7943rd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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SIX OFFICIAL 18-May-2017 02:09:13
Divisive rhetoric could derail political gains and path to European Union integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina, high representative warns Security Council at 7943rd meeting.
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While Bosnia and Herzegovina was largely stable and had made considerable political strides, its continued progress must not be taken for granted, the top United Nations official in the country warned the Security Council today, while expressing concern over a number of divisive trends that risked reopening the Federation’s “wounds of the past”.

Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, declared: “It cannot be assumed that [the Federation] is on a glide path to a peaceful, viable State irreversibly on course for European integration.” Indeed, he said, while Bosnia and Herzegovina — which marks its twenty-fifth anniversary as a United Nations Member State this month — had taken the early steps towards joining the European Union, a number of serious challenges remained.

Among those, he said, were intensified calls by some Croat politicians for the country’s “federalization”, which had been understood by some to imply its further ethnic division. In addition, he drew attention to a recent request by Serb political leaders for a review of the International Court of Justice’s landmark 2007 ruling in Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia — which had considered whether the 1995 massacre of 8,000 people in Srebrenica had constituted genocide — as well as “ostentatious celebrations” and efforts by Republika Srpska authorities to hold an unconstitutional referendum on 9 January.

Pointing out that the United States’ imposition of financial sanctions had effectively reduced secessionist calls by those authorities, he said Republika Srpska’s call for “independent status” nevertheless remained part of its official platform. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rule of law situation had also continued to deteriorate, he added, urging the Federation’s authorities to use the period leading up to its 2018 elections to prove to voters that they were able to look past divisive issues and deliver meaningful reforms.

Following that briefing, a number of Security Council members welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s significant progress, including its recently completed Strategic Defence Assessment and the signing of a protocol that provides for technical adjustments to the Federation’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union in order to prevent disruption of Bosnia-Croatia bilateral trade.

However, several speakers also voiced concern that the recent uptick in divisive rhetoric — described by the High Representative and detailed in his fifty-first report on the implementation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 1995 Peace Agreement (document S/2017/379) — could jeopardize the country’s social cohesion, rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, or even return it to the “dark days” of the past.

The United Kingdom’s representative, in that regard, expressed concern that narrow interests — both personal and political — had set back Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress over the course of the last year. “This backward-looking, divisive politicking has no place in 2017,” he stressed, adding that while the Federation still had a chance to continue down the road towards European Union integration, that path would require its leaders to work together to deliver reforms that would enable it to compete and thrive in the world’s modern economy.

Also addressing the Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative outlined his country’s bolstered efforts to strengthen the rule of law, its introduction of penal code amendments aimed at processing those involved with terrorist groups and its ongoing cooperation with the European Union’s military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina — known as “EUFOR ALTHEA”. He also described the Federation’s considerable economic growth and its implementation of a strategy for migration and asylum for 2016-2020.

Serbia’s representative pledged his country’s commitment to the maintenance of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as to continued dialogue among all parties. Emphasizing the need to avoid such unilateral actions as the recent attempt to institute legally unfounded proceedings to revise the International Court of Justice’s judgement in Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia, he said the Court’s ultimate rejection of that request had confirmed the need for political dialogue to address disagreements and resolve outstanding issues.

Striking a similar tone, the Russian Federation’s representative cautioned against alarming attempts to create consensus among all institutions, noting that the High Representative’s report was one-sided and politicized in its assessments. The report left “a lot to be desired” and presented a biased attitude towards the Serbs for which the High Representative must apologize. He also disagreed with assertions that the 9 January Republika Srpska Day celebrations had resulted in the deterioration of the situation on the ground, and called on the United States to rescind the one-sided sanctions it had imposed on Republika Srpska last year.

Croatia’s representative said the most urgent political question was reforming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s election law, which presented a welcome opportunity to ensure the institutional equality of the three peoples — Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs — as well as a chance to advance towards political stability and a more integrated country. The refusal to implement the Constitutional Court’s decision on reforming the election law jeopardized the Federation’s fragile stability, leaving open the space for further political manipulations, he warned.

Other delegates also emphasized Bosnia and Herzegovina’s relative fragility, noting that despite progress the Federation’s security had yet to be “fully entrenched”. A number of speakers called for continued support for EUFOR ALTHEA, recommending that the Force’s mandate be extended when the Council took up the issue in November. In that vein, the European Union’s representative said the bloc would continue to use all available instruments to support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stability, adding that EUFOR ALTHEA retained the capability to support the authorities’ deterrence capacity if the situation so required.

Also speaking were the representatives of Kazakhstan, United States, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, Bolivia, France, Senegal, China, Ethiopia, Japan, Egypt and Uruguay.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:16 p.m.
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