Statement by Stephen Hickey, Political Counsellor at the UK Mission to the United Nations, at the Security Council Debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Thank you Mr President. And thank you, Dr Inzko, for your report and for your briefing just now. You have the United Kingdom’s full and continuous support.
I want to begin by warmly welcoming the unanimous adoption of resolution 2384 this morning and I pay tribute to you, Mr President and your delegation, for your excellent efforts as penholder.
This adoption is a welcome show of this Council’s continued support for the vital work of Operation Althea and a clear sign of our commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stability, security and territorial integrity.
It’s a commitment that we now look to the Bosnian authorities to match. They must do so in word and deed as they undertake the vital reforms necessary to bring about the social and economic renewal that the country needs and that is so essential for Bosnia’s future within the European Union.
Bosnia made good progress towards this goal in 2016, and the delivery of the EU questionnaire in December was recognition of this. However, the promise and potential of 2016 has not materialised this year. Instead, 2017 has seen the pace of reform slowing markedly and divisive rhetoric and premature electioneering only increasing. It is these negative trends that are now dominating the political landscape, despite the elections being over 10 months away.
When this sort of narrow-minded, divisive electioneering takes hold, nobody gains. All Bosnians lose out. We need only look to the tens of millions of dollars in IMF funding currently on hold. Bosnia has failed to fulfil its responsibilities which would release this funding.
This money could be used to make considerable progress on the reform path. This is money that would transform Bosnia for the better, building roads and other vital infrastructure that would benefit all.
So let us all encourage the Bosnian authorities to re-focus on the reform agenda, to deliver socio-economic reforms which will improve the lives of their citizens. Divisive, backwards looking rhetoric only distracts from this essential work and will only slow the country’s progress.
As a longstanding friend of Bosnia, the UK calls on all the parties to stop looking to the past and instead look forward to a shared future. If they do so, they will have the UK’s support and we stand ready to work with the authorities to make progress on these critically important issues.
As the High Representative said just now, a crucial element of this effort must be promoting and upholding the rule of law including through a well-functioning, independent judiciary.
We call on all political and judicial leaders to avoid actions which undermine the standards of judicial impartiality and integrity.
Ahead of next year’s elections we also urge all parties to approach the issue of electoral reform through dialogue, and to show willingness to reach a compromise. The authorities must work towards the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgements; no one should be excluded from political office at any level of government based on their ethnicity or residence.
And let me reiterate today the need for the Bosnian authorities to find a resolution to the longstanding impasse around local elections in Mostar. It is absolutely extraordinary that the citizens of Mostar have now been denied their democratic rights for nearly a decade. This cannot continue and Mostar must remain a single, coherent, multi-ethnic unit of local self-government.
Before I give up the floor, let me express the UK’s support for reform, not just as a means of generating prosperity for Bosnia, but also as a means of ensuring security for the country through Euro-Atlantic integration. In order to make progress towards that goal, it is vital that Bosnia undertakes further efforts on registering defence property, needed for the activation of the NATO Membership Action Plan, and for progress on the 5+2 agenda.
But until that agenda is completed, we remain committed to the continuing role of the High Representative and his office. The OHR remains the final authority in theatre regarding the civilian implementation of the Peace Agreement. This includes supporting the use of Bonn Powers if the situation requires.
So both Operation Althea and the High Representative have a vital role to play in Bosnia and Herzegovina until stability and security are firmly entrenched. That day is not yet here. So it is essential that this Council continues our support for both until that moment arrives.