PROGRESS MADE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, INCLUDING AGREEMENT WITH EUROPEAN UNION, BUT ‘NATIONALIST RHETORIC’ THREATENS TO DAMPEN MOMENTUM, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
PROGRESS MADE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, INCLUDING AGREEMENT WITH EUROPEAN UNION, BUT ‘NATIONALIST RHETORIC’ THREATENS TO DAMPEN MOMENTUM, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6033rd Meeting* (PM)
PROGRESS MADE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, INCLUDING AGREEMENT WITH EUROPEAN UNION,
BUT ‘NATIONALIST RHETORIC’ THREATENS TO DAMPEN MOMENTUM, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
High Representative Presents Third Report to Council;
Country’s Chairman of Council of Ministers Says 2008 ‘Successful Year’
Miroslav Lajčák, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, cautioned the Security Council that “negative and nationalist rhetoric” threatened to dampen fresh momentum towards the country’s full accession to the European Union just months after its milestone signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the 27-member bloc.
Presenting his third report to the Council, Mr. Lajčák said, despite recent signs of progress -– notably an 8 November agreement among three major Bosnian parties on key issues for the future -- nationalist and ethnic agendas prevailed over the one that should actually matter: the Euro-Atlantic agenda. As a result, the 16 June signing of the Agreement, progress towards visa liberalization with the Union and a decision by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to begin membership dialogue “have not delivered the change in approach we need”, he said.
Challenges had come from all sides, he continued, noting that Presidency member Haris Silajdzic had continuously advocated his private political agenda. The negative political climate had led to little progress on delivering the five objectives and two conditions set out by the Peace Implementation Council, to allow for the closure of the Office of the High Representative and transition to a stronger European Union engagement.
For the future, he stressed the need for continued international attention to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would be important to recognize the more positive atmosphere of recent weeks and build on the emerging readiness to compromise. “The goodwill is fragile”, he said, and it was all the more important it be safeguarded.
Countering that assessment of the situation, Nikola Spiric, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said his opinion of 2008 was that it had been a successful year. Apart from signing the Agreement, the country had started negotiations on liberalizing the visa regime and was nearing completion of negotiations for membership with the World Trade Organization.
Since the Security Council’s last session, the Council of Ministers had adopted a number of important bills, strategies and decisions, including bills on public roads and aviation. It had passed the Integrated Border Management Strategy, the Immigration and Asylum Strategy, and other strategies for implementing obligations deriving from the Agreement and the European Partnership.
Furthermore, the Council of Ministers had decided to hold thematic sessions on European integration at least once a month. The Fiscal Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina had held three sessions to date, making it possible to draft budgets for Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions for adoption by the Presidency. It was the first time since Dayton that the following year’s budget was submitted for adoption before 31 December. Given such developments, it was hard for him to accept assessments that it had been an unsuccessful year.
Similarly, the representative of the Russian Federation was unable to agree with points made in the High Representative’s report, particularly certain alarmist assessments that were “not completely correct”. He especially disagreed with the characterization of the Peace Implementation Council communiqué of June as having reflected a “justified concern” regarding the political situation within the country. A more balanced assessment could be found in the statement made at end of the Brussels meeting in November. A basic task of the High Representative was to help parties to implement their own agreements. He called for a balanced approach on the part of the international community.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, believed it would be possible for Bosnia and Herzegovina to “move ahead in history”, and share elements of sovereignty. Anyone wanting to join the European Union must show that it agreed with its values. The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted to join the Union, and any actions that questioned the foundation of the State or jeopardized territorial integrity must stop. He called on Bosnian authorities to reach the five objectives and two conditions. In closing, he underlined his delegation’s resolve to be involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The representatives of the United States, Italy, United Kingdom, South Africa, Panama, Belgium, Burkina Faso, China, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Libya and Croatia also spoke.
The meeting began at 3:18 p.m. and ended at 4:59 p.m.
As the Security Council considers the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it has before it a letter dated 13 November 2008 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council (document S/2008/705), which contains the thirty-fourth report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, covering the 1 April to 31 October 2008 period.
In its overview of the situation, the report notes that Bosnia and Herzegovina took an important step in moving towards the European Union with the adoption of police reform legislation in mid-April, which led to the country’s signing, on 16 June, of a Stabilization and Association Agreement (and accompanying Interim Agreement) with the European Union. The text marks the first contractual relationship with the Union necessary to achieve candidate status and possible accession.
Regrettably, that step had not changed the way in which politics were being conducted in the country, the report states. Nationalist, “anti-Dayton” rhetoric challenging the sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the High Representative’s authority, continued to dominate politics. Ongoing attacks by the Republika Srpska Government against State institutions and laws, coupled with provocative statements from the Bosniak side questioning the Republika’s right to exist, undermined inter-ethnic trust, and had created a cycle in which it was more difficult for political leaders to “meet each other half way” in decision-making.
Having made progress in April and June towards delivering on the five objectives and two conditions set by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council, authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had, since July, hardened their positions on the two crucial objectives regarding State property and completion of the Brcko District Final Award.
The report concludes that the 25 June Steering Board declaration continues to reflect the justified international concern at the overall political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The European Union Military Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR) continued to contribute to a safe and secure environment in the country, and, as such, the High Representative recommends its mandate be extended.
Among other issues covered, the report discusses European partnership requirements, noting that progress had been slow in adopting and implementing the European Union legislative agenda. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers adopted an incomplete European Partnership Action Plan, after serious delays, while the “ Bonn powers” had been used on nine occasions, overwhelmingly in relation to non-cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia and extension of the State property process.
On entrenching the rule of law, the report notes the need for a clear war crimes prosecution strategy to assure the international community that the Tribunal’s work will continue after its planned 2010 closure. As for cooperating with the Tribunal, certain Bosniak politicians had asserted that a conviction of Radovan Karadzic would provide the legal basis for abolishing the Republika Srpska. Continued support of the Peace Implementation Council was essential to ensure that the case was fully resolved. The report commends the Intelligence and Security Agency for “excellent” groundwork, which led to the arrest of Tribunal fugitives Stojan Zuplijanin and Radovan Karadzic. Tribunal fugitives Goran Hadzic and Ratko Mladic remained a priority for the Office of the High Representative.
Regarding the economic reform agenda, the report notes various developments, including the establishment of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Fiscal Council, and 2009 budget preparations. The energy sector faced a serious challenge with the Republika Srpska’s 11 September announcement of unilateral withdrawal from TRANSCO, whose existence is required by Bosnia and Herzegovina legislation, the Peace Implementation Council and European integration processes. No progress was made on other economic reform issues requiring the transfer of competence, due to Republika Srpska’s opposition to any transfers to Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions.
The report also details developments in public administration reform; defence reform; intelligence reform; the European Union Military Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and the return of refugees and displaced persons. Events in Mostar included local elections, which passed without incident, yet the Mostar Statute [which provides for a single city administration with appropriate power sharing and other mechanisms to protect the rights of all Mostar's citizens] hinged on a delicate balance of power between the main national parties -– SDA and HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina. That balance had shifted, creating a volatile short-term political situation.
In the Brcko District, politics remained relatively stable, the report notes. Developments were nearing the point where closure of supervision was possible, but a key issue remained unresolved. The provision of guarantees for the status of the District after supervision, through modest additions to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reached a stalemate when the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH), SNSD, Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) and HDZ 1990 each decided to support a law to the exclusion of the constitutional additions required by the Supervisor.
In late 2007, the Brcko Supervisor consulted with the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and concluded that a package of modest and limited constitutional amendments and a “minimalistic” law would be the best way forward, by which the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina could replace the Arbitral Tribunal for disputes between the District and the entities, and thus create the conditions for ending supervision. By late June 2008, draft amendments had been prepared and all key party leaders appeared to be in agreement. However, the SBiH President disavowed his earlier support.
The determination that the District worked effectively required the supervisory to ensure that it had ways to protect its rights under the Tribunal’s awards, the report states. The Supervisor had attempted to re-engage key parties on returning to the agreement reached earlier this year.
In concluding, the report states that it was unlikely that the Peace Implementation Steering Board would be in a position to take a decision on the closure of the Office of the High Representative before its next meeting scheduled for March 2009.
The Council also had before it a report of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union and the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union on the activities of the European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina covering the period from April to September 2008, attached to a letter dated 25 November 2008 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2008/732). The report provides details on: support to police restructuring and police reform processes; and relations between police and prosecutors.
Statement by High Representative
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, presenting his third report, said that when he had addressed the Council in May, the country had adopted the long-awaited police reform laws that were a key condition for it to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. The 16 June signing of that Agreement was an important milestone, as it marked the first contractual relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union, and provided an opportunity for the country’s people to put their tragic recent history behind them.
However, despite progress on the Euro-Atlantic agenda, the political situation had remained difficult, he said. There was still not enough understanding for the need to engage in dialogue to take the country forward. Nationalist and ethnic agendas prevailed over the one that should actually matter: the Euro-Atlantic agenda.
As a result, the signing of the Agreement, progress towards visa liberalization with the Union, and a decision by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to begin membership dialogue “have not delivered the change in approach we need”, he said.
“In the past months, we have seen negative and nationalist rhetoric from all quarters continuing to be the norm, instead of the exception”, he said. There had been several challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement, both against the State and the existence of Republika Srpska. Municipal elections in October further hardened positions on all sides.
Offering examples, he said the Republika Srpska authorities had challenged State institutions and laws, and in mid-October the Republika Srpska National Assembly restated that Republika Srpska had the right to hold a referendum on secession from the State. Political games were being played at the expense of the rule of law, with the Republika Srpska Government denying the obligation for administrative bodies in that entity to cooperate with law enforcement bodies.
“These challenges are serious and require our full attention, since the rule of law is one of the pillars of a democratic State”, he said. All individuals and institutions in the country must cooperate with law enforcement and judicial bodies without conditions. Recent criminal action, initiated by the Republika Srpska Government against local and international officials, including his Principal Deputy, alleging a conspiracy to destroy that entity was another case in point.
Challenges had come from all sides, he said, noting that Presidency member Haris Silajdzic had continuously advocated his private political agenda, using his office, and the General Assembly, to question the right of the Republika Srpska to exist. Such attitudes would not take Bosnia and Herzegovina anywhere. The negative political climate had resulted in a marked decline in addressing reform, and little progress had been made on delivering the five objectives and two conditions set out by the Peace Implementation Council, to allow for the closure of the Office of the High Representative and transition to a stronger European Union engagement.
Moreover, there had been little progress in addressing European Partnership priorities, he said. The Parliamentary Assembly had “clearly been underworked”, having adopted 22 new laws in the first two years of its mandate, while the Council of Ministers and the Presidency had suffered from inter-ethnic tension. He underscored that to move towards Euro-Atlantic integration, Bosnia and Herzegovina would need to change the way it conducted politics. “Zero-sum politics will need to be replaced by a politics based on compromise”, he emphasized.
There had been encouraging signs in recent weeks, he conceded, noting that on 8 November the Presidents of the largest Bosniak, Bosnian-Serb and Bosnian-Croat parties -- SDA, SNSD and HDZ -- agreed to a joint statement on issues of key importance for the future: objectives that had been set for the transition of the Office of the High Representative to stronger European Union engagement, and on constitutional reform and a population census. “This is a positive agreement”, he said. It offered the potential for breaking the current political deadlock. The Council of Ministers’ decision, shortly after the agreement, to address such issues was encouraging, and the international community should support political leaders in those efforts.
Another important event was the arrest of Radovan Karadzic in July, which, with the earlier apprehension of Stojan Zupljanin, was a sign of the country’s willingness to move forward.
On the economy, he said Bosnia and Herzegovina would face significant challenges in 2009. However, all political leaders had shown a readiness to take measures to address the situation. In November, the Council of Ministers decided to increase the guarantees for bank deposits to €10,000. The State and Entities had stepped up efforts to coordinate fiscal policies.
He said his primary task had been to facilitate delivery of the five objectives and two conditions set for the closure of his Office, and transition to the Office of the European Union Special Representative: acceptable and sustainable resolution on State property and of defence property; completion of the Brcko Final Award; fiscal sustainability; and entrenchment of the rule of law. The two conditions to be met were the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and a positive assessment of the political situation in the country by the Peace Implementation Council. Achieving all that had not been easy.
At its 19-20 November meeting, the Peace Implementation Council underlined that further efforts would be needed to resolve issues related to State and defence property and the future status of the Brcko District, before it could take a decision on the transition from the Office of the High Representative to the European Union Special Representative. It agreed to strongly engage with those issues in the coming months. That meant that the Office of the High Representative would carry out its mandate into 2009.
The recent meeting also marked the start of the Council’s discussion on the overall architecture of the international community’s future engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The priority focus would have to be delivery of the Office of the High Representative workplan, and the international community, particularly the European Union, must start preparing for the next step. The Council had welcomed that approach and the European Union’s readiness to assume a greater role in the country. The European Union Foreign Ministers on 10 November signalled their determination to move forward in that direction.
Finally, he considered the Security Council’s 20 November resolution to extend the mandate for the European Union peacekeeping troops, EUFOR Althea, for an additional year as another sign of unity, and he expressed his appreciation for its adoption. Indeed, that resolution, together with the commitment by European Union Foreign and Defence Ministers to maintain EUFOR at its current strength was important aspect of the Union’s overall strategy.
For the future, it would be important to maintain momentum, and he stressed the need for continued international attention to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was also important to recognize the more positive atmosphere of recent weeks and build on the emerging readiness to compromise. “The goodwill is fragile”, he said, and it was all the more important that it be safeguarded. In the months ahead, the European Union would be working hard to develop a robust strategy. The end state was clear: Bosnia and Herzegovina as a peaceful, viable State irreversibly on course for European integration.
NIKOLA SPIRIC, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said his opinion of 2008 was that it had been a successful year for Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that the country had: signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union; started negotiations on liberalization of the visa regime; granted intensified dialogue with NATO; and was nearing completion of negotiations for membership with the World Trade Organization. Gross domestic product (GDP) was above 6 per cent on average in the past three years, while wages, pensions, employment and foreign exchange reserves had also increased. It was true that the foreign trade deficit was high, but that was a common problem to all countries in transition. “When it comes to achieving competitiveness, we are on the right track”, he said.
He remarked that, according to current assessments, Bosnia and Herzegovina would not feel the direct consequences of the global financial and economic crisis, but the country was certain to feel those effects indirectly. Because of that, all levels of Government -- State, Entities and Cantons -- had spoken “in one voice” to build the public’s trust in commercial banks. He acknowledged that differing visions within Bosnia and Herzegovina might result in a “serious decrease” in growth, and for that reason he said he was glad that most developed economies and countries of the European Union were looking for a common answer to those challenges. “I think it would not be good to leave the fragile economies of the Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to search alone for individual solutions”, he said.
Describing further positive developments, he explained that, since the Security Council’s last session, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted a number of important bills, strategies and decisions. Of note was the police reform legislation, bills on public roads and aviation, and bills on the Agency for Air Navigation Services and the Information Society Development Agency. It had also passed the Integrated Border Management Strategy, the Immigration and Asylum Strategy, and a related action plan for 2008-2011, as well as an action plan for implementing the Interim Agreement. It had also passed strategies for implementing obligations deriving from the Stabilization and Association Agreement, as well as for implementing obligations deriving from the European Partnership.
Continuing, he said the Council of Ministers had established a working group for negotiations on liberalization of the visa regime. In addition, after the road map had been delivered, the Council of Ministers had tasked a working group with drafting an implementation plan, which was adopted on 29 July, and which had already submitted its readiness report. Bosnia and Herzegovina was analysing the recently received European Commission report on the matter, and it was estimated that citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be able to enjoy the benefits of the “white Shengen” by the end of 2009 or the start of 2010.
In addition, he said the Council of Ministers had decided to hold thematic sessions on European integration at least once a month, and that Entity Prime Ministers would attend those sessions at least once every three months. The Fiscal Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was now operational, had held three sessions to date, making it possible to draft budgets for Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions for adoption by the Presidency. It was the first time since Dayton that the following year’s budget was submitted for adoption before 31 December. “Efficient functioning of the Fiscal Council made it possible for us to lead a responsible budgetary policy with the view to reducing public spending”, he said.
Given those developments, he said it was hard for him to accept assessments that it had been an unsuccessful year. Of the five objectives set by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board on 27 February that Bosnia and Herzegovina must fulfil, some had been met: the Stabilization and Association Agreement was signed and fiscal sustainability was ensured. Objectives regarding the “defence property” and rule of law had been partly achieved. An agreement signed on 8 November by leaders of three political parties, and welcomed by Brussels, represented a solid basis for the fulfilment of the remaining conditions and objectives, which would create conditions for the final decision on closing of the Office of the High Representative.
He said continuous delaying of the transition of the Office of the High Representative into that of the European Union Special Representative would damage the credibility of international institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was hard to see how internationally-led justice system reform could be made credible if no indictments ended with a legally binding verdict, as was the case with Sarovic, Covic, Fazlic and others. Bosnia and Herzegovina needed not just attention but assistance, which should be provided in the form of services and advice, but not in the form of international representatives whose bad decisions could not be held to account. Indeed, no other country had a larger presence of international institutions than Bosnia and Herzegovina, which looked “more and more like a controlled cul-de-sac”.
He remarked that some assessments were aimed at creating tensions between Republika Srpska and part of the State-level government, when the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had piled up its own internal problems. According to all parameters and assessments by international financial institutions, Republika Srpska represented “a more stable Entity” and could be an engine for development of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I do not think that the situation in the Federation would be improved by throwing accusations at Republika Srpska, but rather, all of us should help to make the Federation and example of a well-organized and efficient Entity”, he said, adding that it was important for both Entities to be equally respected as constituent parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Concluding, he said he wanted to believe that there would be a new era characterized by the spirit of agreement and compromise. But, those within Bosnia and Herzegovina must pay much more attention to achieving a common vision, which would mean “its acceleration towards the European Union”. Political elites must make decisions that would ensure evolution of the system and not wait for revolutionary changes to come from abroad. He thanked the High Representative for his efforts, but said he wished his report had been “more optimistic and not as selective”.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, agreed with the analysis of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and support form the Union. Over 13 years, the country had carried out basic reforms for prosperity, and last June’s signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement had confirmed its desire to be part of the European Union.
At the same time, he was disturbed at the nationalist rhetoric in the country, which had whipped up nationalist positions that risked the very foundation of the State. The European Union believed it would be possible to “move ahead in history”, and share elements of sovereignty. Anyone wanting to join the European Union must show that it agreed with its values. The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted to join the Union, and any actions that questioned the foundation of the State or jeopardized territorial integrity must stop. In addition, the powers of the High Representative must not be questioned.
The European Union welcomed the agreement between three main Bosnian parties, and called for implementation of the proposals. Recalling support for the transition from the Office to that of the European Union Special Representative, he called on Bosnian authorities to reach all five objectives and two conditions. In closing, he underlined his delegation’s resolve to be involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) welcomed the recent progress made, particularly the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Indeed, the United States had devoted considerable attention and resources to a stabilized Bosnia and Herzegovina and was committed to helping its people achieve a prosperous future. She commended the High Representative and his staff for his effort to facilitate a meeting on the five objectives and two conditions set by the Peace Implementation Council to achieve closure of the Office of the High Representative. But, she shared concerns voiced by the High Representative regarding various political developments that seemed to impede progress towards that end: the rise in nationalist rhetoric, acts to undermine European Union and NATO efforts in the country, and attempts to roll back reforms achieved in the past 13 years that would allow for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership in the European Union. She found it unacceptable and outrageous that criminal charges were made against officials connected to the Office of the High Representative, which raised questions regarding the commitment of the Republika Srpska to the rule of law.
She joined the High Representative in rejecting any rhetoric that called into question the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the country’s constitutional structures. She reiterated the support that the United States voiced last May for the High Representative, believing he was critical in ensuring that Bosnia and Herzegovina completed a transition to a secure and stable multi-ethnic State. She also supported the Peace Implementation Council decision to continue the mandate of the High Representative until the country had met the five objectives and two conditions specified in February. Also, to achieve true progress, Bosnia and Herzegovina must find a legally viable solution to protect the status of the Brcko District under the Final Award. The United States was committed to the full implementation of the terms of the Dayton Accords, and was supportive of efforts by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in seeking their rightful place in the European Community.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he was unable to agree with some of the points made in the High Representative’s report, particularly certain alarmist assessments that were “not completely correct”. He especially disagreed with the characterization of the Peace Implementation Council communiqué of June as having reflected a “justified concern” regarding the political situation within the country. He noted that Russia had refused to support that June document because it ran counter to the Peace Implementation Council policy. A more balanced assessment could be found in the statement made at end of the Brussels meeting in November.
He remarked that international observers did not offer any serious comments on preparations made for the October local elections, which had been undertaken by the Bosnian authorities themselves. It spoke to the maturity and viability of the local State structure. He voiced support for the compromise agreed to on 8 November by the leaders of the major constituent parties, which opened up possibilities for resolving issues relating to the distribution of property and relating to the status of Brcko. That agreement would help ensure implementation of the five objectives and two conditions.
He noted that a basic task of the High Representative was to help parties to implement their own agreements. He called for a balanced approach on the part of the international community. Unfortunately, leaders of the Bosnian Entities were suffering from sharp disagreements. All sides needed to comply with the Dayton Agreement, which was an “irreplaceable basis” for moving forward. He asked that the Entities’ powers in every area be respected, and said that any formula to improve the Dayton Agreement through the use of his “ Bonn powers” was unacceptable and doomed to failure. He was also opposed to proposals on constitutional reform.
GIULIO TERZI (Italy), fully aligning Italy with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said that, while the High Representative’s report emphasized encouraging signs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it also revealed critical circumstances that invited the international community’s ongoing commitment. The June signature of the Stabilization and Association Agreement was a landmark achievement that demonstrated how local political leadership could act constructively and reach compromises. Particularly welcome was the solution regarding the police reform legislation issue, which not long ago seemed unreachable. The European Union perspective, which allowed the High Representative to broker a solution, should be kept in mind in view of future challenges. The Odzak agreement reached by the three major Bosnian parties provided yet another reason to hope that a virtuous cycle in the political process could set in, despite the nationalist, anti-Dayton rhetoric noted in the report.
He said Italy was convinced that, to stimulate more progress towards lasting democratic stabilization, it was necessary to move beyond the status quo and uphold the principle of ownership. Preparations were needed for the transition from the Office of the High Representative to that of the European Union Special Representative. To that end, every aspect of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s reality should be carefully evaluated, even as the goal that a stand-alone Special Representative would become the international community’s driving force there was kept in mind.
Progress in the implementation of the five objectives and two conditions should also be promoted, he said. Italy trusted that the country’s political forces would find adequate solutions on the two objectives that remained unsettled and called on the Bosnian leadership to focus its efforts in that direction, while refraining from statements and acts challenging State structures defined in the Dayton Accords. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina had demonstrated their wish to live in a peaceful, stable and multiethnic environment, and the country’s leaders should act accordingly. Noting Italy’s current presence as part of EUFOR Althea, he confirmed its policy of contributing to all international civilian efforts.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) strongly supported the Office of the High Representative and invited others to do so, as well. Aligning herself with the European Union, she welcomed the High Representative, the Chair of the Council of Ministers, and noted his comments about the economy. She also noted that, in November, the Security Council renewed the mandate for EUFOR.
She said that 13 years after Dayton Agreement was also 13 years after the violence at Srebrenica, and she paid tribute to the victims of that incident. She welcomed the fact that Radovan Karadzic had been arrested and transferred to The Hague. The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina lay in Europe, and she regretted the loss of momentum since signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and shared concern at ongoing nationalist rhetoric. The “home-grown” Bosnian initiative taken on 8 November was a step forward, notably because it was a Bosnian initiative. It was an example of the efforts being taken to find common political ground. She urged all to engage with the reform agenda.
It was a matter of regret that, once again, the question of ethnic and nationalist rhetoric must be addressed, she continued. Two leaders for that had been singled out. The Bosnian people were not well served by attempts to undermine the Republika Srpska. The entity’s status could not be changed without their will. Nor were they well served by attempts to undermine the High Representative.
Instead of non-cooperation with the High Representative, she urged leaders to work hard to meet the five objectives and two conditions, and work towards a transition to a wholly European Union civilian presence. A decision on such matters should be taken when conditions were right to do that. While the “Bonn Powers” should be used when necessary, they had been endorsed by the Security Council in a Chapter VII resolution. She concluded by restating the Union’s commitment to playing an enhanced role in the country and working for a multi-ethnic future for the country.
DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO ( South Africa) fully supported the High Representative and his Office, and progressively handing over responsibility to Bosnian leadership. He was further pleased at the finalization of police reform laws, allowing the country to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. However, some developments had not been so positive, and he was disappointed at work on the reform agenda. Further, the increase in rhetoric was of concern, as it undermined progress and challenged the very foundations of the State, as created by the Dayton Agreement and the Constitution.
Continuing, he was concerned at the actions against the Office of the High Representative aimed at preventing him from executing his duties. He urged “unlocking the political deadlock” and returning to the peace process. Integration with the European Union could only be done through open dialogue among all to build consensus. He welcomed the joint statement adopted on 8 November. The peace processes encompassed more than dialogue, and he agreed with the Steering Board that signatories must tackle the reform agenda.
ANDRES DE VENGOECHEA ( Panama) said he was gratified at the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was a way to bring the country a step closer towards Euro-Atlantic integration. However, he was concerned by the rise of nationalist rhetoric and actions by leaders that were detrimental to State-building. He observed that the Dayton Accords had been signed to put and end to war, and so he deplored actions that placed ethnic, parochial and short-term interest ahead of the country’s interests. He appealed to the leaders of each group to work together, not as representatives of ethnic groups, but as citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as possible future members of the European Union. Until the country become stable, he would support the High Representative’s continued presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the use of his “ Bonn powers”.
JAN GRAULS (Belgium), aligning his statement with that of the European Union, said he shared the High Representative’s assessment of the situation, and underscored the importance of the signing of the Stability and Association Agreement. Recent progress had demonstrated that it was possible to achieve certain crucial reforms, such as police reform. But, since the Agreement was signed, progress towards reform had slowed down or even halted, which was worrisome. The rise in ethnic rhetoric in the run-up to the local elections of 5 October had paralysed the political process, and it seemed that that attitude would undermine the foundations of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina and hinder the achievement of the Euro-Atlantic goals that Belgium fully supported.
He welcomed the political agreement reached by political parties on 8 November, which should now be supported by other actors. On 27 February, the Peace Implementation Council linked the closure of the Office of the High Representative to the achievement of the five objectives and two conditions, and their importance was reaffirmed in the declaration announced at the November meeting in Brussels. Attention must be turned to resolving questions of public property between the Entities and the complete implementation of the outcome of the Brcko Arbitration Tribunal. He ended by reiterating support for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Dayton Accords, and the renewal of the European Union Force mandate.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) conceded that some progress had been made, particularly with the mid-April adoption of the police reform law, the 16 June signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and the 8 November agreement concluded by the leaders of three Bosnian parties. However, overall, there was instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, resulting, in part, from attempts to change the Constitution. He was also disturbed by the lack of understanding among political entities, which slowed reform of the economy, and the defence sector, among other areas. He urged the parties to reach the objectives set by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board. On the question of refugees and displaced persons, work must be done, he said, also urging cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia vis-à-vis Radovan Karadzic.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was being rebuilt, he explained, which meant that it must have good relations with its neighbours. It should start, as soon as possible, on the common demarcation of boarders. In resolution 1845 (2008), the Security Council supported the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he urged continued international support for the country, with a view to full implementation of the various agreements. He welcomed efforts by NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and commended the work of the High Representative. Further, he urged the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board to continue its work for lasting peace in the country.
LA YIFAN ( China) noted that the overall situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the six months had been stable, and progress had been made in European Union integration. In that context, he noted the adoption of laws on police reform, the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. At the same time, he was concerned at destabilizing factors. Parties had exchanged tit-for-tat rhetoric, and the return of displaced persons faced obstacles. He hoped the High Representative and others would continue to work for political stability and assist the country in moving forward. He also urged continued work on the five objectives and two conditions.
Continuing, he said China respected the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The maintenance of peace and stability was in the interests of all sides, and dialogue would be an important basis for achieving that goal. He welcomed the 8 November agreement. He further hoped Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ethnic groups would increase their mutual trust and refrain from political confrontation. China was ready to continue its support for the High Representative’s work, and was pleased at the European Union’s role in helping the country advance within the framework of the Dayton Peace Agreement. China was prepared to help Bosnia and Herzegovina realize its goals for peace and sustainable development.
BUI TE GIANG ( Viet Nam) took note of efforts during the reporting period to achieve police reform and to maintain fiscal and economic stability, but expressed concern at the rise in nationalist rhetoric and related attacks on State institutions. In light of the food and energy crisis, and potential economic and financial challenges posed by it, all stakeholders must demonstrate a higher sense of political responsibility and country ownership of the reform process. He called on them to work in a reconciliatory spirit towards a solution on an integrated, multi-ethnic State with guaranteed rights for all citizens. The reform process must continue under the ownership of Bosnia and Herzegovina as provided by the Dayton Accords, and in line with commitments towards European integration. He confirmed Viet Nam’s continued support for the Office of the High Representative and the European Union for facilitating the integration process, and for promoting peace and security within the framework of Dayton.
HASAN KLIEB ( Indonesia) welcomed progress made to reach the objectives and conditions spelled out by the Peace Implementation Council, and called on all stakeholders to work towards strengthening the rule of law at both the local and national level. Rule of law was fundamental to a strong society, and for enabling a country to guarantee that all citizens could enjoy the dividends of peace. He noted the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and acknowledged that the European Union Force was contributing to a secure environment.
He pointed to concerns raised by the report emanating from the political environment, and voiced hope that the Office of the High Representative would engage all political parties to further ameliorate the acrimonious political climate, which was threatening to erode inter-ethnic trust and making the situation ever more complex. Dialogue, reconciliation and negotiation must be viewed as the preferred option to resolve outstanding issues, with the search for prosperity and stability as common goals. He remarked on the slow return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and encouraged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others to tackle that issue by building higher levels of trust between returnees and the local population. The longer it took to return home, the less incentive there was for potential returnees to do so. He also voiced support for the work being conducted by the Office of the High Representative.
JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said that he felt it would be more conducive to attaining objectives if leaders’ logic changed, concerning paragraphs that were included -- or not -- in the High Representative’s reports. There had been progress, but there still must be a change in attitude if Bosnia and Herzegovina was to see the peace for which everyone hoped.
IBRAHIM O.A. DABBASHI ( Libya) welcomed the Parliamentary Assembly’s adoption of the long-awaited police reform law, which had paved the way for the signing, on 16 June, of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and the Interim Agreement with the European Union. He also welcomed concrete progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities on the five objectives and two conditions, as their achievement would mark a transition from the Office of the High Representative to the European Union Special Representative.
At the same time, he was concerned at the continued “nationalist parlance” on all sides, as well as the “extremist ethnic nature” being imposed on some issues. That tendency would ignite tensions and undermine stability, both in the country and the region. As such, he called on all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be politically responsible, respect State institutions, and adhere to obligations under the Dayton Agreement and relevant Security Council resolutions. In that way, the country could contribute to its own development and stability in the Balkan region.
He commended efforts to arrest the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and hoped that such efforts would continue in the pursuit to bring other fugitives to justice. Such action would heal past wounds, and he called on all to cooperate with the Dayton Agreements. He encouraged creating an atmosphere of trust, and hoped that would contribute to the return of all refugees. He was concerned at the difficulties stemming from refugees and internally displaced persons, and emphasized taking all measures to ensure they returned home. In closing, he urged continuing constitutional and economic reforms.
NEVEN JURICA (Croatia), speaking in his national capacity and aligning himself with the European Union, welcomed progress made on reforms, which had led to signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement -- the country’s first contractual relationship with the European Union and a long-standing objective of the Peace Implementation Council. However, due to problems in other trouble spots, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina had “slid under the radar”, and it was important for the international community to refocus attention to that country. He was concerned by the High Representative’s assessment, which presented a situation that was far from stable. He echoed the concerns of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board on changes to the sovereign and territorial integrity and constitutional order. Comprehensive and inclusive dialogue was needed to reach agreements acceptable to all three peoples on subjects such as constitutional reform.
Further stressing the importance of respect for the equal rights of all three peoples, he noted that it was vital to secure the future and survival for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “There cannot be a Bosnia and Herzegovina without Croats”, he said, underscoring that their voice must be taken into account on the basis of constitutional equality. All three peoples must be made to feel that Bosnia and Herzegovina was their country, and that they were safe throughout the entire territory. In particular, people must feel safe enough to return home. He echoed the High Representative’s calls to arrest fugitives still at large, and said they should be transferred to The Hague as soon as possible. He remarked that the country was being offered an “unambiguous European perspective” that would benefit all citizens and, indeed, would benefit all of Europe.
High Representative LAJČÁK thanked members of the Council for their attention to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and for their statements in support of his mission. He stressed the need for compromise and consensus among the three peoples, if Bosnia and Herzegovina was to move forward. The international community should support domestic initiatives and honour the country’s ownership over its future. The priority of his Office was to complete the workplan outlined by the Peace Implementation Council in February. It would decide when to “redefine” its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and when to offer a greater role to the European Union. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the international community’s joint responsibility. Local authorities could best contribute by behaving in a “mature” way, and by becoming partners to the Office, rather than its opponents. He said support from the United Nations and its Security Council was much needed.
* *** *
* The 6032nd Meeting was closed.