19 May 2008
Security Council
SC/9332

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

Security Council

5894th Meeting (AM)


international community still has work to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina Despite


Recent Progress, high representative says in briefing to Security Council


Concerns Voiced over Fugitive War-Crime Suspects, Slow Return of Refugees


Although important progress had been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the international community’s job there was not complete, Miroslav Lajčák, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement in that country, said in a briefing to the Security Council this morning.


He said that over the last six months, the situation had improved considerably as Bosnia and Herzegovina had taken a significant step towards stabilizing the political situation by adopting two police reform laws.  The country was also on the verge of signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union and moving towards membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Its Peace Implementation Council Steering Board had reached consensus on a set of five objectives and two conditions, the fulfilment of which would end the High Representative’s tenure and trigger a transition to a European Union Special Representative.


The High Representative noted, however, that following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, the leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska entity had officially linked its future status with that of the breakaway Serbian province.  The entity’s ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats had called for an asymmetric federation (or confederation), claiming the right to self-determination for the Republika Srpska.  However, the Office of the High Representative had responded by stressing that Bosnia and Herzegovina was an internationally recognized State whose sovereignty and territorial integrity were guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement and from which there was no right to secede.


Warning that nationalism remained strong in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the forthcoming municipal election campaign would lead to a rise in inflammatory rhetoric, he said:  “We have come a long way.  The prospect of European Union integration -- the only positive alternative for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future ‑- is advancing.  We need to ensure that the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina make the most of this opportunity.  The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve a European future.  They must have full confidence that we are here to help.”


Nikola Špirić, Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Council of Ministers, said that body had overcome legislative obstacles to achieve the legislation necessary for police reform, as well as numerous other laws and decisions, with special emphasis on reforming education and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  The hard work of public administration reform would continue.


He said constitutional reform must be based on the original formulations of both the Washington and Dayton agreements.  Upgrading those agreements was desirable, but only on the basis of internal consensus and not on anything imposed from abroad.  Building the rule of law was the only guarantee that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a reliable partner for the international community.


Speakers in the ensuing debate welcomed the long-expected police reforms and other recent developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but stressed that constitutional reform was essential for the country’s future.  While the major tasks stemming from the Dayton Agreement had largely been achieved, the Government and all States, including Serbia, must cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in bringing those charged with atrocities to justice, including wartime Bosnian Serb leaders Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić.  Speakers also noted with concern the slow return of refugees and internally displaced persons.


Pointing to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s vulnerability to political instability in the region and Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, some speakers underlined that more could be achieved if political leaders on all sides stopped using the language of secession threats.  Constituents outside Bosnia and Herzegovina, some of them close to the country, should not push those issues for their own ends.


France’s representative said Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future could only be seen in the context of the future of the Balkans as a whole.  With the final settlement of the status of Kosovo, the last unresolved link in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, a painful page in the history of the Balkans and Europe had been turned.  It was high time the western Balkans looked to the future, and that future lay in Europe.


Also making statements were the representatives of China, Belgium, Italy, Russian Federation, Croatia, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Viet Nam, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Libya, United States, Panama, United Kingdom, Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries) and Serbia.


The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12 noon.


Background


When the Security Council met to consider the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it had before it a letter from the Secretary-General dated 6 May and addressed to the President of the Security Council, in which he transmits the thirty-third report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (document S/2008)300) on the implementation of the peace agreement.


The report, covering the period from October 2007 to March 2008, states that Bosnia and Herzegovina made important progress on the reforms required to integrate the country into Euro-Atlantic institutions.  The ruling parties achieved an agreement on police reforms, which was sufficient to permit the European Union to initial a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the country in December.  However, the parties were unable to translate their agreement into legislation until 16 April, when they finally adopted the two police reform laws.  An agreement late in March among the State and entity governments on moveable defence property resulted in Bosnia and Herzegovina securing “intensified dialogue” towards a membership action plan at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Bucharest, in early April.


According to the report, the conjunction of continuing domestic political stalemate with mounting regional uncertainty after Kosovo’s declaration of independence made it impossible for the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council to confirm the closure of the High Representative’s Office in June 2008.  The Council decided late in February that the Office should continue until such time as the domestic authorities deliver on five long-standing objectives and two conditions are met.  Those conditions are that Bosnia and Herzegovina should have signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement and that the political and security situation in the country and neighbourhood should be stable.  The five objectives are:  resolution of State property; resolution of defence property; completion of the “Brcko Final Award”; fiscal sustainability of the State; and entrenchment of the rule of law.


Among the issues on which the report focuses are:  the rule of law, addressing such items as war crimes prosecution strategy; aliens and asylum; national justice-sector reform strategy; reform of public administration, defence, and intelligence institutions; the European Union military mission; the return of refugees and displaced persons; the situation in the region; the European Union Police Mission; and developments in the media.


The High Representative continues to place a high priority on cooperation with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the report states.  The arrest of the remaining fugitives -- and of Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić above all -- would greatly improve the situation in the country.  Not only would their arrests help bring closure to victims’ families, it would also do much to remove the stigma attached to Republika Srpska and improve inter-ethnic relations.  It would, therefore, be helpful if the relevant United Nations organs could find a way to ensure that Serbia meets its legal obligations.


Briefing by High Representative


MIROSLAV LAJČÁK, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that, since his last briefing six months ago, the situation had improved considerably as the country had taken a significant step towards stabilizing the political situation.  It was on the verge of signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union and was moving towards NATO membership.  The Peace Implementation Council Steering Board had reached consensus on a set of clear conditions for a transition from the Office of the High Representative to a European Union Special Representative.


At the end of November 2007, negotiations with party leaders had resulted in an agreement to improve the efficiency of voting procedures in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliament and the Council of Ministers, he said.  The six party leaders had reached agreement on police reform known as the Mostar Agreement and Action Plan.  The European Union had welcomed that agreement by initialling the Stabilization and Association Agreement on 4 December, with full signature remaining conditional upon parliamentary adoption of the two police reform laws.  Despite their rejection by one of the leading Bosniak parties, Parliament had finally passed the two laws on 16 April 2008.  That had been followed by a recommendation to European Union member States to proceed with signing the agreement, the ceremony for which would take place on 16 June.


He said the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board had met in February to focus on defining a conditions-based strategy for the transition from the Office of the High Representative to a European Union Special Representative and agreed on a strategy based on five objectives and two conditions.  The five objectives that Bosnia and Herzegovina would need to deliver were:  acceptable and sustainable resolution on State property; acceptable and sustainable resolution of defence property; completion of the Brcko Final Award; fiscal sustainability; and entrenchment of the rule of law.  The conditions to be met were signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and a positive assessment of the situation by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board.


Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence, public reactions in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been muted, he said, adding that public demonstrations against Kosovo’s independence in Republika Srpska had been relatively small-scale and easily contained by the police.  However, the Republika Srpska leadership had officially linked the future status of that entity with that of Kosovo and its ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats had called for an asymmetric federation (or confederation) and claimed the Republika Srpska had the right to self-determination.


He said he had reacted by stressing that Bosnia and Herzegovina was an internationally recognized State whose sovereignty and territorial integrity were guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement and from which there was no right to secede.  The Republika Srbska had signed, without the consent of the State, an agreement with Serbia, allowing that country’s Government to build a bridge over the Sava River.  The Republika Srpska had also illegally adopted legislation conferring on it the right to issue financial bonds.


The Federation Government, on the other hand, had kept increasing payments to war veterans and other social transfers, although the Federation was close to bankruptcy, he said.  An additional concern was that the Bosniak parties had outvoted their Croat counterparts to approve the increase in payments to veterans, a decision that was indicative of broader concerns about the Croat position in the Federation.  Recent calls by three senior Bosniak politicians for Srebrenica to secede from the Republika Srpska were clear anti-Dayton statements and only served to increase tensions with the Serbs.


Noting that both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the European Commission had assessed that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cooperation with the Tribunal had been satisfactory, he said the main recognition of the country’s progress was the fact that in a few weeks, it would sign its first concrete step in the European Union integration process.  However, the challenges of European Union membership were not to be underestimated as the European Union agenda had competition in the country.  Nationalism remained strong and the forthcoming municipal election campaign would lead to a rise in inflammatory rhetoric.  A strategic agreement was required on the distribution of competencies between the State and the entities, so that Bosnia and Herzegovina could focus on its European Union integration process.  That was, after all, what the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted.


He said his priority for the coming period was to assist the local authorities in delivering further progress on the five objectives and two conditions.  The June meeting of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board was likely to be a good opportunity to assess progress since February.  “With progress in several fields ongoing, we are looking to transfer as much responsibility as possible ahead of a decision on complete transition,” he said, pointing to the limited window of opportunity in the period after the municipal elections and before the 2010 general elections.  “Let me be clear:  important progress has been made, but the international community’s job in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not completed.”


Now was the time to begin planning for the future leading role of the European Union, not only in terms of its own policy and capacities, but also in terms of how it would cooperate with other actors on the ground, he stressed.  The immediate task would be to ensure that political tensions during the municipal elections did not cause a serious deterioration in the political atmosphere.  Often problems developed because Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders usually remained stuck in the past.  That would have to be reflected in the European Union’s future engagement, but also in the engagement of the United Nations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  “We have come a long way.  The prospect of EU integration -- the only positive alternative for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future -- is advancing.  We need to ensure that the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina make the most of this opportunity.  The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve a European future.  They must have full confidence that we are here to help.”


Statements


NIKOLA ŠPIRIĆ, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that as the caretaker Government, the Council of Ministers aimed at integration with Europe and full membership in NATO, in recognition of which Brussels had initialled the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  In response, the Council had overcome legislative obstacles to finally achieve the legislation necessary for police reform, as well as numerous other laws and decisions, regarding a range of issues from agriculture to sports.  Special emphasis had been placed on reforming education and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  The hard work of public administration reform would continue.


He said the economy was not yet satisfactory, but it was on the right track, with a real gross domestic product growth rate of 6.1 per cent in 2007 and 6.5 per cent predicted this year.  There had been an increase in exports, industrial production and foreign direct investment.  The main remaining problem was the high unemployment rate, the best solution to which was an increase in “green-field” investments.  In addition, it was still necessary to adopt a State property law, reach agreement on distribution of value-added tax, and adopt strategies for justice-sector reform and war crimes matters.  Work would continue on those issues.


With regard to constitutional reform, he said it must be based on the original formulations of both the Washington and Dayton agreements.  Upgrading those agreements was desirable, but only on the basis of internal consensus and not on anything imposed from abroad.  Furthermore, constitutional reform must not represent an obstacle to Euro-Atlantic integration, and the entities must not be denied, lest reform create the possibility for instability.  Building the rule of law was the only guarantee that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a reliable partner for the international community.  The country was committed to good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said Bosnia and Herzegovina had taken positive measures on police reform, economical reform, and national integration since last year, though elements of instability continued to exist and the situation remained volatile and sensitive.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was uniquely vulnerable to political instability in the region and Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence had had a negative impact in the country.


Urging all parties concerned to keep their eyes on the country’s long-term stability and that of the Balkan region, he expressed the hope that they would all work together in accordance with the Dayton Agreement, and achieve greater progress in constitutional reform and institution-building.  China welcomed the prospect of the country’s integration into the European Union and the High Representative should continue to prompt Bosnia and Herzegovina to take constructive measures towards joining the regional bloc.


OLIVIER BELLE (Belgium), associating himself with the statement to be made by Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, said much progress had been achieved in Bosnia and Herzegovina but there were still many challenges to be faced.  Belgium agreed that unilateral constitutional reform would not be advisable, since the main communities remained diametrically opposed, and pragmatism should reign.  Belgium reiterated its full support for the provisions of the Dayton Agreement and the position of the High Representative.


MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said that, despite many difficulties, Bosnia and Herzegovina was moving ahead.  Peaceful and constructive interaction in society had been strengthened and the situation had improved noticeably, with the country having taken significant steps towards stabilizing the political situation.  Kosovo’s declaration of independence had not had a significant impact.  The parties had reached agreement on police reform and the Stabilization and Association Agreement would soon be signed.  NATO had launched intensified dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Government was moving steadily in the right direction.


Despite that progress, however, many concerns must still be addressed as tensions continued to flare periodically, he said.  Constitutional reform was a priority, but the principal of ownership must be upheld.  Decisive progress could be achieved on the five objectives and two conditions.  Now that the Stabilization and Association Agreement had been “green-lighted”, a positive overall assessment of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board seemed closer.  Italy hoped the virtues of dialogue and compromise would prevail in the coming months.  Building the rule of law was the only guarantee that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a reliable partner of the international community.


VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), noting recent agreements on parameters for police reform and parliamentary actions, said the major tasks stemming from the Dayton Agreements, on the whole, had been achieved.  That said, the major imperative must remain a policy to transfer authority in Bosnia Herzegovina from international structures to legally elected national authorities.  The Russian Federation would continue to support the Office of the High Representative.


He went on to express his country’s hope that the Steering Board would not procrastinate and impose conditions, especially as the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was no worse than elsewhere in the region where, in fact, there were no high representatives.  Moves to turn away from joint governance and towards a third Balkan entity contravened the Dayton Agreements.  The situation had improved after the difficulties of last year, giving every reason to believe that future progress was assured.


NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia), welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, reiterated the necessity of a transparent and common approach towards the countries in Southern Europe.  When taking into consideration the complex political circumstances within Bosnia and Herzegovina and tensions over Kosovo, the adoption of the two police reform laws was a welcome event, as was the agreement between the State and the entities on moveable defence property, which had led to intensified dialogue with NATO.


He said constitutional reform was essential for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the parties must be open and flexible in order to afford all of the country’s people the feeling that their future and ethnic well-being were assured.  The Croats were the smallest constituency and their interests must be kept in mind and protected.  There could not be a united Bosnia and Herzegovina without the Croats and additional financing should be provided for their return.  Croatia called on Serbia to meet its legal obligation to arrest fugitives Mladić and Karadžić and transfer them to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


Noting that his own country was finalizing its integration into NATO and the European Union, he said negotiations required hard work on the part of the State Administration.  Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a beneficiary of Croatia’s integration as the latter would be sharing its experience and knowledge.  As for unresolved problems of defining Croatia’s borders with Serbia and its plan to build a bridge, which was thought to risk impairing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s access to the open sea, Croatia had ensured that those concerns were met.


HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) welcomed the incremental progress made towards fulfilling the Stabilization and Association Agreement, as demonstrated by the signing of legislation on police reform, which was part and parcel of security-sector reform.  Further progress in strengthening the rule of law was crucial to the country’s stability and development.  While Indonesia welcomed the High Representative’s continued efforts to forge cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, it nevertheless must be coupled with other major efforts to facilitate smoother inter-ethnic relations.


Dialogue, reconciliation and negotiation must be the preferred option for the resolution of any issues, he stressed, pointing out that the agreed parliamentary voting procedures and those of the Council of Ministers showed the desirability of relying upon negotiations, no matter how difficult and intense.  The Council and the Steering Board must support the country in empowering itself to chart its own course of action.  While various reform plans were still ongoing, they should not be used as preconditions.  Outside pressure might be helpful at times, but in the long run, it would not meaningfully help the country.


He went on to note with concern the slow return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and welcomed the efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other stakeholders to draft a new strategy to tackle that delicate humanitarian situation.  The strategy should not merely provide the basic building blocks of a new life, but also aim to build a higher level of trust among the returnees and local populations.  The returnees must be convinced that they would be able to interact and live peacefully with others, and the longer it took for them to return the less incentive they would have to do so.


JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said the adoption of the two police reform laws and the upcoming signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement were tangible evidence that parties of different ethnic backgrounds had been able to work together and reach a compromise.  However, the torturous political procedure leading to those agreements had been frustrating for most citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, unless the parties learned from that, they could become irrelevant.


He called on all parties and citizens to make a sustained effort to have the Dayton Agreement reflected in constitutional reform, as well as in national laws and institutions so the country could move forward on the road to social and economical development.  The Government should cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in bringing to justice those charged with atrocities.  Costa Rica supported the work of the High Representative and urged him to continue his efforts to solve political problems in order to avoid serious consequences in the future.  Once the objectives and conditions put forth by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board had been met, the Office of the High Representative could be closed.


BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said his delegation had been following developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina closely and was pleased to note the important progress made towards further stabilizing the political and security situation, including the adoption of police reform laws last month which had enabled the European Union to initial a Stabilization and Association Agreement.  Regarding economic development, Viet Nam was encouraged by the significant achievements as seen through the strong revenue growth registered early this year, which had resulted in a general budget surplus.  The various positive activities at various levels towards the law on pharmaceutical and medical devices, profit tax and income tax, among other legislation, were also welcome.


Commending Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders for their efforts to set the country back on the path of overall socio-economic development, he noted, however, the renewed tensions over the country’s future constitutional make-up and the role and competencies of the State and entities, as well as calls for secession.  Viet Nam also noted reports of the “divisive, confrontational and self-defeating” character of the country’s politics, which were a major impediment to the overall implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and called on the parties to work together in the spirit of reconciliation, while continuing their patient search for mutually acceptable solutions regarding an integral, multi-ethnic State with guaranteed rights for the Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats.


BONGIWE QWABE ( South Africa) encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue to fulfil the aims of the five conditions, and all parties in the country to ensure that all conditions of the Stabilization and Association Agreement were met.  Dialogue and cooperation were vital in creating a broadly representative Government and ensuring a secure and stable society that met the needs of all parties.


She went on to express concern about the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, and noted the relevant strategy currently being elaborated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and others.  A comprehensive solution to that issue could help promote national reconciliation and contribute to longer-term stabilization.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was uniquely vulnerable to political instability, and South Africa hoped that recent developments in the region would not have a negative impact on the country’s progress.


PAUL ROBERT TIENDRÉBÉOGO ( Burkina Faso) said the overall situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be considered encouraging, especially with the adoption of the police reform laws and the upcoming signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  Burkina Faso also welcomed measures regarding the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and urged the parties to break the deadlock regarding constitutional reforms, as they would help them reach the goals set by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board.


Stressing the crucial importance of economic reform, he noted Bosnia and Herzegovina’s commitment in that regard as demonstrated by the signing of the economic reform platform.  Hopefully, upon implementation, it would have a positive effect on communities and the international community would provide the necessary support.  Burkina Faso also encouraged national-reconciliation initiatives in order to reduce tensions in the country.  More work was needed to resolve pending key issues and the international community should continue to support peace efforts there within the context of the Dayton accords.  The stability of the whole region was at stake.


JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France) welcomed the adoption of the police reform laws, which had been a requirement for the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  The adoption of a modified electoral law had been another step in the right direction and France hoped all parties involved would continue their efforts towards necessary reforms for a stable Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The adoption of constitutional reforms remained more necessary than ever.


Stressing the importance of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, he said that, in response to certain recent statements, the international community must make clear that any threat of secession was completely unacceptable and contrary to the Dayton Peace Agreement.  It was also unacceptable that Karadžić and Mladić had not yet been apprehended and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  France called on all parties concerned, as well as Serbia, to continue to cooperate with the Tribunal to turn over all those still at large.


He emphasized the continuing necessity of the international community’s commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that the European Union was playing a major role in that regard with the deployment of the European Union-led peacekeeping force (EUFOR) and the European Union Police Mission.  Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future could only be seen in the context of the future of the Balkans as a whole.  With the final settlement of the status of Kosovo, the last unresolved link in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, a painful page in the history of the Balkans and Europe had been turned.  It was high time the western Balkans looked to the future, and that future lay in Europe.


GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya), while joining others in welcoming the progress made, expressed concerns about the disagreements between political parties, especially during the present election year.  Libya called on all political parties to strive for cooperation to ensure stability in the country.  It was also important to entrench long-term stability, which required that all refugees and internally displaced persons be allowed to return home.  In addition, all those who had committed war crimes must be punished and it was to be hoped that all the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina would cooperate to that end.


ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States) said the role of the High Representative remained critical in implementing the Dayton accords and ensuring that Bosnia and Herzegovina completed its transition to a secure and stable State.  The United States would continue to support the High Representative ahead of and during the handover.  While welcoming recent progress, the United States also hoped Bosnia and Herzegovina would turn away from the “zero-sum” politics that had stalled police reforms for some three years and complete the Stabilization and Association Agreement.


He urged close cooperation with NATO and called upon political parties to avoid the divisive actions that had characterized the 2006 election campaigns during the upcoming municipal elections.  Improvements to the Dayton constitution were needed to enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet the requirements for Euro-Atlantic integration.  The United States was prepared to support the constitutional process and stressed that all the peoples inside the country should be involved in that process.


RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that, despite major progress in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a long way to go on its way to Europe.  The major disputes on key institutional and constitutional reforms did not augur well for the future relationship between the three ethnicities and because of that, the viability of the State would remain uncertain.  Panama reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and urged its leaders to speed up institutional reform.  The country’s future lay in the hands of its citizens, but without leadership, courage and vision among its leaders, it would not be possible to achieve a peaceful future.  Progress also required active participation by the international community.  The European Union must ensure that its responsibility in Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to be a priority of its member States.


Council President KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), speaking in her national capacity, welcomed the adoption of the police reform legislation, which paved the way for the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and commended the High Representative’s role in making that decision possible.  It was to be hoped that all countries in the region would redouble their efforts to arrest fugitives and transfer them to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  The Council had been engaged with Bosnia and Herzegovina for some 16 years and, since 1995, the picture had been more positive with the European Union, NATO and the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board nurturing the country.  More could be achieved if political leaders on all sides stopped using the language of secession threats.  Constituents outside Bosnia and Herzegovina, some of them close to the country, should not push those issues for their own ends.


SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, welcomed recent developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the long-expected police reforms, which were among the necessary conditions for concluding the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  There were three other key priorities, besides police reform, where progress had been noted, including building up the public administration, implementing public broadcasting legislation, and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  “Thus, while there are still shortcomings, there are no obstacles to the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement […], which will take place as soon as technical preparations are concluded,” she said, stressing that the pact would be an essential framework for relations between the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina, constituting an important element to ensure stability and strengthen dialogue within that country.


Noting reports that inter-party and inter—communal tensions were running high during the present election year, she encouraged all political forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina to unite their efforts in pursuing its reform agenda with strong determination, including the priorities set out in the European Partnership.  Constitutional reform was also essential for the future and, while not a precondition for concluding the Stabilization and Association Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina would need an efficient, functional and affordable constitutional framework, as well as sustainable State structures and institutions, to meet the challenges of Euro-Atlantic integration.


The Steering Board should remain in place to carry out its mandate under the Dayton Peace Agreement until the necessary objectives were met, she said.  The objectives set out in the High Representative’s work plan must be discharged fully by the authorities to ensure a viable State.  The overall goal was transition as soon as possible, and the policy of ownership remained the principle.  The European Union had a long-standing commitment to the stability of the western Balkans region and would continue fully and effectively to support the European perspective for that region, including Bosnia and Herzegovina.


PAVLE JEVREMOVIĆ (Serbia), aligning himself with the European Union, reiterated that his country respected fully the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its obligations under the Dayton Peace Agreement, as well as its obligation to help bring to justice those who had perpetrated the heinous crimes of recent history.  However, the sole focus of the High Representative’s report was on the need to arrest fugitives, which implied that those indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia were only to be found in Serbia, whereas the Steering Board’s declaration of 27 February 2008 called on both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to abide by their obligations in that regard.


He also disagreed that his country had been neglecting judicial cooperation with others in the region, particularly with regard to war crimes prosecutions, maintaining that Serbian prosecutors met regularly with others in the region.  As a result, two high-ranking fugitives had been located and arrested.  Serbia would continue to strengthen its cooperation with the Tribunal, in line with its genuine acceptance of the values underpinning European societies and modern human rights standards.


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