Despite Polarizing Rhetoric, Institutional Inertia, Bosnia and Herzegovina Still Has Every Chance to Prosper, High Representative Tells Security Council

12 November 2013
SC/11173

Despite Polarizing Rhetoric, Institutional Inertia, Bosnia and Herzegovina Still Has Every Chance to Prosper, High Representative Tells Security Council

12 November 2013
Security Council
SC/11173
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7057th Meeting (AM)

Despite Polarizing Rhetoric, Institutional Inertia, Bosnia and Herzegovina Still

Has Every Chance to Prosper, High Representative Tells Security Council

First Post-War Census Must Not Promote Tensions,

Speakers Say, Urging Reform on Pathway towards European Union

Despite polarizing rhetoric and institutional inertia marring the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today that it was critical to build on the post-war gains and ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the country through greater integration with Europe.

Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the negative political situation depicted in his last briefing six months ago had not improved.  The country’s political leaders had again missed a chance by failing to correct discriminatory provisions in the electoral system.  Those changes, required by the European Court of Human Rights, were not only a test for the country to move towards European Union membership, but also a test of its ability to live up to its international obligations.  Similarly, progress had remained elusive in regulating the question of military property ownership, which had kept Bosnia and Herzegovina from activating its Membership Action Plan with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The failure of the ruling parties and the relevant institutions had been symptomatic of an overall lack of urgency in carrying out basic political and economic reforms, he said, adding that the public had expressed dissatisfaction by organizing protests.  However, although the political trend had remained generally negative, he noted a significant and vital development in the country's first population census in 20 years.  As well, while the economic situation remained difficult, with the country relying heavily on external support and facing 44 per cent unemployment, positive developments in exports and industrial production had been achieved.

Turning to his mandate, he said he remained concerned by leaders’ tendency to challenge the peace agreement.  Political interference in the work of the judiciary was another serious matter, as was the ongoing failure to implement some 80 verdicts of the Constitutional Court.  As to future risks, he remained concerned by the Republika Srpska advocating the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country.  The European Union and NATO military presence played a vital role in assuring the public, he said, adding that the deterrent effect of that small force was worth the cost.

More so, Bosnia and Herzegovina still had every chance to succeed and to prosper and should look no further than its neighbours for lessons, he stated.  Overall, there was no cause for despair, but a need to step back and consider whether the international community could recalibrate its approach in strengthening partnership to help the people and leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve their goals of peace and prosperity.

When the floor was opened for debate, some Council Members and invitees emphasized the importance of encouraging Bosnia and Herzegovina to resolve its challenges without outside interference, while others stressed the need to ensure the country upheld its international obligations.

The representative of the Russian Federation, stating that the High Representative’s report lacked objectivity and was biased against the Bosnian Serbs, urged all parties to avoid polemics and rhetoric, and to work towards greater cooperation without external interference.  Efforts must be based on consensus among the entities, he said, stressing that the mandates of international institutions should not encroach upon one another or duplicate matters.

Voicing support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, China’s representative stressed the importance of the harmonious coexistence of all communities there.  The international community should seek and heed the views of all parties, he said, urging the High Representative to continue playing a constructive role in keeping with his mandate.

For her part, the representative of the United States urged the Federation’s Parliament to implement much-delayed reforms to discriminatory voting laws ahead of next year’s elections.  The 2009 European Court judgement mandating those changes was a prerequisite for the country’s candidacy for European Union membership, she said, adding that the case should not hold back Bosnia and Herzegovina from the road to peace and prosperity.

France’s representative observed that, while the security situation had remained calm and stable, the political stalemate distracted from the goal of European integration.  The work of the High Representative must also evolve significantly, with continued efforts to reconfigure his Office.

The United Kingdom’s representative said the lack of political progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina contrasted with historic developments in the Western Balkans.  It was also disappointing that many were using the recent census as grounds for divisive political rhetoric.

Reaffirming her country’s commitment to the “European path”, the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina said her Government would continue make efforts to complete the “5+2” agenda.  In addition, she regretted that the latest report did not emphasize the improvement of regional cooperation as one of her country’s foreign policy priorities, and urged the High Representative to consult with the President on foreign policy activities to avoid any harmful interpretations in the future.

Nonetheless, the Head of the European Union delegation said that institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to achieve the necessary progress in meeting key European Union requirements, adding that it was up to the country’s political leaders to make progress.  Non-compliance with the European Court of Human Rights ruling and the failure to establish effective internal coordination on European Union affairs was straining Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress.  In that regard, the European Union was ready to provide assistance in all required areas in order to help the country advance on its reform agenda.

The representative of Croatia said the specific political system, rooted in the Dayton peace accords, rested on genuine equality between the three constitutive peoples.  At the moment, Serbs had the advantage of relative ethnic homogeneity in the Republika Srpska; Bosnians had the advantage of the largest numbers; and Croats were in danger of losing representation at the level of the Federation’s presidency.  The census results, according to reports from the ground, should be carefully examined to ensure that every citizen really had the opportunity to express his or her identity.

Serbia’s representative said his country, as a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Agreements, continued to be strongly committed to the respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The future should be decided by the country and people without outside interference.  Serbia had a strong interest in boosting relations at the highest possible level, he said, adding that bilateral cooperation had been improved in recent years.  Echoing the Croatian representative’s remarks, he said Serbia would support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s full integration into the Union.

Citing his own country’s experience of genocide and conflict, Rwanda’s representative called for both the safe return of refugees and for efforts to promote truth and reconciliation.

Also speaking today were representatives of Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Luxembourg, Australia, Argentina, Togo, Republic of Korea, Guatemala and Morocco.

The meeting began at 10:25 a.m. and ended at 12:30 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met today to discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The members have before them a letter dated 5 November from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2013/646) transmitting the forty-fourth report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko.  The Council heard a briefing from Mr. Inzko and statements from Members and invitees.

Briefing

VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the situation there merited a close watch to ensure gains made after the war were not lost.  The negative political situation had not improved since he provided his last briefing six months ago.  The political leaders had again missed a chance by failing to correct discriminatory provisions in the electoral system.  Those changes, required by the European Court of Human Rights, were not only a test for the country to move towards European Union membership, but also a test of its ability to live up to its international obligations.  Similarly, progress had remained elusive in regulating the question of military property ownership, which had kept Bosnia and Herzegovina from activating its membership action plan with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The failure of the ruling parties and the relevant institutions had been symptomatic of an overall lack of urgency in carrying out basic political and economic reforms, he said.  The public had expressed dissatisfaction with the inertia of political leadership, as well as with the ethnic divisions in the education system.  In that regard, the international community had underestimated the important role of education in the post-war reconciliation and reintegration process.

Although the political trend had remained generally negative, he noted that significant and vital development had been achieved in the form of the country's first population census in 20 years.  Rather than being used to promote divisions and tensions, the results would, in fact, provide statistical information on social and economic issues.  The economic situation remained difficult, with the country relying heavily on external support and facing 44 per cent unemployment.  Nonetheless, positive developments in exports and industrial production had been achieved.

Turning to his mandate, he said he remained concerned by leaders' tendency to challenge the peace agreement.  Political interference in the work of the judiciary was another serious matter, as was the ongoing failure to implement some 80 verdicts of the Constitutional Court.  However, despite continuing disputes in the Federation, the Government had gotten back to work, filling long-standing vacancies.  The crisis, nevertheless, revealed functional deficiencies and gaps, and underscored the need for further action.

As to future risks, he remained concerned by the Republika Srpska advocating the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country.  The European Union and NATO military presence played a vital role in assuring the public, he said, adding that the deterrent effect of that small force was worth the cost.  More so, Bosnia and Herzegovina still had every chance to succeed and to prosper, and should look no further than its neighbours for lessons.  Overall, there was not cause for despair, but a need to step back and consider whether the international community could recalibrate its approach in strengthening partnership to help the people and leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach achieve their goals of peace and prosperity.

Statements

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said he was encouraged that authorities were continuing towards completing the “5+2” agenda, which was necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative.  Other achievements included regular meetings of Federation institutions, the adoption of several new laws, and the first post-war census.  However, he voiced concern at “direct and open” challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement, among them challenges to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He condemned divisive rhetoric advocating the State’s dissolution, as well as any challenge to its functioning, its constitutional responsibilities and the core provisions of the General Framework Agreement.  The provisions of that Agreement did not contain the claimed right to self-determination for the purpose of unilateral succession from or dissolution of the State.  Also, the non-enforcement of the Constitutional Court’s decisions violated the Agreement and undermined the rule of law.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) noted that the security situation had remained calm and stable, with Bosnia and Herzegovina able to cope with security threats.  Nonetheless, he was concerned at the stalemate in the political situation, with those crises distracting from the goal of European integration.  He urged the Government to bring the Constitution into line with the European Convention on Human Rights.  The absence of the authorities’ action had slowed progress on accession.  His delegation was committed to seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina join the European Union as an entire country.  Leaders must find “historic” compromises that would allow the country “lean on” effective institutions.  Indeed, a country under supervision and divided could not become part of the European Union.  It was high time to empower the Bosnian political class so that it would become unified.  The work of the High Representative must also significantly evolve.

MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  However, “the negatives” exceeded “the positives”, with internal disagreement holding back the country.  The improved economic front was a welcome signal and he hoped such momentum would be maintained.  Yet, the lack of progress on the 5 objectives and 2 conclusions indicated a weak commitment to the future, and he urged leaders on all sides of the political divide to work constructively to break the impasse.  He was also deeply concerned at the challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement and to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Advocating the State’s dissolution amounted to the core provisions of the General Framework Agreement being challenged.  Further, unilateral action by the Government had led to the crisis on citizen identification numbers.  It was vital that all parties recognize legal frameworks.  Leaders must resolve their differences through dialogue, a process his delegations supported in its entirety.

SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said discord among political leaders had impeded the functioning of Bosnian institutions.  Authorities had been unable to meet people’s legitimate aspirations and protests against the inability to issue identification numbers testified to widespread discontent.  She welcomed that the political crisis had waned and that, last month, Bosnian authorities had conducted the first post-war census.  The security situation also had remained calm and stable.  For its part, the European Union should focus on capacity-building and training.  She attached importance to efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, saying that the State must ensure that justice was rendered.  Calling on leaders to implement the 22 December 2009 decision of the European Court of Human Rights, she said that Serbia and Kosovo had taken steps towards their European integration.  The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina lay in a European perspective.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his country wished to see the establishment of a normal State-wide functioning entity over the three constituents of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The High Representative's report lacked objectivity and was biased against the Bosnian Serbs.  In order to get a more objective picture, the Council should also consider the Republika Srpska’s report on developments.  All parties should avoid polemics and rhetoric and work towards greater cooperation, he said, adding that the problems were deep and characterized by institutional problems.  Turning to the demonstrations in June, he said they underscored the unacceptability of external interference.  Work needed to be based on consensus of the entities, he said, and pointed to the radicalization of Muslim areas, which the High Representative had not discussed in the report.

Citing industrial and export growth, he said the picture was not so bad, urging that responsibility be transferred to the people themselves.  The Russian Federation was in favour of eliminating the High Representative Office and promoting the “5+2” process, he said, stressing that the mandates of international institutions should not encroach upon one another or duplicate matters.  Through full intra-Bosnia dialogue, social, economic and structural reforms could be achieved in strict compliance with the Dayton mechanism.  It was with this view that the Russian Federation, while not part of the European Union military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported its aims and mandate.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States), congratulating Bosnia and Herzegovina for completing its first census in decades, stressed that quantification of demographic changes was essential to forming policy.  She expressed hope that it would be used constructively to make policy decisions.  Underscoring the urgency of prompting efficiency and responsiveness in the entity, she urged the Federation’s Parliament to implement the reforms in advance of elections.  The United States strongly supported that country’s integration into the European Union and NATO, she said, adding that the process was the surest and expeditious path to long-term prosperity.

She urged leaders to put Bosnia and Herzegovina above narrow ethnic agendas, adding that the 2009 European Court judgement was a prerequisite for that country’s candidacy and that the case should not hold up European Union membership.  Progress on registration of military equipment from the war was central to NATO membership.  Noting that some Republika Srpska leaders made anti-Dayton statements, it was important to strengthen the State Court, as well as sustainable economic policies for progress on the Republika Srpska.  The United States stood by Bosnia and Herzegovina as it overcame its past.  She urged the world to support the path to reconciliation, peace and prosperity.

PHILIPPA KING (Australia) supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, calling on the Republika Srpska to fully respect those principles, and on all political actors to reach the compromises needed to achieve the “5+2” agenda.  She also voiced concern that the State-level Parliamentary Assembly had not adopted one single new law this year, while citizens in Mostar had been denied their right to elect local representatives.  Further, it was disappointing that leaders had been unable to craft a timely solution to the citizen identification issue.  Citing positive developments, she said the 2013 census was a significant step, the first undertaken since 1991.  However, Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to make progress on integration into the European Union and NATO, which contrasted with the progress made by its neighbours.  She expressed hope they would engage in the spirit of political compromise emerging in the Balkans region.  The Sejdić and Finci case was a “threshold issue” on the integration path and leaders must make progress in that regard. In addition, the European Union-led peacekeeping force Operation Althea was essential to ensuring stability and confidence in the country.

FRANCISCO JAVIER DE ANTUENO ( Argentina) underlined the need to respect the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, voicing concern at challenges to the State's competencies.  Reports of declarations by the Republika Srpska promoting the dissolution of the State, which was a challenge to the General Framework Agreement, were of concern.  Despite such tensions, preparations were ongoing to remember the victims of the Srebrenica massacre.  He welcomed the diminishing of the political crisis, voicing hope that pending matters would be resolved.  Nonetheless, there was concern that the lack of tangible measures to implement the five objectives and two conditions would be “a constant given”.  Political parties must redouble their efforts as regards implementation of the Constitutional Court’s ruling and convening of local elections.  As regards to the Sejdić and Finci case, he called for renewed efforts to reach an agreement that would ensure the rights of non-constituent peoples.

MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) said the lack of political progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina contrasted with historic developments that had taken place elsewhere in the Western Balkans, noting that Croatia had acceded to the European Union in July of this year.  There was no sign that such regional progress had influenced Bosnian leaders, as there had been no movement towards delivering on the “5+2” conditionality.  It was also disappointing that many were using the recent census as grounds for divisive political rhetoric.  Politicians had been unwilling to place the country's needs above their own interests, which was illustrated by the lack progress in resolving the Sejdić and Finci issue.  It was increasingly difficult to justify pre-accessionist support.  The failure to establish a mechanism for coordination with the European Union called into question the tranches of sizeable accession assistance funds.  Pointing out that political leaders were locked into “short-term, zero-sum-game” mindsets, he urged them to advance from that stagnant political context.  He also condemn those in the Republika Srpska who challenged the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stating that such tensions were at risk of worsening ahead of planned 2014 elections.  He urged the Council to renew the mandate of the European Union-led peacekeeping force Operation Althea for another 12 months.

KOKOU NAYO M’BEAU ( Togo), remarking that the report highlighted the challenges on the ground, said that no tangible progress had been achieved on the preconditions for ending the Office of High Representatives.  Further, the Parliament had not enacted any new legislation.  Reforms to end discriminatory laws should be launched before the upcoming elections.  The June demonstrations against the failure to issue identity cards for infants pointed to the disaffection of the people.  The statements and defiant actions by the Republika Srpska leaders undermined national cohesion.

In spite of all obstacles, the population census had been carried out, he said, expressing hope that it would not reopen wounds, but, instead, guide sound policy.  Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to tackle the challenges through the establishment of a truly multi-ethnic State.  All actors should come together to achieve their vision and work towards European Union accession.  He urged Bosnia and Herzegovina neighbours to constructively work for the unity of the State.  The responsibility lay with the main leadership by building cohesion.  The country still needed international support, he said, adding Togo’s full support for the High Representative's efforts in striving to ensure respect for the Dayton agreement.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said the resolution provided a clear signal of the international community’s commitment to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Disagreements and political inflexibility was responsible for the negative trends there, he stressed, calling for unity of purpose to achieve peace and prosperity.  The rhetoric and obstacles to institutions stood as obstructions to the Dayton Framework, which was central to the long-term well-being of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Urging all parties to end gridlock and ensure legitimate national elections, he called on the international community to support the country.  The recent judicial appointments were a welcomed sign and could provide a way to resolve outstanding differences, including on the closure of the Office of the High Representative.  Noting progress on export and production, the high unemployment and general economic stalemate underscored the importance of continued international engagement and regional integration.  As well, the return of refugees was central to the Dayton framework, and he urged the authorities to create a conducive environment that would enable their return.  More so, like his own country, Bosnia and Herzegovina had suffered genocide, he said, and he called for truth and reconciliation efforts.

JOON OH (Republic of Korea) expressed hope that the recent census would bring economic and social benefits to Bosnia and Herzegovina.  However, the political gridlock that continued to hinder governance was worrisome, with the failure to provide basic services threatening stability.  Further, progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration lagged other countries in the Balkans.  Calling for Bosnia and Herzegovina to make reforms to address peoples’ needs, he said the overdue implementation of the European Court of Human Rights Sejdić and Finci ruling would be an important step in that direction.  In addition, the rhetoric against sovereignty and territorial integrity undermined trust among multiethnic communities.  Genuine reconciliation and a commitment to a shared future were crucial, he said, calling on all political leaders to refrain from divisive rhetoric. In sum, he welcomed the extension of the European Union-led peacekeeping force mandate and the international community’s role in that regard.

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said that the negative rhetoric that targeted the Dayton Agreements, and called into question the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, complemented efforts to disrupt the Federation’s functioning.  Still, the first census conducted since 1991 was relevant, given the large number of displaced persons since the war.  As well, efforts towards constitutional reform were welcomed.  The situation in Mostar, however, was unchanged, with no local elections held since last year.  The difficulties around the issuance of citizen identification numbers were equally worrying.  Both events underlined the lack of implementation of decisions by the Constitutional Court.  He deplored that authorities had been unable to achieve progress in pending objectives, as pre-requisites for the closure of the Office of the High Representative.  The Sejdić and Finci case underlined the need to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.  In sum, the European Union and NATO should remain the region for the time being.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI ( Morocco), stating that the implementation of the Dayton framework was a daily challenge, said it was regrettable that the provisions of the Federal Constitution continued to be undermined and unilateral acts continued to be taken.  Further, the scale of the demonstrations in June underscored the scale of the cumulative challenge.  Such trends would push the country into the past and undermine the gains made so painstakingly over the decades.  The parties and the respective communities should be encouraged to find compromises.  Despite such challenges, there were grounds for optimism, as detailed in the report.  Economic and industrial growth were encouraging signs in spite of the persistence of unemployment and fall in foreign direct investment.  The Dayton process had enabled peace and stability over the decades, he said, stressing that all parties should renew trust in federal institutions to reach fair compromises for the future.

LIU JIEYE ( China), speaking in his national capacity, said the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina had remained stable and good progress had been achieved.  Voicing support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he stressed the importance of the harmonious coexistence of all communities there.  He urged them to resolve their differences on the basis of the gains made over the years.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was an important country in the Balkans and maintaining peace and stability there was crucial to the region and the world.  The international community should seek and heed the views of all parties, he said, urging the High Representative to continue playing a constructive role in keeping with his mandate.  He expressed hope that the European Union-led peacekeeping force Operation Althea would bolster cooperation with the country’s military in its effort towards boosting peace, stability and prosperity.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the “European path” and welcomed the European Union’s reinforced role in her country.  Noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina was a candidate for European Union membership, she said that, while the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the Union had been ratified in 2011, it had not been entered into force.  The interim trade-related path had come into force upon its signing and had been implemented since 2008.  The political dialogue to answer all questions continued, which would enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to submit a credible application for European Union membership.  Underscoring that her Government would continue make efforts to complete the “5+2” agenda, she said the security situation was calm and stable, with national bodies able to ensure a safe environment.

In that context, she recalled that in the 1990s, some 60,000 international forces had been deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointing out that today, the number had fallen to only 600.  National reconciliation and trust were prerequisites for a functioning State and her country had made efforts to enhance its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as the International Residual Mechanism.  It also was committed to regional cooperation.

She went on to say that the sustainable return and integration of refugees and internally displaced persons was a priority, as their coordinated return throughout the region was crucial to lasting peace.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was working to resolve border and property issues with its neighbours.  Further, it was involved in regional initiatives and was developing bilateral relations with neighbouring European Union States.  In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina had moved from being a host of United Nations peacekeeping operations to being a participant.

Turning to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s participation in the General Assembly, she said she was surprised by the High Representative’s lack of understanding on that issue, pointing out that the platform for participation did not represent a legally binding document.  Rather, it was a plan that guided her country’s position in the Assembly.  Such a platform did not discredit any foreign policy decision of the President, Bosnian representatives in international institutions or the country’s participation in the United Nations framework.

She said she regretted that the latest report did not emphasize the improvement of regional cooperation as one of her country’s foreign policy priorities. She urged the High Representative to consult with the President on foreign policy activities to avoid any harmful interpretations in the future.  With that, she urged developing a positive atmosphere that fostered dialogue towards resolving outstanding issues, noting that all changes must be based on the rule of law and that the full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement was imperative.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK ( Croatia) said the specific political system, rooted in the Dayton peace accords, rested on genuine equality between the three constitutive peoples.  At the moment, Serbs had the advantage of relative ethnic homogeneity of the Republika Srpska; Bosnians had the advantage of the biggest numbers; and Croats were in danger of losing representation on the level of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  “These are the facts we have to be mindful,” he said.  Acting as the goal of a stable functioning State, in which everybody felt comfortable and represented, already existed, would be “like pretending in the famous fairy tale the ‘Emperor Has New Clothes’”, he pointed out.  The best strategy would be recognizing the need for a three-pillar stability, which had the biggest chance of success.

He said that he was concerned that some representatives of the Republika Srpska continued to challenge the territorial integrity of the State in which they were an integral part.  The rhetoric of some Republika Srpska leaders must not be taken lightly.  The census results, according to reports from the ground, should be carefully examined in order to make sure that every citizen really had the opportunity to express his or her identity.   Bosnia and Herzegovina could not be left behind in the European Union integration process, and he urged its political leaders to further efforts on its advancement to NATO.  His country stood ready to cooperate closely with Bosnia and Herzegovina on all the issues relating to the Union membership and to provide the country with firm political and robust technical support in the process of European integration.  A flexible tailor-made approach to Bosnia and Herzegovina was needed, methodically different from an approach to other European countries.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ ( Serbia) said his country, as a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Agreements, continued to be strongly committed to the respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The future should be decided by the country and people without outside interference.  Serbia had a strong interest in boosting relations at the highest possible level, he said, adding that bilateral cooperation had been improved in recent years.  The parliaments between the two countries had expanded their relations, he said, adding that cooperation would be reflected in more practical steps and measures.

He stated his country’s firm support of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration in Europe.  Highlighting progress in economic cooperation, he said this was a very good step in the right direction.  All outstanding issues, significantly reduced in number now, would be settled in good faith and in mutual interest.  That was particularly true of the questions of demarcation, refugees and missing persons, as well as the questions related to succession.  A politically and economically stable South-Eastern Europe was vital to Serbia, he said, adding that his country would work strenuously in that direction.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union delegation, said that institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to achieve the necessary goals in meeting key European Union requirements.  Pointing out that it was up to the country’s political leaders to make progress, he said that the lack of political will to work out compromises continued to negatively impact the overall reform process.  Thus, Bosnia and Herzegovina had been unable to consolidate a viable democracy and progress on its European Union path.  To be sure, the country had travelled a “long distance” since the war two decades ago, with authorities having proven their ability to maintain a stable security environment.

However, the political environment was complex, he said, citing slow inter-ethnic integration and politics driven by ethnic, rather than civic, principles.  The fragile socioeconomic situation of large parts of the population could increase political instability.  “Transformation of the country’s politics is long overdue”, he said, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina was lagging behind its neighbours.  For its part, the European Union continued to strengthen its engagement with the country through a broad range of political and technical instruments.  A fortified field presence in Brcko District, Mostar and Banja Luka had facilitated communication on European Union priorities with citizens throughout the country, while the European Union-led peacekeeping force Operation Althea had helped to ensure a safe environment.

Yet, the key requirements for progress on the European Union path were unchanged and had not been met, he said, stressing that the Sedić and Finci case must be implemented, as it embodied the principle of ethnic non-discrimination, a core European Union value.  The entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement would allow a possible application by Bosnia and Herzegovina for European Union membership to be considered as credible.  Noting that non-compliance with the European Court of Human Rights ruling and the failure to establish effective internal coordination on European Union affairs was straining Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress, he said his delegation was reviewing its pre-accession assistance.  Nonetheless, the European Union was ready to provide assistance in all required areas in order to help the country advance on its reform agenda.

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