Senior International Official, Briefing Security Council, Calls for End to ‘Stagnation and Internal Disagreements’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina

11 November 2010
SC/10082

Senior International Official, Briefing Security Council, Calls for End to ‘Stagnation and Internal Disagreements’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina

11 November 2010
Security Council
SC/10082
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6421st Meeting* (AM)

Senior International Official, Briefing Security Council, Calls for End

 

to ‘Stagnation and Internal Disagreements’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

High Representative Hails Recent Elections, but Expresses

Concern about ‘Divisive Rhetoric’, Challenges to Country’s Integrity

The international community must urge the newly elected leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to end the stagnation and internal disagreements of the past four years, the top international official in the country told the Security Council today.

“There is now a real need for the political leaders to recreate momentum for change and reform,” Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said as he presented his latest report, which describes an increase in divisive rhetoric during the recent elections and actions that challenged the competency of the State on the part of the Republika Srpska, one of the Federation’s two constituent entities.

“Zero sum politics will need to be replaced by politics based on compromise and a readiness to meet each other half way,” Mr. Inzko said, emphasizing that responsibility now lay firmly in the hands of those elected in the 3 October general elections.  The choice facing the country was between reintegration and reform on the one hand, which would allow it to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or stagnation and isolation on the other.

He said the elections had been deemed efficient and generally in accordance with international standards, with a relatively high turnout, which was good news showing that citizens increasingly cared about their country’s future.  In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s recent visa-liberalization agreement with the European Union demonstrated that progress could be achieved, given the necessary political will.

However, there had been was no progress on the key reforms required for Euro-Atlantic integration in the past year, he said, adding that there had actually been a rollback of reforms.  Consequently, the Peace Implementation Council had not been able to decide on the closure of the Office of the High Representative and its transformation into the Office of the European Union Representative.  In respect of the European Force known as EUFOR, whose mandate was due to expire this month, its presence, with an executive mandate, was still important, he reiterated, emphasizing that sufficient troops must be left on the ground for adequate assurance of security.  The objective was for Bosnia and Herzegovina to move towards full Euro-Atlantic integration under its own steam, with full ownership and responsibility, he said.

Following Mr. Inzko’s briefing, Nebojša Radmanovič, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that although it was popular to talk about his country in gloomy terms, in its entirety it represented a positive example of peacebuilding, having carried out all key elements of the Dayton Peace Agreement.  The recent elections were the reason for the “slight delay” in its reform and transition, he said, noting that the political entities had focused more on the campaign than on the country’s real problems.

“Those who are dissatisfied with the pace of the progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina are trying to find a remedy by challenging the very foundations of the existing Peace Agreement, which could only lead us to new conflicts and disputes,” he warned.  The reasons for the existence of the Office of High Representative had been reduced significantly, and no further steps could be taken towards European integration until its transformation was complete, he added.  The country’s leaders should be invited to negotiate and to act in accordance with existing agreements, and without pressure from elsewhere.  “Agreement, understanding, equality and tolerance are the essence of all reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that should be encouraged, commended and approved,” he stressed.

In the ensuing debate, most speakers expressed agreement with the High Representative’s assessment and shared his concerns, calling for an end to divisive rhetoric and for the rapid formation of a new Government, with a view to making progress in all areas required for Euro-Atlantic integration and the closure of the Office of the High Representative.

However, the representative of the Russian Federation said the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina should not be over-dramatized, given the stable security situation and the conduct of the recent elections.  The international community should work with elected representatives, including those from the Republika Srpska, to ensure progress on outstanding areas.  It was necessary to return to the task of transforming the Office of High Representative through the agreed objectives and conditions rather than linking it to the Euro-Atlantic agenda.  That must be done in strict accordance with the Dayton framework and not the expanded expectations of Euro-Atlantic groups, he said, adding that any changes in the basic framework must have the consent of all three peoples constituting the Federation.

Serbia’s representative echoed that sentiment, saying that closing the Office of the High Representative and terminating the so-called Bonn Powers would help find a solution to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s problems.  “We call for the achievement of a sustainable solution in the spirit of European values, with the agreement of the representatives of the two entities and the consensus of the three constituent peoples.”  However, the country’s integrity should not be called into question, “for it is only a stable and prosperous region that can become a part of the European family of nations”.  As a signatory and guarantor of Dayton’s implementation, Serbia remained strongly committed to the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and had consistently respected its sovereignty, he said, adding that it viewed the development of relations with the Republika Srpska in the context of efforts to intensify its overall relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Declaration on Srebrenica was not only a clear demonstration of Serbia’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also of its readiness to confront the past and assume political responsibility for the wider region’s future and well-being. 

Croatia’s representative called for constitutional amendments that would provide equality for all citizens, emphasizing that ethnic Croats should have an equal voice, particularly at the Federation level.  He affirmed the importance of arresting the remaining fugitives from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and of concluding related judicial processes.  Croatia strongly supported the clear and unambiguous Euro-Atlantic perspective for progress and pledged its assistance in that area, he said, expressing regret, however, over the lack of follow-up on other regional opportunities.

Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, Lebanon, China, Turkey, France, Austria, United States, Brazil, Uganda, Japan, Gabon, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended closed at 4:51 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it a letter dated 8 November 2010 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council conveying the Thirty-eighth report of the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina (document S/2010/575), in which the High Representative supports the extension of the mandate of the European military mission (EUFOR), due to expire on 18 November, saying that its presence continues to reassure citizens that the country is safe and secure despite a difficult political situation.

According to the report, which covers the period from 1 May to 15 October 2010, there was no progress towards the country’s integration into the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) because the authorities failed to implement long-needed reforms.  Neither has there been progress towards meeting outstanding requirements for the transition from the Office of the High Representative to a reinforced European Union presence.  Preliminary assessments deemed the general elections held on 3 October free, fair and generally in line with international standards, though marred by divisive rhetoric.

The report expresses the High Representative’s concern about intensifying challenges to his authority and to State-level institutions, competencies and laws, mainly from the Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Its leaders have repeatedly referred to its future independence and reiterated their view of the Federation as a “virtual and impossible State”.  The Republika Srpska also adopted a new law on referendums and, following the opinion by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo, its leaders made unsubstantiated claims for a similar right to self-determination.

Noting an increase in actions threatening to undermine efforts to overcome the legacy of war crimes, he said the leaders of the Republika Srpska continued to challenge rulings of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia describing the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica as genocide.  The entity’s authorities have also taken unilateral steps to regulate State property by adopting its own law which, if implemented, would make the completion of the “five objectives and two conditions” required for closing the Office of the High Representative more difficult.

The High Representative says that within the Federation, meanwhile, relations among members of the governing coalition remained strained in the context of attempts to roll back and politicize reform of the civil service and steps to shift responsibility for education, culture and public administration from the Federation to the canton level.  Additionally, in the run-up to the general elections, some Croat political leaders called openly for the creation of a third entity within the Federation, expressing dissatisfaction with the current electoral system.

Relevant authorities failed to implement the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights regarding discrimination against segments of the citizenry who are prevented from standing for election and appointment to important positions in State-level institutions.  On the positive side, the overall security situation remained stable, although a fatal terrorist attack against a police station on 27 June indicated that security challenges remain.  Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfilled the conditions required for visa liberalization with the European Union and the European Parliament voted on 7 October to grant visa-free travel to its citizens.

Briefing by High Representative

VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, congratulated the country’s citizens on the progress made in the 15 years since the signing of the Dayton Agreement.  The European Union’s decision earlier this week to allow visa-free travel for Bosnians demonstrated both the regional bloc’s commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ability of the country’s political leaders to address difficult reform if they mustered the necessary political will.  There had also been improvements in regional cooperation, he added.

Presenting his latest report, he noted, however, that there was still insufficient dialogue, and that nationalist agendas were prevailing over cooperation and compromise, making the political situation difficult.  There had been no progress in the past year on the key reforms required for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.  Instead there had been a marked increase in negative and divisive rhetoric as well as a rollback of reforms, which continued an unfortunate trend of the last four years.

Given the lack of progress, the Peace Implementation Council had not been able to decide on the closure of the Office of the High Representative, as already foreseen in 2006, he said, noting that he had reduced his staff by more than 20 per cent in July 2010, handing over some responsibilities to local authorities.  Despite some instances of fraud, the 3 October elections had been deemed efficient, with the highest turnout of any poll since 2002, which was good news, demonstrating that citizens increasingly cared about their country’s future, he said.

Looking beyond the elections, he said, “it is clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot afford four more years of stagnation and internal disagreements”.  There was now a real need for political leaders to create momentum for change and reform, he stressed, adding that “zero-sum politics will need to be replaced by politics based on compromise and a readiness to meet each other half way”.  Responsibility was now firmly in the hands of the incoming authorities.  Bosnia and Herzegovina would definitely continue to exist, since partition was not a solution, he said, warning that the choice facing the country was between reintegration and reform on the one hand — which would allow it to join the European Union and NATO — or stagnation and isolation on the other.

The international community must remain fully focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina, supporting the path of regional integration and making clear to the incoming Government what was expected of them, he stressed.  Politicians at all levels must be urged to focus on the Euro-Atlantic agenda, even though the formation of the State-level Government might take a long time since politicians in the Republika Srpska had made clear their desire to roll back reforms.  The international community must also insist very vocally on the preservation of national territorial integrity and constitutional framework, with only a united Federation having a future in the European Union and NATO.  Destructive rhetoric must end, he emphasized.

To that end, he continue, the country must be encouraged to address the main problems identified by the European Commission’s progress report, and the objectives and conditions for closure of the Office of the High Representative.  It must also start a step-by-step process of constitutional changes.  As for EUFOR, he reiterated the continuing importance of its presence with an executive mandate, and emphasized that sufficient troops must be left on the ground for adequate reassurance of security.  The objective was for Bosnia and Herzegovina to move towards full Euro-Atlantic integration under its own steam, with full ownership and responsibility.  That possibility could indeed become reality, he said, pledging to dedicate all his efforts towards that end, while counting on the Council’s continuing support.

Statements

NEBOJŠA RADMANOVIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the situation in his country had changed since the High Representative’s last report, on which the Presidency did not have a unified position.  Although it was popular to talk about Bosnia and Herzegovina in gloomy terms, the country as a whole represented a positive example of peacebuilding, he emphasized, explaining that reform and the transition had experienced a “slight delay” because of the elections, during which the political entities had focused more on the campaign than on the country’s real problems.  Although Bosnia and Herzegovina had emerged 15 years ago from a tragic conflict that had destabilized the entire region, it had since made significant progress, he said.

He continued:  “Those who are dissatisfied with the pace of the progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina are trying to find a remedy by challenging the very foundations of the existing Peace Agreement, which could only lead us to new conflicts and disputes.”  All key elements of the Dayton Peace Agreement had been implemented, and six general parliamentary elections had been held, the last few organized entirely by the domestic authorities.  The country had joined the Council of Europe and other international organizations, and signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union.  Many displaced people had recovered their property and returned to their places of origin, he noted, listing also ongoing reforms in public administration, justice, higher education, the public broadcasting system and harmonization of the Constitution with the European Convention on Human Rights.

NATO and EUFOR had reduced their troop levels, as a result of progress towards the realization of a secure and stable environment, he said.  However, there were different views regarding the role and future status of the Office of High Representative.  Representatives of one people thought it should remain in the country permanently, while those of the other people preferred its closure and transformation into the Office of the European Union Special Representative.  The reasons for the existence of the Office of the High Representative had been significantly reduced, and no further steps could be taken towards European integration until such a transformation was complete, he said.

All changes must be based on the rule of law, for which full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement was imperative, he stressed.  Regarding the decision by the Office of the High Representative to amend Annex IV of Dayton, it was clear that legal acts should be changed only in ways similar to those by which they had been passed, unless otherwise decided, he said ,adding that discussions of such issues would continue.  The problem of building a functional State could not be solved exclusively by changing the constitutional and legal procedures for passing decisions.  Such a simplistic and dangerous solution would call into question the Government’s legitimacy in a complex and multi-ethnic country, and shake up the region as well, he warned.

National reconciliation and trust were the basic prerequisites for building a functioning State, he continued.  That could not be achieved without prosecuting all war criminals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from whatever nation.  Since the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had acknowledged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s good cooperation, any other comment in that regard was unnecessary.  As for the return of refugees, he said there was a lack of understanding of the problem among on the part of local politicians and within the international community.  No other country in the world had done more for the return of property than Bosnia and Herzegovina, he emphasized, calling for more international support to help sustainable returns.  Another problem was that there were different legal standards on refugee returns within 500 kilometres of the Western Balkans, which meant further injustice for the refugee population.

All Western Balkan countries were now on some level of progress towards integration into the European Union, he noted.  Although Bosnia and Herzegovina lagged behind its neighbours in that regard, it was not as far behind as “someone continued to present”.  There were good reasons for encouraging the country on its way towards the European Union, where it belonged, and for rapid transformation of the Office of High Representative.  The country’s leaders should be invited to negotiate and act in accordance with agreements already reached, without pressures from “other sides”, he said.  “Agreement, understanding, equality and tolerance are the essence of all reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that should be encouraged, commended and approved,” he emphasized.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards the European Union and greater cooperation with its neighbours was an important step forward in promoting regional stability.  While welcoming the recent elections, he said the divisive rhetoric used by one of the parties was regrettable, as were negative remarks about the work and mandate of the High Representative.  The political leaders must promote reconciliation as the only way to avoid endangering stability, he stressed.

Emphasizing the importance of continuing international support for the strengthening of the rule of law, he expressed support for extending the EUFOR presence in 2011.  Respect for and strengthening of national institutions for justice was a fundamental part of fighting impunity and promoting national reconciliation and the rule of law, he said, calling on political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that while the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was complex, it should not be dramatized, given the stable security situation and the conduct of the recent elections.  There was no threat to the Dayton accords given the progress achieved, particularly the country’s election to the Security Council.  In that context, unilateral changes made by the Office of the High Representative would be counter-productive, he said, emphasizing that the international community should work with elected representatives, including those from the Republika Srpska, to ensure that progress was made in outstanding areas.

He called for a return to the task of transforming the Office of the High Representative into the Office of the European Union Representative by achieving the necessary objectives and conditions rather than linking the transition to the Euro-Atlantic agenda or constitutional reform.  Adjustments in those basic areas would only be possible with the consent of all three peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, stressing that all constitutional reforms must be carried out strictly within the Dayton framework, not through an expanded framework that responded to European requirements.

NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) said he supported the completion of all provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement through the work of the Peace Implementation Council, including progress towards the closure of the Office of High Representative.  While acknowledging progress, he expressed regret over the heightened rhetoric of the election period.  He urged the formation of a progressive Government and the pursuit of dialogue to achieve progress on all issues, particularly constitutional and educational reforms.  The return of refugees was also of particular importance.  He expressed support for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as hope that, after 15 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina would make stable strides toward the stability and prosperity to which all its citizens aspired.

LI BAODONG ( China) welcomed the recent elections as well as progress on security-sector reform, the rule of law and the economic situation, even though difficulties on the way ahead remained.  The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina was in the hands of its people, and the international community should respect their ownership and leadership, he said, expressing hope that all ethnic groups would respect the Dayton Peace Agreement, enhance trust and promote national reconciliation so that constitutional reform, economic recovery and the rule of law could progress.

Maintaining peace and security in the Balkans was in the interest of all parties, he continued, expressing support for the international community’s effort to facilitate political dialogue in the country.  He noted that the High Representative continued to keep in touch with all parties in efforts to promote unity, and welcomed the role played by the European Union in supporting his work.  It was to be hoped that EUFOR would scale up its support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national forces so that they could take responsibility for the country’s security at an early date.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) welcomed the successful 3 October elections and expressed hope that a broad-based Government would be formed soon.  Turkey attached great importance to lasting stability in the region, and a stable and sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina was a prerequisite in that regard.  That was why Turkey would continue to support the country’s efforts for regional cooperation.  He also welcomed its efforts to take its rightful place in the European Community, and expressed support for the extension of EUFOR’s mandate.

Several aspects of the domestic situation were a matter of concern, in particular the anti-Dayton rhetoric and challenges to the constitutionality of the State, he said.  That counter-productive trend contradicted the improved regional atmosphere and could have adverse consequences for the closure of the Office of High Representative.  Challenges to the authority of the international community and the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board were unacceptable, he stressed, noting, however, that integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions could eliminate feelings of exclusion.

MARTIN BRIENS (France) said the recent visa agreement showed the kind of results that could be achieved when the leaders Bosnia and Herzegovina were able to work together for the necessary progress, but there were many other areas in which progress was needed.  For 10 years, Europe had supported that progress through EUFOR and other programmes, despite the negative comments made recently by some leaders, particularly those of the Republika Srpska.  He called for the rapid formation of a Government and urged leaders to pursue the necessary dialogue while putting together the necessary measures and demonstrating the courage to solve remaining problems.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) said it was good to be neighbours with Bosnia and Herzegovina on the Council, just as the two countries were neighbours geographically.  The visa agreement was a positive development towards regional integration.  Expressing hope that the new Government would take on the spirit of reform, he said the constitution must be brought up to European standards, and progress made on many other fronts.  Austria welcomed the conduct of the recent elections, but hoped that future polls would be open to all citizens.  He also called for the end of divisive rhetoric, and hoped that, with the rapid formation of a Government, all parties could work together for further progress.  Austria looked forward to the extension of EUFOR’s mandate, he said, adding that his country would continue its contributions.

ROSEMARY A. DICARLO (United States) said the Dayton Peace Agreement had helped end a terrible war, recalling that 15 years ago in Dayton, Ohio, her country had committed itself to helping Bosnia and Herzegovina achieve peace.  The recent elections had proved the country’s ability to develop into a strong and stable democracy.  In order to move ahead with the closure of the Office of the High Representative, the issue of defence property must be solved, she stressed, adding that constitutional reforms were also needed to address human rights concerns and help meet the requirements for Euro-Atlantic integration.  She welcomed the holding of free and fair elections as well as the country’s meeting of the conditions for European Union visa liberalization, which would open the door to greater regional integration.

She expressed concern, however, over the deteriorating political climate, urging political leaders to work together across ethnic and party lines.  Attitudes such as those expressed in denial of the Srebrenica genocide were an obstacle to inter-ethnic cooperation, she said, adding that she expected Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet its obligations in respect of war crimes.  She also affirmed her county’s support for the High Representative’s use of executive powers when necessary to ensure compliance with the Dayton accords.  The United States expected political leaders to make decisive progress on outstanding elements of the five objectives and two conditions, and looked forward to the constitutional reforms necessary for the country to apply for European Union candidacy.  The United States supported the renewal of the EUFOR mandate, she added.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said Bosnia and Herzegovina was to be commended for having held free, fair and credible general elections, and for the prevailing calm in the country.  Brazil supported the renewal of the EUFOR mandate, she said, adding that its presence remained key to sustaining a safe and secure environment.  Reiterating her country’s commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she expressed support for all efforts to strengthen the State at the national level while preserving the rights and prerogatives of all communal entities.

She said she was concerned, however, about statements questioning the country’s territorial integrity, emphasizing that challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement and divisive rhetoric would only contribute to instability and an escalation of tensions.  Only collaboration between the entities, and among the entities and the State, would lead to the closure of the Office of the High Representative and the transition to a reinforced European Union presence.  “There is no future for a divided Bosnia and Herzegovina,” she emphasized, expressing hope that all concerned would put aside their differences and work together.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda), stressing the important of all leaders in the country committing themselves to dialogue and peaceful coexistence, expressed concern over the recent divisive rhetoric, and called on the leaders of the Republika Srpska to refrain.  He saluted EUFOR for contributing to a safe environment, but stressed the necessity of supporting national forces so they could take on their proper responsibilities.  Uganda called on the authorities to implement actions that would encourage the return of refugees, and on international partners to help Bosnia and Herzegovina address economic problems exacerbated by the international financial crisis.

SHIGEKI SUMI ( Japan) welcomed the conduct of the recent elections and urged the earliest stabilization of the political situation.  He also welcomed signs of reconciliation and cooperation, while acknowledging large differences and provocative actions.  Welcoming also the granting of European visa exemption, he expressed hope that the achievement of necessary conditions and objectives would allow the transformation of the Office of High Representative at the earliest date.  Japan supported the High Representative fully, he said, stressing that he must retain full authority until his mandate ended, and expressing support for extension of the EUFOR mandate.

EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET ( Gabon) said the successful holding of general elections attested to the desire of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s people to work towards peace, but urged them to free themselves from rhetorical divisiveness.  Successful negotiations to form a broad-based consensus Government would be a major step towards establishing the essential institutional mechanisms for stability and socio-economic development.  He urged political actors to strengthen their cooperation with the High Representative, EUFOR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia while striving to achieve the five objectives and two conditions set out by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board.  He welcomed the stable security conditions in the country and the essential role played by EUFOR in that regard, stressing that reform of the defence sector would strengthen the overall security situation.

RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA (Nigeria), recalling the high hopes that had accompanied the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement 15 years ago, said he shared the concerns expressed over the limited progress in implementing the accords and in meeting the requirements for the transformation of the Office of High Representative.  Warning that nationalistic and anti-Dayton rhetoric undermined efforts towards full integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, he urged political leaders to refrain and encouraged them to resolve speedily all outstanding issues in the way of full integration.  He urged greater collaboration between the Office of High Representative, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Government in ensuring full implementation of Annex VII of the Dayton accords.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said he shared the High Representative’s concerns about the lack of progress and the setbacks in the political arena.  He emphasized that the transformation of the Office of the High Representative should take place only on fulfilment of the stipulated conditions and objectives, and urged the newly elected leaders to form, as soon as possible, a Government that could make progress in all areas.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said he also shared the High Representative’s concerns and reaffirmed his country’s support for his office, noting that it would be premature to close it this year.  He welcomed the conduct of the elections and urged the elected parties to form their governments at all levels in order to facilitate progress on reforms and reach compromise on key issues.  Consensus was needed, as was regional support, he stressed.

He called for constitutional amendments that would provide equality for all citizens, reiterating that his country and Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoyed a good relationship on many levels.  Croatia strongly supported the clear and unambiguous Euro-Atlantic perspective for progress and pledged its assistance in that area.  In that context, he welcomed the recent visa agreement, but expressed regret over the lack of follow-up to other regional opportunities.  Emphasizing that ethnic Croats should have an equal voice, particularly at the Federation level, he affirmed the importance of arresting the remaining fugitives from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and of concluding related judicial processes.

FEODOR STARČEVIC ( Serbia) said his country was fully committed to bringing about full reconciliation and lasting stability in the region.  The recent elections were an important step towards ensuring a peaceful and prosperous future for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and creating conditions for the further advance towards the European Union.  The country needed encouragement from the European Union, since its Euro-Atlantic integration was the common aspiration of all its peoples.  Its encouragement and concrete support would go a long way towards promoting greater stability.  As a signatory and guarantor of the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, Serbia remained strongly committed to the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and had consistently respected its sovereignty, he said.

Closing the Office of High Representative and terminating the so-called Bonn Powers would help find a solution to the country’s problems, he said.  “We call for the achievement of a sustainable solution in the spirit of European values, with the agreement of the representatives of the two entities and the consensus of the three constituent peoples.”  However, the country’s integrity should not be called into question, “for it is only a stable and prosperous region that can become a part of the European family of nations”.

He went on to say that his country viewed the development of relations with the Republika Srpska, based on the Agreement on Special Parallel Relations, in the context of efforts to intensify its overall relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Declaration on Srebrenica was not only a clear demonstration of Serbia’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also of its readiness to confront the past and assume political responsibility for the wider region’s future and well-being.  Successful cooperation between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, within the framework of numerous international and regional initiatives, was a good example of the importance that Serbia attached to the promotion of regional cooperation and a common European future.

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*     The 6419th & 6420th Meetings were closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.