As High Representative Warns of Rising Ethnic Tensions, Delegates Urge Action to Prevent Country’s Backward Slide
The Security Council today renewed its authorization of the European-led multinational stabilization force (EUFOR-Althea) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for another year, while urging parties there to proceed with forming a Government and to refrain from any polarizing unconstructive policy, action or rhetoric.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2496 (2019) ahead of a briefing and debate on the same topic, the 15-member Council urged the parties to prioritize the implementation of comprehensive reforms, in line with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stated European perspective. It further urged them to commit to cooperate fully with all institutions involved in the implementation of the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina — known as the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said efforts to build a political coalition and form Government authorities — as reported during his last briefing to the Council — have now failed. The State is without a newly-appointed Council of Ministers, and the Federation is without a new Government. “We must recognize backsliding when it occurs, and in such instances, acknowledge that [the United Nations] mission is not yet complete,” he said, also citing a politically calculated and unnecessary blockade of the Parliamentary Assembly under which no legislation, or a State budget, can be passed.
He recalled that, in May, the European Commission set out key areas in which the country must improve to move towards European Union membership. “This should have been a milestone on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European path,” he said. The country is moving away from the agenda’s implementation, not towards it, and its failure to prioritize anti-corruption efforts is contributing to “brain drain” which has led nearly half of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population to seek opportunities abroad. Voicing concern about negative political rhetoric — such as support for separatist tendencies — he also rejected a trend towards revisionism and outright denialism of past genocides, including the 1994 Srebrenica massacre.
Briefing the Council via video-teleconference from Sarajevo was Selma Korjenić, Head of Programme-Bosnia and Herzegovina for the non-governmental organization TRIAL International. Noting that the group fights impunity for international crimes and supports victims, she said many of the repercussions of the war that ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina 24 years ago are still not being handled in a satisfactory way. That includes bringing war criminals to justice, satisfying the needs of victims and their families and reconciling peoples and communities. Echoing concern about perverse nationalist rhetoric that denies the commission of serious crimes — along with the increased glorification of criminals — she stressed that “three generations have now tasted the poison of hatred”, with very little being done to prevent a recurrence.
As Council members and countries of the region took the floor, several expressed shock over the briefers’ accounts of rising ethnic tensions, inflammatory rhetoric, the denial of war crimes and the glorification of their perpetrators. Some demanded that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders take action to combat those trends, while others called on the Council itself to stop the country’s backward slide.
The representative of Belgium joined several other speakers in welcoming the Council’s unanimous renewal of EUFOR-Althea, which contributes to the goal of a united, multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina and the stability of the region. Voicing his support for that country’s integration into the European Union, he nevertheless expressed concern about its political impasse. “Bosnia and Herzegovina chose the path of Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said, expressing worries about serious deficiencies in respect for the rule of law. Warning that fair, stable and lasting peace will not be possible unless justice is served, he said true reconciliation also requires measures to combat impunity and prosecute war criminals.
The European Union’s delegate, echoing expressions of concern about the lack of a formed Government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the current state of affairs raises questions about the willingness of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders to fulfil the aspirations of their fellow citizens to join the bloc. Urging them to uphold their responsibilities and to refrain from nationalist and provocative rhetoric, he also stressed that historical revisionism and the glorification of war criminals contradicts European values and runs counter to the prospect of European integration.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire underlined his delegation’s concern about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutional deadlock, as well as bellicose rhetoric by some parties and ongoing ethnic tensions. Calling on the country’s leaders to unite around the goal of a diverse, competitive and multi-ethnic nation as part of the European Union, he said institutional reforms will help boost the national economy, create jobs and combat brain drain. “The challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina are not unsurmountable,” he stressed, calling on stakeholders to coordinate in addressing them.
The representative of the Russian Federation, striking a different tone, questioned the accuracy of the information provided by the High Representative. Citing the latter’s chronic bias against Bosnian Serbs and Croats, he warned against finding artificial arguments to maintain the presence of the High Representative’s Office, “which has outlived its use”. Calling on Mr. Inzko to stick to his mandate — instead of lobbying for European Union integration — he pointed out that that process lacks consensus support in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
That country’s own delegate welcomed the extension of EUFOR-Althea’s mandate, while pledging Sarajevo’s commitment to participate in the United Nations and join the European Union. While challenges lie ahead, the country is making progress in socioeconomic reforms and strengthening the rule of law. Also outlining efforts to foster regional cooperation and counter terrorism, he emphasized that his country is increasingly dependent on global economic performance and is working to stem the outflow of young, skilled and educated people.
Also speaking were the representatives of Germany, Peru, Poland, Kuwait, South Africa, Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea, China, France, United States, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Croatia and Serbia.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:16 p.m.
By a unanimous vote, the Council adopted resolution 2496 (2019).
VALENTIN INZKO, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, introducing his latest report (document S/2019/843), recalled that in his last briefing in May he briefed the Council on efforts to build a political coalition and form Government authorities at the State and Federation levels. Those processes have now failed, he said, noting that the State remains without a newly-appointed Council of Ministers and the Federation is without a new Government. The Council of Ministers from the previous mandate continues to function, but is hamstrung by a politically calculated and unnecessary blockade of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly. Under those conditions, no new legislation can be passed — including a new State budget — which has had impacts on the country’s response to such various crises.
He recalled that, in May, the European Commission set out 14 key areas in which Bosnia and Herzegovina must improve to move towards European Union membership — known as the “5+2” agenda. “This should have been a milestone on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European path,” he said. Instead, the ongoing political stalemate continues to hamper the process, and the country is moving away from the agenda’s implementation, not towards it. Noting that Republika Srpska has questioned the authority of the High Representative’s Office and even suggested that they may withdraw from it, he also voiced concern about negative political rhetoric, including support for separatist tendencies and for a territorial rearrangement of the country. Warning against the political militarization of the police forces, he also rejected rising revisionism and outright denialism of past genocides — including the case of Srebrenica. Genocide was indeed perpetrated there, he stressed, emphasizing: “no one can change this fact”.
Calling on the Parliamentary Assembly to introduce legislation addressing genocide denial and the glorification and memorialization of war criminals, he spotlighted that goal as one of his priorities going forward. He recalled that 22 December will mark the tenth anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement in the case of Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which a Roma citizen and a Jewish citizen contested Constitutional provisions mandating that Government positions are reserved exclusively for Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. While the Court obliged Bosnia and Herzegovina to remedy that discrimination, the current leading political parties have failed to take any substantive steps. Outlining other similar cases, he said the rule of law and the fight against corruption should be another top priority, as they contribute to “brain drain” which has led nearly half of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population to seek opportunities abroad.
“In simple terms, people want not only jobs, they also want political stability and justice,” he continued. Calling on politicians to combat Bosnia and Herzegovina’s challenges, he warned that “if they do not, the current trends show that they will likely end up governing a mostly abandoned country”. Leaders must forsake destabilizing, divisive rhetoric rooted in the past and in ethnic identity politics. Also calling for progress on gender equality and freedom of the media, he said it is more important than ever to preserve the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina — known as the Dayton Peace Agreement — as well as the authority granted to the High Representative and the European Union military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR). “We must recognize backsliding when it occurs, and in such instances, acknowledge that our mission is not yet complete,” he said.
SELMA KORJENIĆ, Head of Programme-Bosnia and Herzegovina for TRIAL International, speaking via teleconference, said that her non-governmental organization fights impunity for international crimes and supports victims in pursuit of justice. She said that Bosnia and Herzegovina has beauty and a rich culture but is also profoundly affected by the war that ended 24 years ago, which saw terrible atrocities. Many of the complicated issues that resulted are not being handled in a satisfactory manner, including bringing war criminals to justice, satisfying the needs of victims and their families and reconciling peoples and communities. Regarding judicial procedures, there are concerns that their slow pace will make them unable to meet the 2023 deadline for closing all wartime cases, increasing the suffering of victims.
In addition, she regretted the growth of what she called perverse nationalist rhetoric that denies that serious crimes were even committed by one’s own community, accompanied by increased glorification of criminals in that community. Some of the perpetrators released from prison are now welcomed at political gatherings, elected to political office or honoured with organizations bearing their names. Even fascist organizations do not fear to appear in public anymore. There are no memorials to victims, however, and civilian victims, in particular women survivors of sexual violence, have been fighting unsuccessfully for many years to be heard. In addition, efforts at reconciliation between communities are fundamentally blocked at all political levels, and those who object to national rhetoric face threats. Some schools even rewrite past history, with a new history textbook in Republika Srpska glorifying Radovan Karadžić as a poet. Such retrograde narratives are on the rise, she warned. “Three generations have now tasted the poison of hatred. Very little is done to prevent the same fate happening to the next,” she said.
There is still a glimmer of hope, she said, in the form of work being done by civil society organizations and human rights activists who seek to normalize relations between individuals and communities. Their work has supported victims and made justice processes a little more efficient. Ordinary citizens, in addition, want nothing more than to leave the war behind and look towards a brighter future. But without the support of the State and a comprehensive institutional approach, reconciliation cannot have long-lasting effects. “Without a concerted effort to fight denial of past crimes and to combat nationalistic rhetoric, Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to be a ticking time bomb,” she warned.
She urged the Council to help prevent denial and hate from taking stronger root by engaging with the country on stricter terms, by demanding respect for verdicts rendered by international and local courts and by demanding that denial or justification of crimes be banned. Cautioning also against despair over the country’s future, she stated that civil society instead needs support for initiatives aimed at rebuilding bridges and delivering justice and reconciliation.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, expressed shock over various elements of the briefers’ presentations — especially their accounts of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s denial of past crimes, the glorification of criminals and lack of accountability and reconciliation. Asking the High Representative what concrete steps can be taken to reverse those trends, and to remove discriminatory limitations on who can seek political office in the country, he said something must be done to stop Bosnia and Herzegovina’s backward slide. Among other things, he also asked the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will speak later, to address how the country’s authorities can combat impunity and contribute to the fight against the denial of genocide.
PAUL DUCLOS (Peru) expressed concern over Bosnia and Herzegovina’s lack of progress on the “5+2” European Union agenda. Delays and ground lost in that process are due to a lack of commitment by the political class, and are exacerbated by negative rhetoric. The parties must fulfil their commitments under the Dayton Agreement, he said, calling for respect for State authority at all levels. Republika Srpska must also comply with its obligations on such issues as the transfer of indirect taxes levied. Intuitional strengthening and the fortification of the rule of law, as well as progress on the European Union path, must be based on convergence and common ground. Reiterating the need to create a specialized court and prosecutor’s office to combat corruption, he voiced regret that the judiciary cannot complete its work on war crimes as planned. He also regretted and rejected any rhetoric that fosters hatred or curtails freedom of expression.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, welcomed the adoption of the resolution extending the mandate of EUFOR-Althea for another year and also welcomed the conclusions of the European Council of 14 October confirming readiness to continue the mission’s executive military mandate of maintaining safe environment. Calling on political leaders to proceed with Government formation, she pointed to the progress that Bosnia and Herzegovina has made on the path to European integration, which remains the most unifying objective shared by all political parties. Also, yet to be implemented are the reforms of the electoral law in accordance with the standing rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, she asserted, calling for implementation of the new socioeconomic reforms.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), supporting the High Representative’s role and efforts, said that the adoption of the resolution shows the Council’s continued commitment to stability and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He underlined that the Dayton Peace Agreement is still the framework for further progress and expressed concern over inflammatory rhetoric and divisiveness. Efforts must be redoubled to provide the necessary tools to fight organized crime, corruption and terrorism. He called on all actors to meet all the needs of the “5+2” agenda and to implement all provisions of the Peace Agreement. He also called for respect for the territorial integrity of the country and implementation of all reforms needed for European accession.
MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK (South Africa) called on all parties to recommit to the formation of an inclusive Government without delay and in line with previously agreed commitments. All parties must respect the rule of law and the legal instruments that underpin the political structures in the country. Direct dialogue between parties is critical to resolving outstanding issues. “We call for constructive and open dialogue between all the communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he continued, also emphasizing the importance of continued cooperation between the various Bosnian structures and the High Representative. All parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina must recommit themselves to the full implementation of their obligations under the various peace accords and agreements. Political will and national ownership over this process is essential in making progress towards long‑term peace, stability and reconciliation for all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed regret over Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutional deadlock, as well as bellicose rhetoric by some parties and ongoing ethnic tensions. Such obstacles are undermining the progress made in national reconciliation, he warned, calling on the country’s leaders to unite around the goal of a diverse, competitive and multi-ethnic nation as part of the European Union. Citing several positive examples of reform — which will help boost Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy, create jobs and combat brain drain — he urged parties to work together to create an attractive environment for foreign investment. He also voiced concern over the poor living conditions and negative rhetoric facing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s expanding migrant population, noting that the country has not adequately prepared for their presence. “The challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina are not unsurmountable,” he stressed, calling on the country’s stakeholders to coordinate in addressing them.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, welcomed the Council’s unanimous renewal of EUFOR-Althea — which contributes to the goal of a united, multi-ethnic State and the stability of the region. Voicing his support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration into the European Union, he nevertheless expressed concern over its political impasse. “Bosnia and Herzegovina chose the path of Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said, expressing concern over serious deficiencies in respect for the rule of law. It is urgent to adopt reforms to bolster justice and the independence of the judiciary and to address the infringements on freedom of the press seen in recent months. “Fair, stable and lasting peace is not possible unless justice is served,” he stressed, adding that true reconciliation will only be possible if specific measures are taken to combat impunity and prosecute war criminals, with victims and survivors at the heart of those efforts.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) stressed the need to stop destabilizing rhetoric and statements that can lead to nothing but destruction. “Allegations and rhetoric will only make tensions even more critical and make the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina pay the price,” he added. Expressing support to the High Representative’s view on the necessity to maintain rule of law, particularly regarding the status of many issues of unimplemented court decisions, he said rule of law should be respected so that the basic structure of democracy is maintained and can be further strengthened. Lack of commitment to the rule of law throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed promptly. “The differences in political views and interests should not make people suffer,” he added, calling on parties to respect the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution, existing legislation and integrity of State-level institutions.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), noting some progress in Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed concern, however, at the slow pace of Government formation. He called on the parties to work together to overcome differences and forge a common vision, to strengthen rule of law and continue efforts to end ethnic divisions, crime, corruption and terrorism. Full respect for the independence and territorial integrity of the country is needed. He pledged his country’s support for the work of the High Commissioner and that of EUFOR-Althea.
WU HAITAO (China) expressed hope that all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina can come together to overcome differences, so that the country can focus on economic development. He said that China has always respected Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence and territorial integrity. The international community should heed the views of all parties and assist with capacity-building and economic development. He encouraged the High Representative to implement his role as laid out in the Dayton Peace Agreement and he pledged his country’s continued support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stability and economic development.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) expressed deep concern over the absence of functioning Government institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since it prevents implementation of necessary reforms. She called on all parties to facilitate the functioning of Government institutions. Calling Ms. Korjenić’s statement alarming, she said denial and glorification of crimes that were committed during the war is unacceptable. She asked how the processes of transitional justice and reconciliation could get back on track. Concerned over prospects of European integration, she called for more progress in reforms and described her country’s four-pronged strategy in that regard.
KELLY CRAFT (United States) affirmed her country’s continued commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointing to the necessity of providing the younger generation with hope. She regretted, in that context, divisive narratives and narrowing of economic opportunity. Leaders are needed that put the interests of the people first, she argued. Describing her country’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutions and sustainable development, she objected to glorification of war criminals. Calling for accelerated reforms, she expressed strong support for the Office of the High Commissioner and EUFOR-Althea. She looked forward to harmony between communities, stability and economic growth in the country.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), reiterating his delegation’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty as well as for the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, expressed regret that no progress has been registered on the “5+2” European integration agenda or the ultimate goal of closing the High Representative’s office. Calling on the country’s politicians to exhibit more flexibility and work together, he said all efforts should be geared towards the consolidation of progress already achieved, pushing forward towards European Union membership and tackling organized crime and corruption. “It is time for the political leadership to act in a manner that is open and in favour of unity” and to accept that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a single, sovereign State, he said, recommending action to strengthen the rule of law, promote multilingualism, ensure a free press and protect the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.
VASILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the information provided by the High Representative today does not give an accurate picture of the situation on the ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Citing the High Representative’s chronic bias against the Bosnian Serbs and Croats, he said both Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat political parties remain guided by the Dayton Peace Agreement. Noting that the “5+2” agenda contains a framework for drawing down the Office of the High Representative, he warned against finding artificial arguments to maintain that international presence, “which has outlived its use”. He called on the High Representative to stick to his mandate, pointing out that he is not supposed to be involved in lobbying for European Union integration — a process which lacks consensus support in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He spotlighted shortcomings in the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 and its successor body, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina is now shedding light on serious crimes not addressed by those courts. The Russian Federation is committed to helping Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats resolve their problems together in line with the Dayton Agreement. However, he said, the views of all people must be represented.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), Council President speaking in her national capacity, said that the Office of the High Representative continues to play an essential role, including in regard to the use of the Bonn powers if and when the situation requires. That is because there are some leaders who want to defy the Peace Agreement, she noted, stressing that the accord does not place the entities above the State. As long as some leaders work against that agreement, the Office continues to be necessary, along with the Bonn powers. She supported work to assist victims of sexual violence. Also supporting the reauthorization of EUFOR-Althea, she said that the resolution underscores the country’s European trajectory. Noting laws that codify Euro-Atlantic integration of the country as well as recognition of it by the Council, she underlined that the corpus of all decisions favours supporting such integration. Recalling the intense engagement of the Council during the terrible events during the war, she stressed that the verdicts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia must be respected. She endorsed the need for renewed reconciliation efforts and respect for the rule of law in the country. “You can rely on Euro-Atlantic institutions to continue helping Bosnia and Herzegovina as long as its people want it,” she pledged.
Mr. INZKO, responding to the questions and comments raised, said “there is no magic solution” to the challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, lessons can be learned from other countries. For example, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council must appoint the best people, not “political party people”. Spotlighting good examples of judge vetting processes in neighbouring countries, he pointed out with regret that Bosnia and Herzegovina sent home international judges and prosecutors a decade ago. He drew parallels between that situation and that of his native Austria, where Allied Forces remained present long after the end of the Second World War. Stressing that “there is no place for convicted war criminals in public life”, he emphasized that every citizen holding a Bosnia and Herzegovina passport should be able to hold public office. Regarding the role of women, he said political quotas on paper are insufficient, and must be implemented in practice. Regarding Euro-Atlantic integration, he pointed out that that process was a self-determined goal. While some disagree with it, the process remains codified in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s laws and therefore must be implemented. He agreed that the mandate of his own office should ultimately be terminated, but only after its mission is complete, and warned against repeating the United Nations past mistakes of leaving a country too early.
Ms. KORJENIĆ, also replying to questions posed by Council members, supported all the comments by the High Commissioner and added that “It is critical that the elected political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina create an environment of dignity and mutual respect for everyone, especially for survivors of sexual violence and war crimes.”
SVEN ALKALAJ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), welcoming the Council’s unanimous adoption of the resolution extending the EUFOR-Althea mandate, said his country seeks unequivocally to play a constructive role in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, and aspires to membership in the European Union. While challenges lay ahead on the path to European integration, his country is committed to overcome them and to implement the requisite reforms. He touched on efforts made in achieving that goal, including socioeconomic reforms and strengthening the rule of law. Turning to the war crimes, he reiterated that their effective processing, regardless of the national or religious origin of the perpetrators and victims, is essential for reconciliation and long-term stability. He outlined measures taken to foster regional cooperation, such as the construction of the Sarajevo-Belgrade highway in partnership with Serbia and Turkey.
On countering terrorism and extremism, he said, Bosnia and Herzegovina is fulfilling its regional obligations and is implementing a framework action plan and strategy for preventing and combating terrorism for the period 2015-2020. His country is increasingly dependent on global economic performance, like other countries in the region, and is concerned with stemming the significant outflow of young, skilled and educated people, which can impact future economic development. On the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Bosnia and Herzegovina has commenced a planning, monitoring and evaluation process, which was detailed during the Voluntary National Review presented at the High-Level Political Forum in July 2019. The Government has undertaken comprehensive measures to respond to the significant increase in refugees and migrants entering the country, most of whom had crossed the border illegally, and has undertaken comprehensive measures in response. Noting the country’s continued contribution to international peace and security, he said it currently has approximately 45 personnel serving in United Nations peacekeeping missions worldwide.
SILVIO GONZATO, European Union, echoed expressions of concern about the lack of a formed Government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The state of affairs seriously hinders the implementation of much-needed reforms which would allow the country to move forward on its European Union path, he said, adding that it raises questions about the willingness of political leaders to fulfil the aspirations of their fellow citizens to join the bloc. Calling on political leaders to uphold their responsibilities, he also urged them to refrain from nationalist and provocative rhetoric and stressed that revisionism and the glorification of war criminals contradicts European values and runs counter to the prospect of European integration. Also calling for adherence to European Commission decisions, he underlined the need to strengthen the rule of law — especially the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organized crime, countering radicalization and ensuring the freedom and safety of the press — and warned that no legislative or political steps should be taken which would render the implementation of European Court for Human Rights judgements more challenging.
ANDREJ DOGAN (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said his country supports Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ambition to expedite progress in European and Euro-Atlantic integration, which is the only fruitful path which guarantees security, stability and economic prosperity. Along this path, a series of reforms must be carried out in order to build a truly functioning State; in this context, Croatia has been providing technical assistance and expertise to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia has also supported the submission of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership of the European Union. Croatia — a strong advocate of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty — considers the principle of legitimate political representation to be of crucial importance in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s internal political stability. The migration wave on the Western Balkan route has increased significantly in 2019, he said, stressing that more should be done on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s part to tackle the risks of illegal migration. Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to make enormous efforts and undertake significant political, institutional and economic reforms, he asserted.
MARINA IVANOVIC (Serbia), underlining her country’s undisputed support for Bosnia and Herzegovina as one State with two entities, noted also its support for a speedy formation of institutions in accordance with the results of the October 2018 elections. In that regard, she called for quickly establishing the Council of Ministers without preconditions on the basis of the Constitution. She also called for parties to refrain from destabilizing rhetoric, warning that the “delicate balance” struck by the Dayton Agreement could become unbalanced by one-sided actions. “Dialogue within the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only way to raise the level of confidence,” she said, asserting the importance for the entire region’s stability. She pledged her country’s continuation of maximum and constructive contributions in that regard.
Describing diplomatic visits between her country and Bosnia and Herzegovina recently, she said the two countries have demonstrated their commitment to building and upgrading regional relations based on European and universal values of understanding, compromise and cooperation. She also described growing trade and investment between the two countries under the Central European Free Trade Agreement. In that context, tariffs imposed by Pristina are harmful to both countries, as well as destabilizing, senseless and contrary to all regional processes and commitments. Affirming Serbia’s commitment to a vision of good-neighbourliness with Bosnia and Herzegovina, she expressed her country’s readiness to share its own experiences in negotiations on European accession. She expressed her belief that the negotiating process will not be burdened with the ongoing challenges within the European Union and the Union will keep the question of the Western Balkans high on its agenda.
Mr. HEUSGEN (Germany) recalling that his country had inquired about what can be done to stem glorification of war criminals, asked the representatives of Serbia and Croatia how neighbouring countries could assist the effort.
Ms. IVANOVIC (Serbia) said that for that purpose, crimes should be prosecuted and survivors respected regardless of their community affiliation, in a balanced and impartial way.