New York, 11 November 2010
Statement by H.E. Mr. Nebojša Radmanović, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina
at the UN Security Council Debate
on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Letter dated 8 November 2010 from the Secretary-General addressed to the
President of the Security Council (S/2010/575)
It is an honour to address the Security Council in the debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today’s debate will facilitate a better understanding of the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the progress the country has achieved in this last period.
Since the last report of the Secretary-General was issued (see S/2010/235), many things have occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina that have changed the situation in the country. There are many different opinions and analyses among the political actors and citizens regarding the progress achieved in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Until now, the Presidency has not had a unified position on this issue. Allow me, as the Chairman of the Presidency, to present the view agreed upon with the other two members of the Presidency on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with possible future developments.
Today, it is popular to talk about Bosnia and Herzegovina predominantly in gloomy terms, as was recently done in this Chamber. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the ideal arena in which to test various catastrophe theories. Unlike other, similar regions of the world in which the international community is engaged, Bosnia and Herzegovina on the whole represents a positive example of the peacebuilding efforts of the international community. This is confirmed by numerous reports of relevant international organizations, independent institutions and non-governmental organizations. To be honest, Bosnia and Herzegovina did experience a slight delay in its reform and transition process in the past six months. One reason is that this was an election year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the political entities were focused more on the election campaign and attracting voters than on the real problems of the country.
This year we mark the fifteenth anniversary of the signing the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fifteen years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged from a tragic conflict that had destabilized the country and the entire region. Today, 15 years later, we wonder what and how much we have achieved of all that was signed and agreed. Let me say this: With the combined efforts of the international community and local authorities, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made significant progress in the postwar period, which is a positive example compared to many similar critical areas in the world. It would be difficult to find an example of a peace agreement in modern European or world history that was more rapidly and successfully implemented. Those who are dissatisfied with the pace of progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina are seeking a remedy by challenging the very foundations of the existing Peace Agreement, which will only lead us to new conflicts and disputes.
Since the end of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina has implemented all key elements of the Dayton Peace Agreement. A stable peace has been established; the country has been functioning according to the constitutional grounds set out in the Dayton Peace Agreement; most refugees and displaced persons have recuperated their property and many have returned to their homes.
Consequently, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a success story compared to other territories in the region. Six general parliamentary elections have been held, the last few of which were completely organized by local authorities.
Domestically, a single economic space has emerged. The macroeconomic indicators of the economy are stable, showing a slow but positive upward trend. A value-added tax has been successfully introduced. Reforms of the defence sector and the armed forces have been successfully implemented.
Following the initial arrests of indicted war criminals by international military forces, most of the others have been arrested and extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague by the local authorities. War crimes trials have been processed in the national courts.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has become a member of the Council of Europe and other international organizations, the country joined the NATO Partnership for Peace and became a member of the European Free Trade Association, leading to its signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). The country has fulfilled 174 requirements for a visa-free regime with the EU and a positive decision has already been made.
Reforms are ongoing in public administration, justice, higher education, the public broadcasting system and the harmonization of the Constitution with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
I recall that, as a result of the favourable development of the political and security situation in Bosnia, NATO has reduced its troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its presence to the headquarters in Sarajevo. The European Union Force has also reduced its forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of the apparent progress in achieving a secure and stable environment.
There are differing views in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the role and future status of the Office of the High Representative. The political representatives of one people are of the opinion that the Office of the High Representative should permanently remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the representatives of the others believe that its closure is necessary and that its functions should be transferred to the EU Special Representative. While there may have been reasons after the war for the Office of the High Representative to exist, 15 years later they have been significantly reduced.
The latest report of the European Commission on Bosnia stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot take further steps in the process of European integration until the transition of the Office of the High Representative to the Special Representative of the European Union is complete.
All the changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina must be based on the rule of law. The full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement is therefore imperative.
The Dayton accord is primarily an agreement, not a framework from which one can pick and choose only that which is agreeable while shirking one’s other obligations. In regard to the decisions of the Office of the High Representative amending annex 4 of the Accord, it is clear that legal agreements should be changed only in respect to the way they were adopted, if not otherwise agreed on. Discussions on these issues will therefore continue.
The problem of building a functional State cannot be solved merely by changing the constitutional and legal procedures for promulgating decisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, aimed at greater or lesser centralization or decentralization. This is a simplistic and dangerous solution to the country’s complex and sensitive political problems. In a complex and multi-ethnic country like Bosnia and Herzegovina, such an approach would bring the Government’s legitimacy into question and disturb a region that is still not fully stable.
National reconciliation and trust are basic prerequisites for building a functional State, and that cannot be achieved without prosecuting all war criminals of all nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Hague Tribunal has recognized Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cooperation in this matter, rendering any other comments on it unnecessary.
There has been a lack of understanding of the problem of the return of refugees on the part of local politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, partly, of the international community. In reality, no country in the world has done more for the return of refugees than Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sustainable returns of refugees remain a challenge, and in this area Bosnia and Herzegovina needs the support of the international community. In addition, the international community needs to deal with the fact that within 500 kilometres of the Western Balkans — encompassing Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina — legal standards on the right to return vary, resulting in further injustice for the refugee population.
Every country in the Western Balkans is currently progressing towards the status required for admission to the European Union, and while Bosnia and Herzegovina may lag behind its neighbours, it is not as far behind as some contend.
All of these are reasons for encouraging Bosnia and Herzegovina on its journey towards membership of the European Union, to which it rightfully belongs; towards the rapid transition of the Office of the High Representative; and towards enabling Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to negotiate and act in accordance with their agreements without external pressure. Agreement, understanding, equality and tolerance are the essence of all reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and should be encouraged, commended and approved.