Most Delegates Welcome Country’s Reform Agenda, European Union Membership Bid
The transition process would undoubtedly be challenging, yet Bosnia and Herzegovina could move forward if all parties worked together and fully respected the Dayton Peace Agreement, the High Representative for that country told the Security Council this morning.
“The Peace Agreement does not grant the entities the right to secede, and any attempt to change it requires the agreement of all parties,” Valentin Inzko said in his biannual briefing, in which he noted that more work needed to ensure lasting stability and a better future.
Introducing his latest report (document S/2016/395), he acknowledged the progress made over the last six months, which included Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership application with the European Union and the implementation of a reform agenda. However, he said, some political actors questioned and challenged the Peace Agreement, including new attempts to undermine the sovereignty and authority of the State.
An additional issue of concern was the participation of some citizens in foreign conflicts, he continued, noting that the returnees could present a threat for the stability of the country. In that regard, closer cooperation between the authorities remained of paramount importance.
Looking forward, 2016 could be a year of progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration, economic growth and job creation, however the country would have to deliver as one, he emphasized.
Following Mr. Inzko’s briefing, Council members took the floor to welcome the steps taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina towards regional coordination, to congratulate its application for European Union membership and welcome the registration of defence properties in the Federation.
Most urged the authorities in the country to continue its reforms process. The representative of the United States said he was encouraged by progress on socioeconomic reform, including new labour laws. Yet, critical work needed to enhance the rule of law, tackle corruption and improve the political climate.
Many delegates also expressed concern over political divides, in particular the statements from Republika Srpska calling for secession. Croatia’s speaker warned against that the Republika Srpska’s political leadership could once again pursue divisive agendas in the context of the October municipal elections.
The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina said his country would continue to implement reforms, improve the economy, and strengthen the rule of law and good governance. At the moment, the Government was putting into place national strategies for processing war crimes and combatting terrorism. With support from the European Union, it had introduced a regional initiative to establish a database of individuals constituting a security threat.
The representative of the European Union delegation, welcoming the country’s application for membership, underscored the need for serious commitment and readiness. However, he acknowledged that the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been a central driver in overcoming challenges on the ground. It also enabled the Bosnian authorities to mobilize citizens and their elected representatives behind necessary political and socioeconomic reforms.
Also today, some delegates stressed the need for the international community to take a balanced and prudent approach, respect the leadership and ownership of the Bosnian people and promote the unity of all ethnic groups alongside lasting stability.
“Bosnians should be able to reach an agreement without an intervention from outside,” the representative of the Russian Federation said, describing the High Representative’s report as “far from being objective”. Calling upon the Representative to distant himself from personal feelings, he emphasized the importance of respecting the Peace Agreement and engaging in constructive dialogue.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Ukraine, Angola, France, Malaysia, China, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Spain, New Zealand, Uruguay, Senegal, Japan, Egypt and Serbia.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m.
VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the transition process would undoubtedly be challenging, yet the country could move forward if all parties worked together and fully respected the Dayton Peace Agreement. Regarding the developments on the ground over the last six months, he noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina had submitted its membership application with the European Union. Further, the authorities had taken steps to implement a reform agenda, including the adoption of new labor legislation.
On the Peace Agreement, he welcomed that the authorities in Republika Srpska had not taken further steps to hold a referendum on the authorities of the State court, prosecutor’s office and the High Representative, as it would be a clear violation. Commending the efforts of the authorities to register military properties to the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he called on Republika Srpska to enable the registration of such materials.
Despite the positive momentum, a number of parallel developments had taken place during the reporting period. As some political actors questioned and challenged the Peace Agreement, including new attempts to undermine the sovereignty and authority of the State, it had reversed the reform process. Further, he expressed regret that a dormitory had been named after Radovan Karadžić only two days before his first instance conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity. “We must seek justice for all of the individual victims,” he said.
An additional issue of concern was the participation of some citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in foreign conflicts, he continued. Some of those individuals had returned home and could present a threat for the stability of the country, he said, stressing that closer cooperation between the authorities remained of paramount importance. He then expressed concern about that the representatives of the ruling party in Republika Srpska, in particular its President, a continued advocate for the secession.
“The Peace Agreement does not grant the entities the right to secede, and any attempt to change it requires the agreement of all parties,” he continued. 2016 could be a year of progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration, economic growth and job creation, however that would only be possible if the country delivered as one. “Questioning and challenging the fundamentals of the Peace Agreement is not a formula for success,” he concluded.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, noted that a great deal of work had been done since the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been reached 20 years ago, although serious political divides persisted inside the country. His country was concerned by statements from Republika Srpska calling for secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina and strongly condemned any provocative acts that could undermine progress under the Dayton Peace Agreement. Ukraine believed that more could have been done to achieve progress on the “5+2” agenda. In that context, special attention should be paid to the issue of “prospective defence property”, particularly the registration of specific properties located on the territory of Republika Srpska.
DAVID PRESSMAN (United States), reiterating his country’s strong support for the High Representative’s mandate, looked forward to the day when Bosnia and Herzegovina met the conditions for the closure of his Office. That day, however, had not yet arrived. He welcomed the steps taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina towards Euro-Atlantic integration, congratulated its application for European Union membership and welcomed the registration of defence properties in the Federation. Going forward, however, would require vision, political will and a focus on the goals set by the Peace Implementation Council. He said he was encouraged by progress on socioeconomic reform, including new labour laws, but critical work needed to be done to enhance the rule of law, tackle corruption and improve the political climate. On the decision to name a building for Radovan Karadžić, he said that honouring someone convicted of genocide was despicable. That action undermined the spirit of reconciliation that Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to move forward. He encouraged Republika Srpska to withdraw its decision to hold a referendum and urged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders and the international community to support the High Representative.
JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola), encouraged by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for European Union membership, said its political leaders were now expected to pursue reforms needed for European integration. He welcomed the adoption of labour legislation and Republika Srpska’s decision not to go ahead with a referendum. However, failure to resolve such issues as a European Union coordination mechanism and the announcement of census results were matters of concern. The occurrence of several security-related incidents demonstrated the imperative need for the authorities to combat terrorism and address the issue of foreign terrorist fighters, including those returning from theatres of war. Regarding challenges to the Framework Agreement for Peace, he said it was worrying that Republika Srpska’s ruling party was advocating for succession. The work of the High Representative was commendable, and under the Framework Agreement, all authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were duty-bound to cooperate with him.
PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France), welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s recent application to join the European Union, said the reform agenda was central to move forward and was the beginning of a new and demanding process. In that regard, the Peace Agreement continued to serve as a cornerstone for development. Bosnians deserved political, economic and social development in their country. However, the lack of consensus between parties was concerning. Despite such problems, Bosnia and Herzegovina was moving in the correct direction, he said, calling upon all parties to cooperate.
SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia), reaffirming her country’s strong support for the High Representative, took note of the positive developments during the reporting period. In that regard, she welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application to join the European Union, stressing that political and economic reforms were crucial for ensuring stability and progress. Despite progress that had been made, she remained alarmed given the existing challenges to the Peace Agreement. Reconciliation was a distant vision, she said, calling upon all parties to respect the rule of law.
WU HAITAO (China) said Bosnia and Herzegovina had generally maintained stability. Welcoming positive developments, he said the international community should respect the decisions of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that all ethnic groups in the country should fully implement the Dayton Peace Agreement. The international community should take a balanced and prudent approach, respect the leadership and ownership of its people and promote the unity of all ethnic groups alongside lasting stability. China supported the High Representative in his mandate and stood ready to work with the international community to keep peace, stability and development in the country.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said two challenges prevail: coming to terms with the past and seizing the opportunity of the future. The landmark Karadžić verdict had sent a powerful message to the world that perpetrators of atrocities would be held accountable. All parties needed to do their utmost to advance reconciliation. While a referendum in Republika Srpska was off the table, the decision to hold one had not yet been formally withdrawn, he said, adding that the time had come for a breakthrough in the impasse over local elections in Mostar. Welcoming the European Union membership application, he urged the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to speak with one voice on accession matters and for census results to be published without delay. Noting the threat of terrorism, he said that national stability had yet to be entrenched and that a serious breakdown in law and order could be catastrophic. The United Kingdom would support the retention of the European Union-led multinational stabilization force (EUFOR ALTHEA) when its mandate came up for renewal in November. Bosnia and Herzegovina should give hope for those living in conflict, “but we cannot take our eye off the ball”, he said.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela), welcoming the application to join the European Union, he said all ethnic groups must work together, respect the rule of law and pursue economic and social development. The High Representative’s efforts to find common ground for the concerned parties must be impartial and transparent. Condemning terrorism in all forms and manifestations, he commended steps taken by Bosnian authorities to prevent the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters from the country. Regarding human rights and international humanitarian law, he expressed support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which had played a pivotal role in tackling impunity and bringing those responsible to justice.
JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain), calling upon all parties to commend success stories and analyse remaining challenges, appealed to all political stakeholders to redouble their efforts. Expressing support for the work of the Tribunal, he said its decisions would bring a positive climate to the country. Welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application to join the European Union, he said it was a positive sign and now the country must carry out its reform agenda. Regional stability depended on the stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, calling upon all parties to engage in a constructive dialogue.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) supported Bosnia and Herzegovina as it pursued reforms with a view to closer European Union integration, noting those actions would enable all citizens to benefit from economic growth and stronger institutions. Encouraging the international community to support the reforms, she urged all political actors not to step backwards into divisive politics. The wounds of the past had yet to fully heal. Divisive rhetoric and talk of referendums did nothing to move the country forward. Judicial decisions should be respected, with the judiciary free to operate with independence. While the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina was in the hands of its citizens, the international community, including the Security Council, had a responsibility to encourage and support it.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said that more headway needed to be made in the months ahead. His country was alarmed by reports of incidents that could threaten interethnic relations and exasperate tensions. Uruguay welcomed ratification of a demarcation treaty between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and hoped that the former would continue on a course of positive developments. The presence of the European Union multinational task force was a guarantee of stability and it was essential for all actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina to cooperate with the Office of the High Representative until the end of its mandate.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that Bosnia and Herzegovina continued its path towards national reconciliation despite existing challenges. He acknowledged that the authorities of Republika Srpska had not taken further steps to hold a referendum. All parties must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Describing counter-terrorism as one of the continuing challenges, he underscored the need for cooperation among the authorities. Among other things, he welcomed the decision by the European Union to continue its military mission in the country for an additional 12 months.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) noted that the report of the High Representative was far from being objective. Given the existing problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he suggested that the Representative be respectful to all opinions. Further, he said, pushing a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) topic was unnecessary. Among other things, he stressed that the lack of reference to terrorism in the report was concerning. The efforts of competent bodies and entities in countering terrorism must be fully supported. Calling upon the High Representative to distance himself from personal feelings and be objective, he underscored the need to respect the implementation of the Peace Agreement and engage in constructive dialogue. In addition, the budget and capacity of the High Representative’s Office should be reduced. “Bosnians should be able to reach an agreement without an intervention from outside,” he said.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan), noting his country’s membership on the steering board of the Peace Implementation Council, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was at an important juncture. His State was seriously concerned by the decision of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska to hold a referendum that would be in breach of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Although the President of Republika Srpska had stated that the referendum had been put aside, the National Assembly’s decision had not been repealed, he said, urging all political leaders in the country to refrain from divisive rhetoric. The application for European Union membership would be an opportunity to further advance reforms. Noting that Japan contributed 10 per cent of the budget of the Office of the High Representative, he reassured the High Representative of his country’s strong support and wished him every success so that conditions for the closure of the Office could be fulfilled at an early date.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), Council President for May, speaking in his national capacity, expressed concern that a number of serious challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not being seriously addressed. Failure to do so could undermine the achievements made under the Dayton Peace Agreement. Divisive rhetoric and calls in favour of the succession of Republika Srpska threatened the political process and might also have a spillover effect over the entire Balkans region. It was important to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as build good-neighbourly relations through constructive dialogue and enhanced regional cooperation. Mobilizing international efforts would help the country make an economic leap that would in turn create an internal environment conducive to stability. He also reaffirmed full support to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina in fighting terrorism and violent radical religious rhetoric, as well as to correct religious misconceptions.
MILOŠ VUKAŠINOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), noting his country’s application to join the European Union, said it would continue to implement reforms, improve the economy, and strengthen the rule of law and good governance. Special attention was being paid to strengthening cooperation with other countries in the region. His State was putting into place a national strategy for processing war crimes, regardless of national or religious origin of the perpetrators or victims. In line with its amended penal code, it was processing individuals who had been involved in fighting on behalf of terrorist and paramilitary organizations, as well as those who had facilitated the recruitment of terrorist fighters.
Judicial and security institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina were implementing a strategy to prevent and combat terrorism that included de-radicalization activities, he said. With support from the Union, it had introduced a regional initiative to establish a database of individuals who constituted a security threat, as well as a regional network to prevent arms smuggling. Although his country had not come under pressure from migrant flows through the Balkans, its institutions had taken measures in case of a massive influx of refugees. Thanking international partners for their support, he said that his State had come a long way from being a “security consumer” to becoming a police and military contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, speaking on behalf of the delegation of the European Union, said that the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been a central driver in overcoming challenges on the ground and mobilizing citizens and their elected representatives behind necessary political and socioeconomic reforms. His delegation welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership into the Union as a broad and unequivocal expression of the country’s commitment and engagement towards the wider European Union path. At the same time, his delegation would continue, with its international partners, to invest in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s reforms as a basis for building greater domestic stability and creating a foundation for future prosperity for all its citizens.
He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina, in collaboration with the Union and its international partners, had developed, agreed and implemented the most comprehensive socioeconomic reforms that the country had seen in its recent history. Such efforts would require a serious commitment and readiness to make difficult political decisions to overcome a long legacy of underinvestment, burdensome administrative difficulties and a lack of structural reforms. The Union would continue to use all available instruments to support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stability and progress and called on officials in the country to meet all outstanding objectives and conditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said his delegation attached great importance to the territorial integrity, stability and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was an important European country that deserved a secure and prosperous future. Croatia welcomed and fully supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s submission for European Union membership last February. The new European Union approach had so far proven effective, having injected new energy into the country’s reform agenda, including efforts to advance economic and social reforms.
Noting that the territorial integrity, stability and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and unified country were of paramount importance to Croatia, he was deeply troubled by continued secessionist rhetoric, ideas and actions coming from Republika Srpska. His delegation was concerned that Republika Srpska’s political leadership could once again pursue divisive agendas in the context of the October municipal elections. On accountability and reconciliation, Croatia noted the long-awaited verdict in the case against Radovan Karadžić, although despite his conviction, much more would be needed to achieve genuine reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond.
MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said his country was firmly committed to preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that creating a path towards greater development would allow the people of the country to enjoy a better way of life. Through regional integration, effective administration, as well as infrastructure and economic development, Bosnia and Herzegovina could progress towards a brighter future. Although there had been a number of divergent views and opinions recently expressed across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia considered them to be internal issues best addressed by agreements among political actors within the existing legal system of the country, in an atmosphere of constructiveness and mutual respect.
He said that Serbia was ready to continue working not only on maintaining, but also on promoting the achievements made in cooperation with the central Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it considered to be an important link to bring about a stable and prosperous Western Balkans and South-East Europe. Serbia welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s official request for admission into the European Union. Further, Serbia was committed to promoting stronger economic cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and noted that the level of cooperation and trade had continued to rise year after year.