Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnian leaders must 'seize this moment' for reforms, UN envoy says

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With reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina blocked for over a year and agreements with the European Union (EU) on the table, the country's leaders must "seize this moment" for progress, the United Nations envoy to the country told the Security Council today.

"It is time for the Bosnian leaders to step up to the plate," Christian Schwarz-Schilling, High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement, told the 15-member body, noting that local ownership of reform was producing insufficient progress in the areas of police, constitutional issues and reconciliation.

"That does not mean that the ownership path is wrong - but it is a warning we should not ignore," Mr. Schwarz-Schilling said, stressing that Bosnian authorities must live up to their responsibilities to govern their own country, but also that "serious long-term international engagement must continue."

He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina has an historic window of opportunity to move closer to Europe, now that the EU has approved the text of a Stabilization and Association Agreement.

"The Agreement is ripe to be initialled - but political conditions must be met," he said, calling for leaders to overcome their differences on show real unity for that purpose.

On the matter of police reform, he said party leaders came close to a compromise on two recent occasions, but were stalled by a lack of political will and vision.

In the area of reconciliation, he said the fact that war crimes suspects like Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadžic remained at large was still an impediment to stability in the region and urged Serbia to carry out its obligations to help bring them to justice.

Within Bosnia and Herzegovina, in addition, Mr. Schwarz-Schilling said that there has recently been "ruthless" political manipulation of the issue of the 1995 Srebrenica massacres. To improve the situation in that area, he said he had appointed former United States Ambassador Clifford Bond to coordinate action by local authorities.

Concrete improvements in regard to Srebrenica, he said, involved justice and law enforcement doing their work, rights of returnees being upheld and livelihoods and social conditions restored in the region.

In addition, he urged the UN to establish an international Day of Srebrenica to commemorate the tragedy and to pay respect to the victims of genocide and their families.

While calling for stepped up reform in the areas of the economy, public information, public media and education, Mr. Schwarz-Schilling also noted that there had been much progress in the country.

Such progress includes achievements in regional cooperation, the long-standing issue of police certification and the successful holding of last October's election. Though the subsequent government formation was a long and frustrating process, he said it was carried out by the Bosnian politicians without international intervention.

"Such are the painful learning experiences that accompany the lessons of ownership," he commented.

Adnan Terzic, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with the representatives from other interested countries, also spoke during the Council's open meeting.