Internal Divisions Stalling Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘Great Strides’on International Stage, High Representative Tells Security Council

24 May 2010
SC/9933

Internal Divisions Stalling Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘Great Strides’on International Stage, High Representative Tells Security Council

24 May 2010
Security Council
SC/9933
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6319th Meeting (AM)

Internal Divisions Stalling Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘Great Strides

 

on International Stage, High Representative Tells Security Council

 

Republika Srpska Leaders Undermining Dayton Peace Agreement, He Says

The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina told the Security Council today that the country had made great strides in international relations in the 18 years since its admission to the United Nations, but internal divisions had stalled domestic reforms.

“While regional prospects for reconciliation have improved, the language and logic of politics inside Bosnia and Herzegovina appears to have rather deteriorated,” Valentin Inzko said this morning as he presented his thirty-seventh report to the Council, which covers the period 1 November 2009 to 30 April 2010.  He welcomed the country’s election to the Security Council, its steps toward visa-regime integration within Europe and its progress towards membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and regional integration.

In domestic affairs, however, “ Bosnia and Herzegovina remains afflicted by a lack of a basic — and fundamental — consensus about what sort of country it should be, or could be”, he said.  It did not know whether it wished to be a more centralized State, a decentralized one, or how to achieve either option.  It was regrettable that, as a result, the country could not take advantage of certain economic assistance, and had made no progress on the five goals and two conditions — the so-called “5 + 2 Agenda” — set by the Steering Board for the transition from the Office of High Representative to a reinforced European Union-led presence.

He said that leaders of the Republika Srpska continued to undermine State-level institutions and to repudiate the authority of the High Representative and the Dayton Peace Agreement, while at the same time, the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had “limped from crisis to crisis during the reporting period”.  He expressed hope that, in upcoming October elections, the citizenry would hold their leaders accountable and push the country forward.  That was most likely if the international community remained focused on the country, requiring absolute respect for the Dayton accords and continuing to foster a constructive atmosphere for reforms and Bosnian ownership of efforts towards Euro-Atlantic integration, he said.

Taking the floor after that briefing, Haris Silajdžić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, attributed the current stagnation in domestic progress to the so-called “entity voting mechanism”, which allowed 10 Serb deputies from the Republika Srpska to block any proposed decision by the Federation’s Parliament, which comprised 42 deputies.  Advocating implementation of the Dayton Agreement in its entirety, he voiced regret over the current emphasis on the narrower 5 + 2 agenda, saying that the closure of the Office of High Representative had become a goal in and of itself, which could lead to the demise of Dayton’s authority.  The Council should continue its commitment to the Agreement in its entirety and remain the guardian of peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he emphasized.

Following those presentations, most Council speakers welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress in the international sphere, while urging all parties in the country to strengthen dialogue and cooperation so as to make further progress on reforms towards Euro-Atlantic integration and multi-ethnic stability.  Most speakers also voiced support for European and other international assistance to strengthen security and rule-of-law institutions, while calling on the leaders of the Republika Srpska to refrain from anti-Dayton rhetoric.

The representative of the Russian Federation described the assessments of the High Representative and Mr. Silajdžićas unbalanced, saying they suffered from anti-Serb sentiment and covered up the Federation’s destructive role in blocking consideration of the Republika Srpska’s compromise constitutional amendments.  The international community’s role was helping to reach compromise rather than introducing quick fixes, he maintained.

Taking the floor again to respond to those remarks, Mr. Silajdžićpointed out that, despite being a signatory to the Dayton Agreement, the Russian Federation continued uncritically to support only one single ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Emphasizing the importance of implementing the entire Agreement, he pointed out that it had achieved after the sacrifice of many thousands of lives.  The representative of the Russian Federation then affirmed his support for Dayton, saying his country was ensuring its implementation through its contacts with all parties.

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

Other speakers were the representatives of Croatia, Serbia and the European Union.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 12:30 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it a letter dated 14 May 2010 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council (document S/2010/235), conveying the Thirty-seventh report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina for the period 1 November 2009 to 30 April 2010.

According to the report, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained “safe and secure” during the reporting period, but all levels of authority in the country had made only limited progress towards adopting and implementing long-needed reforms.  Amid continuing challenges to the General Framework Agreement for Peace, the overall domestic political climate remained negative.  On the other hand, there was continuing progress on addressing the conditions for European Union visa liberalization, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) accepted the country’s application for a Membership Action Plan on 23 April, on condition that Bosnia and Herzegovina resolve the question of immovable defence property.

The report describes the country’s election to a non-permanent Security Council seat as a milestone in the evolution of its foreign policy ambitions, and important recognition of the progress it has achieved in recent years.  The election also points to progress at the regional level, with increasingly constructive relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.  Internally, however, legal and political actions against State institutions and laws, mainly by the Republika Srpska, as well as challenges to the authority of the Peace Implementation Council are causes for concern.

A new law adopted by the Republika Srpska is aimed at holding a referendum to challenge the High Representative’s authority, the report states, pointing to increasingly divisive rhetoric contradicting the Dayton Peace Process and disputing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and constitutional order in the build-up to general elections planned for October 2010.  There has also been a rise in actions threatening to undermine earlier progress towards overcoming the legacy of serious war crimes.  Furthermore, the Federation has not yet met the constitutional obligation for an equal distribution of key positions in national institutions.

Progress on constitutional reform has been similarly stalled, the report states, noting that the “Butmir process” — high-level political discussions initiated by the European Union and the United States — ended in November without a breakthrough.  In particular, the relevant authorities have not managed to amend the Constitution so as to bring it into compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the right of minorities to stand for election or hold appointments in State-level institutions.  As a consequence, little progress has been made towards meeting the outstanding requirements set by the Steering Board for the transition from the Office of the High Representative to a European Union presence, the report concludes.

Briefing

VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, congratulated the country on the eighteenth anniversary of its admission to the United Nations, and on its current significant contribution to the Organization’s work as a member of the Security Council.  Its achievements in foreign policy should be kept in mind in discussing the country’s current and future challenges, he added.

Outlining recent progress he said it included steps towards visa integration within Europe and an agreement with NATO on a Membership Action Plan pending resolution of the matter of military real estate ownership.  That success had come in the wake of the country’s decision to accelerate the destruction of unsafe ordnance left over from the civil war, and to deploy troops to Afghanistan.  Such examples showed that Bosnia and Herzegovina could move forward concretely for the benefit of its citizens and other countries in the region.

Progress on regional reconciliation boded well for the country’s prospects, he said, noting that leaders and parliamentarians in Croatia and Serbia were addressing the tragedy of the 1990s in an honest and decent way.  An informal European Union/Western Balkans Summit was expected to gather some 40 delegations in Sarajevo on 2 June, he pointed out, underlining the necessity of seizing the possibilities opened up by those developments.  Unfortunately, however, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained afflicted by a lack of a basic — and fundamental — consensus about what sort of country it should or could be, “whether a more centralized State or a decentralized one and how to achieve either option”.

He said the Republika Srpska had led the way in undermining State-level institutions by threatening to hold a referendum to repudiate the High Representative’s authority and the Dayton Peace Accords.  Reference had been made in that context to the possible “emergence of a new State”, and proposals to discuss the “peaceful dissolution” of the country had been met with counter-statements that disaffected elements were “welcome to leave”, but would not be allowed to take any part of the country with them.

“Thus, while regional prospects for reconciliation have improved, the language and logic of politics inside Bosnia and Herzegovina appears to have rather deteriorated,” he said.  The Republika Srpska had even threatened to retract its endorsement of the report establishing the facts of the Srebrenica massacre, he said, emphasizing that, rather than denying the truth, the way forward was to use it to ensure that such crimes were never allowed to happen again.  In that area, he said, he faced continuing resistance from the Republika Srpska regarding decisions unanimously supported by the Peace Implementation Council’s Steering Board.

At the level of the Federation, he said, “a divided Government has limped from crisis to crisis during the reporting period”.  It had failed to complete governmental and judiciary appointments, make required budget cuts and deal efficiently with International Monetary Fund (IMF) requirements.  Divisions had fractured the reaction to the 22 December ruling of the European Court of Human Rights opposing discrimination against minorities in State elections, which meant that not all citizens would be eligible to run for all positions in upcoming elections.  That issue must be a top priority of the new Government, he stressed.

Meanwhile, unemployment continued to rise, living standards were falling and declining revenue had reduced the State’s capacity to meet basic needs, he said.  Generous development assistance was available, but the lack of key reforms had led to a failure to take advantage of it.  Notably, no progress had been made on the “5 + 2 Agenda”, the remaining objectives and conditions set by the Steering Board for the transition from the Office of the High Representative to a reinforced European Union-led presence, including objects relating to State and defence property.  In that respect, he welcomed the European Council’s conclusions of 25 January, expressing readiness to extend the executive operation of the European Force (EUFOR), noting that it would indeed be needed beyond 2010 for purposes of reassurance.

Visa liberalization showed that progress could be made in areas where popular pressure pushed reform for the immediate benefit of the citizenry, he said, adding that, for that reason, he had highlighted the need to emphasize the causal links between needed reforms and the practical benefits that citizens would derive from them.  In that context, the upcoming elections could help if voters sought to hold their representatives accountable, particularly if young people were mobilized.  That, in turn, was most likely to happen if the international community remained focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina, requiring absolute respect for the Dayton Accords and continuing to foster a constructive atmosphere for reforms.

He concluded by saying:  “This is the way to get to the objective that we all want to reach — where Bosnia and Herzegovina can move towards full Euro-Atlantic integration under its own steam — and that means with full ownership of the responsibilities that go along with it.”  Possibility could become a reality because the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina had shown that they possessed the necessary talent, he said, pledging his continued dedication to that goal, and assuring the Council of the European Union’s continuing commitment to accompany the country on that path.

Statements

HARIS SILAJDŽIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that in 18 years, the country had travelled a difficult road, from suffering the worst atrocities in Europe since the Second World War — July would mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide — to holding a non-permanent seat on the Council.  The country had also made progress in strengthening relations with neighbouring Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, and in meeting the conditions for Euro-Atlantic integration.  However, the central parts of the Dayton Peace Agreement had not been implemented.

The High Representative’s report demonstrated that the Agreement was continually being adjusted to “realities on the ground”, resulting in systematic violations, he said.  The failure to implement its central elements was particularly true of Annex 7 guaranteeing the rights of all refugees and internally displaced persons freely to return to their original homes in safety.  Of some 46 per cent of non-Serbs living in the Republika Srpska entity before they were either killed or “ethnically cleansed”, only 8 per cent remained there now, he said.  The failure to implement Annex 7 had resulted in the so-called entity voting mechanism, which had morphed into a mechanism by which one ethnic group from one entity blocked the State without any input from the other constituent peoples.

He went on to describe how the voting mechanism allowed only 10 Serb deputies from the Republika Srpska to block any proposed decision of the federal Parliament, comprising 42 deputies, he said, recalling that over the past 13 years, they had blocked more than 260 proposed laws and allowed the passage of less than 150.  “This ethnic monopoly on territorial interests solidifies ethnic division, renders the State dysfunctional and, in turn, perpetuates instability,” he stressed.  A second fundamental problem was the question of State property, stemming from the rights given to the State under Annex 4, which had been set aside in favour of political compromises necessitated by “realities on the ground”.

Bosnia and Herzegovina remained the owner of all property registered to its predecessors and the owner of all former Yugoslav property on its territory under the Succession Agreement, he asserted, emphasizing that it was unacceptable to seek political “compromises” to block implementation of that accord.  Partitioning State property among the entities would strengthen claims by the challengers from the Republika Srpska — bearing in mind their calls for a referendum on secession — and eliminate a primary cohesive factor, he warned, noting that the High Representative’s recent letter to the State Attorney of Bosnia and Herzegovina, calling on him to stop the registration of State property, had encountered strong opposition in the country.

Advocating implementation of the Dayton Agreement in its entirety, as per resolution 1031 (1995), he noted that today, “in its entirety” had been replaced by “implementation of the 5 goals and 2 conditions”, even though some of those goals and conditions had nothing to do with Dayton.  The closure of the Office of High Representative, rather than implementation of Dayton, had become a goal in and of itself, he pointed out, recalling that one of the Peace Agreement’s central elements had been marked for change in order to serve that goal — Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ownership of State property.  “This, ladies and gentlemen, will not lead to the Dayton’s implementation ‘in its entirety’, but more likely to its demise,” he warned.

Emphasizing that the country could not be expected to provide assistance for that transformation, he stressed that the first article of the Dayton Constitution, by which Bosnia and Herzegovina would not disappear but continue its legal existence as a State, was the outcome of the patriotic struggle and sacrifices of its citizens.  That was precisely why no one had the mandate to question the meaning of that article and other pillars of the Dayton Peace Agreement.  Hopefully, the Council would continue to uphold commitment to the Agreement and remain the guardian of peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

BROOKE ANDERSON ( United States) said that, in the nearly 15 years since the signing of the Dayton accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina had made great progress in overcoming its past.  The United States welcomed, among other things, the decision to destroy excess arms and ammunition, which showed that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina wished to live in a stable and functional State, capable of Euro-Atlantic integration.  While progress had been made on defence and other reforms, there had been limited progress in addressing constitutional reform, she said, urging leaders to “cross the ethnic divide”.

She said her country would continue to engage with all communities in their efforts towards integration into the European Union, but the primary responsibility for implementing necessary reforms lay with their leaders.  The United States looked forward to the day when the Office of the High Representative would no longer been needed, but stressed that progress must be made on immovable defence property.  She warned that challenges to the High Representative’s authority would undermine efforts towards Euro-Atlantic integration, as would divisive rhetoric and calls for the State’s dissolution.  Despite the challenges ahead, however, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s responsible tenure on the Council demonstrated the positive role it could play in the international community, she said.

YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan), congratulating Bosnia and Herzegovina on its contribution to international peace and security, said its post-conflict nation-building effort was amply reflected in its active membership on the Security Council.  Other encouraging positive developments included its application for a NATO Membership Action Plan, the prospects of visa liberalization for travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina by European Union members, and the “Istanbul Declaration” between the presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia at a summit hosted by the President of Turkey.

Expressing his country’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, he expressed hope that the five objectives and two conditions would soon be met, and that the Office of the High Representative would transition to the European Union Special Representative at the earliest possible date.  While Bosnia and Herzegovina could advance its efforts towards accession to the European Union by accelerating constitutional reform, Japan was concerned that neither constitutional reform nor the 5 + 2 framework had seen concrete progress to date.

Certain potential causes for instability remained, as manifested by the adoption of the referendum reform act by the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, he said.  It was important for the October general elections to be conducted in a fair and stable environment, he said, urging all parties to refrain from escalating the ethno-centric rhetoric and to adopt a reasonable and restrained attitude.  It was also essential that the High Representative make full and appropriate use of his authority, he said, calling on him to exercise the early-warning function and hold consultations with the parties whenever a negative sign was detected.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda), stressing the importance of all leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina working together to overcome remaining challenges, called on all authorities, particularly those in the Republika Srpska, to refrain from anti-Dayton rhetoric.  It was important that all parties, including neighbouring States, uphold their obligations.

The European Union military mission continued to play a crucial role, but it was important that every effort be made to strengthen national security forces, he said, also welcoming continuing police reform.  He called on the authorities also to address the plight of refugees and displaced persons, emphasizing that Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to mitigate the impact of the global financial slowdown on the most vulnerable populations.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France), endorsing the statement to be made by the European Union delegation, welcomed the progress made on visa liberalization and the country’s agreements with NATO.  However, many challenges remained and little progress had been made in some areas, despite much support from the international community.  The attacks on the Dayton mechanisms were unacceptable, particularly in the context of Euro-Atlantic integration.  France welcomed regional dialogue towards reconciliation, and called on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders within to exhibit the courage to resolve their problems in the interest of their people.

RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said attacks against institutions and nationalistic rhetoric undermined efforts towards peace and security.  The limited progress made towards necessary reform and meeting the requirements for the transition of the Office of High Representative to a European Union presence required attention, he said, warning that, if not handled properly, those issues could affect stability, especially in light of the October elections.

Emphasizing that the country’s leaders must show the political will to embrace reconciliation and refrain from divisive and anti-Dayton rhetoric, he welcomed efforts by the United States and the European Unionto help Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to close the Office of the High Representative.  It was to be hoped that the process would take into account the specific circumstances and concerns of all the peoples in the country, and that the High Representative would continue his efforts for the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Union.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) pointed to developments showing “unity and a sense of common purpose”, such as improvements in the regional situation, including the development of constructive relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and its neighbours.  However, she joined others in expressing concern about statements and decisions made by political leaders in the Republika Srpska, emphasizing that challenges to the authority of the Security Council, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board and the High Representative must cease.  Underscoring the “indispensable” need to protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she suggested that the Council closely monitor the situation on the ground.

In view of upcoming elections in October, she urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint with regard to nationalist and divisive rhetoric.  Preserving the rights of all communal entities was important.  Indeed, the message of peaceful coexistence applied to the Balkans as a whole, she said, congratulating the Serbian Parliament for its resolution recognizing the Srebrenica massacre, which represented a significant step towards reconciliation, although some might have preferred “different wording for it”.  The address on Croatia’s policies during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, delivered in Sarajevo by President Ivo Josipović, was also encouraging, she added.

ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI ( Gabon) said significant progress had been made in construction of infrastructure, visa liberalization and the progression towards NATO membership, among other things.  He expressed concern, however, about the obstacles standing in the way of full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreements, including delays in the closing of the Office of the High Representative.

In view of the upcoming elections, he stressed the importance of all parties respecting the obligations they had voluntarily undertaken when signing the Dayton Peace Agreement.  It was also important that they cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  He welcomed the continued presence of EUFOR and NATO in the country, and praised the efforts of its leaders to establish dialogue and reconciliation with neighbouring countries.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria), endorsing the statement to be made by the European Union, said he was encouraged by the Membership Action Plan offered by NATO foreign ministers in April, and hoped Bosnia and Herzegovina would fulfil the conditions regarding an appropriate solution on immovable defence property.  He also said that the resolution adopted by Serbia’s Parliament on 31 March condemning the Srebrenica massacres, the apologies offered to the victims’ relatives, and the visits by the Presidents of Serbia and Croatia had clearly added to the region’s stability.

Austria was nevertheless concerned that a lack of progress on other important, long overdue reforms was mostly due to deliberate obstruction directed against the State’s proper functioning, he said.  Fulfilling the five objectives and two conditions for closing the Office of the High Representative, implementing the recent rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and adopting a census law that would apply to the entire State were prerequisites for such proper functioning.  Progress was also needed on constitutional reforms after the October elections.

Appealing to all political parties to refrain from divisive and nationalistic rhetoric during the elections, he expressed particular concern about the legal and political actions directed against State institutions, including the repeated questioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and sustainability by political leaders in the Republika Srpska.  While the European Union mission continued to play a key role in creating a safe and secure environment, the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region lay in establishing a broad zone of stability by the European Union, he reiterated.

FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) said that, being itself a Balkan country, Turkey greatly valued Bosnia and Herzegovina’s contributions to regional reconciliation, noting that the recently signed Istanbul Declaration was an important step in that direction.   Turkey firmly supported the country’s aspirations to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions and welcomed NATO’s acceptance of its membership application.  Bosnia and Herzegovina should be further assisted in that area, he said, welcoming the aid provided by the European Union and noting that his own country was an active contributor to some of those efforts.  Rejecting all secessionist rhetoric, he called on all parties to embrace a common vision for the future, pledging that his country would do all it could to help Bosnia and Herzegovina achieve its rightful place in the European Union.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) also expressed concern about “divisionist” and nationalist rhetoric and actions that undermined the peace accords and progress towards reform, calling on all parties to work together, particularly in the area of federal institutions and providing services.  He also highlighted efforts to strengthen the rule of law and called for the implementation of judicial reform so as to fully support human rights and bring to justice all outstanding war crimes cases.  For that purpose, greater cooperation with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was needed on the part of all States, he added.

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said it was unfortunate that the assessments by the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been unilateral and not constructive.  The High Representative’s report was neither objective nor balanced, as it suffered from anti-Serb sentiment.  It held the Republika Srpska responsible for the difficult pre-electoral atmosphere, while “hushing up” the destructive role of the Federation, which had blocked consideration of the Republika Srpska’s compromise constitutional amendments designed to remove the concerns expressed in the ruling of the European Court on Human Rights.

The High Representative’s criticism of the Republika Srpska over the recently adopted referendum reform act side-stepped the fact that the law was limited to entity jurisdiction, he said.  As for the report’s defence of constitutional changes, he said major reforms should be carried out solely on the basis of consent among all parties, in accordance with the Dayton constitution.  The international community’s role was to provide assistance in reaching compromise rather than introducing “quick fixes”.

He said additional efforts were needed for the prompt completion of the Steering Board’s collectively agreed goals, designed as preconditions for a drawdown of the Office of the High Representative and its transition to the appointment of a European Union Special Representative.  In resolving the division of State property among levels of authority, it was essential to rely on the Steering Board’s agreed principle, which provided for transfer to the pan-Bosnian level, he stressed, adding that entity bodies could then consolidate all remaining relevant powers.  The High Representative’s “Bonn Powers” should only be used to ensure the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and implementation of the Dayton Agreement.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) expressed concern that Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to be held back by political deadlock, warning that it should not fall behind other countries in the region.  He welcomed positive regional cooperation, saying the Serbian resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre was a welcome step towards reconciliation.

Turning to the internal political situation, he expressed regret over the leadership’s lack of political will to deliver progress on key reforms, as well as the challenges to the High Representative’s authority.  The United Kingdom was concerned about plans for a referendum in the Republika Srpska to challenge the legitimacy of the High Representative’s decisions.  The international community and the Council were fully committed to the country’s territorial integrity and the Dayton framework, he stressed.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European Union membership application could not be considered while the Office of the High Representative remained in place, he said, adding that the bloc had stated clearly that constitutional reform was required in order to create a functional State.  Given the country’s economic difficulties, as underlined in the report, it was important that the authorities meet the requirements under the country’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

LI BAODONG ( China) noted progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as continued challenges, which had been exacerbated by threats to the peace accords and the authority of the State.  China respected Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as its choices in structuring itself politically.  It also supported the international community’s assistance efforts, and called on the IMF to continue to take vigorous measures to counter the effects of the financial crisis.  Welcoming European assistance efforts, he said his country’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina remained friendly, and China would do its utmost to support further progress.

Council President NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon), speaking in his national capacity, said there was a need for serious dialogue to achieve genuine reconciliation and make further progress in all areas.  He called on all actors to exercise restraint and refrain from divisive rhetoric in the lead-up to the October elections, while strengthening dialogue in all areas.  He also paid tribute to Turkey and other countries in the area for their efforts to promote regional reconciliation and cooperation.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said his country strongly supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s clear and unambiguous European and Euro-Atlantic perspective because membership in the European Union was the future of all countries in South-east Europe.  He also welcomed NATO’s Membership Action Plan.  He went on to state that the equality, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country’s three constitutive peoples were the basic pre-conditions for its stability and sustainability.  The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserved the same privileges as those of other countries in the region, and any delay would only benefit those advocating the status quo.

Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to face considerable problems, some of which challenging its very foundations, as established by the Dayton Peace Agreement, he said.  Serious challenges had been raised by authorities in the Republika Srpska to State institutions and the authority of the High Representative.  Urging political leaders to seek compromise on key issues, he said there would be no progress without consensus.  The negotiations on constitutional reform should continue as soon as possible after the October elections because they were a key condition for successful Euro-Atlantic integration.  He advocated in that regard constitutional amendments that would provide full equality for all constitutive peoples, as well as all citizens throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There could not be a Bosnia and Herzegovina without Croats in the country, he said, adding that, since they were the smallest and most vulnerable group, it was all the more important that their voice be considered on the basis of equality, both ethnic and civic.  The fundamental rights and freedoms of all three peoples must be protected throughout the country, and the right to return safely to their pre-war homes should be protected.  The fight against impunity for war crimes was another important factor in the normalization of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The two remaining fugitives wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, should, therefore, be brought to justice, and national courts must address other war crime cases, he stressed, noting that, given those circumstances, it would be premature to begin with the closure of the Office of the High Representative in 2010.

FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia) said his country was a staunch advocate of lasting stabilization in Bosnia and Herzegovina and would respect every agreement reached through the consent of the two entities and consensus among the countries’ three constituent peoples.  Serbia had also taken important steps towards full regional reconciliation, and its Declaration on Srebrenica, adopted by the National Assembly, was a clear signal of support for Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Serbia’s readiness to confront the past and take political responsibility for the region’s future.

He said his country viewed the development of its relations with the Republika Srpska, based on the Agreement on Special Parallel Relations, in the context of its efforts to strengthen overall relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Serbia also supported the continuation of negotiations and concrete work to resolve its border issues with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Expressing support for the country on its way to the European Union, and strongly advocating its inclusion in the European Union decision on visa regime liberalization, he said he expected the European Union-Western Balkans Conference in Sarajevo on 2 June to encourage the bloc’s commitment to continue with the process of enlargement.  Economic cooperation, bilateral and intraregional, would provide a special impetus to lasting stabilization in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region.

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said it was encouraging that regional cooperation in the Western Balkans continued to develop positively, with renewed constructive engagement by Serbia and Croatia, and Turkey playing a useful role.  However, the overall political climate in the country remained negative, with increasingly unhelpful rhetoric in the run-up to the 3 October elections.  Also of concern was that the authority of State institutions and the High Representative had been more frequently challenged in the last six months, he said, emphasizing that the Republika Srpska’s adoption of a new law on referendums was particularly worrying.  Encouraging all parties to comply fully with all decisions taken by the High Representative and not to challenge his authority, he called on all political leaders to work for their country’s long-term interests, stressing the urgent need for consensus to achieve political reforms and tackle significant economic and social challenges.

Additional efforts were needed to meet the outstanding requirements for the closure of the Office of the High Representative, notably with respect to State and defence property, in order for the European Union to consider Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership.  Progress was also needed on constitutional reform to enable better functioning of institutions, and implementation of the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the rights of minorities to stand for election and be appointed to important State-level institutions.  The census law should also be adopted without further delay, he added.  The High Representative’s report set out some urgent and pressing reform priorities, essential if Bosnia and Herzegovina was to realize its ambition of European Union accession, he said.  Without them, the country would compromise its strategic priority and risk falling further behind other countries in the region in terms of the European integration process.  “We cannot afford to lose time,” he stressed.  “It is the responsibility of the Bosnia and Herzegovina leadership to move ahead rapidly and constructively, and as soon as possible.”

Mr. SILAJDŽIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanked speakers for highlighting the importance of his country’s basic law, the Dayton Peace Agreement, which was now being questioned.  Many controversies, such as that over State property, concerned Dayton’s legitimacy, he said, maintaining that the accord was vital to the country’s future, and pointing out that hundreds of thousands of people had died in order for it to come into existence.  In that light, the Russian Federation’s view of his statement as not constructive was regrettable, he said, noting that, though it had signed onto Dayton, the Russian Federation continued uncritically to support only one ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  That was not helpful, he added.

Mr. DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said he did not wish to get into a debate on the basis of the divergent assessments of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the factors hindering further progress.  He agreed with the Chairman of the Presidency that Dayton must be implemented strictly and fully by all parties, and maintained that his country was consistent in helping that to happen through its contacts with all parties.

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