8248th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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08-May-2018 02:01:25
With election date set, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina tells Security Council of rise in divisive nationalist rhetoric at 8248th meeting.

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With Bosnia and Herzegovina’s general elections scheduled for 7 October, and in light of a worrying uptick in divisive nationalist rhetoric, the international community must remain united and coordinate its efforts to ensure a united, stable and prosperous country, the top international official in the federation told the Security Council this morning.

Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the past six months had seen a worrying escalation in irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric challenging the fundamentals of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Peace Accords. Senior officials from the Republika Srpska were still denying the federation’s statehood and advocating eventual secession, he added, noting also that some Croat officials had mused about “territorial reorganization” and threatened dissolution of the State, while senior Bosniak officials had mooted the possibility of renewed conflict.

With elections on the horizon, he said, time was running out on electoral reforms that must be put in place following a 2017 Constitutional Court decision on indirect elections to the House of Peoples. The deterioration of the rule of law was another concern, he added, noting that prominent elected officials ignored or rejected the decisions of State-level courts while corruption prevailed in the political system. There was a risk that divisiveness and a sense of unease about the future would slowly seep into the fabric of society, in addition to the risk of nationalism and extremism and a growing sense of socioeconomic stagnation.

With the United Nations, among others, well-placed to play a prominent role in promoting reconciliation, there must be a change in the practice of politics within Bosnia and Herzegovina, he emphasized. The international community must use all the tools at its disposal to keep the situation from getting worse and be ready to respond to words and actions that risked further destabilizing the political and security environment.

[The High Representative’s semi-annual briefing to the Council coincided with the announcement by the Central Election Commission in Sarajevo that elections would be held on 7 October for the Croat, Serb and Bosniak members of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, as well as for the lower house of Parliament plus regional leaders and assemblies.]

In the ensuing discussion, speakers echoed the High Representative’s concerns, detailed in his latest report on implementation of the Dayton Accords (document S/2018/416), particularly about the tone of political discourse. They reaffirmed their commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called upon its political leaders to embrace compromise and pursue reforms that would, in due time, lead to European Union membership.

France’s delegate noted that, 20 years after the signing of the Dayton Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina was at a crossroads. The glorification of war criminals and anything that could lead to violence was irresponsible, he added, cautioning leaders against “stirring up the ghosts of the past”. The priority should be to strengthen central institutions and to uphold decisions of the Constitutional Court as soon as possible. Calling on political parties to reform the electoral law, he stressed that “at stake is the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

In similar vein, the representative of the United States, expressing concern over the rise in divisive nationalist rhetoric, called upon all parties to embrace key political, socioeconomic and electoral reforms. Otherwise, it could be hard to form a Government after the October general elections, she warned, sharing the High Representative’s concerns about hypothetical comments about a potential future war. The United States looked forward to a time when it could be said with confidence that Bosnia and Herzegovina had met its Dayton responsibilities and was on course for European integration, she added.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, however, said that the High Representative’s report, besides having been published late, contained an anti-Serb tone. It was full of politicized assessments, citing Republika Srpska as a “culprit” behind the political crisis that had overtaken the federation. Noting that the situation was characterized by a systemic political crisis, he emphasized that the October elections must be free and independent.

Taking the floor after all 15 Council members, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative said his country would keep working to improve in all areas — including reforms, strengthening the rule of law and good governance — and emphasized its unwavering commitment to membership of the European Union. He also underscored intensified efforts to fulfil its international obligations to combat terrorism and violent extremism. He went on to emphasize Bosnia and Herzegovina’s “respectable and fruitful cooperation” with the EUFOR Althea peacekeeping force and expressed readiness to continue working towards a better future.

Croatia’s representative said Bosnia and Herzegovina’s goal of European Union membership required appropriate institutional conditions based on federalism and decentralization as well as legitimate and proportionate representation. With elections fast approaching, electoral reforms were of paramount importance, he said, adding that what Bosnia and Herzegovina needed today was not inflammatory rhetoric, but the wisdom to embrace fundamental principles and political features deeply rooted in its complex history and essential to a prosperous future.

Serbia’s delegate, describing Bosnia and Herzegovina as a crucial and reliable partner on the road to a politically stable and economically dynamic Western Balkans region, said “occasional discordant tones” had created unnecessary problems among the federation’s constituent peoples which had also affected the wider region. Serbia was committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and considered potential differences between entities to be internal questions, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Kuwait, Sweden, China and Poland, as well as the European Union delegation.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:08 p.m.
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