SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON SITUATION IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA BY HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF DAYTON ACCORDS20000509
Progress in the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords was as slow and painful as ever -- but it was working, Wolfgang Petritsch, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the Security Council this morning.
The remedy his Office was administering -- adherence to the principle of multi-ethnicity and the reversal of wartime ethnic cleansing, together with insistence on real political and economic reform -- was the right one, he said. If Bosnia and Herzegovina was to have any hope of a secure future, the economy must become self-sustaining -- and fast. A secure economic future was far more important to ordinary citizens than the diet of ethnic separatism that was still being fed to them by the nationalist parties.
The Governments urgent task, he said, was to create an enabling environment so that investors could invest without going through a maze of bureaucracy. The recent municipal elections had shown that political pluralism was a sure sign that democracy in the country was maturing. While the nationalist parties were still strong, their grip was weakening.
Four-and-a-half years after the war, some 800,000 people were still internally displaced throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a further 300,000 were refugees abroad, he said. Their return was the number one means of normalizing Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There was some way to go before the international community could be confident of long-term stability in Bosnia, said the representative of the United Kingdom. Institutional reform must be accompanied by economic restructuring and progress on human rights. The Parliamentary Assemblys failure to pass the Election Law was an example of a broader problem -- a tendency by the collective Bosnian leadership to duck the really difficult issues. It must be made clear to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina that they faced a serious economic downturn if structural reform was not implemented.
Malaysia's representative said that the return of refugees and displaced persons, reconciliation among ethnic groups and economic reform were among the main outstanding problems to be addressed. All of that required the continued active support of the international community. Ultimately, the main responsibility for national reconciliation remained with the Bosnian leaders and
Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6854 4136th Meeting (AM) 9 May 2000
the people themselves. The return of minorities was an important ingredient for lasting peace in that country, but the rate of return was still below expectations.
A number of delegations expressed regret that some of the specific commitments made by the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the New York Declaration of last November were still to be fulfilled, particularly the establishment of a permanent secretariat of the presidency, the adoption of a draft permanent election law and the creation of a single national passport.
Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Bangladesh, Netherlands, France, Tunisia, Russian Federation, Canada, United States, Ukraine, Namibia, Mali, Argentina, Jamaica and China.
The meeting, which began at 11:28 a.m., adjourned at 1:35 p.m.
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6854 4136th Meeting (AM) 9 May 2000
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by the High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch.
Before the Council was a report of the High Representative on the activities of his Office, transmitted to the President of the Security Council by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a 4 May letter (document S/2000/376).
The report notes the slow progress made in the consolidation of efficient State institutions; agreement on steps that Bosnia and Herzegovina must take to bring it closer to European integration; and progress achieved with ownership and development of civil society. It also welcomes the increase in the number of minority returns and improvements in the position of moderates in local elections, and expresses the disappointment of the High Representative that the authorities continue to resist economic change.
The report states that the years since the signing of the Dayton-Paris Peace Accords have largely failed to overcome the ruling political parties' opposing visions of the State. State institutions, with the notable exception of the Council of Ministers, continued to meet regularly but failed to take significant decisions or adopt legislation at a satisfactory pace. Delayed contributions by the entities that finance almost the whole of the State budget also undermine the functioning of State institutions.
The results of parliamentary and presidential elections in Croatia, while promising, were too recent to have had more than limited effects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the report. The High Representative expected that the new Croatian Governments moderating influence on Bosnian-Croat politics would show significant results only in the medium term.
The joint working group of the Office of the High Representative and representatives of the Council of Ministers, established to review a wide variety of governmental institutions that existed in the pre-Dayton period, was meeting regularly. Through the process, the Office of the High Representative was promoting the effective structure and functioning of numerous essential services, within the context of a proper distribution of competencies among the State and the entities.
On the state of the economy, the report highlights substantial growth in foreign reserves, the release of Stand-by Arrangement funds by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the introduction of a new foreign investment promotion strategy and a trade agreement with the European Union that would allow Bosnia and Herzegovina trade preferences.
On issues related to the rule of law and judicial reform, the report indicates that the goal of creating an independent and impartial judiciary has been advanced considerably by the completion of laws regulating the selection and dismissal of judges and prosecutors. The Office of the High Representative continued to promote the establishment of a nationwide structure for judicial training. It had also organized and/or participated in a variety of seminars, round tables and training sessions for judges, prosecutors and human rights officers throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The High Representative states that since his last report, improvements had continued in the implementation of the decisions of the Human Rights Chamber and recommendations of the Ombudsman. There had been an impartial and rigorous criminal investigation demanded by the Security Council and the Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the events surrounding the Mostar incident of 10 February 1997. The report of the investigation had been transferred to the local prosecutor for action.
The High Representative had substantially amended property laws in the Republika Srpska and the Federation, according to the report, which also states that implementation of laws was being monitored throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Office of the High Representative continued to support the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Council of Europe, the World Bank, the European Union and others in their ongoing efforts to reform the education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina at all levels. The public was being sensitized about its primary interest in and responsibility for education matters.
Development of the capacity of civil society, through non-governmental organizations, to address human rights issues and to ensure the sustainability of human rights activities, also continued. The return of minorities took place in much greater numbers during 1999 than in 1998, according to the report. The estimate of actual returns for the year was 80,000 to 90,000, compared with 35,000 to 40,000 in 1998. Many of those returns were spontaneous and in defiance of political obstruction, the report observes.
As pointed out in his last report, the High Representative reiterates that the return of the displaced within Bosnia and Herzegovina remained inextricably linked to refugee movements elsewhere in the Balkans, and particularly Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The momentum associated with the newly elected Government in Croatia and the Regional Return Initiative launched by the Stability Pact would finally lead to progress on the issue, the report adds.
There remained an urgent need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to establish a State Level Security Policy if it wished to move towards membership of Europe- Atlantic structures, achieve stability and encourage investment, the report states. In 1999, a 15 per cent reduction of the Entity Armed Forces was achieved. Bosnia and Herzegovina had announced its intention to proceed with a further 15 per cent reduction this year. It had also agreed to send observers on United Nations missions. The report further states that to achieve the aim of removing all mines in Bosnia and Herzegovina within a reasonable period, donor support would have to be maintained. A strategic adviser was currently being recruited, the report states, adding that the advisers role would be to reassure donors that their contributions were being used efficiently to combat corruption and provide the demining programme with a high level of integrity.
Introduction of Report
WOLFGANG PETRITSCH, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that broadly speaking progress in the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords was as slow and painful as ever -- but it was working. It was more important than ever that the international community should stick to the task. It was vital that successes be consolidated. His Office was now deep in preparation for the Brussels Peace Implementation Council on 23 May -- the first since the Madrid session of December 1998.
In the past, he said, Peace Implementation Council meetings had tended to take something of a scatter-gun approach to the problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This years meeting would be different, he said. Time was running out for international engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Donor fatigue had set in. The $5.1 billion, and four-year reconstruction aid package pledged after Dayton was now all spoken for. The Stabilization Force (SFOR) had this spring reduced troop numbers by nearly a third, he said.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was still far too dependent on international aid, which in turn, was steadily diminishing. If the country was to have any hope of a secure future, he said the economy must become self-sustaining -- and fast. Last year in the Republika Srpska -- still by far the poorer entity of the two -- the average monthly salary still languished at 216 Konvertible Marks , or $100 a month.
Jobs -- and a secure economic future -- were increasingly important issues for the ordinary citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was of far more concern to them than the diet of ethnic separatism that was still being fed to them by the nationalist parties. Economic reform was one of the most potent weapons in the fight to reverse the evil effects of the 1992-1995 war.
What was needed was investment, both domestic and foreign. Bosnia and Herzegovinas industry was still geared to the old command economy model. The Governments urgent task was to create an enabling environment so that investors could invest without going through a maze of bureaucracy. Most of all, he said, there was need to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises, for which the countrys workforce was well-suited.
He said the present system stifled enterprise. The worst example of socialist-era bureaucracy was the so-called payment bureaus, through which all commercial and public bank transfers had to pass, and which levied a substantial sum along the way. The payment bureaus were totally non-transparent, and had a suffocating effect on business of all sizes. They were also a cash cow for the nationalist parties, which exploited the system remorselessly. Consequently, he said it had been agreed to abolish the payment bureaus in the course of the year.
The lack of a reliable banking system was another important obstacle to private investment, closely connected to the payment bureaus system. There were currently over 50 banks but none of them could play the intermediary role necessary in a market economy. Many public-sector banks might be on the verge of bankruptcy, he said.
The numerous private banks were too small to provide the working capital necessary to kick-start enterprise. Overhauling the banking sector should encourage the participation of foreign banks, and thus the necessary injection of capital. Another key to modernizing the economy was privatization, he said, adding that the process was well under way.
He then turned to the issue of the acceleration of the refugee return process, thanking the United Nations and its agencies for their continued, sterling work, in particular through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The issue was highly emotive. Four-and-a-half years after the war, some 800,000 people were still internally displaced throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. A further 300,000 were still refugees abroad. Facilitating their return was the number one means of normalizing Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Last fall, he said, he had taken two important steps designed to accelerate the return of refugees. A package of reforms to the legislation governing property return in the two entities was imposed. The second measure was the countrywide dismissal of 22 public officials who had a proven track record of obstructionism, particularly of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords governing refugee return. Those measures were beginning to bear fruit. So far, there had been more than twice as many returns as there were in the same period in 1999.
With regard to the consolidation of common institutions, he said that if Bosnia and Herzegovina was ever to join the European family, it must become a cohesive State, with central State structures that exercised real power. That included a fully independent judiciary, without which long-term economic development and effective protection of individual liberties would be impossible. His Office was actively promoting the rule of law at the state and entity levels.
He recalled that the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina had made a declaration before the Security Council pledging itself to the establishment of a State Border Service. But the presidency had failed the test. The bickering began the moment they got home, he said, adding that he had to impose the State Border Service himself. The efforts of the three-member presidency to resolve the crisis concerning the State Council of Ministers had been slightly more encouraging, he said. The new law on the Council of Ministers followed the old patterns of ethnic parity and rotation. It remained to be seen whether the law would stand the test of the Constitutional Court. The leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina were still far from ready to take the responsibility that they should for their country, he said.
Recent municipal elections had shown that political pluralism was a sure sign that democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina was maturing. It was also a sign that the voters were beginning to think for themselves, and about how politicians who sought to represent them would uphold their interests. He said that while the nationalist parties were still strong, their grip was weakening. Reform of the media carried out by his Office, the professionalization of the police and insistence on economic reform were all steadily eroding their sources of power.
He sensed that the tide had already turned against the forces of nationalism in the Balkans. The defeat of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in Croatia earlier in the year was convincing proof. Slobodan Milosevic was increasingly isolated in Belgrade. The tide was turning too in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, adding that it must be pushed on.
The Dayton Peace Accords were working. The remedy his Office was administering -- adherence to the principle of multi-ethnicity and the reversal of wartime ethnic cleansing, together with insistence on real political and economic reform -- was the right one. The remedy could work elsewhere too -- in Kososvo, for example. The Secretary-Generals Special Representative there, Bernard Kouchner, should not be discouraged: success in establishing peace, as had been learned the hard way in Bosnia and Herzegovina, took a great deal of time.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that Mr. Petritschs presentation was full of implications not only for Bosnia and Herzegovina but for the whole region. The appearance of the Joint Presidency before the Council last November, and the reaffirmation in the New York Declaration of commitment to the Dayton Accords were significant steps. He was dismayed that the High Representative had found the implementation of the Declaration disappointing. The chief reason appeared to be a lack of sufficient political will and motivation.
It was true that the pace of implementation of the Dayton Accords needed to be accelerated, he said. Much of the success of such efforts would depend on the seriousness of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Compliance and active participation by all authorities in the country would to a large extent determine how much political influence the international community would exert, and how keen their involvement would be in the reconstruction efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The High Representatives Office had already taken laudable initiatives in drafting laws on restitution, various privatization schemes, investigation and prosecuting corruption cases, privatization and reform in the banking sector, he said. He was satisfied that continued improvements had been seen in implementation of decisions of the Human Rights Chamber and recommendations of the Ombudsman. He urged the entities, which were still slow in implementing recent decisions by those bodies, to redouble their efforts for compliance.
ALPHONS HAMER (Netherlands) expressed concern at the unproductive attitude which prevailed at the level of the presidency. That same lack of commitment was manifested in the economic field. Political dividing lines were maintained to uphold economic interests. The return of refugees was essential for sustaining peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and remained a litmus test for the peace process. The return of all refugees and displaced persons should be given the highest priority by all officials at all levels.
He assured Mr. Petritsch that his country subscribed fully to the three priorities he had mentioned. Also, he agreed that economic reform was the most potent weapon for peace, stability and growth in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The impoverished people of that country had realized that their leaders held their own interests closer to heart than the interests of their people.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said that time was of the essence. International assistance could not remain at current levels. The local protagonists must be encouraged to shoulder their responsibilities. Dialogue must be forcibly maintained with the authorities in the key areas highlighted by the High Representative. Perhaps in the drafting of upcoming reports, he could focus on the analysis of specific topics of concern. The return of refugees would become more difficult in coming years. The municipal elections recently held had increased pluralism in Bosnian political life, and he hoped that would be strengthened in the future. The adoption of a standing electoral law would be important in that regard.
In the economic sphere, he said that much remained to be done to institute reform. More importance must be given to establishing a common economic sphere, and privatization must resume. The High Representative must play a catalyzing role in that area. Reform of the economy must include promotion of foreign investment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, a Border Service must be established. He asked the High Representative whether he thought that the upcoming fall elections would progressively make it possible to allow a new generation of politicians to come to power. In the longer term, after such an election, it must be asked what could be done to reinforce cohesiveness in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
OTHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said that the reports of the Secretary-General and the High Representative had referred to tangible achievements in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Progress there was slow but certain, despite the obstructionism and delays still standing in the way of total implementation of the Peace Agreement.
He said the two reports elicited the following remarks: the municipal elections of last April took place without major incidents. That was a source of satisfaction. In Tunisia's view, the significant advances made by a multi-ethnic party suggested that the country was moving in the direction of a multi-ethnic society.
He commended the new measures taken, which included restructuring the police force and the creation of an inter-entity ministerial body. Those important reforms would tend to modify the ethnic composition of the police force and favour better ethnic integration all around. He noted, however, that despite the encouraging progress, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained precarious. The question of the return of refugees and displaced persons, as well as the pervasive insecurity, were worrisome factors which necessitated a firm commitment by the international community.
He said the support of the international financial institutions was essential for implementation of the Dayton Accords. There was no better way to lasting peace than economic development, he said.
GENNADI M. GATILOV (Russia Federation) said that the briefing by the High Representative represented a fairly objective evaluation of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He agreed with the High Representatives assertion that the country should finally get back on its feet. Despite the number of achievements registered today, he said there were still problems. No major breakthrough had occurred in the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords.
Despite the positive results of the municipal elections, there were still some problems. The nationalist parties still dominated political life which continued to be based along ethnic lines.
Russia hoped for the full realization of efforts to encourage the return of refugees. He said economic development had been held hostage to corruption. He commended the Office of the High Representative on the progress achieved.
He noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina was still governed as a protectorate of the international community. Ultimately, Bosnians themselves would have to realize that democratic structures had to be developed and the rights of all respected. The proper level of cooperation of all entities must be secured for progress in finding solutions to the countrys problems.
Russia would continue to support the efforts being made to achieve progress on the basis of the Dayton Peace Accords.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said that there was some way to go before the international community could be confident of long-term stability in Bosnia. Institutional reform must be accompanied by economic restructuring and progress on human rights. The Parliamentary Assemblys failure to pass the Election Law was an example of a broader problem - a tendency by the collective Bosnian leadership to duck the really difficult problems. He was also concerned that Serb obstructionism in the Constitutional Court and on the Constituent Peoples Decision was restricting options. He asked for the High Representatives views on how that issue could be tackled.
Secondly, he continued, there were serious challenges on the economic front. Although the economy had registered stronger than expected rates of growth, serious underlying weaknesses remained. It must be made clear to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina that they faced a serious economic downturn if structural reform was not implemented. Again, that would require difficult and sometimes courageous decisions by the Bosnian leadership.
Thirdly, progress must be made in dealing with the inheritance of war, he said. He welcomed the arrest of Momcilo Krajisnik, which sent a clear message that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia indictees would be held to account. He also welcomed the increased pace of minority refugee return this year, and hoped that the new Government in Croatia would have a positive effect on regional refugee return. At the same time, he remained concerned by continued intimidation of independent media by established Bosnian political parties. Senior Bosnian political leaders should take concrete steps to fulfil their responsibilities in that regard.
MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said that the High Representative had just arrived straight from Ottawa, where he had extremely informative and constructive meetings with the Canadian Ministers of both Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as two Parliamentary Committees. Given the busy day, Mr. Petritsch had spent with Canadians yesterday, and knowing that there had been a useful and comprehensive exchange of views, it was not necessary for Canada to articulate to him its views on his important work in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He assured him of Canadas full support for his efforts towards a self-sustaining peace in that country.
He added that Mr. Petritschs focus on economic reform, refugee returns and the consolidation of State institutions struck the Canadian delegation as an entirely appropriate way to address the key challenges to the international communitys efforts. The High Representative had described a paradoxical political situation. Therefore, what could the High Representative and the international community do to address that paradox and to ensure that ethnic issues would not be focused on during the upcoming elections?
JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said the results of the municipal elections reflected a positive trend in the country. He commended the High Representative for his strong leadership. The High Representative should continue to draw on the authority given to him by his Office to carry out his work.
However, despite the progress achieved in the implementation of the commitments in the declaration made by the presidency, more needed to be done. The important commitments made must be respected. He welcomed the progress in economic reform and the return of refugees. He urged the strengthening of police institutions. He applauded the High Representative for his efforts to enforce economic reform.
The positive results of the municipal elections should help those efforts. The comment by the High Representative that the tide had turned against the forces of nationalism in the Balkans was a crucial point, he said. It sent a clear message to extreme nationalists and to underground elements that the international community would not tolerate their undermining of the progress being achieved in the region.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that while implementation of the Dayton Accords continued to be slow, it was working. He congratulated Bosnia and Herzegovina on holding its second municipal election without any major obstructions and with over 66 per cent voter participation -- a blow to extremists. The writing on the wall was clear to the nationalist groups. The maturing of the political process in the country would have far-reaching implications for the whole region. The success of the peace process depended on the continued strong support of the international community and the commitment of the Bosnian leadership and people.
The return of refugees and displaced persons, reconciliation among ethnic groups and economic reform were among the main outstanding problems to be addressed, he said. All of that required the continued active support of the international community. Ultimately, the main responsibility for national reconciliation remained with the Bosnian leaders and the people themselves. Clearly a fully-functioning modern economy and the consolidation of its institutions were crucial. The return of minorities was an important ingredient for lasting peace in that country, but the rate of return was still below expectations.
The New York Declaration was a landmark document and the road map for further progress in the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he added. Despite the recognized importance of a State Border Service, legislation in that regard was not passed in Parliament and had to be imposed by the High Representative. He reiterated the importance his country attached to the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a crucial and integral part of the reconciliation process in that country.
VALERI KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said his delegation appreciated the activities of the High Representative and his Office over the period under review. It had taken note of a number of positive steps achieved in the last six months in almost all areas of implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords. It was satisfied with the successful holding of the second municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina last month.
Ukraine was also satisfied with the report on the increasing use of the Konvertible Mark and growth of foreign reserves, progress with the implementation of the "ownership" concept and the increase in the number of minority returnees. It also commended the promotion of comprehensive judicial reform and the establishment of judicial training.
He expressed regret that some of the specific commitments made by the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the New York Declaration of last November were still to be fulfilled, particularly the establishment of a permanent secretariat of the presidency, the adoption of a draft permanent election and the creation of a single national passport.
Despite the existing problems in implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton/Paris Peace Accords, he said that in Ukraine's view, the overall current situation seemed to be promising rather than discouraging. Slowly, but hopefully, and with the help of the international community, the country was moving forward to a better future.
He posed a number of questions for the High Representative: Could he elaborate on the delays in claimants getting confirmation on their property rights? How would the Office of the High Representative enforce the property laws? What steps was the Office taking to eliminate discrimination against national minorities and returnees in social and economic rights? Finally, what was the High Representative's view on the prospects for the establishment of the unified armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
SELMA ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) said that against the backdrop of the many positive developments, she expressed concern in line with the High Representative with respect to little tangible progress on privatization programmes. Also of concern was the lack of political will from the leadership, especially the legislators in the Upper House of Parliament, to get things done. Further, she was concerned over the application and practice of human rights and humanitarian law in the country. She shared the same frustration as Mr. Petritsch on the slow pace at which those issues were being considered by the leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In that context, she hoped that the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes and regions would provide the necessary momentum for the leaders of both entities to implement the Property Law throughout the country. She also hoped that the implementation of the Stability Pact would help speed up the economic recovery and as a result create employment opportunities for the people.
Notwithstanding the problems involved in the fulfilment of the Dayton Accords, she said that one could not but recognize the fact that the authority in both entities had no meaningful alternative other than to cooperate with the Office of the High Representative and the international community in their quest for a comprehensive peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
CHEICKNA KEITA (Mali) said that the Dayton Peace Accords, despite difficulties, provided a real chance for progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There was need for political will to find solutions to the country's problems. He said the reform of the police and the creation of a judicial process were positive developments.
The authorities of the country must tackle economic reform. He urged United Nations agencies to establish programmes for economic development and encouragement of return of refugees. His delegation supported the strategies identified by the High Representative for the reconstruction of the country.
ANA MARIA MOGLIA (Argentina) said there was no doubt that since the signing of the Dayton Accords, progress had been made in many areas, largely due to pressure applied by the international community. She agreed with the view that the New York Declaration had not yet been fully implemented. The issue of the single passport and the State Border Service law were examples of such non- implementation. Among the advances mentioned in the report was the municipal election held in April. The participation of 66 per cent of the electorate was extremely important, in light of calls by some groups for a boycott of the elections. The fact that municipal officials had been elected was an important development.
As for the rule of law and judicial reform, she was encouraged by the considerable progress made in establishing an independent judicial branch and efforts to do away with corruption. Economic reforms were crucial to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina would become a self-sustainable State. With regard to the difficulties faced by returnees to Croatia, she asked whether there had been any progress since the new Government in Zagreb came to power?
M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said that while her delegation appreciated the positive developments that had taken place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, much needed to be done. The report of the High Representative indicated that his Office was faced with difficult challenges. Success was contingent on the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and their leaders, as well as the support of the international community.
The Dayton Peace Accords must be respected, she said. Implementation of the New York Declaration of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina was central to the process under way in the country. She noted some of the efforts that had been made, but added that regrettably progress had been limited. Her delegation was pleased about the second municipal elections, which took place last month, and said they should have a positive impact. She welcomed another positive development in the creation of the judicial systems, noting that training was important and must be one of the pillars of judicial reform.
The creation of judicial systems and restructuring of the police force were linked, she said, and must work in tandem. She hoped lack of funding would not delay programmes on missing persons. Her delegation was concerned about reports of obstruction of return of minorities. It was also concerned about unemployment and lack of education and hoped the issues would be dealt with. Her delegation expressed appreciation on hearing about capacity-building being undertaken by the Office of the High Representative.
WANG YINGFAN (China), the Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that since the end of last year, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina had developed progressively. The overall economic reconstruction had also met with some success, which was in part attributable to the support given by the international community. The building of national institutions had been moving slowly, as was national reconciliation. The efforts of the international community should be more focused on the realities in the country in order to assist the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to realize their independence.
Responding to comments and questions, Mr. PETRITSCH first addressed the suggestion by France regarding the format of reporting to the Council. He said that the report was complemented by his own presentation before the Council. It was a pertinent suggestion, which he would look into. It was in the process of streamlining the agenda that he had adopted three priority areas. Responding to a further question by the French delegation, he said that detaching the economy from political influence and establishing an attractive investment climate were among the achievements sought. Privatization must be done in a transparent manner. What was needed was a system where economic regulations were in place, for example with regard to bank supervision and tax reform.
On prospects for the fall election, he said that he was expecting further progress with regard to people realizing how important the "bread and butter issues" of daily life were. He was also expecting that a new generation of politicians would enter politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There was concrete hope for fresh blood being injected into Bosnian politics.
Regarding the reinforcement of cohesiveness in politics, it was necessary to look at issues such as reconciliation which would add to the cohesiveness of society. Another contribution to cohesiveness would be the arrest of criminals and a harder push for education reform. The development of a core curriculum had been launched to ensure that the nature of multi-ethnicity was represented in school texts. The return of refugees was also adding to cohesiveness. Furthermore, economic growth would contribute to a more prosperous country and make people realize that they had a stake in that prosperity. Another key factor was tolerance.
In regard to the question on the election law, that issue would be revisited in an effort to get the State Parliament to take it on again. The fall elections would not be held under the terms of that new proposed election law. Rather it would be conducted according to the provisional rules and regulations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). There was support for voters to move away from nationalism. Elections were important and needed to be exploited in order to point out to people that change was possible.
Also, he continued, economic reform was being emphasized. People wanted jobs and opportunities for themselves and their children. The international community must ally itself with the people and insist that leaders take responsibility for economic reform. It was also important for the international community to maintain conditionality. In addition, public diplomacy could be supportive. Some programmes had been initiated to encourage domestic journalism to be more forthcoming in telling stories as they were. Investigative journalism and the independence of the media had to be stressed.
Turning to the questions posed by Ukraine on military reform, he said that the prospect of uniform armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a long-term perspective. Factually, the armed forces in the country still consisted of three groups, and it was necessary to consolidate them. Human security also needed to be stressed. In that gradual process, the Standing Committee on Military Matters was playing a key role. It was also necessary to reduce military spending.
He said that property laws had been implemented last year. In addition, their implementation was being actively pursued this year. While some progress had been seen, there were still some obstructions. He was prepared to remove officials involved in those obstructions. There were over 100 housing offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were helping to facilitate the return of refugees.
On the prevention of social and economic discrimination of returnees, he said that he was pursuing a policy of full enforcement of related laws. In fact, he had recently removed a local minister for his refusal to apply laws equally. On social and economic rights, work was being done to assess pensions, secure employment and eliminate minority discrimination and discrimination against returnees.
Finally, he addressed the laws on asylum and immigration passed last November. Bosnia and Herzegovina, basically a contributor to immigration, had taken in refugees from Kosovo during the past year. He was now in the process of getting the country closer to accession to the Council of Europe. He was confident that the three basic conditions set two years ago would be met in the course of the next two months. That accession would be a very important step for European integration for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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