Bosnia and Herzegovina

Statement by

H.E. Dr. Dragan Covic

Chairman of the Presidency Of Bosnia and Herzegovina

General Assembly 58th, Session General Debate

United Nations, New York September 29th 2003.

Check against delivery

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary General,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure and honor to address the 58. General Assembly of the United Nations. On the outset, allow me Mr. President to extend my sincere congratulations on your election and to wish you every success in presiding over this year's session.

Even though we entered the new Millennium with a clear determination for a better future, sharing the vision of global solidarity and common safety, which we expressed in the Millennium Declaration, we are witnessing more and more tragic events that occur almost on a daily basis. A tragedy that happened on the 19th August in Baghdad is forcing us to reconsider the true accomplishments and values of today's civilization, and to think over the mutual relations of poverty, development, self-sustainability, respect for human rights and quest for true progress carved in the UN Charter.

Fully aware of all the global challenges that lay in our path, we must ready ourselves for a long and exhausting struggle, step by step and one at the time, for reduction of poverty, development of undeveloped, against the evil of terrorism and organized crime, against the proliferation of the Weapons of Mass Destruction, regardless of where the battle should take place.

The World is yet again faced with new challenges. United Nations have yet again to make crucial decisions in response to them. Poverty, weapons proliferation and AIDS are amongst the most destabilising factors at the international scene. So is the terrorism. I am therefore sincerely convinced that this year's debate on all these issues, especially on the issue of terrorism, will clear the way towards the consensus of the State Parties about the concrete measures to be undertaken, thus investing the new power into United Nations, so much needed in order to conquer the threats to the international peace, health, stability and collective security.

Allow me to take this opportunity and underline the importance of the dialogue in resolving the most important issues of today. The dialogue is essential, it is most required, and, goes without saying, is only possible among those that are ready for it. Dialogue based on mutual respect represents a key instrument for the improvement of relations and cooperation among peoples and countries; it is a fundamental condition for successful outcome of negotiations and approach to different attitudes in order to achieve acceptable solutions. We in Bosnia and Herzegovina have learned the hard way the value of the dialogue - just take a look at our recent past when the lack of dialogue led us into misunderstandings, conflicts and hostilities that resulted in tragic loss of human lives, exodus of the youth and devastation of the economy that spanned over the past decade, and was not only witnessed but required active involvement of the entire international community in order to overcome.

Mr. President,

I cannot but feel proud that I am addressing you today as a Head of State of Bosnia and Herzegovina that is no longer in the focus of international community as the crisis area, but has become a state that actively participates in stabilisation processes in the region and throughout the World. From Central Eastern European Initiative, to South East Europe Cooperation Process, to United Nations Peace Keeping Operations - Bosnia and Herzegovina is paying its tribute to the regional, European and World peace and prosperity. At the same time, committed to reforms, we strive to create presumptions for overcoming consequences of recent conflicts, devoted to the respect of all the human rights of individual citizens, the peoples, as well as their cultural, religious and other diversities.

I would like to point out that the priority of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina is to advance political and economic stability of the country and to improve its role at the international level through the implementation of defined reforms. I am convinced that we in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in partnership-like cooperation with the High Representative and other representatives of the UN and international institutions, will find the best solutions for implementation of the reforms and the most adequate legal solutions for realisation of faster economic development of the country and creation of real chances for BiH integration into the European Union.

In the process of BiH accession to European integration, we have just completed discussions with the European Commission, within the framework of the Feasibility Study. Working on the EC's tasks has been a positive experience in building the partnership with the International Community. We are now entering the new phase with full confidence, convinced that the initiated process would result in final fulfillment of conditions and the membership in the European Union. This comes as a result of the decision of the BiH authorities to take destiny in their own hands and to respond to major challenges such as: fight against organised crime and corruption, strengthening of the institutions, conducting legal system reforms, implementation of structural reforms and reduction of the unemployment rate.

Mr. President,

We are committed to walk the road of defined strategy of success in order to overcome as soon as possible the difficult heritage from the past and to start building, with mutual understanding, a modern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only that way, we may pass to the future generations the message of peace and development of the world, based on mutual understanding and tolerance.

This year Bosnia and Herzegovina took over the chairmanship of the Southeast European Cooperation Process. We are content with the positive steps taken, both in stabilisation and overall development of the Balkan region and integration of the Western Balkans into the Euro-Atlantic structures. I am pleased that mutually harmonised agreements and joint priorities are being fully supported by the European Union, the Stability Pact, as well as by many friendly countries in the world and international financial and other organisations. All the more so in view of the fact that the countries of the region confirm their readiness and commitments to mutual cooperation and building of good neighbourly and regional relations.

I must stress out the fact that there are still many open issues and uncompleted tasks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am convinced that Bosnia and Herzegovina will succeed in the process of strengthening of joint institutions and in the process of establishing the strong legal framework. We are committed to fulfil all the international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly those related to cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, participation in the World's fight against organised crime, respect of human rights, return of refugees and displaced persons, full implementation of the property laws and return of property to the rightful owners.

For us, the absolute priority is fight against terrorism and organised crime, and, on the international level, we are of the view that the UN and the Security Council should play the leading role in that fight. Together with other countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina intends to actively tackle this issue, which represents a threat to the whole civilised World. Fully committed to this fight, we in BiH, with the assistance of the UNMIBH that has successfully completed its mission last year in December, have established one of the most modern State Border Services. In addition to that, we have improved the legal framework and we are fighting actively against trafficking of women and children, this modern form of slavery. Our efforts have been recently recognized by the USA Government and as result we have been moved to the category B.

The issue of missing persons is particularly sensitive and difficult for Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have to make additional efforts, with the assistance of the International Community, to at least give the opportunity to the grieving families to find out the whereabouts of their loved ones, what happened to them, where were they buried, to identify their remains and lay them to rest with dignity.

Mr. President,

Allow me to point out that Bosnia and Herzegovina is now much better place for business than it was a year ago - due to the completed reforms, this year in particular. I would like to mention the example of the Bulldozer Committee that redrafted 50 laws and regulations that were discouraging private initiative and suffocating sense for business. Having created the more favourable legal framework and business environment, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a better place for investment opportunities and employment.

Nevertheless, we must not lay back; we must further accelerate the process of economic reforms. Continuation of privatisation process and further reforms of judicial system are of utmost importance for creating the more secure business environment in order to open the country to direct foreign investments.

We are in process of re-arranging and simplifying the tax system through establishment of single custom system and Value Added Tax, thus eliminating the corruption and white-collar crime. In order to encourage the whole process of creation of investment­friendly environment in BiH, in February 2004 we will be hosting the International Investment Conference in Mostar, where we will present the new economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Furthermore, particularly during recent days, we are finalizing the reforms of the armed forces and State Intelligence Service, having realized that modern security system is a pre-condition for full participation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the common security arrangements through membership in Partnership for Peace and NATO.

At this moment we attach paramount importance to reforms and modernisation of educational system in BiH. It is our firm belief that, by observing the individual, as well as collective right to get education in one's own language and alphabet, we will enhance the mutual dialogue and tolerance, in order to preserve the multicultural society of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For the next year we also plan to finalize the reconstruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar, where we are planning once again to celebrate the reunion of both banks and people. This is our way of sending a global message to civilizations: this bridge is built of versatile cultural materials, it is an alloy of various traditions, it is a paradigm of a solution that is possible and evident despite the conflicts and differences of the World. I hereby invite you to use this opportunity and make this bridge a symbol of unity for the next year.

Mr. President,

Elections in BiH were held almost a year ago. This time, the international community fully supported the election results. The International Community expressed its readiness to support democratic processes in BiH and we, the elected authorities, have made our choice: through reforms to a modern BiH.

We are committed to take the ownership, to bare more responsibilities. Over the sixteen months in his office, the High Representative imposed twice as many laws in the first eight months than he did in the second. We are pleased to note the trend of reduction of imposed laws in this year, but our ultimate goal is Bosnia and Herzegovina as a member of European Union. Bosnia and Herzegovina with its destiny in the hands of its own citizens, on its road of no return towards European integrations, and on that road with more power in the engine of its own institutions, and less power in the tow truck of the High Representative. And above all, with the Constitution cut out to measure of its peoples and each and every citizen.

Allow me to conclude by looking into the future. We have presented our candidature for the membership of the Security Council for 2010, reaffirming our commitment to build a state which may share its positive experience and participate actively in the World's peace-building, by that time, as we hope, within the system of the reformed and reinvigorated United Nations. We are already participating in the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations in Ethiopia/Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Timor Leste. We are ready to send our Transport Unit, military observers and civilian police officers to Liberia.

By the year 2009, we are planning to fulfil the conditions set forth for the EU membership, fully committed to the development of BiH based on stability, the rule of law, democracy and market economy. We are gradually becoming recognised by the implementation of democratic and economic reforms, with the priorities harmonised with international standards.

For the next year, between 15 and 17 May 2004 in Sarajevo, we are planning to host the Second Inter-governmental Conference of the countries of Europe and Central Asia on Children, together with the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the UNICEF. The Conference is the continuation of regional consultations held in Berlin, in 2001, and the UN General Assembly Special Session devoted to Children, held in 2002 in New York.

Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a sustainable state. Yes, with generous contribution and assistance of the international community, of the UN and its most prominent leading figures, as was Mr. Sergio Viero de Mello, who will be remembered in BiH as the Head of Civil Affairs of the UN Mission, and we remain ever so grateful to those who lent us their hands in the time of need and despair. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is the State well on its way to Europe, with the ambition to create the environment where the return of refugees and displaced persons will not be stopped for political or economic reasons, but will be sped up for the reasons of economic prosperity and sustainability, that we all achieved together.

Thank you!