Political Gridlock Threatens Fragile Gains, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Tells Security Council
Political Gridlock Threatens Fragile Gains, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Tells Security Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6860th Meeting (AM)
Political Gridlock Threatens Fragile Gains, High Representative
For Bosnia and Herzegovina Tells Security Council
Hailing Recent Elections, Council Members Urge
State Coalition Leaders to Reach Sustainable Solution, European Integration
The current gridlocked political landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina demanded the Security Council’s attention before stagnation and divisive dialogue threatened to unravel fragile gains, the United Nations’ top official told Council members this morning.
“While other countries in the region moved forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina was left behind,” said High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, presenting his latest report covering developments between April and October. “How does one respond when a leading politician says that Bosnia and Herzegovina makes him feel sick and that he hopes to God it will fall apart? These challenges are worrisome enough to warrant particular attention of this body.”
Seventeen years after the Dayton Peace Agreements had ended armed conflict in the country, he noted that gains made earlier in the year, including the formation of the Government and passage of a budget, had, in the last six months, seriously deteriorated, with political leaders challenging the country’s sovereignty. Those continued challenges to the State must be taken seriously, he said, especially considering the history of the armed conflicts of the 1990s.
Echoing a broadly held view among speakers, the United Kingdom’s representative said 2012 had been a year of contrasts, with such gains returning to “political inertia”, and frustrating progress toward the closure of the Office of the High Representative. The situation was a symptom of a wider trend that saw authorities not putting their citizens’ interests first, he said.
Still, some achievements, including last month’s elections, merited praise, said other speakers. Congratulating the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegate of Pakistan noted the successful elections and the calm security environment. However, he called the intensification of divisive rhetoric and lack of political progress “alarming”, and said that the Security Council must play its role in keeping the situation from worsening.
Other speakers believed the power to change the current realities rested with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The representative of the Russian Federation said the report had been written in alarmist terms and had been critical of the country’s leadership.
“We need to stop ignoring the fact that the situation in Bosnia has been stable,” he said, emphasizing that outstanding problems must be tackled by the Bosnians themselves through achieving conciliation between the three peoples — the Bosnians, Serbs and Croatians.
Indeed, many speakers, while supporting the country’s progress, expressed a common concern for its future. The United States’ representative said efforts were needed to restructure the State coalition and to overcome the long months of stalemate. She also said that her country was prepared to support Bosnia and Herzegovina along the path to reform and integration into North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union.
Stating the same desire for long-term stability, some speakers offered possible ingredients needed to do so. Azerbaijan’s speaker said the rule of law and a constitutional framework were essential, while Togo’s representative said only candid and sincere dialogue and the quest for compromise could lead to the lasting settling of differences. To that end, he called on all political leaders to refrain from unilateral actions and to pursue a search for consensus.
A number of speakers highlighted some of the challenges ahead. Croatia’s speaker pointed out that the current political system did not secure the equality aimed at in the Dayton Agreements, but said it was up to current Bosnian leaders to reach a sustainable solution, with the objective being European integration.
Serbia’s representative welcomed the setting up of a commission to review judiciary and prosecution practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that its recommendations were also a good basis for strengthening institutions towards finalizing reconciliation. He further hoped that the legitimately elected representatives of the country would, in the near future, be able to manage affairs independently, making the maintenance of the Office of the High Representative unnecessary.
Many overwhelmingly agreed that the Security Council must focus its attention on the current situation. The head of the Delegation of the European Union encouraged the Council to send a message of support for those working towards a strong and stable future. For its part, the Union had stepped up its engagement, underlining the responsibility of political leaders to constructively address pressing challenges in the rule of law, the economy, jobs and social welfare, he said.
India’s representative, imploring that nothing should be done to undermine stability or to roll back reform, urged the country’s leadership and the international community to persevere in spite of problems encountered.
“ Bosnia and Herzegovina was an experiment of building a new nation from the rubbles of war,” he said. Noting that it was never easy to build a multi-lingual, multi-religious country, he highlighted that India’s own experience had shown that while the process of nation-building was arduous, the fruits were plentiful.
Also delivering statements were the representatives of Germany, Colombia, France, Portugal, China, South Africa, Guatemala and Morocco.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.
The Security Council had before it a Letter dated 6 November 2012 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2012/813), which contains the forty-second report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and covers the period from 21 April to 26 October 2012. Unlike the previous reporting period, the political dynamic had stagnated, the report states.
Direct challenges to the General Framework Agreement for Peace, including to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had, according to the report, intensified significantly. Having finally formed a State Government in February and adopted a 2012 State budget in May, the ruling parties immediately had then commenced a protracted series of power struggles and attempts at Government reshuffling on the State and Federation levels.
Against the backdrop of campaigning for local elections, the report says, those political manoeuvrings had taken precedence over the pressing needs of citizens and of the country as a whole. Further, there was a growing concern regarding the leadership of the Republika Srpska, with the issue of open advocacy for the country’s dissolution by its officials deserving special attention.
The report continues, saying that on 7 October 2012, citizens participated in the country’s fifth local elections since the war. Despite a relatively high number of invalid ballots and a degree of controversy surrounding voter registration and counting in Srebrenica and other municipalities, the process was administered completely by domestic authorities and election observers acknowledged that the electoral process was generally conducted in line with democratic standards.
The report also states that citizens of Mostar were unable to vote on 7 October owing to the ongoing failure of authorities to implement a 2010 ruling of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the city’s electoral system. The Office of the High Representative was currently in the process of facilitating discussions between political parties to enable the holding of elections in Mostar as soon as possible.
Authorities did little to implement the outstanding requirements of the five objectives and two conditions necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative, the report notes, even though the suspension of the Supervision of Brcko District constituted an important step towards that goal.
On the economic front, the report says that the country was faced with a deteriorating fiscal situation, poor growth prospects, high unemployment and accompanying social problems. Through their continued presence, the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina both continued to reassure citizens that the country remained safe and secure, despite the difficult political situation.
VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the Council that, after an exceptionally challenging year, commitments remained strong to the common cause. That was made abundantly clear from the high-level visits during the reporting period, including by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague. In addition, the European Union Delegation had established a close relationship with his Office.
Yet, he stressed, no matter how good cooperation with the international community was, it could not deliver progress alone. That would be determined by the authorities in the country to deliver positive results, he noted, adding that in that respect, authorities were failing to produce those gains 17 years after the Peace Agreement had been signed.
It would be logical then, he said, to expect that with a Government and budget in place, the pressing needs of citizens would move to the forefront. Unfortunately, that was not what happened. Instead, a protracted effort to reconfigure the governing coalition began in June, a process that would hopefully be resolved by the end of the year, following some six months of time lost.
The dispute had diverted attention from pressing challenges, he said, pointing out that “while other countries in the region moved forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina was left behind,” a situation that had also been reflected in the recent European Union Progress Report. In addition to the legislative gridlock, political parties had disregarded constitutional and legal provisions in their haste to effect changes in governing coalitions.
“How does one respond when a leading politician says that Bosnia and Herzegovina makes him feel sick and that he hopes to God it will fall apart?,” he asked. “These challenges are worrisome enough to warrant particular attention of this body.”
Central to the Peace Agreement, he went on to say, was the preservation of unity. Thus, continued challenges to the State must be taken seriously, especially considering the history of the conflicts of the 1990s. Those challenges were completely contrary to the strategic objective of full Euro-Atlantic integration, which Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities had together declared to be a priority.
Against that backdrop, he said he was disappointed to see the authorities deliver little progress on the five objectives and two conditions for his Office’s closure. However, despite some controversy surrounding the registration and counting of votes in Srebrenica, elections thankfully passed without major incident. The parties must now come together to work in a spirit of reconciliation. “A life of dignity and co-existence must be returned to Srebrenica,” he said. “It should live up again to the etymology of its name: the silver city.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina could not afford to continue falling further behind other countries in the region, he said. “The consequences of this will be dire economically, socially and politically,” he stressed. “The country’s political leaders are losing time in delivering on their collective responsibility to serve citizens by delivering progress that builds on existing achievement.”
Given that challenges to the Peace Agreement had become so frequent and direct during the reporting period that they required special attention, he emphasized that questioning the country’s sovereignty must stop. “We are in a critical phase and we must express more clearly than ever what is expected of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders and what will not be tolerated,” he said. “They must stop their divisive behaviour and finally start leading the way to the country’s full reintegration in the interests of all its citizens.”
PETER WITTIG (Germany), aligning himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union, said that the calm security environment had allowed the European Union multinational stabilization force to be reconfigured to capacity-building and training. There had been other signs of progress, despite the obstacles noted by the High Representative. To overcome those obstacles the country’s leaders must focus their efforts on Union accession, following the road map for that purpose, including implementation of the Union’s ruling on minority participation. The Union had reaffirmed its commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina through its increased assistance in such areas. Rather than holding onto the institutions of the past, a forward-looking perspective was needed, and in that regard, he welcomed the decision to suspend supervision in the Brcko district and related moves. A comprehensive answer to the immunity issue also must be found and he invited discussion on that issue.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said that the international community had provided much assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to help consolidate political stability in the country. It was now up to the parties to recommit themselves to the Dayton Agreement, and eschew divisive rhetoric to make progress towards European and Atlantic integration. They must turn their attention from divisive issues towards overcoming the economic problems facing them. Further, reconciliation must be a priority in dealing with past crimes. Local leaders must play their part in strengthening the rule of law. The United Nations must cooperate in the process under way, but the parties must strengthen their cooperation with the High Representative. He acknowledged the important role of the European Union multinational stabilization force and supported extending its authorization.
MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan), noting both the “good news and some bad news” in Mr. Inzko’s briefing, congratulated the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina on successful elections and the calm security environment. However, he called the intensification of divisive rhetoric and lack of political progress “alarming”, stating that direct challenges to the Dayton Agreement endangered the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. In that regard, the Security Council must play its role in keeping the situation from worsening. He welcomed signs of a new rapprochement, but expressed concern over denials of the Srebrenica massacre and lack of progress on other conditions for evolution of the Office of the High Representative. He called for leaders to resolve their differences through dialogue and urged the Council to guide all sides to engage constructively for the good of the country.
MARTIN BRIENS (France), endorsing the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, noted the continued stability and the enactment of important laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but condemned divisive political rhetoric. He said too pessimistic a view on the country, however, was counterproductive and did not take into account the continuing stability. He called on the Government to bring the Constitution into line with the European Convention on Human Rights. In regard to the European Union multinational stabilization force, he said reconfiguration efforts must continue, along with reconfiguration of the Office of the High Representative to areas that did not conflict with the other European offices. It was high time for the Bosnian political class to assume its responsibility. For that purpose, the role of “the Office of the High Representative must evolve substantially,” he said.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the report had been written in alarmist terms and had been critical of the country’s leadership. Underscoring his support for the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said while the situation had deteriorated, it should not be over-dramatized. The October elections had taken place calmly, and he was in favour of abolishing the Office of the High Representative.
Emphasizing that outstanding problems must be tackled by the Bosnians themselves through achieving conciliation between the three peoples — the Bosnians, Serbs and Croatians — he noted the importance of the agreement signed in October, which mapped out plans for economic development and other areas. The recent suspension of the Office’s supervision activities was a step forward in winding down its presence. “We need to stop ignoring the fact that the situation in Bosnia has been stable,” he said. It was important to intensify efforts to put an end to the foreign protectorate and, for now, the Office needed to be reconfigured. It was the Bosnians themselves that needed to decide on reform.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said the recent high voter turnout in elections was a hopeful and essential sign for Bosnia’s future Euro-Atlantic integration. However, she was disappointed with the lack of progress since the High Representative’s previous report. Efforts were needed to restructure the State coalition and overcome the long months of stalemate, she said, adding that her country stood ready to support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application to NATO once it completed the necessary reforms.
She went on to say that she was committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, echoing Secretary of State Clinton’s remorse that those issues were being questioned. The United States would continue to support the Office of the High Representative in its efforts. Since the signing of the Dayton Agreement 17 years ago, the United States had remained committed to supporting the people in their efforts to be integrated into the Euro-Atlantic.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that, although recent elections were an achievement for the Government, he remained concerned by the stagnation during the reporting period. Further, he was alarmed by the open challenges to the Peace Agreement, and condemned calls for the State’s dissolution and the roll back of reforms. The rule of law and constitutional framework were essential for long-term stability.
Those pressing issues, he emphasized, required the attention of the Security Council and the international community. Economic realities continued to deteriorate and it was critical for political authorities to focus on the country’s development. The rights of returnees should also be fully respected. Thus, it was important that the Security Council and the international community continue to support the country’s efforts.
KOKOU NAYO MBEOU ( Togo) said recent positive actions had rekindled great hopes to relaunching the country’s economy and moving towards its Euro-Atlantic integration. Yet, the current report was in contrast to those activities. He expressed regret that the Peace Agreement’s implementation had been hampered by current circumstances.
The Council must focus attention on the situation, he said. It was unfortunate that the current divisive national discourse was threatening to bring instability to the country and the region. Only candid and sincere dialogue and the quest for compromise could lead to the lasting settling of differences, and he called on all political leaders to refrain from unilateral actions and to pursue a search for consensus, which, at the beginning of this year, had led to the creation of the Government. Maintaining international presence could be helpful in creating a lasting political accord that would ensure lasting peace in the region.
JOÄO CABRAL (Portugal), aligning himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union, said that positive developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina should not be forgotten. Agreement on a road map for accession to the Union was particularly important. For the implementation of that road map, he called on all national stakeholders to spare no effort to make the country into a stable and prosperous State towards a rapid accession. In that context, he condemned divisive political rhetoric and statements based on narrow agendas, and called for constructive work on overcoming all obstacles. Supporting the reauthorization of the European Union multinational stabilization force, he stressed the value of reconfiguration for capacity-building. Noting his country’s involvement in the country, he said that it could count on Portugal’s continued support in efforts to build a stable and prosperous future.
WANG MIN ( China) took note of both progress and challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina and expressed support for the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It was his hope that all its citizens would overcome their differences through dialogue based on achieving all the objectives of the Dayton Accords. The peace and stability of the entire Balkan region was at stake. Therefore, the international community must pay due attention to the views of all parties. He also welcomed the extension of the European Union multinational stabilization force’s mandate, as well its efforts to build capacity in Bosnian security forces.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) noted progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but expressed concern over continued political divisiveness. All outstanding matters should be settled within the framework of existing agreements, as well as the landmark court decision of 13 July. Respect for the rule of law and the legal framework must be maintained, along with the balance built into the Dayton Peace Agreement. Constructive dialogue was particularly important in the critical area of constitutional reform. He also stated support for the extension of the European Union multinational stabilization force’s mandate, as well as its focus on capacity-building and training.
BRIZ GUTIERREZ (Guatemala), expressing regret that progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been overshadowed by divisive rhetoric, reaffirmed his country’s support for the Dayton Accords. As responsibility for stability fell on the people of the country, however, overly extensive intervention on the part of the international community could be counterproductive. He, therefore, called on political leaders to work together to overcome obstacles. He welcomed national ownership of the elections and mechanisms in the Brcko District, as well as the Court ruling that made possible the resolution of property issues. Decision must now be taken on the process of closing the Office of the High Representative. He urged all parties to play an active part in the conclusion of that process and awaited with interest the results of the November meetings on the issue.
PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said 2012 had been a year of contrasts, which began with gains, only to return to a situation of “political inertia”, and frustrating progress towards the closure of the Office of the High Representative. The current situation was a symptom of a wider trend of authorities failing to put their citizens’ interests first. Democratically elected politicians must promote the interests of its people, and progress on the European Union path and sustaining fiscal responsibility must move forward. With elections now over, political leaders must seize the opportunity to do so.
However, during and before the election campaigning, attacks on State-level institutions were frequent, he said, referring to the High Representative’s report that noted some of that divisive rhetoric. Bosnia and Herzegovina would only join the European Union as a single, sovereign State, he said, reiterating his country’s position. Political leaders needed to help their citizens towards a positive future and leadership needed to transform its approach that would carry the country forward on the path towards European Union membership. He urged leaders to focus on the road map they agreed to with the European Union in June.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said the report provided new facts, but clearly indicated a break from previous progress, giving rise to serious concern over the deterioration of relations between political parties. A series of unilateral statements and acts undermined the Dayton Agreement and the State’s sovereignty. Agreed upon constitutional mechanisms that ensured Peace Agreement commitments were being observed was the only way to preserve the interests of all Bosnians. That was a lengthy process that required political resolve towards a prosperous and peaceful future.
All efforts, he continued, must ensure that there was peace and that all leaders assumed their responsibilities, placing citizens at the centre of their daily tasks. The reversal in which the political wheels were moving had negative effects on the economy, and he called upon party leaders to end provocation. The Council had been called upon to send a clear message, he said. Appreciating the High Representative’s efforts, he urged all parties to assume political dialogue to ensure solutions were acceptable to all.
President of the Security Council HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India), speaking in his national capacity, said there had been little progress in the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration and the situation had hampered economic development. Commending the conduct of the October elections as a sign of progress, he said another confidence-building measure had been the joint declaration on regional cooperation to protect and promote the rights of returnees.
Although progress on closing the High Representative’s Office had been slow, some gains had been made, he said, commending the European Union multinational stabilization force and supporting the extension of its mandate. “ Bosnia and Herzegovina was an experiment of building a new nation from the rubbles of war,” he said, noting that it was never easy to build a multi-lingual, multi-religious country. India’s own experience over the last 60 years had shown that though the process of nation-building was arduous, the fruits were plentiful.
Unilateral actions, rhetorical statements and violations of the general efforts to maintain peace detracted from those goals, he said, imploring that nothing should be done to undermine stability or to roll back reform. Urging the country’s leadership and the international community to persevere in spite of problems encountered, he encouraged concerted steps to be taken to reverse the current economic deterioration.
FEODOR STARČEVIĆ (Serbia), reaffirming support for the Dayton Agreement, as well as the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said he would respect any agreement on the country’s future constitution reached by consensus through dialogue between the two entities and the three constitutive peoples. The international community should treat relations between those peoples with great care and respect for their interests. Further, in the interest of reconciliation, all war crimes committed in the territory of the Former Yugoslavia must be subject to judicial processes. In that context, he welcomed the setting up of a commission to review the judiciary and prosecution practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that its preliminary recommendations highlighted the lack of objectivity, transparency and efficiency in the country’s judiciary, especially with respect to processing war crimes. The positions of international judges and prosecutors, as well, should be terminated by the end of 2012. Those recommendations were a good basis for strengthening of Bosnian institutions and finalizing reconciliation, he commented.
He said he hoped that the legitimately elected representatives of the country would be able to quickly manage affairs independently, making the maintenance of the Office of the High Representative and the so-called Bonn Powers unnecessary. Bilateral economic cooperation with his country, which included successful arrangements with Republika Srpska and efforts to strengthen cooperation with the Federation, had registered significant results, he added, enumerating initiatives in that regard, as well as in regional cooperation. Finally, he reiterated the importance of a just, comprehensive and sustainable solution for refugees, as well as the international donor conference on that issue held in Sarajevo in April 2012, which held great promise for regional cooperation if remaining funds were secured.
RANKO VILOVIC (Croatia), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, strongly supported the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a fully functional State headed for accession to NATO and the Union, but noted with regret that 17 years after the end of the war, there were still doubts over the country’s territorial integrity and constitutional framework. The specific political system, rooted in the Dayton Accords, was designed to achieve equality between three constitutive peoples, which was the condition sine qua non of political, economic and cultural life of the country.
However, he continued, current electoral legislation had not secured such equality, with the ethnic Croats being unable to elect genuine representatives. That being said, he stressed that the country was also a State of all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity, and must implement the European verdict on the Sejdic-Finci cases. Some ethnic inequality was a Dayton legacy, but it was up to current Bosnian leaders to reach a sustainable solution, with the objective being European integration. Similarly, progress on the issue of military property was needed to start advancement towards NATO membership.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head, Delegation of the European Union, said that the generally satisfactory elections and other signs of progress achieved in the first half of the year showed that moving forward was possible in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the deeply rooted political divisions and lack of progress in economic and political reforms “continue to cause considerable headwind” for those who wanted to see a stable, viable, multi-ethnic, prosperous and united State on track towards Union membership. He encouraged the Security Council to send a message of support for those working towards that end. In that regard, the Union had stepped up its engagement, underlining the responsibility of political leaders to constructively address pressing challenges in the rule of law, the economy, jobs and social welfare.
In the interest of European integration, he said, it was critical that the country’s obligations under the Interim/Stabilization and Association Agreement be fulfilled as a matter of priority. In that context, the Constitution must be brought into compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights and must implement the European ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case. He strongly encouraged implementation of the road map to Union accession. He also welcomed the suspension of international supervision in Brcko and the closure of the High Representative’s Office there. As well, he noted strengthened European political presence in the country to facilitate the integration process, while the Union also continued its security assistance. With calm maintained, Europe was ready to keep the European Union multinational stabilization force focused on capacity-building and training while also retaining the capability to contribute to Bosnian deterrence capacity if needed. The civilian police monitoring mission concluded in June, but the Union remained committed to rule of law efforts, having established a dedicated section in its offices.
He went on to say that he looked forward to continuing discussion on reconfiguration of the international presence in the country, and he called on the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet outstanding conditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative. He finally reiterated unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of the country, as well as readiness to assist progress towards the country’s European prospective, which would take the country forward on its reform agenda, towards stability and development.
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