High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Tells Security Council Country on Track for ‘Breakthrough Year’ If Progress Sustained

15 May 2012
SC/10650

High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Tells Security Council Country on Track for ‘Breakthrough Year’ If Progress Sustained

15 May 2012
Security Council
SC/10650
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6771st Meeting (PM)

High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Tells Security Council

 

Country on Track for ‘Breakthrough Year’ If Progress Sustained

 

Council Members Warn Divisive Nationalistic Rhetoric

Could Reverse Gains during ‘Early Days in Life of New Government’

Bosnia and Herzegovina was on track for a “breakthrough year” if the momentum built up by a number of recent positive developments could be sustained throughout 2012, the High Representative for that country told the Security Council this afternoon.

“My hope is that the country will draw strength from how far it has come during the last 20 years and that this reality will inspire political leaders to meet their responsibilities to their citizens,” said Valentin Inzko.  Two decades since the country’s admission to the United Nations, no one could dispute that Bosnia and Herzegovina had come a long way; however, he warned, “neither can we dispute that the country has some way to go before the job is completed”.

A recent report by the High Representative, which covered the period from 16 October 2011 to 20 April 2012, found that more than 16 months after the October 2010 general elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina had finally appointed a State Government.  In addition, leaders of the six main parties had reached a political agreement on two of the issues which had been identified as preconditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative:  that of ownership and use of military property, and the broader question of ownership and use of State property.  Most significantly, progress on the military property issue would help set the stage for the country’s full participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Membership Action Plan, a signal that progress on the Euro-Atlantic path was achievable.

Nevertheless, he stressed, several major challenges remained, including a number of troubling political statements challenging the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina — widely known as the Dayton Agreement — which had put an end to a three-and-a-half year war in 1995.  There had been considerable delays in adopting the State’s fiscal framework of 2012-2014, as well as its annual budgets, with the State budget for 2012 still outstanding.  As an election year, 2012 would also bring new challenges, he said.

Taking the floor, Security Council members commended the recent progress, but also highlighted the myriad challenges associated with the establishment of a new, multi-ethnic society.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was indeed a “noble experiment” in building a new nation from the rubble of civil war, said the representative of India.  While the process was long and arduous, the results were worth the effort.  He urged the leadership and the international community to persevere.

Much of the discussion focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s relationship with the European Union, and in particular, on progress towards the entry into force of the country’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the bloc.  The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina had made that a priority, said the representative of the United Kingdom, adding that it hoped to lodge a formal application for European Union membership later this year.

However, the delegate noted, the country was in the “early days in the life of the new Government”, and progress remained fragile, as the High Representative had made clear.  Promises had been made and broken before, and there were still signs that politicians were putting their nationalist political agendas above the needs of the country and its citizens, he said.

Indeed, several speakers sounded a noted of caution about the divisive statements and nationalist rhetoric, warning that the trend could reverse the country’s progress.  Such statements, they said, were a stark reminder of the continued importance of the High Representative’s role in upholding the General Framework Agreement for Peace.

The representative of Serbia, however, felt that steps should be taken to close the Office of the High Representative and terminate the so-called “ Bonn powers”.  The legitimately elected representatives of peoples and entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, were able to manage State affairs independently.

In that light, he said, the international community should treat the relations between the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina with great care and respect for their interests.  He considered it counterproductive to criticize one of its entities and label it as “anti-Dayton”.  Serbia had demonstrated its full readiness to confront the past and contribute to a better future for the region.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, France, South Africa, China, Pakistan, Portugal, Morocco, Germany, Guatemala, Colombia, Togo, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan and Croatia.  A representative of the European Union delegation also spoke.

The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the forty-first report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina conveyed by a letter dated 9 May 2012 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2012/307) on the implementation of the Peace Agreement in the country and covering the period from 16 October 2011 to 20 April 2012.

In the report, the High Representative states that the reporting period has been characterized by a long overdue return to political dialogue between local political leaders, which has opened the way for several positive developments.  He notes that he turned over the duties of European Union Special Representative to Peter Sørensen in September 2011 and that the two Offices have been coordinating well.  He notes, too, that April marked the twentieth anniversary of international recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the start of the siege of Sarajevo.

He says that Bosnia and Herzegovina ended 2011 with politicians engaging in political dialogue and reaching important agreements.  On 28 December, a broad agreement was reached that included forming a Council of Ministers after nearly 15 months of stalemate following the October 2010 elections.  The agreement included a commitment to adopt a budget for 2011 and two key European Union-related pieces of legislation — the State Aid and Census laws.  The Council of Ministers was appointed by the House of Representatives on 10 February.

Further positive news followed on 9 March, he says, when the leaders of the six political parties in the State-level governing coalition signed an agreement on principles, subsequently endorsed by the Council of Ministers, to underpin resolution of ownership issues and use of defence and State property.  The implementation of the agreement on defence property would open the way for the full participation of the country in the Membership Action Plan of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

None of the outstanding items among the five objectives and two conditions necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative was fulfilled during this reporting period, he says.  However, the 9 March agreement potentially opens the door for an acceptable and sustainable resolution of the issue of apportionment of property between the State and other levels of government, as well as an acceptable and sustainable resolution of defence property, which are among the objectives, as is determining the future of the supervision of the Brcko District, currently under discussion by the Steering Board.

Unfortunately, he says, nationalist politics continued, along with the readiness of some to challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.  On the economic front, the country faced a deteriorating fiscal position, poor growth prospects, high unemployment, a declining credit rating and accompanying social problems.  Of particular concern is that State-level institutions have been on temporary financing for over 16 months and, at the time of writing, a 2012 State-level budget had yet to be adopted.

Briefing

High Representative VALENTIN INZKO, noting that 2012 marked 20 years since Bosnia and Herzegovina’s admission as a Member State of the United Nations, congratulated the country wholeheartedly.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was contributing significantly to the work of the Organization, most recently with its successful tenure as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.  Looking back, no one could dispute that the country had come a long way.  “But neither can we dispute that the country has some way to go before the job is completed,” he warned.

Briefing the Council on the most notable positive developments in recent months, he recalled that, in February — more than 16 months after the elections — a State Government was finally appointed with a Croat Chairman.  Additionally, in accordance with the principle of rotation of ethnicity, there was now a State Prime Minister who was from the constituent peoples of the Croats.  Government formation had been preceded by the adoption of two long-outstanding State-level laws, the Law on State Aid and the Law on Census, both of which were important for the European Union accession process.

On 9 March, he said, leaders of the six main parties had reached a political agreement on two of the issues that had been identified as preconditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative:  ownership and use of military property, and the broader question of ownership and use of State property.  Most significantly, progress on the issue of military property would help set the stage for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s full participation in NATO’s Membership Action Plan, a signal that progress on the Euro-Atlantic path was achievable.  Nonetheless, he stressed, “our benchmark is implementation.  What we need to see now is action by the State and entity authorities to implement their agreement.”

In addition to that progress, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board was currently discussing the future of the international supervisory regime in the Brcko District, another of the five objectives and two conditions for the Office’s closure.  While the Office would be supporting the domestic authorities in that regard, “I will not do the job for them — those days are over”; progress could only be delivered by domestic institutions.

Describing some of the less welcome developments of the reporting period, he said that there was a parallel dynamic of the divisive political agendas, which had been played out over the last six years.  A number of troubling challenges to the Dayton Agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity had taken place, and there had been delays in adopting the State’s budgets, with the 2011 budget having been adopted only this year and the 2012 budget and global fiscal framework not yet adopted.  As an election year, 2012 would also bring new challenges.  The electoral rules for Mostar and Srebrenica had been hotly debated and could very well shape the election campaign; the Office of the High Representative would make an extra effort to help both communities make progress in the interests of their citizens and contribute to an environment conducive to self-sustainable coexistence.

“My hope is that the country will draw strength from how far it has come during the last 20 years and that this reality will inspire political leaders to meet their responsibilities to their citizens,” as well as to the international community, he said.  Making several concluding points in that regard, he stressed again that 2012 could be a “breakthrough year” for Bosnia and Herzegovina in its efforts towards full Euro-Atlantic integration.  Secondly, challenges to the Peace Agreement could not be ignored; the international community must ensure that the country was equipped to deal with such challenges.  Finally, he said, with regard to the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was critical to speak with one voice.  He urged the Council to give its full support to the new European Union Special Representative, Peter Sørensen, and to remain united.

Statements

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) welcomed progress made in Bosnia and Herzegovina and said that her country remained committed to the successful emergence of the country and looked forward to its leaders building governing institutions that would deliver results to all citizens.  She encouraged the country’s compliance with European court rulings and supported the European Union’s increasing engagement with the country.  She urged the implementation of the Defence Property portion of the 9 March agreement, in compliance with NATO’s action plan.  The United States was committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and she, therefore, expressed concern over the threats of dissolution of the State made by Republika Srpska officials, among others.  She called on leaders to work for the interests of all citizens, and for all stakeholders to strengthen State institutions.

BÉATRICE LE FRAPER DU HELLEN (France), supporting the statement to be made by the delegate of the European Union, welcomed progress, but noted that reform had been at a standstill in the country for a long time.  Recent agreements had put Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path to European integration and those should be built upon.  She encouraged the authorities to ensure that their Constitution complied with European human rights documents and to resolve other outstanding issues.  She commended the work of the Union’s special representative in that context, and noted the adjustments made in the Union’s presence to keep current with the situation.

She said that, given the progress in the security and political areas, the enhanced commitment of the Union was warranted, as was reconfiguration of all international presence.  The end to international supervision of the Brcko district should be considered in that light.  The country was becoming an important factor in regional stability.  She welcomed the advent of such progress in the context of the twentieth anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo.

ZAHEER LAHER (South Africa) welcomed recent political progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina and hoped that important agreements would allow the country to focus on fulfilling the remaining obligations of the “5+2” agenda.  He called on all sides to actively engage in the completion of that process and allow the people to gain full responsibility for their country.  It was imperative, in that context, for all parties to respect the rule of law and the legal instruments that underpinned the political structures and ensure that the balance contained in the Dayton Agreement was maintained.

He encouraged all parties to compromise and focus on adopting a budget for 2012 without delay, and to commit to constitutional reform that could establish strong and representative State structures.  Constructive dialogue between the many ethnic groups and entities, as well as between the various Bosnian structures and the High Representative, was also crucial.  Reconciliation should be the ultimate goal, an essential aspect of which was bringing those accused of committing war crimes to justice.  However, reconciliation was jeopardized by divisive and nationalistic rhetoric, and he called on all parties to refrain from any rhetoric and actions that undermined State institutions.

WANG MIN (China) commended the progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and welcomed the agreements concluded by the country’s different parties, the formation of the Council of Ministers and the signing of an accord on property use.  China respected the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and hoped that its many ethnic groups would resolve their differences through dialogue, promote national reconciliation, implement the Dayton Peace Agreement and make progress in all related areas.  He hoped that the High Representative would continue to play a positive role in implementing that accord, and that the European Union would enhance its support to the country’s security forces.  The question of Bosnia and Herzegovina was complex and involved not just the country itself, but also the entire region.  In that context, China was committed to helping the country attain lasting peace and stability.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said that his delegation was fully committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was important for all parties to abide by the legal frameworks for the division of power.  Welcoming the recent positive developments, he said that the authorities should now focus on the country’s economic situation, which had been negatively affected by several factors.  Pakistan hoped that there would be progress in the implementation of the property agreement, but it was concerned over the trend of nationalist politics and threats to the country’s peace agreement.  Challenges to the authority of the High Representative were another source of concern.  He took note that none of the outstanding “5+2” items required for the closing of the Office of the High Representative had yet been met.  Pakistan supported all efforts to ensure a safe and stable environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and hoped to see many more positive developments by the next report.

JOÃO MARIA CABRAL (Portugal), aligning with the European Union’s statement, added that economic reforms were particularly important, considering Bosnia and Herzegovina’s current situation.  There was an urgent need to adopt the 2012 State budget and the 2012-2014 fiscal framework, he added, calling on the international community and the European Union to remain fully engaged with the country.  Portugal supported the Union’s forces, notably the European Union Military Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ALTHEA), among others, whose presence was essential.  It also supported the reconfiguration of the international presence on the ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with an aim to better respond to the country’s needs.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) welcomed hopeful signs of dialogue and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite continued political difficulties including the failure of some to recognize the federal authorities.  He appealed to political leaders to abstain from any act or word that could undermine the current process to establish a viable, unified and peaceful country.  Noting that he had been Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, he said he had seen destruction, but also a love of life in the people, and had watched them come a long way since the conflict.

CHRISTOPHE EICK (Germany), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed what he called significant political progress in the country through compromises, which allowed progress in both European and Atlantic integration.  Compliance with the ruling on minority rights by the European Court was the next critical step, and the country must move steadily down the path of reform.  Leaders should place the well-being of all citizens as a priority in accomplishing those tasks.  The Union’s High Representative had worked tirelessly towards that goal, he said, welcoming his contributions, but stressing that new approaches were now needed.  In that context, he favoured a sustainable and comprehensive solution to staff problems.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) reaffirmed his commitment to the Dayton agreements and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and stressed that the balance established by the Dayton Agreements should guide the building of political structures in the country.  He welcomed the formation of the Government following 15 years of delay and called dialogue essential for further progress towards a stable, democratic and prosperous State.  He welcomed other accords, including the 9 March agreement and that on the census, which would take into account those displaced in the conflict.

The time was now ripe for responsibility for the country’s future to shift to Bosnians, themselves, he said.  In that context, it was vital to consider putting an end to the supervision of districts by the international community.  However, guarantees on all obligations must be built into any agreement on that issue.  Constitutional reform should be another priority to establish strong and representative State bodies.  The success of all efforts depended on respect for rule of law and governmental structures by all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

FERNANDO ALZATE ( Colombia) reiterated his delegation’s support for the Dayton Framework Agreement, which had opened the door to peace and coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Progress had to be made in several areas to achieve the “5+2” agenda, in order to close the Office of the High Representative.  The implementation of the agreement on military assets was one step towards fulfilling the action plan towards NATO membership.  However, it was regrettable that several years had gone by and, still, certain political initiatives threatened the peace agreement.  Hence, Colombia urged the parties to commit to the framework agreements and to stop any actions that might weaken or take over State institutions.  The nationalist rhetoric used by some senior officials challenging Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and unity were also negative developments, and he appealed for all “aggressive” rhetoric to be avoided.  He hoped that the parties would find solutions to those matters through dialogue.

VINAY KUMAR ( India) said that progress made during the reporting period was commendable.  The joint declaration of the foreign ministers in the region on cooperation to protect and promote the rights of refugees and returnees should serve as a major confidence-building measure.  While India noted that none of the “5+2” agenda items had yet been fulfilled, there had been some positive developments that might lead to achieving some of the outstanding objectives.  The European Union and the NATO military missions had carried out important roles in Bosnia and Herzegovina, even when the situation on the ground was tense.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was indeed a “noble experiment” in building a new nation from the rubble of civil war, he said; it was never easy to build a multicultural and multilingual country.  While the process had been long and arduous, the results were worth the effort.  He urged the leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community to persevere, despite present challenges.

MICHAEL TATHAM (United Kingdom) said that the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina had made it a priority to secure the entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, and that the country hoped to lodge a formal application for European Union membership later this year.  Both were achievable if the remaining criteria were met, he said.  As the High Representative had made clear, it was the “early days in the life of the new Government”, and progress remained fragile.  Promises had been made and broken before, and there were still signs of politicians putting their nationalist political agenda above the needs of the country and its citizens.  Of particular concern were statements challenging the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a stark reminder of the continued importance of the High Representative’s role in upholding the General Framework Agreement for Peace.

It was clear that 2012 was a year of opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina, he continued.  The United Kingdom fully supported the European Union’s strategy for the country; its Special Representative and Head of Delegation, Peter Sørensen, had done an excellent job.  The European Union should provide the incentives to lead Bosnia and Herzegovina and, in response to genuine progress, have the country increasingly take the lead, with the Office of the High Representative gradually reducing its presence.  The Office would nonetheless retain a crucial role in upholding the Dayton Agreement until the “5+2” conditionality was met.  Meanwhile, the executive powers of the Office remained a crucial safeguard.  “We must not lose patience and rush into significant changes prematurely,” he said in that regard.

KOKOU NAYO MBEOU ( Togo) welcomed the reaching of agreements following the political impasse in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  A new dynamism was at work and should be supported.  She hoped that the authorities would implement all agreements.  However, challenges still remained.  He deplored nationalist rhetoric that undermined State institutions and international efforts.  Only frank and sincere dialogue could lead to lasting and definitive progress.  He urged unified work on reforms needed for increased national and regional integration, which could lead to greater well-being for the citizens of the country.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that the analysis of the High Representative’s report was not objective; there was biased criticism of the Bosnian Serbs.  He suggested the reports of the Republika Srpska be read for a more accurate perspective.  The Republika Srpska had actually made more progress than other entities.  The priority now should be governance of the country by Bosnians themselves, as it had been stable for the past several years, national institutions were being built and apportionment of property was being agreed.  In addition, dialogue between all parties was moving forward.

He stated his opposition to external interference in the Bosnian dialogue, including the arbitrary use of the Bonn powers by the High Representative, and said that decisions should be made soon on international supervision of the relevant district.  He welcomed the partition of duties between the European Special Representative and the High Representative and stressed that each should keep strictly to his respective mandate.  Decisions on key issues should be taken in international forums such as the Security Council.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) welcomed recent political agreements in Bosnia and Herzegovina but expressed concern over remaining threats to the General Framework Agreement for Peace and condemned any actions to challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country or to roll back past reforms related to the peace accord.  He called on all parties instead to cooperate with each other and focus on the country’s development priorities, on ending displacement and on resolving all outstanding problems related to property and other issues in a way that ensured the inalienable rights of the displaced.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, head of the delegation of the European Union, welcomed recent positive developments, including concrete efforts by leaders to take decisions in a spirit of compromise, and he reaffirmed strong support for the country on its path towards European integration.  He said that the momentum must be maintained, particularly by bringing the country’s Constitution into compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.  Socio-economic reforms were also urgently needed.  In that regard, he looked forward to the adoption of the 2012 State budget and multi-year fiscal framework, essential for developing growth-oriented policies that utilized well economic and financial assistance, including the sizeable support provided by the Union.

In other areas, he welcomed further progress in the implementation of the five objectives and two conditions, in line with the agreement on Defence and State Property, thus allowing transformation of the international presence, including that of the Office of the High Representative.  He also looked forward to continuing discussion on those matters.  The Union had recently strengthened its engagement in the country, with its Special Representative Peter Sørensen increasingly interacting with authorities and political leaders and transitioning the remaining work of the European Police Mission, which would close at the end of next month.  Operation Althea, while performing capacity-building and training, also retained the capability to maintain or restore a safe and secure environment.  He encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders to continue to act in a spirit of compromise and work for the long-term interests of the country.

FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia), reaffirmed respect for the Dayton Peace Agreement, as well as commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and non-interference in its internal affairs.  He pledged support for any agreement on the change of the internal system defined by the Dayton Agreement if it was reached by full consensus between the two entities and three constitutive peoples of the country.  Welcoming the decisions adopted recently in the country, and deeming them important steps towards European integration, he called for additional, concrete encouragements from the European Union.  The first visit of the Bosnian Foreign Minister to Serbia demonstrated the importance of bilateral relations between the countries.  Serbia was ready to continue to promote cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in the common goal of joining the European family of nations.

He said that dialogue and compromise between the two entities and three constitutive peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina was critical.  In that light, the international community should treat the relations between those peoples with great care and respect for their interests.  He considered it counterproductive to criticize one of the entities and label it as “anti-Dayton”.  Serbia had demonstrated its full readiness to confront the past and contribute to a better future for the region.  It held the view that all war crimes committed in the territory must be processed in order to establish lasting peace.

Steps, he said, should be taken towards closing the Office of the High Representative and terminating the so-called Bonn powers because the legitimately elected representatives of peoples and entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had the ability to manage the affairs of State independently.  Serbia was developing its relations with the Republika Srpska on the basis of relevant agreements, but was also strengthening relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Republika Srpska had confirmed its commitment to regional cooperation.  Finally, he pledged his country’s continued commitment to achieving a just and sustainable solution for refugees, describing a conference held in Sarajevo in April for that purpose.

RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia), aligning with the European Union, said that his delegation’s general conclusion was that, while there were still reasons for concern with the pace of progress of important political and economic processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were also encouraging developments.  Croatia was convinced that a clear perspective of NATO membership was of the highest importance for further strengthening the country.  The progress of 9 March, however limited, created a momentum, and the international community should strongly encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina to maintain the level of demonstrated commitment and effort.  Among other positive developments, both that country’s politicians and the representatives of the international community had recognized that Croats, as one of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina, did not have the same level of institutional rights as the other two, and had expressed their willingness to work towards solutions that would remedy that problem.

Unfortunately, he said, there was still ground for concern when it came to the atmosphere and language in the public space, especially calls for separatism or any kind of extremism.  That should not be tolerated, and the international community should be very clear with that message.  Croatia strongly supported a more robust presence of the European Union mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and all efforts that contributed to further harmonization of the laws and practices within Bosnia and Herzegovina and with the Union.  Croatia’s own experience had shown that the process of European integration went hand in hand with institution-building, and the delegation was confident that that would enhance Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stability and cohesion.  It had proposed to Bosnia and Herzegovina the Treaty on Euro-Atlantic Partnership, covering a wide area of cooperation.

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