciation the negotiations between the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and was pleased that the country was on its way towards Euro-Atlantic integration.  Despite achievements, progress in the fight against impunity was imperative.  Two important Stabilization and Association Agreement requirements included cooperation with the International Tribunal and police restructuring.  It would also be necessary to make progress in practical terms with the agreed constitutional reform.


The primary responsibility for the further successful implementation of the Peace Agreement lay with the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said.  The international community’s continued participation would be determined by the active participation of all the authorities in implementing the Agreement and rebuilding a civil society that emphasized, among other things, full cooperation with the International Tribunal and the strengthening of joint institutions.  It was also necessary to resolve the issue of police certification.  Argentina supported the unrestricted fulfilment of the Dayton Agreement and the effective implementation of its commitments, in particular cooperation with the International Tribunal.  Judicial institutions would be developed and the rule of law strengthened through joint efforts against impunity for serious human rights violations.


NANA EFFAH-APPENTENG (Ghana) strongly endorsed the emphasis placed by the High Representative on the need for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to assume ownership of its transformation, and urged the various ethnic groups to cooperate in that effort, which could become a model for diverse societies in other parts of the world.  He expressed hope that, in the coming months, the divisiveness that had followed the rejection of the constitutional reforms would be overcome and the pace of reform accelerated.


In that connection, he urged the leadership of Republika Srpska to pursue their agenda through negotiation, particularly regarding police reform, so as not to undermine the unity and stability of the country.  At the same time, he called for the establishment of an investigative commission to determine the fate of the missing civilians of Sarajevo.  Finally, he called on the leadership of Republika Srpska to cooperate with the Human Rights Chamber in determining the whereabouts of Colonel Avdo Palić.


TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) expressed concern that there was a possibility of reversal of progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, due to the decision of Republika Srpska to reduce its presence to observer status, and the pronouncements made by its premier on a possible secession.  He urged all parties to participate fully in negations and comply with the requirements of the European Union.


Expressing optimism because of the range of progress made, he called, however, for more concerted efforts to enable voluntary refugee returns.  He also condemned the violence in Mostar that had occurred during the World Cup games.  He said local authorities should enhance their efforts in the implementation of the remaining reforms, cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by handing over the remaining indictees and forge closer and cordial relations with all neighbouring States.


OLIVIER LACROIX ( France) noted that, more than 10 years after the signing of the Peace Agreement, significant progress had been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had embraced Europe’s values and norms.  The October elections were a sign of such positive developments.  France now awaited the formation of a new Government that would have to work on moving closer to the European Union.  It was unfortunate, however, that the pre-election period had been marked by a return to nationalist rhetoric and the staling of crucial reforms.  In that regard, it was necessary to relaunch reforms, in order not to delay the country’s modernization.  The European prospective must be marked by the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which could only take place when police and public broadcasting reform had been implemented.  Efforts to cooperate with the International Tribunal must also be intensified.  The arrest and transfer to the Tribunal of indictees still at large was essential for satisfying the country’s international obligations and completing the reconciliation process.


Noting that discussions on constitutional reform had seen progress, he said France supported the High Representative’s efforts to reactivate the reform, which all of the country’s political parties must support.  He also shared the High Representative’s approach on the issue of police decertification and stressed the need to find a solution to the matter.  The gradual dismantling of international protection accompanied by a transfer of competencies to the Bosnian authorities was the objective.  While the function of the High Representative would expire, the European Special Representative would remain to provide an advisory and coordination role.  Given prevailing uncertainties, the maintenance of an international military presence was crucial.


JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that, 10 years after the signing of the Dayton Agreement and progress in its implementation, it was time for Bosnia and Herzegovina to enter a new phase.  He noted that the Peace Implementation Council had decided on 23 June to close the Office of the High Representative, which would be replaced in July 2007 by the European Special Representative.  All of the Bosnian parties must cooperate in order to implement the Peace Agreement.  Local authorities must make efforts to keep the situation under control, by undertaking the necessary reforms.  It was also necessary for the international community to cooperate in the capture and transfer of those at large.   Regional issues should not influence political discussions taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Many positive achievements had taken place, such as the holding of the recent elections, the strengthening of the rule of law, economic growth and the adoption of an action plan for public administration reform.  Also important was the unification of Mostar city.  The issue of the return of refugees must also be resolved.  The commitment of the European Union and NATO in the upcoming phase was crucial to the maintenance of peace and security.  States that had participated in the multinational force and NATO deserved full consideration and respect.


TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan), as a long-term partner of progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed his Government’s continuing support to the country and the efforts of the High Representative.  Praising the holding of elections, he urged local authorities to assume their responsibilities in making further progress, particularly on constitutional reform.


He called upon them to make progress in the range of other areas mentioned by the High Representative, as well.  Supporting the timely closure of the Office of the High Representative, he said it should be accompanied by the strengthening of the European Union offices.  Finally, regarding the mandate of the European Union Force, EUFOR, he concurred that its presence was still essential for the achievement of stability in the country and supported extension of its mandate.


KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) noted that her country had been a long-term supporter of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and expressed pride at the range of progress made.  In that light, she expressed disappointment at any return to divisiveness, and urged leaders to assume their responsibilities in shepherding the nation to stability.  The international community should continue to encourage local ownership of the process, but it must make sure that reform does not stagnate.


The lack of progress in police reform and in enhancing cooperation with the International Tribunal was a particular concern, she said.  She called constitutional reform another priority.  On the matter of the closure of Office of High Representative, she said it should go ahead as planned, pending further review.  In regard to European Union Force, she supported the proposal to review its mandate.  Finally, she stated that Republika Srpska was an integral part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its situation had nothing to do with the final status talks on Kosovo.


SEM PASCAL GAYAMA ( Congo) said there had been several encouraging signs of progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  At a time of international disengagement, pursuing constitutional reforms was critical for future developments.  His optimism was measured, however, given several ongoing concerns, such as the rejection by the Parliament of a number of proposed reforms.  He fully endorsed the High Representative’s position to dissuade Republika Srpska from going down a path that would have no happy ending.  The victory of moderates in general elections in October was a stabilizing factor.  While advances had been made on many issues, particularly in the area of the economy, many questions remained unresolved.  The preconditions set by the European Commission, including reform of public broadcasting and full cooperation with the International Tribunal, had not been fulfilled.


The arrest of criminals at large was necessary to combat impunity and establish justice, he said.  He hoped that the High Representative’s appeal for a settlement of the issue of police decertification would be taken into account.  Welcoming the international community’s efforts in the transition process, he noted that, despite the closure of the Office of the High Representative, international assistance remained necessary.


JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) reiterated his country’s satisfaction with the progress achieved by Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The current trend showed that the nation had made significant progress towards reaching stabilization.  He also welcomed the holding of the first elections in October.  For the fist time since the Dayton Agreement, the elections had been carried out by local authorities and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina aimed at completing the building of full-fledged democratic institutions.  It was clear that the general security situation had remained stable.  As the country had moved towards normalcy, EUFOR had shifted from deterrence towards providing reassurance.  EUFOR’s presence was still necessary for the maintenance of overall stability.


He said he expected that further progress in other areas would be made in order to pave the way for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Euro-Atlantic integration.  By the same token, it was important to continue with the pace of economic reform.  Indeed, progress in that area was the base for the nation’s long-term stability.  He called on the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to deal with pending issues and to stay on track with the achievements made since the signing of the Peace Agreement.


KIRSTI LINTONEN ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the work and the approach of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Strengthening local ownership was essential in the transition from stabilization towards European Union integration.  The Union was pleased with the peaceful and orderly conduct of the October elections and said it was ready to work with any coalition genuinely engaged in reforms.


She said, however, that conclusion of negotiations on the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union required implementation of police reform, as well as the country’s stronger cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, particularly by authorities in Republika Srpska.  While noting that constitutional reform was not a precondition for the Stabilization Agreement, it was also clear that the country needed more functional and sustainable State structures for European Union integration and the Union was prepared to assist in that important effort.


In addition, she said that the Union, which had already provided a framework for stability for the country, had indicated its readiness in principle to reinforce its engagement in the context of the closing of the Office of the High Representative, which would be taken into account in the European Union’s planning process.  In addition, the Union would soon start negotiations on visa facilitation for travel to member States, as well as negotiations on the Readmission Agreement. 


For success in those negotiations, it was necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina to do its utmost to implement reforms in the areas of justice and home affairs.


Responding to the statements, Mr. SCHWARZ-SCHILLING thanked delegates for their advice and study of the country’s real situation.  He was impressed with the detailed knowledge of the issues facing the country.  He appreciated the support expressed for the approach he had adopted in carrying out his work and was glad with the understanding that reforms were needed for carrying out the country’s transformation, especially in such areas as education, public broadcasting and police and constitutional reform.  He thanked delegates for their careful comments.  He thanked the European Union for the mandate of the European Special Representative.  It had been useful for him to hear the Council’s comments.


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For information media • not an official record