13 November 2012Statement by Ambassador Michael Tatham of the UK Mission to the UN, to the Security Council meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina
I would like to join everyone in welcoming High Representative Valentin Inzko back to the Council and to thank him for his report. As always, it is a detailed report documenting objectively but also starkly the range of serious ongoing challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United Kingdom would like to express its gratitude to the High Representative for his ongoing commitment to the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords against such a challenging political backdrop.
The United Kingdom shares the concern of the High Representative over the current political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2012 has been a year of contrasts. The optimism in the early part of the year, with the formation of the Council of Ministers and the passing of key legislation, was replaced by a return to political inertia. Serious disagreements within the governing coalition after only four months stalled progress on the country’s EU and NATO paths, and frustrated progress towards delivering the “5 plus 2” conditionality necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative.
This lack of progress is a symptom of a wider political reality in which Bosnia and Herzegovina’s elected leaders are unwilling to put the needs of the country and its citizens above their own narrow interests. Political inertia is now in danger of becoming established practice and we urge the country’s leaders to focus on the reforms necessary to deliver a better future for its citizens. It is the foremost responsibility of democratically-elected politicians to govern in a way which promotes the interests and welfare of the population they represent. This is a responsibility which is being neglected by the political leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Progress on the EU path and entrenching fiscal sustainability will require a commitment to reform and functionality which has so far been absent. Last month’s local elections were a stark reminder of the continued dominance of nationalist politics. But with local elections now over, there is a period of opportunity that the political leaders must seize.
In this regard we share the High Representative’s concern, and that expressed by many Representatives around this table, over the intensification of nationalistic rhetoric and challenges to the state. During the recent election campaign, and even before it, Republika Srpska authorities increased the intensity and frequency of their attacks on state-level institutions and sought to undermine the functionality of the government. For anyone who doubts the seriousness of these challenges to the Dayton framework, I recommend they read carefully some of the footnotes to the High Representative’s report which catalogue a range of public statements which I trust that all around this table would find completely unacceptable in the way in which they seek to undermine the principles of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Such an approach will only obstruct the reform process and offer no benefit to any section of the population.
Let me emphasise once more the position of the British Government quoted by the High Representative in his Intervention earlier in this session. Bosnia and Herzegovina will only join the European Union as a single sovereign state.
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 help their own citizens towards this positive future.
This is a future which the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve no less than the populations of the other countries in the region, including those which have been making good progress in recent years towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The political leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to transform its current approach and to focus with energy and commitment on the reforms that will carry the country down the path towards eventual EU and NATO membership. This, rather than the protracted power struggles amongst the leaderships of the various Bosnian political parties, represents the way forward for the country.
We strongly support the role of the EU Special Representative and EU Head of Delegation, Peter Sorensen, who is doing an excellent job in placing EU accession at the forefront of the country’s political agenda. We also commend the collaborative working relationship forged between him and High Representative Inzko. Moving forward, the EUSR’s role will be vital in re-energising the EU’s approach in country.
While we understand some of the difficulties in reaching agreement on essential reforms, it is clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina has fallen further behind its neighbours on the path towards EU accession and we urge the political leaders to focus on swift implementation of the Road Map they agreed with the European Commission in June. Only then can it move forward with its Stabilisation and Association Agreement and consider submitting a credible membership application.
The political situation is also having a negative impact on economic confidence, and we share the High Representative’s concerns over growth, high unemployment and the accompanying social problems. This has been compounded by endemic corruption at all levels of government and local officials must take determined action to eliminate corruption in all its manifestations.
It is because of these underlying political challenges and risks to stability that the United Kingdom supports the High Representative’s assessments that EUFOR Althea continues to play a central role in efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment; and that it remains a vital factor of stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. International safeguards remain essential, alongside a reinforced EU presence. We therefore welcome the agreement reached at the October EU Foreign Affairs Council to continue to fulfil EUFOR’s executive mandate and look forward to the UN Security Council agreeing a renewed mandate for EUFOR shortly.
Thank you, Mr President