Bosnia and Herzegovina Faces Stark Choice - Fail Together or Succeed Together by Standing Up to Those Wishing to Reopen Past Wounds, Security Council Told
Bosnia and Herzegovina Faces Stark Choice - Fail Together or Succeed Together by Standing Up to Those Wishing to Reopen Past Wounds, Security Council Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6966th Meeting (AM)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Faces Stark Choice — Fail Together or Succeed Together
by Standing Up to Those Wishing to Reopen Past Wounds, Security Council Told
High Representative Says Country ‘Let Down’ by Political Leaders; Regional
States Acknowledge Disturbing Trends but Pledge Support to Nation at ‘Crossroads’
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders faced an increasingly stark choice, the United Nations High Representative in that country told the Security Council today, stressing that they could either “fail together” by remaining mired in disagreements or “succeed together” by reaching healthy compromises and standing firm against those who sought to reopen wounds of the past.
“One year after another, [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is let down by its political leaders,” said Valentin Inzko, adding that, despite the European Union’s strong efforts on the ground, those leaders had failed to tackle the country’s serious political and economic challenges. That “zero-sum approach” to politics must change, “and it must change now if the next six months are not to be lost to unproductive campaigning,” he declared.
Indeed, even as it entertained hopes of integration with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Bosnia and Herzegovina was lagging further behind its neighbours, he said. Serbia and Kosovo were making progress in settling their disagreements, and Serbia was poised to begin accession talks with the European Union. Croatia was just seven weeks away from full membership, and Montenegro’s progress was also impressive.
Lamentably, Bosnia and Herzegovina stagnated in comparison to those accomplishments, he said. In particular, the country’s leaders had recently failed to reach an agreement to implement a key ruling of the European Court of Human Rights — known as the “Sejdic-Finci ruling” — which would have unlocked the next stage in the European Union integration process.
Speaking after the briefing, Council members took the floor to express their commitment to a strong, viable Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, a number of delegates pointed to evidence of a “worrisome” separatist rhetoric, and even expressed alarm that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders had been unable to undertake crucial reforms related to goals that they themselves had set out in the European integration process.
The European Union’s representative voiced deep concern that the lack of progress in implementing those reforms, coupled with deeply rooted divisions among political parties, was causing considerable “headwind” for the efforts of those wishing to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a united, stable, multiethnic and prosperous State, cooperating peacefully with its neighbours and irreversibly on track towards European Union membership.
Luxembourg’s delegate echoed other speakers in proclaiming support for the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, known as EUFOR Althea, and said that the country’s success was part of the “European destiny”. Luxembourg would spare no effort in helping its leaders truly take the future into their hands. He also hoped that “political elites” would put the interest of the country and all its citizens above the interest of their parties, he added.
The Russian Federation’s delegate agreed that the situation continued to worsen, but the High Representative was far from objective in placing the blame on Bosnian and Serbian leaders. The Russian Federation was seriously concerned about inflammatory rhetoric, as well as about the rise in radicalism of an “Islamist bent” in the country. It supported the abolition of the Office of the High Representative and a simultaneous scaling up of the European Union mission in the country. It also deemed outside intervention in support of one side was “inadmissible” and would undermine the country’s delicate political balance.
Similarly, Serbia’s speaker said that the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be decided without outside interference. He hoped internal obstacles would be overcome and an internal agreement conducive to facilitating Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration would be reached as soon as possible. Serbia’s President had taken important steps towards regional reconciliation he said, pointing to the leader’s apology for all crimes committed in Serbia’s name and the country’s adoption of the Declaration on Srebrenica.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is at a crossroads,” said Croatia’s representative. On the one hand was the Dayton Agreement — the 1995 framework for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina — while on the other was the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdic-Finci case, which, the High Representative said today, would have unlocked the next stage in the European Union integration process.
Acknowledging divergent political opinions, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s envoy promised efforts would be made to find a way out of the impasse. Much was needed, to be sure, but a stable peace had been established and the country was functioning on constitutional grounds. Most refugees and displaced persons had recovered their property and many had returned home. Seven general parliamentary elections had been held and security sector reforms had been carried out.
His country was well aware that the prerequisites of a functional State hinged on national reconciliation and ending impunity, he said, adding that that could not be achieved without prosecuting all war criminals, regardless of their ethnicity. In sum, he said it was time to return to a joint future, marked by European integration, political and economic prosperity, mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and friendly cooperation among all peoples.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Morocco, Guatemala, United States, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, France, United Kingdom, Rwanda, Australia, Pakistan, China, Argentina and Togo.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.
The Security Council met today to take up the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Before it was a letter of the Secretary-General, dated 3 May, in which he transmitted the forty-third report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, covering the period 27 October 2012 to 20 April 2013 (document S/2013/263).
VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that, while the question of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not have the immediate security dimensions of other matters considered by the Council, it nonetheless mattered “far beyond its borders”. Indeed, he said, “we should take pride in the progress that has been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the tragic wars of the 1990s.”
However, the ultimate goal had not yet been achieved. Political leaders continued to fail the country and to fall short of the expectations of the international community, leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina to lag behind its neighbours. Serbia and Kosovo were making progress, and Serbia was poised to begin accession talks with the European Union. Meanwhile, Croatia was just seven weeks away from full membership, and Montenegro’s progress was also impressive. Bosnia and Herzegovina would soon have more than 1,000 kilometres of common border with the European Union.
Lamentably, Bosnia and Herzegovina stagnated in comparison to those accomplishments, he said. “One year after another, [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is let down by its political leaders,” who, despite the European Union’s strong efforts on the ground, had failed to tackle its serious political and economic challenges. The sad reality of its politics was brought home, yet again, in April, when the country’s leaders had failed to reach an agreement to implement a key ruling of the European Court of Human Rights — known as the “Sejdic-Finci ruling” — which would have unlocked the next stage in the European Union integration process.
The “zero-sum approach” to politics continued unabated year after year, he said. “This approach must change, and it must change now if the next six months are not to be lost to unproductive campaigning,” he declared. The fundamental reason for the stagnation was the fact that elected officials and bodies continued to put their own narrow personal political interests before those of the country.
Turning to the political developments of the last six months, he said that it was the deepening political and constitutional crisis in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, linked to the formation of a new parliamentary majority, which had dominated events. The new coalition, which had a legitimate right to reshuffle the Government, had not been able to do so, as some parties had blocked the adoption of a no-confidence vote. That situation was complicated by the fact that the Vital National Interest Panel of the country’s constitutional court did not function, due to its inability to appoint missing judges. In addition, the President of the Federation had been arrested on 26 April and remained in detention, as an investigation continued into allegations of corruption and the selling of presidential pardons.
In sharp contrast, he said, a smooth reshuffle of the Republika Srpska had taken place in March in reaction to the worsening economic situation. That Government continued to meet regularly, however, he remained deeply concerned about fundamental challenges to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, arising from some representatives of Republika Srpska, including President Milorad Dodik. Statements made and actions taken through the reporting period were a continuation of the “worrisome” advocacy for the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Indeed, just last month, and again a few days ago, the President had said that Bosnia and Herzegovina had “absolutely no possibility to survive”. In addition, statements had been issued denying that genocide had been committed in Srebrenica. In sharp contrast, Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolić had in recent weeks shown praiseworthy political leadership, apologizing for Srebrenica and other war crimes. It was also worth noting that, at the initiative of Turkey, a “historic” meeting was taking place today involving the Presidents of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey.
Nevertheless, the ongoing failure of local institutions to implement a November 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court decision on Mostar’s electoral system was a case in point that represented a violation of the Peace Agreement. As a result, Mostarians had been unable to vote in the 2012 local elections with the rest of the country. The two largest parties in Mostar, the SDA and the HDZ in Bosnia and Herzegovina, bore the most responsibility for the failure to reach an agreement, and he expected them to begin compromising.
However, not all the news had been bad, he said. The State-level council of ministers had been meeting regularly, and the State budget for 2013 had been adopted on time for the first time in two years. A safe and stable situation, which was the basis for all other things, continued to emerge. In advance of the Council’s deliberations in the coming months, he felt that the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina were critical.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders and the parties they represented faced an increasingly stark choice, he said: “they can succeed together or they can fail together”. He, therefore, called on them to finally reach the healthy compromises that would allow Bosnia and Herzegovina to progress and to stand firm against all those who sought to reopen the wounds of the past. He hoped that at the next report to the Council, members would be able look forward to a 2014 full of progress, and not full of continuing crisis.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said the Federation had suffered from a political and constitutional crisis, threatening its cohesion and sovereignty and delaying its European integration. The report noted a “power struggle”, which had led to a stalemate in the functioning of the constitutional court and other State institutions. Further, nationalist rhetoric and unilateral acts had undermined the Federation’s foundation. In short, Bosnia and Herzegovina had not made progress towards the five goals and two conditions needed to close the Office of the High Representative.
That situation fuelled differences and compromised national reconciliation, he said. At the same time, the adoption of some budgetary and defence decisions, implementation of local election results and the symbolic election of a non-Bosniak mayor of Sarajevo offered some hope. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s conflict had left a mark on the conscience of the international community, and underlined the need to strengthen the Dayton Accords, which was in the interest of all constituent communities.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala), underlining support for the Dayton Accords and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed concern at the negative rhetoric, especially as it was accompanied by actions to undermine the operation of State institutions. Despite that, he welcomed the approval of a State budget for 2013 and the regular meetings of the Cabinet. Urging that dialogue resume among political parties, he was concerned at the situation in Mostar, where it had not been possible to hold local elections, unlike in the rest of the country, which had held them last October. He trusted that the multi-party facilitation process would resolve that situation.
On other matters, he regretted that authorities had not made any real progress towards the goals established by the Steering Board of the Council of the Peace Agreement, as a prerequisite for the closure of the High Representative’s Office. Recalling the need to implement the European Human Rights Court’s ruling on the Sejdic-Finci case, he stressed the importance of protecting minority rights. Observing the Dayton Agreement, and in particular, the constitutional framework, was essential to achieving long-term stability.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO (United States) underlined her country’s steadfast commitment to the success of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it had invested much in the country since the 1995 signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. It strongly supported the country’s aspirations to integrate into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It had hoped the new coalition would make those goals its priorities, however, leaders had instead put their personal political agendas above the interests of the citizens they had been elected to represent, which distracted from the Euro-Atlantic reform agenda. The Sejdic-Finci case had gone unimplemented, blocking the country from applying for European Union candidacy, and risked that the elections next year would violate the judgement.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s lack of progress was all the more visible in the context of its neighbours, all of whom were moving towards European integration, she said. It had been five years since the Steering Board had adopted its five outstanding objectives and two conditions for closing the Office of the High Representative. Bosnia and Herzegovina could have easily completed them in 2008, but instead, a number of leaders had focused on undermining the Dayton Accords and the institutions and laws established since 1995, which the country needed in order to function as part of a modern Europe. They had the legal obligation to respect the authority of High Representative, yet Republika Srpska had made statements calling into question Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Its continued threats to the Accords engendered United States support for the High Representative’s presence until the “5+2” criteria was met.
She also underlined the importance of justice and reconciliation for long-term stability, and recognized Serbia President Tomislav Nikolić’s public apology for crimes committed in Srebrenica. The January signing of the protocol on war crimes cooperation was another positive development aimed at ensuring that locally indicted perpetrators faced justice. But she voiced concern at efforts to build a Serbian Orthodox church near Potocari, where Srebrenica genocide victims were buried and where there was no local Orthodox community. Such a move could only be interpreted as one to sow fear.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), joining with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that there was evidence of a worrisome separatist rhetoric on the matter of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country’s leaders had been unable to undertake crucial reforms related to goals that they themselves had set out in the European integration process. She welcomed, however, that the Council of State Ministers was meeting regularly, and that the 2013 budget had been adopted on time for the first time in two years. Luxembourg also welcomed that the security situation has remained stable. Indeed, the European Union Force (EUFOR) Althea had never been called upon to act over the course of its mandate, and it had therefore recently been reconfigured. While still having deterrent capabilities, its main efforts were now in capacity-building and training.
Luxembourg was pleased with the bolstered mandate of Peter Sørensen, the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In just weeks, Croatia would be joining the European Union, and Serbia and Kosovo were seeing increasingly normalized dialogue, thanks to the bloc’s efforts. She called upon the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome their differences. The most urgent reform was the application of the “Sejdic-Finci” ruling regarding the rights of minorities; despite the European Union’s efforts, political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina had not yet found a compromise on that issue. She stressed that the success of Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the “European destiny”, and that Luxembourg would spare no effort in helping its leaders to truly take the future into their hands.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that the report of the High Representative had been far from objective, and that it suffered from a biased criticism of Bosnian and Serbian leaders. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina did indeed continue to worsen. However, the cause was hardly to be found in the rhetoric of the Serbian leaders. Of primary concern was a high level of antagonism between the two main Bosnian parties, he said. The effectiveness of the inter-Bosnian dialogue was in danger and the Government was paralyzed. The Russian Federation was seriously concerned about inflammatory rhetoric, as well as about the rise in radicalism of an “Islamist bent”. It supported the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and hoped to see a sound functioning of its Constitution for its three constituent peoples.
The Russian Federation further supported the handover of responsibilities for the country to Bosnians themselves, as well as the abolishment of the Office of the High Representative. Here he highlighted inadmissibility of an outside intervention in the negotiation process of Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that any outside support of one side would undermine the delicate political balance in that country. He also cautioned against using the “obsolete” emergency Bonn powers, and urged that sanctions on Serbians due to their relationship with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia suspects be lifted. That process continued at too slow a pace.
As a step in the drawdown of the Office of the High Representative, the Russian Federation saw a scaling up of the European Union mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While not a member of that mission, the Russian Federation supported the training of the ministry of defence and armed forces. Touching finally on international reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said the Russian Federation backed an international investigation of all crimes committed. Those investigations to date tended to be biased and tended to deal only with Serbian suspects.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan), discussing gains, cited the timely adoption of a 2013 State budget and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as efforts to address the needs of displaced persons and to find housing for them. At the same time, the prevailing negative trends of the past six years continued, with no progress made towards meeting the outstanding objectives for the closure of the High Representative’s Office. Political consensus had been undermined by a protracted power struggle and rhetoric by local parties. There also had been direct challenges to the Peace Agreements, including to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Azerbaijan condemned that behaviour, as well as actions or attempts to challenge the functionality of the State and its constitutional responsibilities.
He said that efforts to negate or undermine the peace agreement required special international attention. He agreed with the High Representative that abiding by the Dayton Accords, as well as the constitutional framework and the rule of law, was a prerequisite for long-term stability. Also, the social situation continued to weaken, amid a growing foreign trade deficit, making it all the more important for all political factions to focus on the country’s economic and development priorities. Redoubled efforts were also needed to resolve humanitarian issues, especially those relating to property, thereby ensuring that returnees’ rights were respected. He called for dialogue to overcome the political stalemate and to strengthen the country’s unity. The Council must continue to support progress towards stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
SUL KYUNG-HOON (Republic of Korea), while welcoming the relatively calm security environment, said it was disappointing that the power struggle and lack of trust among political actors had allowed cautious optimism to give way to frustration. The protracted power struggle hampered Government efforts to work on pressing issues, especially constitutional reform. He was deeply concerned that political leaders had violated the law for their own purposes and failed to implement the constitutional court’s decision. He urged all political stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue and respect the Constitution to enable the Government to function fully.
There also was a worrisome trend of open advocacy for the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, citing high levels of provocative rhetoric by the Republika Srpska, which only inflamed ethnic tensions. And, he called on all leaders to refrain from divisive rhetoric. Moreover, no democratic process could be sustained in the absence of meaningful national ownership and national reconciliation. As such, he encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to promote tolerance and ethnic understanding through educational programmes. Civil society could play a pivotal role in holding its political leaders accountable and he encouraged the High Representative to build the capacity of grass-roots civil society groups. He also urged a continued focus on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France), joining with the statement to be issued by the European Union, said the security situation had remained calm and stable. On the other hand, the series of political crises, as well as persistent tensions among the country’s leadership, were worrisome. Those clashes diverted Bosnia and Herzegovina from its goal of European integration. France called once again on the Bosnian Government to commence long-awaited reforms, including by bringing itself in line with the Sejdic-Finci ruling. It was also imperative to improve the smooth working of institutions. France remained attached to the prospect of seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina join the European Union. However, such a deeply divided country could not belong in the bloc.
In that vein, he welcomed the leading role of the European Union through EUFOR Althea, as well as its stepped up financial and human commitment to the country, and expressed his full support for Mr. Sørensen. The Council must acknowledge the change in EUFOR Althea when it met on the matter this fall. In that regard, he stressed that the Bosnian authorities did not need the European military presence. The drawdown phase must therefore continue to complement the actions of other actors, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Consideration of the reconfiguration of the Office of the High Representative had commenced, including in the European Union, which contributed more than 50 per cent of the Office’s funding. “Keeping at any price the approach of the 90s does not help Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. The Government crisis was a reminder that it was “high time” to change that approach.
MICHAEL TATHAM (United Kingdom) said that the High Representative’s analysis had been both objective and sobering. The United Kingdom shared his frustration and concern at the lack of political will to deliver on crucial political reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, he deeply regretted that the country’s leaders had failed to seize the opportunity to make progress towards joining the European Union and NATO. In July, Croatia would join the bloc. “There is a lesson here: that a determined and strategic approach […] yields results.” Journeys that seemed long and distant in their early stages could indeed be completed, but the necessary political will was needed.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, political and personal interests had been prioritized over people’s interests. The United Kingdom still hoped that the country would make progress towards joining the European Union this year, “but the ball is in their court”. The Union had already provided significant support, including to the implementation of the Sejdic-Finci ruling. And unless its Government institutions acted quickly to remedy the stalemate, it was all but assured that no progress would be made this year. He shared the High Representative’s concern and condemnation of those in the Republika Srpska who continued to advocate for the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “There can be no redrawing of the map,” nor any talk of Bosnia and Herzegovina joining the European Union as anything but a single sovereign State. The negative trends illustrated by the High Representative reinforced the need for EUFOR Althea’s mandate to be retained this year.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda), citing mixed progress, said that, on the one hand, the security situation had remained relatively calm, the Council of Ministers had met regularly, and the 2013 budget had been adopted on time. But the political stalemate continued, with political actors challenging the Government’s unity. That had had negative implications for development and the implementation of the “5+2” agenda. Every branch of power must abide by its constitutional role and all stakeholders must engage in dialogue to unlock the stalemate. Dialogue among all ethnic groups, including minorities, and with the High Representative, was critical. Reaffirming support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he urged the cessation of divisive rhetoric, as it could jeopardize the fragile reconciliation process. All parties and entities must “look beyond ethnic lines” to meet the requirements needed to join the European Union.
On justice and human rights, he said, “Let me be clear: the genocide of Srebrenica is an unquestionable fact,” and he condemned all senior officials of the Republika Srpska who had denied it as an insult and hindrance to genuine reconciliation. Justice — to be an effective tool for reconciliation — must be accessed by all victims. Human and political rights must be extended to minorities, he stressed, recalling the ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case. He urged all parties to engage in dialogue on that issue with a view to exploring constitutional reforms. He also called for the implementation of the November 2010 decision of the constitutional court on the electoral system in Mostar. Expressing hope for the Government to own its future with a limited international presence, he called for implementation of the “5+2” agenda.
PHILIPPA JANE KING (Australia) recalled that in the 1990s, Australians had served alongside European Union and NATO peacekeepers. Her Government remained committed to a stable, unified Bosnia and Herzegovina. Indeed, 17 years after the Dayton Accords, the country found itself in the midst of a difficult political phase. She welcomed the regular meetings of the President and the Council of Ministers, as well as the timely adoption of a 2013 budget. But she was concerned at the challenges to the peace agreement and to the country’s territorial integrity, which could jeopardize gains made in nation building. Australia encouraged all political leaders to respect the status of the country as an independent, sovereign nation and to commit to constitutional reform and agree on constitutional amendments to implement the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the Sejdic-Finci case.
She said that Bosnia and Herzegovina remained relatively safe, which was due in no small part to the presence of the European Union and NATO; those could and should play a continued role in ensuring regional stability. Australia endorsed an ongoing EUFOR presence, as it sustained confidence among communities. She also urged continued support for the High Representative’s efforts to sustain peace, given that the “5+2” agenda had not yet been met. Leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina had the ultimate responsibility to place the country on an irreversible path to peace and prosperity, and she urged them to set aside their differences and implement the “5+2” agenda. The Council must continue to engage to help the country realize its future.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) said that his country was fully committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The negative feedback listed in the High Representative’s report unfortunately surpassed the positive feedback, but he nonetheless commended his efforts to help the parties break their impasse. The Republika Srpska and its leadership had taken several recent actions that violated the framework agreement; its assertion for self-determination for Serbs, among other things, should be a matter of concern to the Council. Such statements undermined the prospects of long-term peaceful co-existence. He also condemned statements by senior Republika Srpska officials denying the Srebrenica genocide, noting that such pronouncements could seriously damage the reconciliation process in the country and regionally.
In that vein, he said his country welcomed the Serbian President’s historic statement of apology for the genocide. Pakistan supported all efforts to ensure a safe and secure environment in the country, and called on the High Representative to continue to play key a role in that regard.
WANG MIN (China) said that Bosnia and Herzegovina still faced difficulties and challenges in attaining stability and development. China respected the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the choices made by its people regarding their future. China also supported a constructive role by the international community in supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he urged it to adopt a “prudent attitude” on the question, making greater efforts to hear the views of the parties involved.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said steps must be taken for Bosnia and Herzegovina to integrate into the international community. “We’re looking at multiethnic communities”, she said, which was the result of a free decision to arrive at an agreement. That required unwavering patience. Change could not be imposed, but must be built, particularly in terms of peace and integration. She was encouraged that the new Cabinet had held regular meetings and that the 2013 budget had been adopted. Those moves should become routine. She also welcomed the establishment of the working group to address State and defence property. However, the negative tendencies of past years had returned. Yet, rather than provide a list of new mandates, she said: “We must understand the deep rooted causes of this stalemate.”
While welcoming the smooth functioning of Republika Srpska’s institutions, she was concerned by challenges made by some of its leaders regarding the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Denial of the genocide at Srebrenica, despite the rulings of the International Court of Justice and International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, was a particular concern, and she called on those leaders to recommit to the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When institutions worked as corporations, they could in no way build confidence. While local elections last October was good news, those in Mostar had yet to be held. As for the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the Sejdic-Finci case, she regretted that the deadline had not been observed and called for redoubled efforts in that regard.
KODJO MENAN (Togo), speaking in his national capacity, noted with regret the inability of the Bosnian political class to achieve a lasting consensus on unified progress. The positive trend seen at the start of 2012 “seems to be losing steam”. Following the establishment of a central Government, the May 2012 adoption of a national budget and work by the Bosnian political class to shore up unity, leaders now were unable to continue the trend towards Atlantic integration. Backsliding was due in part to the reluctance of some to engage in a spirit of compromise, endangering the implementation of the Dayton Agreements.
He condemned nationalist discourse, which had exacerbated tensions among communities and eroded State bodies, and urged leaders to act with more political responsibility by committing to building a multi-ethnic Bosnian State that upheld the rule of law. He shared the High Representative’s concerns about the defiance shown by some vis-à-vis the Bosnian State. Bodies in charge of upholding the Constitution must be allowed to carry out their duties. The new electoral law had yet to be implemented, which had delayed elections in Mostar, and he called on the Parliamentary Assembly to adopt constitutional amendments in that regard. He also regretted that progress had not been made on the “5+2” agenda. In closing, he welcomed measures taken to implement the 9 March 2012 political agreement to register military property as State assets, stressing that frank dialogue and compromise must be sought to settle outstanding disputes.
MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) acknowledged there were diverging opinions among political actors, citizens and civil society in his country, and promised that efforts would be made to urgently find a way out of the impasse. Much was needed, he said; to be sure, Bosnia and Herzegovina was a positive example of the peacebuilding efforts by the international community and national institution-building. A stable peace had been established and the country was functioning on constitutional grounds. Most refugees and displaced persons had recovered their property and many had returned home. Seven general parliamentary elections had been held, and security sector reforms had been carried out.
Moreover, he said, Bosnia and Herzegovina was well aware that the prerequisites for building a functional State hinged on national reconciliation, building trust and ending impunity for all crimes. That work, he added, could not be achieved without prosecuting all war criminals, regardless of their ethnicity. While the initial arrests of the indictees had been made by international military forces, most of the others had been arrested and extradited to the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal by local authorities. Increasing numbers of war crimes trials were being processed in the national courts.
Underlining that the security situation had been “calm and stable” for years, he said that, as a result, NATO and European Union forces had reduced their troop strength. Also, Bosnia and Herzegovina had become a troop contributor to both United Nations peacekeeping and NATO operations in Afghanistan. It was committed to the European path, which was among its highest foreign policy priorities. Political leaders continued their dialogue to solve all open questions so that the Stabilization and Association Agreement could enter force, enabling the country to submit a credible application for European Union membership. That process was the best way to create a legislative and institutional environment that improved the living standards for its citizens.
Another priority was to work closely with all regional countries, especially Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, he said, recalling that that commitment had been made clear in recent high-level bilateral meetings. In sum, he said it was time to return to a joint future, marked by European integration, political and economic prosperity, mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and friendly cooperation among all peoples.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said the lack of progress in implementing political and economic reforms, use of divisive rhetoric and deeply rooted divisions among political parties was causing considerable “headwind” for the efforts of those wishing to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a united, stable, multiethnic and prosperous State, cooperating peacefully with its neighbours and irreversibly on track towards European Union membership. He encouraged the Council to urge leaders to carry out reforms to move the country forward in its “European perspective”.
However, political deadlock continued to burden the stabilization and development process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, calling the political climate “tense and difficult”. Attempts to reshuffle the Federation Government had failed and the struggle for control had compromised the ability of local parties to engage in important reform agendas. Stakes were raised further when Federation President Živko Budimir was apprehended at the end of April on charges of organized crime and corruption. Signs of premature positioning by parties ahead of the October 2014 general elections showed a serious risk for a prolonged deadlock.
In Republika Srpska, the Government had been reshuffled on 12 March in response to municipal elections last October, he said, with the leadership in Banja Luka continuing to challenge State structures and the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “This is unacceptable,” he said, as it weakened the ability of State bodies to fight corruption and organized crime. It was critical that Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfilled its obligations under the Interim/Stabilization and Association Agreement, as failure to do so would hamper progress towards European integration. The country also must bring its Constitution into compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights and implement the European Court on Human Rights’ ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case, which would allow the Union to decide on the entry into force of the Association Agreement.
More broadly, he reported, a new round of European Union facilitation efforts had started in early 2013. Progress towards integration in the European Union by the rest of the region — notably the start of normalized relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and Croatia’s upcoming accession — should encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress in that regard. The single European Union presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina was supporting the country on all European Union-related matters. While EUFOR Althea would focus on capacity-building, it also would retain an executive military role to help maintain a safe environment.
RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) expressed wholehearted support for a fully functional Bosnia and Herzegovina for the benefit of all its citizens and strong support for the country’s full membership in the European Union and NATO. “Bosnia and Herzegovina is at a crossroads,” he said, noting that on the one hand was the Dayton Agreement, and on the other, the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdic-Finci case. The democratic equality of all citizens and the institutional equality of the three constituent peoples were both crucial for the viability and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Croatia’s view, political and national representation should not result in any form of ethnic “majorization”, but in a balance of individual and collective rights.
Reiterating his strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he expressed hope that political dialogue and readiness for compromise would yield concrete results and allow for the entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union, which would mark an important step forward in European integration. “We hope that political elites will manage to reach an agreement which will show that they put the interest of the country and all its citizens above the interest of their parties,” he added.
Croatia, as a neighbouring country, called on political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to strive to implement the agreement reached by the six political parties on the outstanding issue of military property. In addition, Croatia supported an approach that would take into consideration a still-existing need for enhanced decision-making capacities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, taking into account the distinct complexities. Croatia would continue to provide all possible assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina, including through the preparation of the Agreement on Euro-Atlantic partnership, as well as talks regarding the economic and other impacts of Croatia’s upcoming European Union membership.
FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia) said that the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be decided by its people and its political leaders without outside interference. Serbia was committed to developing good relations and good neighbourliness and would work towards that goal, including by expanding and intensifying cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and deepening special relations with the Republika Srpska.
He said his country was a staunch advocate of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration and the strengthening of mutual cooperation in that process. The High Representative had devoted a significant segment of his report to the status and functioning of the institutions of both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. “We hope that the internal obstacles will be overcome and an internal agreement conducive to the continuation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration is reached as soon as possible,” he said in that regard.
Welcoming the concerted position on the need to have direct contacts without outside mediation, he went on to say that Serbia, for its part, had made a number of important steps towards regional reconciliation. In March 2010, for example, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia had adopted the Declaration on Srebrenica and its President had apologized for all crimes committed in Serbia’s name, and it had announced a visit to Srebrenica to pay his respect to the victims. In that regard, Serbia believed that all perpetrators of crimes must be punished, regardless of the ethnic community to which they belonged.
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