Briefing Security Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina High Representative Describes Most Serious, Direct Challenges to Peace Agreement Since Signed in 1995

9 May 2011
SC/10243

Briefing Security Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina High Representative Describes Most Serious, Direct Challenges to Peace Agreement Since Signed in 1995

9 May 2011
Security Council
SC/10243
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6529th Meeting (AM)

Briefing Security Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina High Representative Describes

Most Serious, Direct Challenges to Peace Agreement Since Signed in 1995

 

Says Recent Republika Srpska Actions Clear Breach of Dayton-Paris Accord;

Seven Months after Elections No Prospect of New State Government Being Formed

Beset by an upsurge in nationalist rhetoric and calls for further division, and still no prospect of forming a State-level Government seven months after holding general elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina faced a deteriorating political situation that could — if the current crisis deepened — have negative consequences for the entire region, Valentin Inzko, the High Representative, told the Security Council this morning.

“Today, regrettably, we face the most serious and most direct challenges to the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement since it was signed over 15 years ago,” he said, presenting his fifth report as High Representative on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the thirty-ninth report since the position was established.

He said that, with political parties employing zero-sum politics, State-level legislative processes were at a standstill.  At the same time, the European Union and Euro-Atlantic integration processes had come to a “complete halt”, while the economy continued to suffer.  Indeed, without agreement on a State-budget, Bosnia and Herzegovina was running on limited temporary financing measures.

Within that already difficult climate, the authorities in Republika Srpska — which is, with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the country’s two semi-autonomous entities — had taken “concrete actions” that represented the most serious violation of the Peace Agreement since it was signed, he said.  By deciding to hold a referendum that would put into question the High Representative’s authorities and laws enacted by him, as well as other State-level institutions, including the Bosnia and Herzegovina Court, the Republika Srpska’s National Assembly had opted for a path that represented a “serious breach” of the country’s constitutional framework and was contrary to the 1995 peace deal that ended nearly four years of inter-ethnic fighting.

“The recent actions by Republika Srpska, if allowed to proceed, would have a major impact on the functionality and sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said, underlining the significant number of decisions and laws enacted by the High Representatives that were fundamental for the States’ functioning.  If the Republika Srpska authorities did not nullify its adopted conclusions and referendum decision in the coming days, he said he would have no choice but to repeal them himself.

Suggesting it would be a mistake to view these latest developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a short-term negative trend, particularly given the downward trajectory in country’s political stability since the April 2006 package of constitutional amendments was rejected, he urged theCouncil to take a critical look at what must be done to secure a functioning and viable country in the long term.

He said that, among other things, talk of international fatigue in Bosnia and Herzegovina must not be heeded, as any move to leave the country on its own would open the door to renewed chaos.  Clearly, an international presence with an executive mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina was still needed, as were sufficient tools to prevent attempts to roll back previously agreed reforms.

During the ensuing debate, Council members expressed alarm over deteriorating conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and urged the country to form a State-level Government without further delay.  The reform process, which would put Bosnia and Herzegovina on track towards European Union integration, must also be restarted, many said.  They also urged leaders to avoid divisive rhetoric, which could only further undermine trust.

Several speakers expressed particular concern over the challenges to the Peace Agreement and the office of the High Representative posed by the conclusions and the decision of the Republika Srpska, with many voicing strong support for the Office of the High Representative.  The representative of the United Kingdom stressed that the Council could not ignore, nor downplay those actions, adding that they were not a technical issue.

In that vein, the Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union called the decision to hold the referendum a “step in the wrong direction”, and reported that in recent meetings with Republika Srpska officials, representatives of the Union had expressed their expectations that the referendum not be held.  He encouraged the Council to send a message of strong concern and urged all political actors to find common solutions.

The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovinaagreed that the High Representative still had an important role in supporting the strengthening of State institutional capacity and Euro-Atlantic integration.  He said the position embodied the international community’s determination to support the territorial integrity of his country, not just its three constituent peoples.  He also called for regional cooperation to ensure mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs, while noting that the country’s presidency was functioning and its caretaker Government was carrying out necessary functions.

Suggesting that the statement by the High Representative had more emotion than objective analysis, the representative of the Russian Federation asked fellow Council members to consult the letter from Republika Srpska to the Council regarding that entity’s accusation that the Dayton Agreement had been violated.  Moreover, he argued that the current crisis was caused by the shaking up of institutions by the Bosniak leaders.  Significant responsibility also lay with the High Representative, he said.

At the current stage, he considered the main task of the international community to be the transfer of responsibility for territorial integrity and cohesiveness to the Bosnians themselves.  He also rejected as unacceptable any attempt to impose any constitutional reform from the outside.

Serbia’s representative similarly opposed any imposition of a solution not made by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s legitimately elected political representatives, saying that, while his country was against any divisions in principle, it was against any disqualification of some actors from political processes.  He supported the quest for a solution on the stalled reform process, saying it would be helped by the closure of the Office of the High Representative and the cancellation of the so-called Bonn powers.  Further, Serbia believed the Republika Srpska’s referendum had nothing to do with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and did not violate the Dayton Accords.

Croatia’s representative expressed particular concern that the political option currently supported by the vast majority of Bosnian Croats was not represented at all political levels, suggesting it was hard to imagine lasting constitutional reform without the participation of that option.  Stressing that important decisions must be made through consensus of all three constitutive peoples, he urged all parties and the international community to agree on a set of constitutional amendments to move the country towards Europe, while preserving full equality for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitutive peoples.

The meeting, which began at 10:10 a.m., adjourned at 12 p.m.

Statements were made by the representatives of South Africa, United States, Gabon, Germany, Portugal, India, Nigeria, China, Lebanon, Colombia, Brazil, France and Turkey.

Background

The Council had before it a letter dated 3 May 2011 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2011/283), transmitting the thirty-ninth report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, covering the period from 16 October 2010 to 20 April 2011.

The report, which is the fifth report from current High Representative Valentin Inzko, says that, apart from visa liberalization, which came into effect on 15 December 2010, the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have failed to address any long-needed reforms, resulting in no progress towards either European Union or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) integration.  It particularly notes a lack of progress in implementing the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the “Sejdic and Finci” case, and adopting and implementing State-level laws on a population census and State aid.  Completion of the five objectives and two conditions necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative has also been stalled.

During the reporting period, legal and political actions from Republika Srpska challenging State-level institutions, the authority of the High Representative and the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council have intensified.  In April 2011, the Republika Srpska National Assembly adopted parliamentary conclusions and a decision to hold a referendum that would potentially reject the authority of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Court and the Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the High Representative’s authorities, in particular laws enacted by him.  The report notes that not only are these actions are in conflict with the General Framework Agreement for Peace — Annexes 4 and 10 — during the reporting period there have been further challenges related to Annexes 2, 4 and 10 of the General Framework Agreement.

The report also states that since the general elections held in October 2010, the use of nationalistic and divisive rhetoric has increased substantially within both entities, at times rising to the level of hate speech.  The authorities of Republika Srpska have openly called for State dissolution, questioning the integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and refuting the legitimacy of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court and other State-level institutions.  Other Republika Srpska political leaders have frequently questioned the sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while continuing to challenge the rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice that qualified as genocide the massacre of Bosniaks who sought refuge in the United Nations-protected area of Srebrenica in July 1995.

At the same time, political leaders in the Federation have increased their inflammatory rhetoric, and following the general elections there were calls for the establishment of a third [Croat] entity. In April 2011, two Bosnian Croat parties, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) and HDZ 1990 led the organization of a Croat National Assembly in Mostar to highlight their dissatisfaction with the position of Bosnian Croats within Bosnia and Herzegovina.  They complained about the way the Federation authorities were formed and called for a Croat majority federal unit to be formed through constitutional changes.

According to the report, relations within the Federation grew tense following the October 2010 general elections owing to a political impasse over government formation.  In breach of the Federation Constitution, the two HDZ parties prevented the formation of the Federation House of Peoples by blocking the elections to that body of the delegates from Croat majority cantonal assemblies.  This, in turn, prevented the timely formation of the Federation authorities, which were elected only in March 2011.  At the time of writing, more than six months after elections, still not all delegates had been appointed to the Federation House of Peoples.  Numerous vital positions in the Federation also remain unfilled because of disputes over ethnic representation in these institutions.

The negative political atmosphere has led to the failure of the parties to form a State-level Government since the October 2010 general elections, the report says.  A caretaker Government has been in place at the State level since the elections.  Further, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly has not functioned for the past six months, and no delegates to the Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Peoples were appointed from the House of Peoples of the Federation Parliament.  Consequently, no legislation has been adopted at the State level in the past six months, nor has a regular State-level budget been adopted.  However, the new Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, which is elected directly, is operational, and cooperation among the three members has improved in comparison to the previous mandate.

Noting that none of the outstanding objectives and conditions necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative was met during this reporting period, the report indicates there was instead regression in relation to State and defence property, as well as difficulties in implementing the objectives to fiscal sustainability and the rule of law.  The Republika Srpska government has taken unilateral steps to regulate State property by adopting its own State Property Law, which, if implemented, would make completion of two of the objectives set as prerequisites for the Office of the High Representative closure far more difficult, if not impossible.  Although Republika Srpska has complied with the High Representative’s 18 September 2009 Decisions on the Brcko District’s electricity supply, it continued to send signals that raise questions about its commitment to fundamental provisions of the Brcko Final Award.

Underscoring the reassurance provided to citizens by the continued presence of the European Union military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR), the High Representative says he supports the extension of that mission’s executive mandate.

Briefing by High Representative Bosnia and Herzegovina

Presenting his fifth report as High Representative, and the thirty-ninth report since the position was established, VALENTIN INZKO said the political situation had continued to develop negatively in Bosnia and Herzegovina since his last report to the Security Council.

“Today, regrettably, we face the most serious and direct challenges to the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement since it was signed over 15 years ago,” he said, noting that he had submitted, in accordance with his mandate and in addition to his biannual report a special report on recent actions by the authorities in Republika Srpkska, which clearly violate that agreement.

He said that more than seven months after the general elections, there was still no prospect of a new State Government, stressing that many State institutions were under serious political, institutional and economic pressure, which had a clear impact on their efficiency and functionality.  At the same time, the European Union and the Euro-Atlantic integration processes had come to a complete halt, while the economy continued to suffer.

The Government formation process was stalled, he said, by lengthy political disputes and interventions, with the authorities in the Federation formed only after months of deliberate obstruction in electing delegates to the Federation House of Peoples.  When the appointment of various authorities was disputed, he had been forced to intervene.  He had done so with support by the Peace Implementation Council, where there was broad consensus that taking no action would have resulted in political and legal chaos.  The risk of two parallel and disputed Federation Governments and presidents had been averted, and the Federation authorities now seemed to work effectively, he noted.

He said the current dispute in the Federation was also a dispute between ethnicity-based politics and a more civic-oriented version, following the country’s overall social divisions.  Reconciliation had so far proved impossible and Bosnian Croat parties that had excluded themselves from the Federation authorities were now refusing to cooperate with the Government, leading to further division and difficulties.  In that regard, the Bosnian Croat HDZ parties, which had advocated a third entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the election, had organized a Council of Croat Cantons and Municipalities.  Despite provisions in the Federation Constitution that foresee cooperation between cantons, such a development 15 years after Dayton was clearly not the direction “we should be going in”, he said, noting that such a council “could invariably serve to further raise tensions in the Federation in the short term and would not contribute to an overall agreement between parties”.

He said such developments would be bad enough at a time when governments should be doubling their efforts to deliver the deep reforms needed to tackle the serious social and economic challenges facing their citizens, as well as make progress towards European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership.  But, within an already difficult climate, the authorities in Republika Srpska had taken concrete actions that represented the most serious violation of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement since it had been signed — namely, the conclusions and decisions on the referendum adopted by that entity’s National Assembly in April.  Those conclusions and decisions were not only a clear breach of the agreement, but also put into question all laws enacted by the respective High Representatives.

“The recent actions by Republika Srpska, if allowed to proceed, would have a major impact on the functionality and sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said, underlining the significant number of decisions and laws enacted by the High Representatives that were fundamental for the States’ functioning.  He said a referendum on the High Representative’s powers and decisions would be a “serious breach” of the country’s constitutional framework and international obligations.  It would also be contrary to Annex 10 of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement and a host of Security Council resolutions.

He further stressed that the conclusions sought to undermine the entire constitutional system of division of responsibility between the State and the entities established under Annex 4 and the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as further interpreted by the Constitutional Court.  He also pointed out that the State had exclusive competence under the Constitution for international and inter-entity criminal law enforcement, noting that the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Prosecutor’s Office, were created with a view to enable the State to carry out those competencies.

Saying his approach to this challenge had been “clear and fully consistent” with his firm belief that dialogue should always be given a chance, he expressed his expectation that the Republika Srpska authorities would put the adopted conclusions and the referendum decision out of force in the coming days.  “Should this not happen, given my responsibilities to uphold the Peace Agreement, I will have no choice but to repeal the conclusions and referendum decision,” he said, highlighting the strong support from the Peace Implementation Council and the highest levels of the European Union in that regard.

He further noted that the authorities of Republika Srpska and its president had continued to openly question the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  They have also continued to question other key State-level institutions and denied that genocide took place in Srebrenica in 1995, despite confirmation by international tribunals.

Continuing, he said political parties had continued to play zero-sum politics and for the time being that situation appeared set to continue.  State-level legislative processes were at a standstill.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had also not implemented the judgement of the European court of Human Rights regarding the Sejdic-Finci case of December 2009.  Bosnia and Herzegovina would be one of the few countries where no population census would be held in 2011, and the country would most likely be unable to start implementing the NATO Membership Action Plan later this year.  With no agreement on a State budget, the State was running on limited temporary financing measures, and it was clear Bosnia and Herzegovina was falling further behind its neighbours regarding European Union and NATO integration.

“It would be a mistake to view these latest developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a short-term negative trend,” he said, underlining the downward direction of political stability in the five years since the April 2006 package of constitutional amendments was rejected.  While focusing on immediate difficulties, the Council must take a critical look at what must be done to secure a functioning and viable country in the long term.  Clearly, the ownership principle must be supported, despite a sense that Bosnia and Herzegovina was not on the right track.

Referring to the analysis of the Peace Implementation Council, he said it had noted that, with the exception of the objective related to the Brcko District, little progress had been made in implementing the conditions required for closing of the Office of the High Representative.  On the State and defence property objective, there had been repression.  Following the unilateral adoption of an entity Law on State Property in December by the authorities of the Republika Srpska, he had suspended the law’s application pending a decision on its constitutionality by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  While he hoped to be able to close the Brcko Arbitral Tribunal and the Brcko Supervision soon, the Republika Srpska must give proper and specific assurances on the District’s future constitutional status and rights, as well as on the terms of the Final Award, as the Federation had already done.

Reiterating that the entire international community must take the deteriorating situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina very seriously, he cautioned that further erosion of the State and its institutions would not only push Bosnia and Herzegovina into deeper crisis, but could also have negative consequences for the entire region.  He suggested that, because the country’s future lay within the European Union and the Euro-Atlantic institutions, they had an important role to play.  At the same time, the need for an international presence with an executive mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina was still evident, particularly in light of serious challenges arising from within the country.  Further, sufficient tools were needed to prevent attempts to roll back previously agreed reforms.

While some talked about international fatigue in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said he did not share that view.  Rather, he believed that any move to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina on its own would open the door to those who would attempt to divide the State and could lead to renewed chaos.  While the international community had achieved tremendous results in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the past 15 years, it was clear that a lasting and sustainable political settlement that ensured a durable prospect for peace had not yet been achieved and that country must remain on the international agenda until the job was completed.

“Our continued attention on Bosnia and Herzegovina is the way to get to the objective that we all want to reach,” he said, with a Bosnia and Herzegovina capable of solving its own problems institutionally and able to move towards full Euro-Atlantic integration with full ownership of responsibilities.

Statements

ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) expressed deep concern over recent developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which could undermine its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as damage peace and stability in the Balkans.  Such developments must be avoided at all costs.  All parties must respect the rule of law and legal instruments underlining Bosnia’s political structures.  The political leadership and the international presence must remain focused on recognizing the balance created by the Dayton Accords and the subsequent political structures.  They must exert all efforts to ensure that balance was respected and maintained, particularly in order to complete the Government formation process.  He called on all parties involved to focus on constitutional reform, which was necessary for sustainable peace.  “No one is served by actions that take Bosnia backwards from the constitutional reforms already agreed,” he said.

Dialogue was essential for adopting a final constitution and for completing the five objectives and two conditions that the High Representative needed to complete his work, he said.  He expressed concern over the lack of progress in implementing those commitments.  He called on all parties to redouble their efforts in that regard.  It was necessary to fight impunity and bring to justice those responsible for war crimes in order to foster reconciliation.  That process must be carried out impartially and by the judicial instruments agreed to by the various Bosnian parties.  He encouraged all parties to recommit to fully implementing their obligations under the peace accords and agreements.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said Bosnia and Herzegovina’s term on the Council showed that cooperation and consensus was possible in that country, even concerning peace and security.  That fact gave hope that the country’s political leaders could work together to overcome internal political difficulties.  Today, the foundation of the Dayton Accords was being challenged, threatening to undercut gains made.  She urged the parties to make every effort to work across ethnic and political lines to achieve peace.  She reiterated the United States’ full support for the authority of the High Representative under the Dayton Accords.  She agreed that the recent conclusions adopted by the Republika Srpska fundamentally challenged the agreements and raised serious questions about the Republika Srpska’s serious commitment to the rule of law.  Its actions were a setback on the 5+2 agenda and would have a chilling effect on the Republika Srpska’s ability to attract foreign investment.

The High Representative had the United States’ full support, she said.  The United States was in the process of considering its own measures on formation of Bosnian State institutions, if necessary.  She expressed concern over the absence of a Government seven months after the general elections.  Bosnia and Herzegovina must assemble a strong coalition Government.  Progress was possible if politicians were ready to set aside their ethnic and personal agendas to work towards common goals.  She was also concerned about divisive and chauvinistic rhetoric.  Hate speech undermined trust and led to tensions.  Calls for succession and territorial reorganization were unrealistic and destabilizing.  It was important for Bosnia and Herzegovina to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  She encouraged Bosnian authorities to further advance stability in the region by creating institutional mechanisms for such cooperation.

NOEL NELSON MESSONE ( Gabon) fully supported international efforts to create a law-abiding State and the Dayton Accord.  He welcomed the pivotal role of EUFOR to ensure stability in the region, despite the increasingly tense political situation, as well as the decision by Bosnian and Herzegovina’s authorities to suspend the issue of licenses for exporting arms and military equipment.  He welcomed that fact that the general elections were conducted smoothly.  He also lauded the removal of visa requirements.  But he expressed concern over obstacles hampering the political process, the difficulty of establishing a federal Government and the absence of an agreement concerning the defence of State property.

Dialogue and political agreement would enable the parties to reconcile their opposing approaches to governing, he said, noting differences over whether to create a multiethnic, democratic society or splitting power among three nationalist oligarchs.  He called on all parties to strengthen cooperation to implement the Dayton Accord and to work closely with the High Representative, EUFOR, NATO and the Criminal Tribunal towards that end.  The international community must increase aid to the parties to help implement the five objectives.  The current mandate of the High Representative, which had been extended to 31 August 2011, should be further extended.  He would await the conclusion next June of the Steering Committee in that regard.  He called upon political actors to overcome division and intolerance.  He supported the High Representative’s recommendations.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the statement by the High Representative had more emotion than objective analysis.  The same was true for the two reports presented to the Council.  To have a more objective view, he said Council members should look at the letter from Republika Srpska sent to the Council regarding the Republika Srpska’s accusation that the Dayton Agreement had been violated.  At the current stage, the main task of the international community was to transfer responsibility for territorial integrity and cohesiveness to the Bosnians themselves.  That meant transforming the Office of the High Representative into an office of the European Union Special Representative.  The process of forming a new Government had been seriously complicated and the current crisis was caused by the shaking up of institutions by the Bosniak leaders.  But, significant responsibility lay with the High Representative.  The main problem was the unwillingness to take into account the Serb and Croat representatives.

He said unilateral action was counterproductive and dangerous.  The decision by the Parliament of the Republika Srpska to organize a referendum did not directly violate the Dayton Accords and the actions of the Republika Srpska’s leadership did not go beyond their jurisdiction.  He did not agree with the 27 March decision of the High Representative to stop implementation of the ruling of the electoral commission.  The International Crisis Group had said the High Representative had shattered State institutions and the rule of law.  Further, the High Representative had continued to arbitrarily use his Bonn powers.  The Steering Committee must encourage dialogue and any future agreement must be made by the Bosnians themselves.  He rejected as unacceptable any attempt to impose any constitutional reform from the outside.

PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) supporting the “dispassionate” report by the High Representative, said that seven months after the elections, no State Government had been formed, while nationalist rhetoric continued to challenge the State’s integrity.  He stressed that the Dayton Framework required representation from all parts of society.  Voicing concern over the conclusions adopted by the authorities of Republika Srpska, he said they represented a “clear breach” of the Dayton Agreement and were an attack on the High Representative.  “The Council could not ignore nor downplay these actions,” he said, stressing that they were not a technical issue.

Noting that the United Kingdom fundamentally disagreed with the legal analysis of the Republika Srpska, he expressed firm support for the High Representative, who derived his authority from the Council’s resolutions.  He further stressed that the Office of the High Representative could not be made the subject of a public referendum, pointing out that that Office’s authority had been widely upheld by relevant court decisions.  Moreover, Republika Srpska laws should not touch on matters outside its jurisdiction, he said. Welcoming all efforts to persuade the Republika Srpska to withdraw its referendum, he said the United Kingdom would firmly and strongly support whatever action the High Representative deemed necessary to uphold the Dayton Framework.  Finally, he suggested that the potential spill-over of the political situation into the security arena underscored how crucial the EUFOR mandate was.

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said unilateral attacks on Bosnia and Herzegovina and its institutions had increased, with a disconcerting lack of will to overcome differences.  Among other things, the decision by the Republika Srpska to hold a referendum on key State institutions threatened the possibility that Bosnia and Herzegovina could proceed to European Union integration.  He expressed support for the High Representative, cautioning against the assault posed to the political consensus rooted in the Dayton Accord.  He further stressed that the cumbersome structures of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina had to be brought into line with the European Union.

The current political crisis had again highlighted that some politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina were unwilling to put the needs of their citizens above themselves, he said.  For the European Union, respect for the rule of law and stability of candidate countries was crucial.  “We will not accept falling fundamentally short of those measures,” he cautioned, suggesting that if talks failed, the European Union might feel obliged to re-examine the application for integration.  Finally, he underlined the need to safeguard the footprint of the Office of the High Representative.

JOÃO CABRAL ( Portugal) appealed to the leaders of all three entities to refrain from divisive rhetoric.  He appealed to them to urgently form a Government at the State level.  The current stalemate harmed prospects for regional peace.  The Republika Srpska’s decision to hold a referendum was a serious threat to the country’s political balance.  The international community was rightly concerned by that threat to the Dayton Framework.  He reaffirmed support for the High Representative’s authority.  Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future was in the European Union and tangible progress at the technical and political levels was in its best interest.  Bosnia and Herzegovina deserved the international community’s full support.  Portugal had participated in international efforts to bring peace to the Balkans.  The international community must not allow 15 years of hard work and sacrifice since the Dayton Accords to be reversed, and must remain fully engaged in working for peace and stability in that country.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said it was difficult to build a multiethnic, multilingual and multi-religious country.  Though the path was long and arduous, the fruits were well worth the efforts.  Patience, determination and mutual accommodation were needed to achieve peace and stability.  He congratulated the successful and smooth holding of elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October.  He hoped that the current stalemate would be resolved and a parliamentary assembly would be able to soon begin.  He welcomed the High Representative’s assessment that the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been operational and cooperation among three entities had improved in comparison with the previous mandate.  He also lauded the fact that EUFOR had been able to maintain a stable environment.  Its mandate must be extended.

RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA( Nigeria) said his country was pleased that, despite political tensions, the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained calm.  He welcomed further progress in the rule of law process, as well as other steps forward, including those regarding visa liberalization.  Nonetheless, he said further progress was needed, including on the five objectives and two conditions set to allow for the transition of the High Representative to the Special Representative of the European Union.

Noting recent political developments, he stressed that leaders should refrain from nationalistic rhetoric.  He voiced support for the work of the High Representative, as well as the aspirations of Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the European Union.  Nigeria was convinced that, with diligence and support from the international community, including the Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina would achieve further stability.  In that regard, he urged respect for the process of dialogue and the progress already made.

YANG TAO ( China) expressed his country’s hope that all ethnic groups would proceed in a spirit of peace and would work to settle their differences, underlining, in that regard, the framework of the Dayton Peace Agreement.  China respected the independent territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and believed that the country’s future lay in the hands of its people.  China also supported the role of the international community in supporting efforts to consolidate peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He stressed that all parties concerned should settle their differences through dialogue.  Together with the international community, China would continue to support the efforts to achieve peace and economic stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) regretted that the peaceful holding of general elections in October had been followed by divisive rhetoric.  He expressed hoped that, in the forthcoming period, more attention would be paid to reconciliation, open dialogue and forming a unity Government.  He expressed concern over the April decision by the Republika Srpska that questioned the role of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s legal bodies and the authority of the High Representative.  That decision violated the Dayton Accords, as well as Council resolutions.  He called on Republika Srpska’s authorities to abide by the Dayton Accords.  All parties must refrain from measures taken outside the Dayton Accords, which would be counterproductive.  All parties must enter into dialogue and make mutual concessions to arrive at compromise.  He fully supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts towards State-building, reform and stability.

NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) supported the Dayton Accords and called on all parties involved to fulfil their obligations to the agreements.  The Council was committed to monitoring situations that might threaten peace and security in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He fully supported the Council’s Presidential Statement on peacebuilding and institutional development after conflict.  There must be a more firm international response for countries emerging from conflict to help ensure respect for the rule of law and revitalize the economy.  The parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina were chiefly responsible for implementing the peace agreement.  He called on all to support a political solution in Bosnia and Herzegovina within internationally recognized borders.  He called on the parties to set aside differences in order to strengthen institutions and comply with the 5+2 agenda.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), expressing concern over recent developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressed that all efforts should be made to strengthen State-level institutions.  Divisive rhetoric must be avoided, while all actors must respect the authority of the High Representative, she said.  Calling on all parties to put an end to internal disagreements, she expressed Brazil’s confidence that all parties would uphold the Dayton Framework.  She called on the international community to continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it aimed to consolidate political and economic development.  With the Council’s support, the country would, she said, overcome current political challenges and move towards a settlement that ensured lasting and sustainable peace.

Speaking in his national capacity, GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said the visa liberalization was evidence of the goals of the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve European Union integration.  Yet, it was clear that delays in forming a Government threatened further progress within the country.  For its part, France was concerned by actions that questioned the authority of State institutions, as well as the authority of the High Representative.  He called on the Republika Srpska to uphold the Dayton Peace Agreement, stressing that all leaders must return to dialogue and work together to create a State.  France supported the High Representative’s actions, he added.

FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia) said Serbia fully honoured the Dayton Accords.  It respected Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as a State or two entities and three constitutive peoples and had no intention of interfering in its internal affairs.  Serbia was fully committed to continue efforts to foster reconciliation in order to achieve lasting regional stability.  Improved relations among countries in the Western Balkans would lead to the common goal of joining the European family of nations.  A solution could occur only through dialogue between Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two entities and three constituent peoples.  Instead of bringing into question that country’s integrity, solutions should foster peace and stability.  He encouraged all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to bolster efforts to reach sustainable solutions to all open questions.  Serbia opposed any imposition of a solution that was not made by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s legitimately elected political representatives.

Serbia was against any divisions in principle, but also against any disqualification of some actors from political processes, he said.  He supported the quest for a solution to start the reform process, which would be helped by the closure of the Office of the High Representative and the cancellation of the so-called Bonn powers.  The Republika Srpska’s referendum had nothing to do with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and did not violate the Dayton Accords.  He welcomed the European Union’s decision on visa liberalization.  More encouragement from the European Union was needed to further stabilize the situation.  Serbia had special ties to Republika Srpska, but it was also interested in deepening economic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, expressed concern over the inability to form a Government, the further deterioration of the political climate and the scant progress in key reform areas.  It was crucial that a State-level Government be formed without further delay and that it re-start the reform process and put Bosnia and Herzegovina on track towards European Union integration.  He encouraged the Council to send a message of strong concern and urged all political actors to find common solutions.  In that respect, the Republika Srpska’s recent decision to hold the referendum was a “step in the wrong direction”.  In recent meetings with Republika Srpska officials, European Union officials had made clear its strong concerns and expectations that the referendum not be held.  Only mutually agreed reforms were acceptable.

He called on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to engage in constructive, structured political dialogue on legal issues and the judiciary.  He fully supported the authority of the High Representative.  He urged all to refrain from divisive rhetoric.  As a matter of priority, Bosnia and Herzegovina must bring its Constitution into compliance with the European Union Convention on Human Rights.  Fulfilling its obligations under the Interim Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union would show its commitment to the European Union integration process.  The European Union was in the process of strengthening its engagement with Bosnia and Herzegovina through a comprehensive approach and significant financial aid, he said.  It would soon enhance its political presence through a reinforced, single European Union representative to that country.

Fifteen years after Dayton, Bosnia and Herzegovina deserved a qualitative step forward towards European integration, he said.  As the visa issue showed, when there was political will and readiness to reach compromise, Bosnia and Herzegovina was able to carry out reform and deliver on commitments.  With that in mind, he appealed to their political leaders to put the country firmly on the way towards the European Union.

HÜSEYIN MÜFTÜOĞLU ( Turkey) said the Balkans remained the “test case” for lasting peace and stability on the European continent, and while encouraged by development towards sovereign, democratic, stable and functional States in many parts of that region, his country was greatly concerned by the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Turkey welcomed the new Federation Government, despite the fact that it was not optimally representative, and hoped all stakeholders would now act responsibly and avoid blocking the functioning of institutions or attempting to form parallel ones.

While Turkey understood the concerns of the Croats, who were one of the founding and inseparable peoples of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it believed those concerns must be the subject of a political dialogue and should be settled in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.  He called on all political stakeholders to be flexible and to look for compromise to achieve a breakthrough on the formation of a broad-based, inclusive and representative State-level Government.  Calls for the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and recent moves towards a referendum by the Republika Srpska were “unacceptable” and amounted to clear violations of the General Framework Agreement for Peace.

As a member of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board, Turkey was encouraged by progress on some of the issues related to the five objectives and two conditions for the transition of the Office of the High Representative.  However, it regretted that the current political stalemate prevented progress on others.  Turkey did not agree that the actions of the High Representative and personnel in his Office were unlawful and considered such claims to be “unhelpful”.  In its belief that regional cooperation was an essential tool for normalizing relations between countries, Turkey had established trilateral consultations mechanisms among itself, Bosnia and Herzegovina and, respectively, Croatia and Serbia, he said, noting recent meetings in that context.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said that, in light of the “worrisome” picture of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the October 2010 elections presented in the High Representative’s report, his country believed it would be premature to close the High Representative’s Office this year.  He stressed that Euro-Atlantic integration was a precondition for the stability of the countries of South-Eastern Europe and, specifically, of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Croatia also supported the return of refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina and primarily Republika Srpska.  It considered the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the equality of the three constitutive peoples to be the basic precondition for the country’s stability and sustainability.  Notwithstanding the current impasse in forming a Government, all parties and the international community should strive to agree on a set of constitutional amendments to move the country towards Europe, while preserving full equality for all constitutive peoples.

He expressed concern that the political option currently supported by the vast majority of Bosnian Croats was not represented at all political levels, suggesting it was hard to imagine lasting constitutional reform without the participation of that option. Further asserting that there was no alternative to political dialogue and no effort should be spared in reaching legitimate solutions, he said important decisions must be made through consensus of all three constitutive peoples.  Otherwise, the world community might see two entities, each dominated by a single people, increasingly drifting apart.  He echoed previous speakers in expressing serious concern over the unilateral decision by Republika Srpska to hold a referendum on the authority of State judicial institutions and rejecting the authority and past decisions of the High Representative, saying that decision should be reversed.  He further stressed that the fight against impunity was crucial for the normalization of the situation, saying that Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, indicted for the most atrocious crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, must be brought to justice.

IVAN BARBALIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) thanked all those who supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration.  Fifteen years on, the Council was still discussing certain aspects of the country’s peace and security.  Indeed, the issue remained an emotional one.  But what was being discussed was different today, because much had been achieved in the past 15 years in terms of State- and institution-building and the return of refugees.  At present, the country was dealing with problems that were preventing it from entering a phase of integration and prosperity.  To address them, domestic parties played a major role, in concert with the international community.  Much had been accomplished in terms of post-conflict justice, thanks to the efforts of the International Criminal Tribunal and institution-building.  He expressed concern over delegates’ comments concerning percentages of ethnic groups involved in war crimes.  The point was that all war crimes must be dealt with.

The High Representative still had an important role in supporting the strengthening of State institutional capacity and Euro-Atlantic integration, he said.  The High Representative embodied the international community’s determination to support the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, not just its three constituent people.  The country was multicultural.  When discussing its political situation, one must consider that its ethnic parties and structures were not only trying to cut political deals.  They also were working together towards a common good, which should be supported.  He called for regional cooperation to ensure mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.  Despite its current difficult situation, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s presidency was functioning and involved in regional cooperation and its caretaker Government was carrying out necessary functions.

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