I would like to join others in welcoming High Representative Valentin Inzko back to the Council and to thank him for his comprehensive and objective report. The United Kingdom strongly supports the work of the High Representative and his ongoing commitment to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, against significant political and security challenges.
The United Kingdom shares the High Representative’s deep concern over the ongoing situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country’s development has been brought to a halt by economic and political stagnation. There continues to be no substantive progress towards European Union and NATO membership. And there has been a worrying increase in secessionist rhetoric and civil unrest.
The violence and protests that broke out in February in several major cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and like others we regret that these briefly turned violent, were a clear demonstration of the population’s deep dissatisfaction with the country’s current situation.
This should be a wakeup call for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders and for the international community.
We must now focus on turning this difficult moment into an opportunity for all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This requires a unified international response which sets out a new commitment to a broader agenda in the country. For their part, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders need to engage fully with domestic grievances, in particular those centred around socio-economic issues. This is, as the High Representative has said, the fundamental change in the political dynamics that is so necessary. The political space needs to be filled with the genuine commitment to promoting the interest of Bosnian citizens not with divisive nationalist rhetoric.
We support the High Representative’s view that an engaged and pro-active civil society is vital for the country’s democratic future. Both Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians and the international community should continue to engage with these domestic voices for change. The strong sense of local ownership will be the key to delivering these aspirations for reform.
In this regard, we share the High Representative’s concern regarding the recent increase in divisive rhetoric from politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina, seeking to manipulate the protests into an ethnic issue. Bosnia and Herzegovina leaders should be in no doubt that the international community is unwavering in our commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country.
In this context, we welcome the constructive approach taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s regional neighbours, including the Prime Minister of Serbia’s visit to Sarajevo on 13 May and his clear affirmation of the Dayton Agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity.
The United Kingdom calls on all signatories to the Dayton Agreement to abide by their commitments. It is entirely unacceptable that the authorities in the Republika Srpska failed to cooperate with the office of the High Representative. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders are obliged to cooperate with the High Representative and the international organisations and agencies set out in the Dayton Peace Accords, and provide them with the necessary access to officials, institutions, and documents in order to let them carry out their mandate.
The United Kingdom strongly supports the efforts of the European Union and NATO to help the country make progress on its Euro-Atlantic path, and work towards delivering the “5 plus 2” conditionality which would enable the closure of the Office of the High Representative.
But it is clear that we are not there yet. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders need to demonstrate that they are genuine partners for reform.
The country has a clear route towards EU and NATO membership, which will provide a proven framework for peace, security and regional cooperation. The United Kingdom is fully supportive of this goal and will do everything it can to facilitate progress. But Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders need to work together with their own citizens to create real change and make progress on the country’s Euro-Atlantic future.
In this regard, we strongly support the role of the EU Special Representative Peter Sorenson who has put together a package of measures to drive reform in the country. The United Kingdom endorses these initiatives such as the May Conference on a Compact for Growth. The EU Special Representative will play a vital role in re-energising the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina and we commend his continued close and collaborative working relationship with High Representative Inzko.
We are deeply concerned by the fragility of the political and security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United Kingdom shares the High Representative’s assessment that EUFOR Althea continues to play a central role in supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s own efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment. We will therefore support the retention of this vital asset when its mandate is up for renewal later in the year.
Thank you, Mr President.