Speakers Blame Narrow Ethnic, Political Interests for Lack of Progress, as Security Council Considers Situation in Bosnia And Herzegovina

15 May 2014
SC/11398

Speakers Blame Narrow Ethnic, Political Interests for Lack of Progress, as Security Council Considers Situation in Bosnia And Herzegovina

15 May 2014
Security Council
SC/11398
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7176th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Blame Narrow Ethnic, Political Interests for Lack of Progress,

as Security Council Considers Situation in Bosnia And Herzegovina

 

Separatist Republika Srpska Leaders Shun Compromise, Says

High Representative, while Russian Federation Calls for Drawdown of His Office

Owing to certain political interests and the inability of some leaders to compromise, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to deteriorate, thereby impeding the country’s progress towards European integration, the High Representative in the country told the Security Council today.

“The same old mistake — putting the interests of a privileged political class before those of the country and its citizens — continues to be made,” said Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, observing that some elected officials and political leaders had learned little from the past.  Furthermore, progress towards integration into Euro-Atlantic structures had ground to a halt despite efforts by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), because Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders had been unable to agree on the changes needed for implementation of the Sejdić-Finci judgement handed down by the European Court of Human Rights.

Other obstacles were also preventing progress, he continued.  While the Constitutional Court had issued many “final and binding” verdicts under the Dayton Peace Agreement, many of them remained unimplemented, he noted, adding that challenges to the 1995 accords had become more frequent and direct.  In addition, senior politicians from the Republika Srpska sought to exploit events in Ukraine to promote their own separatist agendas, repeatedly calling for and predicting the end of Bosnia and Herzegovina while persisting in their rejection of cooperation with the Office of the High Representative.

He said that, although there had been some positive developments, including the adoption of technical amendments enabling the holding of elections in October, they had been few and far between.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was continuing on a downward trajectory since the narrow rejection of a package of constitutional changes in April 2006.  However, protests in February had seen demonstrators demanding that the authorities finally get serious about dealing with mounting economic and social problems, as well as rampant corruption.  Although some members of the political class understood the clear message of the protests, others chose to view them as ethnically motivated or organized from outside the country, which was not the case.

Emphasizing that the demonstrations had clearly been a wake-up call for both the political establishment and the international community, he said that, after the next elections, there would be need for a fundamental change in the way politics were conducted, and a focus on all citizens, not just a chosen few.  A frank, robust and action-oriented public debate on rampant corruption, high unemployment and the lack of progress on Euro-Atlantic integration was critically important if progress was to be made.  Otherwise, “if we go on doing what we are doing, we will go on getting what we are getting”.

Echoing the High Representative’s comments, Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that the Federation’s continuing challenges stemmed largely from a lack of political will to look beyond narrow ethnic and party interests to the compromises required in moving the country forward.  Pointing out that Bosnia and Herzegovina was lagging behind others in the western Balkans, particularly in terms of the political and economic reforms needed to become eligible for European Union membership.  The prolonged political stalemate and the absence of positive momentum in the reform process had led to the further weakening of an already fragile economy.  The continuing use of divisive rhetoric, and the deeply rooted divisions among political parties continued to cause considerable “headwinds” for those who wished to see the country move towards European Union membership, he said.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative rejected the “unilateral and partial approach” adopted in the High Representative’s report, saying it unnecessarily dramatized the tenuous nature of the security situation.  Pending issues should be resolved by Bosnians themselves, he emphasized, saying that impartial outside review of the situation had run its course.  There should be a drawdown of the Office of the High Representative in favour of internal dialogue.

The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina stressed that the High Representative’s role was not to evaluate foreign policy decisions, as he had done in the report’s references to the Presidency’s inability to agree on the situation in Ukraine, but to oversee implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement.  In fact, the Presidency had issued a statement calling on all parties to the dispute in Ukraine to refrain from using force and engage in political dialogue instead.  As with all countries around the world, however, there were challenges, including the difficult economic crisis and the bitter austerity measures that were having a negative impact on daily life.  Following the recent protests, the Council of Ministers had held several sessions with the competent national law enforcement agencies to determine how best to improve the security situation, she said, adding that the legislature had passed amendments to laws regulating the issuance of citizen identification numbers.

She went on to say that Bosnia and Herzegovina had made significant progress towards European integration, despite its complex societal challenges, and remained a potential candidate for European Union membership.  The Stabilization and Association Agreement it had signed with the European Union had been ratified in 2011, but had not entered into force.  Political dialogue continued in the quest for solutions that would enable the pact fully to enter into force, which would then facilitate a credible membership application.  While acknowledging the stand-off in terms of political progress, she emphasized the necessity to develop a positive atmosphere that would foster constructive political dialogue and lead to the resolution of outstanding issues.

Croatia’s representative stressed that a stable and functional Bosnia and Herzegovina was essential to the stability and prosperity of the western Balkans.  However, its complicated institutional set-up was often exploited by political elites, which had resulted in the present political and institutional stalemate.  Urging the country’s leaders to rise above “narrow ethnic interests” in the upcoming election campaign, he said their citizens deserved a fresh perspective that would recognize and fulfil their social and economic needs.

Serbia’s representative noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina was his country’s third-largest economic partner.  Because a politically and economically stable region was a basic precondition for Serbia’s own economic development, it also sought greater regional cooperation, and continued to work with its neighbour in addressing all outstanding issues, including demarcation and the question of refugees and missing persons.  As host to the largest number of refugees in the region, Serbia called for lasting, just and sustainable solutions that would address the needs and respect the rights of long-displaced vulnerable populations.

Also speaking today were representatives of Argentina, Rwanda, Jordan, United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Chile, Lithuania, China, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Chad and the Republic of Korea.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Before it was  a letter from the Secretary-General dated 2 May and addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2014/314), transmitting the forty-fifth report of the High Representative.

Briefing

VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that, since his last briefing six months ago, the actions and behaviour of some elected officials and political leaders suggested they had learned little from the mistakes of the past.  “The same old mistake — putting the interests of a privileged political class before those of the country and its citizens — continues to be made,” he said.  The lack of urgency to reach healthy compromises for the benefit of the majority of the country’s people had resulted in the continuing deterioration of the political situation.  Progress on Euro-Atlantic integration had ground to a halt despite efforts by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) due to the inability of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders to agree on the changes needed for implementation of the Sejdić-Finci judgement handed down by the European Court of Human Rights.  Furthermore, the overall economic situation remained difficult, despite a notable increase in exports, with unemployment now at 44 per cent.

The State’s legislative output continued to reject more new laws than those adopted, he continued.  In addition, many verdicts of the Constitutional Court that were “final and binding” under the Dayton Peace Agreement remained unimplemented, while challenges to the accords were more frequent and direct.  Senior politicians from the Republika Srpska sought to exploit events in Ukraine to promote their own separatist agendas, repeatedly calling for and predicting the end of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, reiterating that the Dayton Agreement did not allow entities to secede.  The international community must state clearly that its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial of Bosnia and Herzegovina was absolute, he emphasized.  Unfortunately, the Federation authorities were acting unilaterally in such a way as to compromise the country’s single economic space, he said, noting, however, that the issue was now moving towards resolution.  The Republika Srpska authorities nevertheless persisted in their rejection of cooperation with the Office of the High Representative, as required under Annex 10 of the Peace Agreement, by refusing to provide documents, he said.  “The President of the Republika Srpska has boasted publicly that there will be no cooperation with my office.”

He said that, although positive developments had been few and far between, they included the adoption of technical amendments enabling the holding of elections in October, and the visit to Sarajevo by the Prime Minister of Serbia, among others.  However, Bosnia and Herzegovina was continuing on a downward trajectory since the narrow rejection of a package of constitutional changes in April 2006.  “Eight years is a long time for a country to be going the wrong way,” he said.  At the beginning of February, large-scale protests had occurred in response to the situation, with protesters demanding that the authorities finally get serious about dealing with mounting economic and social problems, as well as rampant corruption.  Unfortunately, the protests had turned violent, resulting in damage to public buildings and injuries to some demonstrators.  Although some members of the political class understood the clear messages of the protests, others chose to view them as ethnically motivated or organized from outside the country, which was not the case, he stressed.

“Democracy is not simply a matter of holding elections every four years,” he said.  With fewer than five months until the next general elections, which would be the “most hotly contested elections” since the Peace Agreement in 1995, challenges of great concern included the ongoing controversy over residence and voting rights, which could lead to disputes on the ground, particularly across Republika Srpska.  The election campaign was dominated by attempts to raise interethnic tensions as a way to divert attention from the country’s real problems, he said, adding that a frank, robust and action-oriented public debate was needed on rampant corruption, high unemployment and the lack of progress on Euro-Atlantic integration.  “If we go on doing what we are doing, we will go on getting what we are getting,” he said.  The recent demonstrations were clearly a wake-up call for both the political establishment and the international community.  After the next elections, there would be need for a fundamental change in the way politics were conducted, and a focus on all citizens, not just a chosen few.  Thus, the international community’s approach must also evolve and it must do more to factor in the specifics of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history, its post-war settlement and the risks to its future stability, he emphasized.  That would mean, among other things, supporting those willing to work for healthy compromises.

Statements

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his delegation rejected the unilateral and partial approach adopted in the High Representative’s report, calling for an objective picture of the situation in the country.  Pending issues should be resolved by Bosnians themselves on the basis of agreements that respected the wishes of all the people.  A single approach to resolving problems remained elusive due to an inability to take the views of Bosnian Croatians into account.  It was unnecessary to dramatize the situation, as the High Representative’s report had done, particularly in relation to the February protests, he said, emphasizing that the international community must recognize that the country was safe from social unrest thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Government and the private sector.  The potential for impartial outside review of the situation had run its course and there should be a drawdown of the Office of the High Representative in favour of internal dialogue, he stressed.  The Russian Federation did not share the conclusions drawn by the report, which dramatized the tenuous nature of the security situation, he reiterated.

FRANCISCO JAVIER DE ANTUENO ( Argentina) said that a critical evaluation seemed more necessary than ever in order to determine how to provide effective support for irreversible progress.  February’s demonstrations had shown the people’s frustration and must be taken seriously.  Argentina was also concerned about reported calls for State’s dissolution, he said, emphasizing that the leadership must create an environment that would lead to peaceful elections and respect for the rule of law.  Despite positive developments, recent negative trends were concerning, and the international community must understand the underlying causes of the lack of progress, so that it could adapt its focus and work more efficiently to support Bosnia and Herzegovina.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda), expressing concern about the increasing rhetoric of the Republika Srpska authorities calling for the Federation’s dissolution, urged them to engage constructively towards unity.  The current stalemate impeded the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration, and the February demonstrations indicated that the authorities needed to bolster the fight against corruption.  Although Rwanda condemned the violence, in particular the burning of the presidential building, it was disappointing that the authorities had taken no tangible action to reform the electoral system.  He recalled that the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, which had occurred one year after the one on Rwanda, and called upon all actors to take responsibility and seek healing and economic growth.

ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL HUSSEIN (Jordan) said that, despite some positive developments, much of the enmity that had which existed before and during the war persisted.  That was most evident at the level of senior officials, especially those who argued with increasing vigour for the dissolution of the State.  The Bosnian war had been a cruel one, he said, declaring:  “It was as pathetic as it was criminal.”  Emphasizing that there were still enough ethnic Croats, Serbs and Bosniacs who wanted nothing more than a life in which they could all prosper together, he said they wanted to be part of the European Union, recognizing that further division would be bad for them.  What they wanted most was a functional Government, he said, stressing that the international community must look deeper into the reasons behind the persisting tensions and determine what could be done to reverse the gradual deterioration of the political condition.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said her delegation continued to support the High Representative’s mandate and commended his work.  The United States encouraged the Government to focus on key priorities, including by capitalizing on civic engagement, ensuring that elections moved forward, promoting Euro-Atlantic integration and refraining from secessionist rhetoric.  The United States also recognized that peaceful protests allowed the public to express their views, which political leaders should respect.  Commending the Government for having passed the necessary amendments to election laws, she expressed hope that the elections would progress smoothly, and called upon politicians to avoid politicizing the polls.  She also expressed hope that the Federation’s leadership would focus on the key reforms required for Euro-Atlantic integration, which was the best path towards long-term stability and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Voicing support for the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, she condemned statements calling for secession.

MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) shared the High Representative's deep concern about the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly as the country's development had come to a halt, and there had been a worrying increase in secessionist rhetoric.  The demonstrations that took place in February were a clear expression of the public's dissatisfaction and should serve as a wake-up call for the country's leadership and the international community.  There needed to be a unified international response that set out a new agenda for the future of the country.  There must also be a fundamental change in the political environment and respect for the needs of citizens.  An engaged and proactive civil society was vital for the country’s democratic future.  Bosnia and Herzegovina's leadership should not question the international community unwavering support for Bosnia and Herzegovina's sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The United Kingdom called on all signatories to the Dayton Agreement to follow through on their commitments and fully support progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration.

ALEXIS LAMEK ( France), expressing regret that some of the recent protests had turned violent, said they called national institutions into question.  The people were making it known that they wanted a political structure they could trust, and with that emerging political awareness, the upcoming electoral campaigns should allow officials to prove that it reflected their needs.  Noting that many Bosnians had been born after the conflict 20 years ago, he said they wanted a new future, emphasizing that the international community should work together to ensure it.  European integration was a viable way to move forward and a hope that was broadly shared by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  France wished to see that aspiration become a reality, he said, calling upon the country’s leaders to undertake the necessary reforms for the future.  He added that the European Union should play a larger role in building the capacity of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s security forces.

PHILIPPA KING ( Australia) reaffirmed her country’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said it was necessary to ensure peace and stability in the country and in the broader western Balkans region.  Amid significant remaining challenges, Bosnia and Herzegovina had not progressed as far and as fast as it could have done due to the inability of its leaders to agree on important political and economic reforms.  Over the past six months, the country had not moved forward on its declared path of Euro-Atlantic integration, and its political leaders must resolve the impasse that had obstructed progress towards that goal.  Australia was also concerned about the brief outbreak of violence in February that had marred otherwise peaceful demonstrations, but continued to support the right of citizens to stage demonstrations.

EDUARDO GÁLVEZ ( Chile) expressed concern that implementation of the Dayton Accords remained a daily challenge that undermined national cohesion among ethnic communities and slowed progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration.  Calling upon the political class to show responsibility in the spirit of reconciliation, he said the February protests had been a call for elected officials and political parties to change course.  In the absence of political commitment, Chile called upon its leaders to work constructively to end the “standstill”.

RITA KAZRAGIENE (Lithuania), associating herself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union, said there was no place for divisive rhetoric in the election campaigns.  Expressing concern about statements challenging the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, she reaffirmed her country’s support for unity.  The lack of economic growth was central to the mistrust among elected officials, and Lithuania, therefore, called upon the authorities to launch reforms and strengthen legislative and regulatory frameworks, she said, emphasizing that all responsibility lay with the country’s political leaders.

WANG MIN ( China) welcomed the positive progress made, but noted the difficulties facing the country in achieving sustainable development and stability.  Practical measures, including dialogue among all ethnic groups, should be taken for the sake of reconstruction, he said urging the international community to take a balanced, prudent approach in supporting efforts by national leaders.  China supported the High Representative’s in carrying out his tasks and playing a positive role in helping to ensure stable progress for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), associating herself with the European Union, ensuring the rule of law and human rights, as well as fighting corruption were critical to the progress being made, particularly when all citizens were seen as equal under the law.  The February protests had borne witness to the impatience of citizens demanding improvements, she said, emphasizing that the political leaders must heed the people’s needs.  Luxembourg shared the High Representative’s hope that greater civil responsibility would lead to greater accountability among national leaders, she said.

KAYODE LARO ( Nigeria) aid he shared the High Representative’s concern that statements by public figures promoting secession could have a destabilizing effect Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Such divisive rhetoric challenged national cohesion and could have negative consequences on the region’s security and stability.  The use of constitutional blocking mechanisms at the State level prevented progress, and leaders then used that to justify their calls for the State’s dissolution.  Nigeria supported efforts that would strengthen the State at the national level, while preserving the rights of all communities, he said, urging political leaders to cooperate with the central Government and refrain from challenging its constitutional authority.  Leaders at the State level must respect limits on their power, he added.

BANTÉ MANGARAL ( Chad) said diversity was central to building consensus, and deplored the secessionist rhetoric that challenged the unity and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He called on leaders to respect the country’s territorial integrity and hailed efforts by the Federal Government to continue operating properly.  Chad encouraged the Government to pass reforms that would restore social dynamics and good governance to the right track.

JOON OH ( Republic of Korea), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, expressing disappointment that the lack of agreement among political actors continued to have a negative impact on the overall reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Republic of Korea was also concerned that continuing political gridlock undermined progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration and promoted stunted economic development, resulting in high unemployment.  Recent divisive rhetoric was also a matter of concern, he said, reiterating his delegation’s full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) emphasized that the security situation in her country remained calm, peaceful and stabile, with support from the European Union Military Mission and the multinational stabilization force.  Regarding the functioning of State institutions, the Presidency had been meeting regularly, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was making the shift from host country to participant in United Nations peacekeeping operations, as well as those of NATO and its International Security Assistance Force.

Recalling the report’s references to the Presidency’s inability to agree on the situation in Ukraine, she pointed out that the role of the High Representative was to oversee implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and not responsibility for evaluating foreign policy decisions.  Furthermore, the Presidency was responsible for conducting foreign policy and making consensus decisions on all foreign policy issues.  In that regard, the Presidency had issued a statement calling on all parties to the dispute in Ukraine to refrain from using force and engage in political dialogue instead, she said.

She went on to say that the Council of Ministers continued to convene regularly, adopting new laws and amendments to existing legislation.  As with all countries around the world, however, there were challenges, including the difficult economic crisis and the bitter austerity measures that were having negative impact on daily life.  Following the recent protests, the Council of Ministers had held several sessions with the competent national law enforcement agencies to determine how best to improve the security situation, she said, adding that the legislature had passed amendments to laws regulating the issuance of citizen identification numbers.  The Central Election Commission would shortly be announcing the general elections, she said.

Bosnia and Herzegovina had made significant progress towards European integration, despite its complex societal challenges, and remained a potential candidate for European Union membership, she said.  The Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union had been ratified in 2011, but had not entered into force.  However, the Interim Stabilization and Association Agreement — the trade-related part of the 2011 accord — had entered into force and been successfully implemented, she said.  Political dialogue continued in the quest for solutions that would enable it fully to enter into force, which would then facilitate a credible membership application.

Turning to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, she said that, since it would soon complete its mandate, further processing of war crimes would have to be transferred to national judicial systems.  The Protocol on the exchange of evidence and information on war crimes involving Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia would provide impetus towards enhanced cooperation.  However, more discussion was needed on the initiative by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees eventually to declare the termination of refugee status for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

She went on to state that there was strong evidence that parties to Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement had not yet created the conditions necessary for the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons to their pre-war homes.  Therefore, Bosnia and Herzegovina did not support the decision to terminate their refugee status in 2014, but insisted on the postponement of such a decision until 2017, when the Regional Housing Programme would be complete.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was making additional efforts to resolve outstanding border and property issues with neighbouring countries, she said, stressing that regional cooperation was critical to her country’s progress towards European Union membership.  While there was a standoff in terms of political progress, it was necessary to develop a positive atmosphere that would foster constructive political dialogue and lead to the resolution of outstanding issues.  Underlining that “all changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina must be based on the rule of law”, she stressed that full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement was imperative.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s continuing challenges largely stemmed from a lack of political will to look beyond narrow ethnic and party interests to seek the compromises required to move the country forward.  It was increasingly lagging behind others in the western Balkans, particularly in terms of the political and economic reforms needed for progress towards membership of the European Union.  The prolonged political stalemate and the absence of positive momentum in the domestic reform process had led to the further weakening of an already fragile economy, he noted.

The February protests should be seen as a “wake-up call” to political leaders and the international community, he continued, calling on the Federation’s leaders and politicians to engage in dialogue with citizens.  The lack of progress in implementing necessary political and economic reforms, the continued use of divisive rhetoric, and the deeply rooted divisions among political parties continued to cause considerable “headwinds” for those who wished to see the country move towards European Union membership, he said, urging the political leadership to overcome divisions and undertake the necessary reforms to move Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to Euro-Atlantic integration.

Over the last six months, the European Union had continued its strong efforts to guide Bosnia and Herzegovina along the path to the European Union.  Implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling remained a requirement for progress towards membership, but it had become increasingly evident that the efficiency and functionality of national institutions also needed significant improvement.  Croatia’s entry into the European Union made Bosnia and Herzegovina a direct neighbour of the bloc, providing an additional opportunity to strengthen relations and enhance cross-border cooperation.  The European Union reiterated its unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina and condemned divisive, secessionist rhetoric as unacceptable, he said.

VLADIMIR DROBAJAK ( Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said that a stable and functional Bosnia and Herzegovina was essential to the stability and prosperity of the region and beyond.  The Dayton Peace Agreement had created a specific political system based primarily on ethnic representation, which rested on genuine equality among the Federation’s three constitutive peoples.  However, its complicated institutional set-up was often exploited by political elites and had resulted in the present political and institutional stalemate.  The recent protests in Sarajevo and other cities were a clear expression of citizens’ frustration with the system’s dysfunctionality and deteriorating socioeconomic situation, he said, adding that they were a direct consequence of the absence of progressive steps on the part of political elites and an indication that Bosnia and Herzegovina must embark on reforms lest it face further destabilization, including along ethnic lines.

Urging the country’s leaders to rise above “narrow ethnic interests” in the upcoming election campaign, he said the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserved a fresh perspective that would recognize and fulfil their social and economic needs.  Croatia condemned those in the Republika Srpska who continued to challenge Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity, he said, emphasizing that secessionist and divisive rhetoric by senior officials was unacceptable.  The clear prospect of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European Union membership was beyond doubt the best stability and security framework for its steady progress.  Identifying concrete “deliverables” was both tangible and feasible, he said, adding that the fundamental logic of that approach was its conditionality; the pace and progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration into the European Union should be directly linked to the pace and progress of its political, legal and administrative reforms.  Unfortunately, the country’s troubled history remained much more a source of tensions and disputes than a springboard for a better future.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ ( Serbia) expressed his country’s firm commitment to respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasizing that all key decisions about the country’s future should be agreed among all political actors.  Home to 1.5 million ethnic Serbs, Bosnia and Herzegovina was Serbia’s third-largest economic partner, he said, pointing out that his country supported its Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as the cooperation between the two countries.  Serbia sought greater regional cooperation he said, noting that a politically and economically stable region was a basic precondition for his country’s own economic development.  Serbia was also keen on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s initiative to establish a consortium of Bosnian and Serbian companies, and interested in promoting business and investment between the two, as well as trade and military-economic cooperation.

He said that his country continued to cooperate with its neighbour in addressing all outstanding issues — “significantly reduced in number now” — without intermediaries, including demarcation, refugees and missing persons, and the succession process.  At the same time, Serbia shared the High Representative’s concern about the recommendation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on lifting refugee status, which would have a negative effect on refugee protection and a detrimental impact on housing and reconciliation.  As host to the largest number of refugees in the region, Serbia called for the adoption of lasting, just and sustainable solutions that addressed the needs and respected the rights of long-displaced vulnerable populations.

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