16 May 2007
Security Council
SC/9018

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

Security Council

5675th Meeting (AM)


Bosnia and Herzegovina has historic window of opportunity to move closer


To Europe, leaders must ‘seize the moment’, Security Council told


High Representative Says European Union Association Agreement Hinges

On Reform of Police, Constitution, Cooperation with International Tribunal


The High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina told the Security Council today that the Federation had a unique and historic window of opportunity to move an important step closer to Europe and its leaders must “seize the moment”.


Delivering his last briefing as High Representative, Christian Schwarz-Schilling said the European Union had approved the text of a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was ready to be initialled, but political conditions must be met.  Concrete progress was urgently needed on police reform and full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal.  Party leaders had come close to a compromise solution on two occasions, but a solid agreement had been prevented by a lack of political will, an unwillingness to make compromises for the sake of the country as a whole and by a lack of vision to make the changes that would serve their citizens better and bring them closer to Europe.


He added that the long, difficult process of Government formation had taken many months, with the result that political reform had been blocked for more than a year.  However, that did not mean that the path towards ownership of the process was wrong; rather it was a warning that the transition could not be taken for granted and that the Bosnian authorities must assume more responsibility for governing their own country and that serious long-term international engagement must continue.  Constitutional reform was one difficult, but important, aspect where there had been no progress.  It would not be resolved quickly, but it was critical to ensuring that Bosnia and Herzegovina served its citizens better and became an effective, functioning State capable of full membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions.


Regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, he recalled that, last June, the Peace Implementation Council had taken a decision in principle to close the Office of the High Representative in June 2007 in the context of positive developments and solid progress towards joining the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Following in-depth consultations, it had been recommended to the Peace Implementation Council to continue the Office of the High Representative with the intention of helping Bosnia and Herzegovina make the final, but significant steps from peace implementation to Euro-Atlantic integration as soon as possible.


Continuing, he said nationalist and backward-looking rhetoric had not receded after last October’s elections and political tensions had increased owing to the continued confrontational attitudes among the Federation’s leaders.  Some politicians had sought to exploit tensions that had continued to rise in the Republika Srpska following reactions to the International Court of Justice verdict on Srebrenica, which acknowledged the genocide that had occurred there.  Radical rhetoric had poisoned the political environment, as politicians, motivated by their own ambition, had ruthlessly manipulated the issue, distracting from the real issues requiring concrete action.


Urging the Council to establish a United Nations Day of Srebrenica to commemorate the tragic events of 1995 and pay respect to the genocide victims and their families, he said the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina must act responsibly and constructively to improve the situation in the Srebrenica area.  The Security Council must consider very seriously how Serbia could be made to implement the verdict of the International Court of Justice, as a matter of stability in the region.


He said the judgment confirmed Serbia’s essential obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, but it had not delivered on that obligation, though the country had been found guilty of failing to prevent genocide.  Serbia should be active in supporting the Tribunal to carry out its mandate to prosecute those responsible.  While coordination had improved between the Tribunal and the relevant law enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, indicted fugitives, chiefly Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, remained at large.


Also addressing the Council, Nikola Špirić, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said he had presented the country’s next four-year programme to the Parliamentary Assembly’s House of Representatives in January, emphasizing a “mobilization of positive forces” in the country and stressing the need for compromise.  “At the very beginning of my mandate, I clearly stated that, between inertia and action, I would choose action as the only way to move forward.”


He said he had also emphasized police reform, the need for continued defence reform in line with NATO’s Partnership for Peace, continued efforts at constitutional reform, economic reforms and intensified cooperation with the International Tribunal.  However, no agreement had been reached on police reform despite a period of intensive negotiations.  Some political options ignored the efforts and readiness of others to make compromise, while remaining consistent in their “extreme” positions.  Such “take it or leave it” attitudes had led to the failure to achieve an agreement that would have led directly to the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.


Constitutional reform was a divisive issue that some “cunning people” had used as an election issue, he said.  Their false expression of care and love for Bosnia and Herzegovina had frozen the further development of State institutions, yet the country had achieved much progress.  It had successfully concluded technical negotiations for signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement, shifting Bosnia and Herzegovina from the “ Dayton era” to the “ Brussels era”.


Regarding the International Tribunal, he said he personally favoured full cooperation and putting aside accusations in order to achieve concrete results.  While the country had been engaged in “mutual arguing” about who was cooperating and who was not, full cooperation was necessary to overcome the “matter that has been a burden for such a long time”.  Regarding the High Representative’s request, Srebrenica deserved special attention rather than a special status.  It was not clear whether a country itself enjoying special status could afford special status for a part of its territory without serious consequences.


Others making statements were the representatives of Italy, Slovakia, South Africa, Russian Federation, China, Congo, Peru, Qatar, Belgium, Ghana, Panama, United Kingdom, France, Indonesia, United States and Germany (on behalf of the European Union).


The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.


Background


When the Security Council met this morning to discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it had before it a letter from United Nations Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon of 3 May 2007, conveying to Council members the thirty-first report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement, covering the period from 1 July 2006 to 31 March 2007, submitted by Christian Schwarz-Schilling, the European Union High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (document SC/2007/268).


The High Representative reports that the general election campaign and subsequent negotiations to form new governments at the state, entity and cantonal levels dominated the second half of 2006 and first quarter of 2007.  A new Federation Government was finally established on 30 March.  Despite calls for a referendum on Republika Srpska independence -- and demands to abolish that entity -- the first general elections since the war, wholly organized and run by domestic authorities, passed off peacefully and successfully on 1 October.  One notable result was the weakening of the traditional nationalist parties that had dominated the political scene since 1990.


The report states that little progress was made in meeting the preconditions for signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, due to a failure to forge a political agreement on police restructuring.  Constitutional reform remained a high-profile issue.  Political leaders have recently promoted some ideas on possible constitutional set-ups.  The High Commissioner is preparing for a broad constitutional reform process to be set up and operating in the second half of 2007.  Bosniak politicians had seized upon the 26 February ruling by the International Court of Justice, pointing out that the army and policy of the wartime Republika Srpska had committed genocide and demanding that the Republika Srpska should be abolished through far-reaching constitutional changes.  Their Serb counterparts have offered economic and fiscal assistance to Bosniak returnees.


Bosnia and Herzegovina was invited to joint the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) “Partnership for Peace” in November 2006, together with Serbia and Montenegro, and the country joined the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in December, according to the report.  Economic growth remained healthy, with an increase in real gross domestic product and rising exports.  The security situation remained stable, with only a few cases of nationally motivated violence or vandalism.   The most serious took place around Mostar and in areas of Bosniak return to the Republika Srpska during the summer.


The uncertain regional situation, in particular regarding the Kosovo status, impacted the politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina.   The May independence referendum in Montenegro set the stage for inflammatory talk of “self-determination” in the Republika Srpska, the more so because Belgrade officials attempted to link the fates of Kosovo and the Republika Srpska.


The High Representative concludes by stating that, due to the uncertain regional environment, combined with the virtual halt in reforms and the prolonged void in government following the elections, it would be rash to proceed with the planned closure of the Office of the High Representative and transition to a solely European Union Special Representative operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina after June 2007.  The Peace Implementation Council Steering Board, endorsing that view, agreed to the aim of closure by June 2008.


According to the report, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board underlined that the policy of ownership remains the guiding principle and that the international community will help the country to make the final steps from peace implementation to Euro-Atlantic integration as soon as possible.  The Russian Federation, however, stated that it was unable to join such a consensus and that it would make conclusions consistent with Council resolution 1722 (2006).  The High Representative had announced in January that he would not seek extension of his mandate beyond June 2007.


Briefing by High Representative


CHRISTIAN SCHWARZ-SCHILLING, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalled that he had first spoken to the Council a year ago with that country facing the challenges of transition towards ownership, towards exercising the rights and responsibilities of a democracy and towards becoming a functioning European State.  The international community also faced the transition challenges of handing over the reins to the Bosnian Government; not doing their job for them when there were difficult decisions to make, but standing closely by to assist, advise and guide where needed.


Ownership was a difficult learning process, as proven by an election year that had seen a resurgence of nationalist rhetoric and ideological arguments, he said.  The prominence of discussions about events of the recent past -– about who was to blame and who the victims were -– had created a hostile political environment.  Finally, the long, difficult process of government formation had taken many months.  The result of it all was that political reform had been blocked for more than a year.  However, that did not mean that the ownership path was wrong; rather it was a warning that transition could not be taken for granted and that the Bosnian authorities must increase their responsibilities to govern their own country and that serious long-term international engagement must continue.


He recalled that, last June, the Peace Implementation Council had taken a decision in principle to close the Office of the High Representative in June 2007 in the context of positive developments and solid progress towards joining the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  But nationalist and backward-looking rhetoric on all sides had not receded after last October’s elections.  Political tensions had increased through continued confrontational attitudes by the leaders in both the Republika Srpska and the Federation.  Tensions had also continued to rise this year following reactions to the judgment of the International Court of Justice which some politicians had sought to exploit.


Following in-depth consultations with capitals and the Bosnian authorities, he said, he had recommended to the Peace Implementation Council to continue the Office of the High Representative with the intention of assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina in making the final but significant steps from peace implementation to Euro-Atlantic integration as soon as possible.  The Federation had a unique and historic window of opportunity to move an important step closer to Europe -– its leaders must seize the moment.  The European Union had approved the text of a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was ready to be initialled, but political conditions must be met.  Concrete progress was urgently needed on police reform and full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Party leaders had come close to a compromise solution on two occasions, but a solid agreement had been prevented by a lack of political will, an unwillingness to make compromises for the sake of the country as a whole and by a lack of vision to make the changes that would serve their citizens better and bring them closer to Europe.


Regarding the Tribunal, he said that, while coordination had improved between relevant law enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the remaining fugitives, chiefly Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, remained at large.  The International Court of Justice judgment confirmed Serbia’s essential obligation to cooperate fully with the Tribunal, but it had not delivered on that obligation.  Serbia had been found guilty of not preventing genocide and should be active in supporting the Tribunal to carry out its mandate to prosecute those responsible for that genocide.  That was more than a moral and ethical obligation.  It had implications for the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.  The High Representative had written to Serbian President Boris Tadić last month, seeking information on measures being taken, but no response had been received.


The Security Council must consider very seriously how Serbia could be persuaded to implement the International Court of Justice judgment as a matter of stability in the region, he said.  Radical rhetoric had poisoned the political environment and the issue of Srebrenica had returned to the headlines.  There had been ruthless manipulation of the issue by politicians motivated by their own ambition, which only distracted from the real issues requiring concrete action.  Former United States Ambassador Clifford Bond had been appointed to play a coordinating role with local actors on the ground, political leaders and the international community.  A high-level coordination mechanism had been set up between the relevant local authorities, supported by the international community, and key recommendations were being developed to improve the situation in real terms.


Emphasizing that the Bosnian authorities must carry out their responsibilities and ensure concrete measures were taken to improve conditions in the area, he said it was about justice and law enforcement institutions doing their work and upholding the rights of returnees.  It was also about economic livelihoods and the restoration of decent social standards to the region.  But it was not about changing the constitutional and territorial order.  A unilateral change of the Dayton Peace Agreement would pose grave risks to peace and stability.  The Security Council should consider making that point very clear.  The International Court of Justice verdict acknowledged that genocide had occurred in Srebrenica, which had been a United Nations safe area for which the Organization had had special responsibilities.


He urged the Council to establish a United Nations Day of Srebrenica to commemorate the tragic events of 1995 and to pay respect to the victims of genocide and their families.  The leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina must act responsibly and constructively to improve the situation in the Srebrenica area.  Constructive cooperative between the relevant authorities at all levels of Government, with the international community on hand to facilitate, ensured that the families of the victims were able to bury their loved ones in peace and dignity.  But such constructive cooperation was needed on a wider level across the country.  It was high time that Bosnian leaders returned to discussing concrete action for all its citizens across political, social and economic issues.


Regarding last October’s elections, he said they had been held in line with international democratic standards.  Though Government formation was a long and frustrating process, it had been carried out without international intervention.  Such were the painful learning experiences that accompanied the lessons of ownership.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace last December, an event marking the recognition of key achievements in the field of defence reform and a significant step forward on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration.  In regional developments, the country had jointed others in signing the Central European Free Trade Agreement, an economic and political achievement that should promote economic development and contribute to stability.  Just last week, the Regional Cooperation Council, previously known as the Stability Pact, had decided to make its seat in Sarajevo, placing Bosnia and Herzegovina at the heart of regional integration.


Citing movement on other long-standing issues, he thanked the Security Council for its constructive role in issuing a presidential letter on 30 April on the question of police officers denied certification by the International Police Task Force.  The Office of the High Representative had worked the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina for several years to reach that solution.  It was understood that the Council expected the annulment of decisions taken by the Bosnian Government last December to establish a national review commission in that regard.


He said one significant reform that remained without progress was one of the most difficult, yet also one of the most important -– constitutional reform.  It would not be solved quickly, but it was critical to ensuring that Bosnia and Herzegovina served its citizens better and became an effective, functioning State capable of full membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions.  Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to establish a constitutional reform process within its own institutions that would provide the political parties, Parliament and the wider society with the forum for both substantive debate and technical preparation on the complex issues involved.  The Federation’s leaders must take full ownership of any process to reform their own Constitution and all Europe, as well as the United Nations, stood together as partners to advise on standards and ready to share their experience and expertise with them.


The road to Europe must be unblocked, he emphasized, noting that police reform must be agreed so that the Stabilization and Association Agreement could be signed and implemented.  The remaining indictees must be urgently transferred to The Hague, constitutional reform must be on track and the transition must be completed.  Europe, above all, must understand the real responsibility that came with supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina on its journey towards the European Union.  It must appreciate and respond to the complex and unique demands of assisting European integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Many challenges remained in the present critical period as the country tried to stand on its own feet.  The international community should not look away or become impatient, even though its role was changing.  The job was not yet done and there would be further hurdles and obstacles.  However, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration would be determined by its own achievements alone.


Statements


NIKOLA ŠPIRIĆ, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Bosnia and Herzegovina, said he had presented the country’s next four-year programme to the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly in January, with a desire to achieve crucial changes across the board.  He had emphasized a “mobilization of positive forces” in the country and stressed the need to reach compromise.  “At the very beginning of my mandate, I clearly stated that, between inertia and action, I would choose action as the only way to move forward,” he said.  As further matters of importance, he had emphasized police reform, the continuation of defence reform in line with the Partnership for Peace, continued efforts on constitutional reform, economic reforms and intensified cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).


No agreement had been reached on police reform, he said, despite a period of intensive negotiations.  Some political options had ignored the efforts and readiness of others to make a compromise, while remaining consistent with their “extreme” positions.  Because of that “take it or leave it” attitude, agreement had been lost; an agreement that would have led directly to the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union.  He expressed surprise at the absence of governing responsibility of the representatives of such political options.


He said constant dialogue would be needed among the democratically elected political leaders on how to achieve agreement.  Lack of political dialogue was the basic problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In fact, it existed only while initiated and assisted by representatives of the international community.  Constitutional reform, for example, was a divisive issue, with some “cunning” people using it as an election issue, and where their “false expression of care and love for Bosnia and Herzegovina has frozen further development of the State institutions”.  He added:  “I do not want to accept the fact that … all of us must surrender to those who think a compromise means only the unconditional abandoning of all the ideas by their political opponents”.


Yet, the country had achieved much progress, he said.  For one, it had been admitted to the Partnership for Peace programme, which was felt to be a reward for achievements in defence reform.  In addition, the country successfully concluded technical negotiations for signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, shifting it from the “ Dayton era” to the “ Brussels era”.  He had submitted to all ministries a list of laws derived from the European partnership, asking them to begin work on the issue and to report monthly on their progress.


He said that, at the beginning of his mandate, he had insisted on stronger State patriotism, but had been afraid that some people, intentionally or by chance, would ignore those appeals.  The importance of confidence-building within the country was stressed as a solution to many of its problems, and was a reform “above all other reforms”.


Turning to the International Tribunal, he said his personal position was for full cooperation and for putting aside accusations in order to achieve concrete results.  He acknowledged that the country had been engaged in “mutual arguing” regarding who was cooperating and who was not.  It was necessary to have full cooperation with ICTY in order to overcome the “matter that has been a burden for such a long time”.


He expressed gratitude to the High Representative for the new political philosophy that he initiated during his term, including the message he sent to domestic leaders that he liked “more to see one gram of domestic compromise than a ton of the Bonn powers”.  But some had not understood that message properly, and were waiting for a High Representative who would “impose solutions and cover up their immobility and irresponsibility”.  He also thanked the High Representative and the Security Council for solving the issue of decertified police officers; although it was not an ideal solution to the law enforcement problem, he was aware that nothing more could be achieved.


He said that the international community had done much for Bosnia and Herzegovina.  However, there was an expression in the country -- those who make no mistakes do not make anything.  He was afraid that the dependence of domestic politicians on the international community had been created by the international community.  Elected representatives should become the main stakeholders of the country’s future -- they could, and should, be allowed to do so.  “What I can’t accept is the assessment that we in Bosnia and Herzegovina have an ideal international community and bad and irresponsible domestic politicians.”  He said his country was one where there were neither “absolute culprits nor innocent ones”, and everyone should take responsibility for any delays or failures.  In the time ahead, everyone must take a joint step forward.


Regarding the request of special status to Srebrenica, he stressed that it deserved special attention and not a “special status”.  It was not clear whether a country, itself enjoying special status, could afford to have a part of its territory enjoy special status without serious consequences.


He ended by saying that progress depended on agreement between the country’s people.  Dialogue was not something to be imposed from outside, and while the country had always been grateful to the international community for their assistance and efforts, the final decision on its future must be taken by its elected representatives.  He was certain that the new High Representative would accept that idea, as Mr. Schwarz-Shilling had done.


MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy), fully aligning himself with Germany’s statement on behalf of the European Union, said Union Member States had approved on 3 May the text of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  That Agreement was ready for conclusion and Bosnia Herzegovina had the opportunity to make a “tangible step forward” on its road to European integration.  However, signature would depend on progress made in fulfilling commitments, particularly on police reform and on full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


Regarding police reform, Italy expected compliance with the three principles set by the Union at the start of negotiations and contained in the final report of the Directorate for Police Restructuring Implementation.  Constitutional reform remained the greatest challenge and he called for a revival of reform proposals drafted last spring.


He said Italy endorsed the ruling by the International Court of Justice on the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, adding that it should be applied scrupulously.  Recalling the Security Council President’s 30 April letter to Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities on the issue of police decertification, he also said the Office of the High Representative and the Union Police mission should follow implementation of its provisions.


Further, Italy supported the decision adopted by the Steering Group of the Peace Implementation Council to postpone closure of the Office of the High Representative until June 2008, and was ready to review the situation at the Peace Implementation Council meetings.  Finally, Italy remained committed to the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, and firmly committed to the process of handing over full ownership to the Bosnian Authorities, as well as a gradual reduction of the international presence in the country.


DUŠAN MATULAY ( Slovakia), aligning himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union, said constitutional reform should be driven from below based on the principles of strong local ownership and intensive dialogue throughout society.  At the same time, the role of the international community was irreplaceable, particularly in getting constitutional reform back on track and keeping it in motion.


Welcoming the recent finalization of the text of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, he said it marked an important step along the path towards European Union membership.  Slovakia, together with other European Union nations, looked to the new authorities to meet all necessary conditions for the conclusion and signature of the Agreement as set out in the relevant European Union Council conclusions.  Slovakia firmly supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European and Euro-Atlantic perspective.


Stressing the necessity to move ahead with police reform, he said that very complex issue reflected the most precious peace-time achievement in the post-conflict period:  the personal security of populations belonging to different ethnic entities.  Slovakia continued to advocate a step-by-step approach, accompanied by intercommunity dialogue at all levels.


DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina had made “tremendous strides” in establishing a political system that functioned on democratic principles, called for progress in bridging the ethnic divide and promoting reconciliation among ethnic groups.  In that context, South Africa was concerned at the developments around the Republika Srpska, the apparent regression in the Brcko District and radicalization of issues relating to ethnicity.


Internal instability in any one of the countries in the Balkans always held the potential to disrupt the entire region, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was no exception, he continued.  One way to create a multi-ethnic society in that country was to continue on the path of reform and for Parliament to work resolutely to adopt the required amendment package, which would ensure a broader process of constitutional reform.  A political agreement should be reached on police reform and in finalizing the full integration of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure cooperation with the justice system in combating organized crime, he added.


South Africa noted with concern the difficulties regarding the permanent return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and was especially concerned at conclusions by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that returnees of minority groups lived in squalid conditions.  He called for concerted efforts to enable persons wishing to return to do so with assurances that their needs would be met.   South Africa supported the High Representative and the policy of progressively handing over responsibilities to Bosnia and Herzegovina leaders.  It was important that Bosnia and Herzegovina become a more democratic and stable nation that contributed to the economic development of the Balkans.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) commended the High Representative for his efforts while noting his balanced approach, which was aimed at helping the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina achieve a compromise solution through constructive dialogue.  It was hoped that the High Representative would continue his approach of providing support to political and diplomatic mechanisms, as well as to promote local initiatives, while limiting recourse to the Bonn powers.  Progress should continue to be based on principles of the Dayton agreement.  To enhance confidence on all outstanding issues, Bosnian parties needed to continue their patient search for a mutually acceptable solution regarding an integral multi-ethnic State made up of two entities, with guaranteed rights for the three peoples living there.  It was important that the reform process be based on realities on the ground, and that they take full account of the interests of all Bosnian parties.


He said the tools available to the international community, including sanction instruments, should not be used to achieve an agenda that went beyond the Dayton agreements.  Police and constitutional reforms, for instance, must be based on consensus among the Bosnian parties.  He noted the difficulties faced by the High Representative in the period following the October 2006 elections, but expressed hope that the High Representative would continue his cautious approach.  It was hoped that, within the framework of the upcoming October 2007 review, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board would not look to imagined threats, as expressed through political rhetoric aimed at raising the sensitivity of the international community.


He said the Russian Federation advocated an early transfer to the Bosnian side of the responsibility for managing the country.  He shared the European Union’s assessment that Bosnian authorities were capable of exercising control of their country.  In addition, focus should be given to achieving a negotiated settlement on the issue of Kosovo, in such a way that it did not set a precedent for destabilization.  Meanwhile, the Russian Federation would continue to a play a role in international efforts to assist the country’s political and economic reforms.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that, following last October’s national elections, the process of gradual integration into the European Union had continued and China commended the European Union for its important role in promoting peaceful change.  It was to be hoped that all parties would treasure that hard-won progress and that Bosnia and Herzegovina would, with the support of the international community, continue its efforts to establish a more mature political system.


He said his delegation was pleased to see a peaceful resolution of the question of former police officers denied certification by the United Nations International Police Task Force.  Hopefully, Bosnia and Herzegovina would implement strictly Security Council recommendations, speed up the reform process and promote regional stability.


BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) said that, since the Council’s last examination of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the High Representative had reported on the fact that last October’s elections had not put an end to nationalistic rhetoric, which was a source of concern.  Nevertheless, it was notable that the new Government and administration had been established in most of the country’s cantons.  There had also been a drop in support for the various nationalist parties, an electoral success that should allow further progress.


He stressed the need to make the local population responsible for their own future, noting that there was a genuine desire to build a modern functioning State.  However, the constitutional reform process must continue, including in the economic sphere, in which business rules had been cleaned up.  Major efforts were still needed to implement constitutional reform, which continued to be an important step towards consolidating the democratic process.  The recertification of police officers was also an important measure towards eliminating vestiges of the difficult past and ensuring the apprehension of fugitives and their transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Congo supported the gradual handover of the High Representative’s powers, as well as his efforts and those of the multinational stabilization force and all stakeholders to continue implementing their commitments to the maintenance of good governance and the rule of law.


JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said that, despite the positive situation following the elections -- during which the Governments for the Republic of Srpska and the Federation were established, in addition to seven new cantonal Governments -- internal difficulties persisted.  In light of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, he trusted that the various entities would meet the preconditions needed to make integration viable, particularly the restructuring of the police force.  Authorities were urged to redouble their efforts towards full collaboration with the International Tribunal, as an effort to demonstrate the country’s commitment to the international community.  Indeed, crimes could not be left unpunished.  He supported the High Representative’s constitutional reform efforts, and saw it as essential that all parties contributed to that effort.


He acknowledged that the situation had changed from the time of the election, and that adjustments were needed to set the country on a path of socio-economic development based on a larger participation in Europe.  He encouraged Bosnian authorities to continue their work on fiscal and economic legislation.  Regarding the closure of the Office of the High Representative, Peru supported the view that national authorities be allowed to increase ownership over their own fate, but the international community must remain on the ground to ensure that that exercise of ownership was effective and that problems of the past did not re-emerge.  He paid tribute to Mr. Schwarz-Shilling’s contribution to the pacification of the country, and in laying down the basis for the rule of law.


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) expressed the hope that, after the elections and government formations, the country could focus on achieving the required conditions for the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union and the full implementation of the peace agreement.  He also hoped that the extension until June 2008 of the mandate of the Office of the High Representative would be utilized to meet the conditions required for that signing.  Priority issues to be addressed were constitutional reform, police restructuring, reforming the economy and the security sector, and the permanent return of refugees.


He said that regional issues and uncertainty about Kosovo’s final status should not affect the political debate going on in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was important that those who had committed war crimes and genocide be convicted and that their sentences be carried out.  Full cooperation with the International Tribunal was required, as well as the arrest of wanted indictees.  Welcoming the decertification of police officers, he said that more than a decade after the signing of the Dayton Accords, it was time that Bosnia and Herzegovina become a viable European country, rooted in reform and characterized by modernism and democracy.


JOHAN VERBEKE (Belgium), aligning himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, noted the High Representative’s report, particularly its explanation of how the country’s political situation had evolved.  He welcomed the new Government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but was concerned by the stagnating political situation.  He called for a cessation of political rhetoric within the country, and noted the need for some issues to be depoliticized.  A recent International Court of Justice ruling should not be used as a pretext to revisit certain political problems.


He called on the new Government to adhere to earlier agreements and to do so promptly.  The road to integration had been lengthy, and it was hoped that progress could be made rapidly on police reform and increased cooperation with the International Tribunal, which were the main conditions of the country’s Stabilization Agreement with the European Union.  Like the High Representative, he felt that constitutional reform was essential for establishing stable institutions and to ensure a fair distribution of powers.  Belgium welcomed recent improvements in the decertification of police officers, and thanked the United Kingdom for its work in that area.  Bosnian authorities were invited to carry out the effective implementation of agreements made in that area.  He said Belgium supported the Dayton Accords, as well as the decision to maintain the Office of the High Representative until 2008.  Given the current political situation, the High Representative’s role in facilitating the gradual transfer of responsibility to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to be required.


LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) agreed that the already complicated task of nation-building had not been made any easier by the legacy of distrust between Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ethnic groups, stemming from the tragic civil war of the 1990s that had followed the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.  Those divisions had become more evident during the elections and Ghana was pleased that the parties had cooperated in conducting that exercise peacefully.


He expressed the fervent hope that the necessary steps would be taken to ensure that the feared destabilizing impact of Kosovo’s final status on Bosnia and Herzegovina would not materialize.  Those clamouring for self-determination should exercise restraint and abandon such inflammatory rhetoric, in order not to impede progress towards the much-needed constitutional reform and restructuring of the police.  Ghana welcomed the progress made towards forming the state-level and Federation governments and hoped that the remaining governance structures would become fully operational as soon as possible.


At the same time, he expressed concern about the lack of agreement among the parties on the nature and scope of constitutional reform due to their conflicting concepts of the character of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a State.  Behind the two contending visions were age-old suspicions, rivalries and, perhaps, ambitions, which should be overcome by deliberate confidence-building measures.  Ghana encouraged the relevant authorities to work assiduously towards meeting the preconditions for signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union and stressed, in particular, the need to consolidate the rule of law, not only as an important foundation for a viable State, but also for increasing international confidence in the country.


RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) observed that, over 10 years after the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was being governed by the same Government without further outbreaks of violence, but much needed to be done to further the process of stabilization.  The current political stagnation jeopardized progress, as did the absence of progress on constitutional reform, police reform and the continued limited cooperation with the International Tribunal.  Those delays set the stage for possible regression and even paralysis, bringing the country’s viability into question.  The Dayton Accord was meant to consolidate peace, but ethnic and nationalist policies jeopardized both that process and the road towards European Union integration.


He said Bosnian authorities had an obligation to form institutions that went beyond nationalist goals, and acknowledged the difficulties they faced, given the country’s “tragic background” in the aftermath of Yugoslavia’s disintegration.  In reinstating the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he urged political leaders to cooperate and resume the constitutional reform process.  There needed to be an exercise of leadership, courage and vision within the country at a higher level than what was recently seen.  The international community’s active participation was also called for; it had the responsibility of guiding that country towards liberal democracy and a market economy.  Panama urged, through the High Representative, that the relevant parties take up those difficult decisions.  For its part, the European Union needed to renew its commitment to the country, for its success was interlinked with the success of “other situations in the region”.


KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), aligning herself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union, noted the strong disappointment among Council members at the lack of progress on reforms, particularly those aimed at leading to European Union integration.  There was a sense of incomprehension that a country that had enjoyed so much international support was unable to effect what was required, owing to the pernicious efforts of some of its leaders who seemed bent on spoiling the progress already made.  The issue of Kosovo’s final status was being used by some nationalist leaders for their own political ends, though it had no relevance to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Regarding the non-certification of former police officers, she said she looked to the Bosnian authorities to ensure the renunciation of the annulment of decisions by the International Police Task Force.  The United Kingdom also supported the High Representative’s position with respect to the importance of not making territorial and constitutional changes to the Dayton Peace Agreement.  Those favouring constitutional reform should work with the High Representative to secure consensus throughout the country.  If some leaders put as much effort into the reform effort as they did into their attempts to undermine the constitutional reform process, the country would have progressed much further.


She commended the report on Srebrenica, but cautioned, however, that it should not be used as an excuse to achieve political goals or a means to undermine the Dayton Peace Agreement.  The Republika Srpska should not, in turn, use it as an excuse not to heed the verdict of the International Court of Justice.  It was appalling that Serbia had failed to transfer Radko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic to The Hague.  Reconciliation, truth and justice were three words that were hardly ever heard, though they were needed as much today as they had been in 1995 at the signing of Dayton.


NICOLAS DE RIVIČRE (France) aligning himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said the current political and security situation in the country was a reminder of the need to be vigilant in ensuring the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was vital that the international community continue to be mobilized and to remain united, so as to face that country’s “internal tensions”.  There had been much polarization since the elections, leading to difficulties in the political reform process and an atmosphere of uncertainty in the region.  Bosnian political actors must be reminded of the need to behave responsibly; actions that threatened stability were not acceptable.  He noted that the Peace Implementation Council Steering Committee had felt a need to extend the Office of the High Representative beyond 2007, because robust international support was still needed in the country.  Indeed, France welcomed the appointment of Miroslav Lajcak.


He recalled the commitment of Bosnia and Herzegovina to European integration, as enshrined in the Stabilization and Association agreement.  However, mass media and police reforms must first be implemented by Bosnian federal authorities.  There was also a need to step up cooperation with the International Tribunal; the arrest and transfer of fugitives was essential for that country to meet its international obligations and to complete the national reconciliation process.  He noted the proposal to decertify Bosnian police officers, which was a welcome, acceptable solution.  It was up to Bosnian authorities to act within the framework of the proposals contained in the letter sent by the President of the Security Council to the High Representative.  The current objective was to transfer responsibility to Bosnian authorities and to remove international stewardship over the country, all of which hinged on the success of the reform process.  It was in that context that the Office of the High Representative was extended.


HASAN KLIEB (Indonesia) said the European Union decision of 11 December 2006 to downsize the Union security force, EUFOR, during 2007 was significant, for it indicated that the general security condition was improving and domestic law enforcement agencies had becoming capable of coping with challenges.  It would increase a sense of national ownership and show the public that its own agencies were leading the country’s efforts.  While unfettered nationalist sentiment was seen by many in Europe as having been the source of “tragic stories”, it was Indonesia’s view that such feelings could also be a source of strength and unity.  The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to funnel those sentiments to reenergize its society.  Inflammatory rhetoric, heard during political campaigns, must, at present, be restrained.


Turning to the question of internally displaced persons, he said returnees must be convinced that they can live peacefully with others upon their return, or else they would become a source of instability.  Economic development policies should benefit all levels of society and poverty alleviation efforts should be intensified.  Targeted programmes, such as microfinance, should be extended to all areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  To enable the country to attract investment, the business environment should be improved.  As for constitutional reforms, he asked the High Representative to elaborate on the modalities of such reform, stressing that reform should serve the interests of all parties, and should embody local values.  He sought clarification from the High Representative regarding the future status of Kosovo and the uncertainties wrought by it.


Council President ALEJANDRO WOLFF (United States), speaking in his national capacity, expressed concern that progress on reform seemed to have stalled, due in part to the irresponsible rhetoric of nationalist leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was to be hoped that the situation would allow the Office of the High Representative to end in 2008 and the United States would follow that matter closely.


He told the Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers that it was incumbent upon the Federation’s leaders to set aside destabilizing rhetoric and focus on the well-being of the country’s citizens; otherwise, it risked falling behind its neighbours in moving towards European integration.  Bosnia and Herzegovina’s joining of the Partnership for Peace had been an important milestone and the Government needed to follow through on implementing the necessary steps to ensure that the process was carried further.  An all-or-nothing approach was simply a recipe for gridlock.  The right approach must be incremental and consensus-based.  While the international community would support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts, the Bosnian people must lead the way.


THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said Bosnia and Herzegovina had seen positive development in some areas, while in others, progress had been scarce.  In November 2006, the country was invited to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme and in May 2007, Sarajevo had been selected as the seat for the new Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat.  There had also been progress on the issue of police certification.


He said that, on 3 May, the Union’s member States had approved the text of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which could bring the country a step closer to the Union.  However, conclusion of the agreement depended on progress in four key areas:  building up public administration, implementing police reform, public broadcasting legislation and full cooperation with the International Tribunal.  The deterioration of the political climate and return to the nationalistic rhetoric, however, were causes for concern.  Although not a precondition for concluding the Stabilization and Association Agreement, constitutional reform was essential for the country’s future.  Functional and sustainable State structures were necessary to be better prepared for Union integration.


The Peace Implementation Council Steering Board had decided against closure of the Office of the High Representative in 2007, based on an assessment of the situation in the country and in the wider region.  The aim was now to close the Office by 20 June 2008, with the intention to complete transition in the shortest possible time.  The Union would continue to help Bosnia and Herzegovina make the final steps from peace implementation to European integration.


Mr. SCHWARZ-SHILLING said he was encouraged by the broad consent voiced by the Council regarding the principles of ownership, as well as by the views expressed on the importance of the country’s transition to the European Union and the belief in a continued role by the international community in assisting and facilitating the process.


He thanked Member States for their kind words regarding his work.  It was moving to know that the international community strove to bring about the best future for the country, which he not only viewed as a legal question, but a moral obligation.  He wished his successor Miroslav Lajcak the very best in carrying out a difficult task, and called on Bosnian authorities to support their Prime Minister towards achieving a Euro-Atlantic partnership.


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For information media • not an official record