Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fifty-eighth report of the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina (S/2020/1052)

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Letter dated 28 October 2020 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council

Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1031 (1995), I have the honour to transmit herewith the fifty-eighth report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, covering the period from 16 April to 15 October 2020, which I received from the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (see annex).

I should be grateful if you could bring the report to the attention of the members of the Security Council.

(Signed) António Guterres

Letter dated 21 October 2020 from the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina addressed to the Secretary-General

Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1031 (1995), in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to submit to it reports from the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with annex 10 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the conclusions of the London Peace Implementation Conference of 8 and 9 December 1995, I transmit herewith the fifty-eighth report of the High Representative. I would kindly request that the report be distributed to the members of the Council for their consideration.

This is my twenty-fourth regular report to the Secretary-General since assuming the post of High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and European Union Special Representative on 26 March 2009. The present report covers the period from 16 April to 15 October 2020.

Should you or any member of the Security Council require any information beyond what is provided in the report, or have any questions regarding its contents, I should be pleased to provide you with that information.

(Signed) Valentin Inzko

High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fifty-eighth report of the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Summary

The present report covers the period from 16 April to 15 October 2020. More than six months have passed since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it has, as elsewhere, become the “new normal”. The authorities in the country have abandoned wholesale lockdown measures and pivoted towards efforts to shore up the economy while also preparing for the local elections to be held on 15 November 2020, coping with virus outbreaks on an ad hoc basis. The pandemic revealed long-standing problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which certain politicians pursued their divisive political agendas at the expense of a unified fight to contain the spread of the virus and its impact on the economy. The crisis again exposes the country’s enormous dependence on international assistance, which highlights the failure of certain nationalist political elites to focus on policies and issues that truly matter to the citizens of the country. In short, the current crisis revealed that the focus by some politicians on making Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of its entities (the Federation) dysfunctional has resulted in the country’s increased economic and material dependence on the international community and contributed to financial, health-related and other vulnerabilities that will have a negative impact on the population.

In October, as part of its 2020 enlargement package and economic investment plan for the Western Balkans, according to which Bosnia and Herzegovina is eligible for European Union assistance, the European Commission delivered its report on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission assessed that the country still had work to accomplish in terms of its ability to meet the obligations of European Union membership, with limited progress in most key reform areas. For the political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who unanimously continue to publicly express support for the country’s membership in the European Union, this assessment should serve as a call to action for them to set aside their differences and enact the reforms necessary to move forward.

On 7 May, the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced that the local elections for 2020 would be held on 4 Oc tober. However, left without the necessary funding for their preparatory activities owing to the dissatisfaction of two political parties, the Republika Srpska-based/Serb-majority Union of Independent Social Democrats and the Federation-based/Croat-majority Croat Democratic Union (HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina), with the election and composition of the Central Election Commission, the Commission was forced to postpone the date to 15 November. During the process of organizing the elections, the Commission has faced numerous politically motivated obstructions by some institutions and/or their principals. It is certain that the COVID-19 pandemic will add an additional layer of difficulty to the holding of the elections. Despite all these challenges, the Commission has been successful in preparing for the elections and trying to reduce risks of election fraud. We support the Commission’s efforts in this regard.

There was movement on at least one key outstanding issue. In June, the leader of the Bosniak-majority Party for Democratic Action, Bakir Izetbegović, and the leader of HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Čović, signed an agreement to amend the Election Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina to enable the holding of local elections in Mostar for the first time since 2008. This landmark achievement after so many years could not have been accomplished without the involvement of the international community. Elections in Mostar will be held on 20 December

With the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace approaching, it is to be hoped that the political parties campaigning in the local elections would use the opportunity to reflect not on the wartime past but on the ensuing 25 years of peace, and offer forward-looking platforms to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unfortunately, we have not seen enough positive developments. The impending political campaign period – which has not even officially begun – is already again characterized by divisive, negative rhetoric that deepens existing divisions and makes reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina increasingly difficult. In this backward-looking political environment, other issues, such as gender equality, are completely sidelined, which is unacceptable for a country aspiring to membership in the European Union.

I am particularly concerned by relations among the political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are increasingly antagonistic and unproductive. Among other issues, there are continued threats of secession, blockages at the State and Federation levels and too much inflexibility on certain positions, none of which contributes to moving the country forward or improving the lives of its citizens.

Highly divergent positions also impede the country’s ability to effectively cope with the security and humanitarian aspects of the increasing inflow of refugees and migrants who enter the country attempting to transit to the European Union. While the Federation in general hosts the largest number of refugees and migrants, the Republika Srpska continues to refuse the establishment of reception centres on its territory and has also actively transported individuals they identify as refugees or migrants to the inter-entity boundary line. The State-level authorities seek the means to return those who have arrived irregularly while still continuing to uphold their obligations under international and national law.

As Bosnia and Herzegovina moves through another election cycle, I must also once again note that the results of the general elections held in October 2018 have still not been fully implemented. A new Federation Government has not been appointed for more than two years, and the Federation Government from the previous mandate is still sitting, along with the previous Federation President and Vice-Presidents; the same is true for governments in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and Canton 10. In addition, the Federation President continues to block the appointment of judges to fill the vacancies on the Federation Constitutional Court.

Election matters will remain a concern after the upcoming local elections as disputes between political parties continue to prevent the implementation of important decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is long overdue. These issues, along with the recommendations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Group of States against Corruption, will continue to dominate discussions between political parties before the next general elections. They will require compromise on matters that highlight the fact that the parties in power have different and often incompatible understandings of the existing Bosnia and Herzegovina constitutional framework, including decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Now more than ever, at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronting a global pandemic while trying to preserve and strengthen its economy, the authorities must live up to their commitments to building a peaceful and viable State that is irreversibly on course for Euro-Atlantic integration.

I am duty-bound to report that, a quarter of a century since the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, there are still some very negative political tendencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina that potentially pose serious risks to peace and stability. After a decade of positive reintegration, the dynamic in the countr y has shifted and political forces are attempting to roll back reforms and progress. As a result, and because they rely on power-sharing structures that provide opportunities to block work and decision-making in key institutions, the State and Federation levels, in particular, are in many aspects dysfunctional. Unfortunately, the current policies have a tendency to abuse positive processes, such as European Union integration, to achieve political goals. Meanwhile, political leaders skilfully manipulate diff erences within the international community, including on such issues as the Office of the High Representative’s role and presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the presence of international judges, in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Pea ce, in the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, both of which are institutions that have legal powers to remedy moves that could endanger peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and/or moves that endanger the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

While the unity of the international community is crucial to positively influencing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such influence is increasingly difficult to achieve in the shifting global and regional political environment. Now, more than ever, it is time to call on the political leaders with a single voice to put aside their differences and focus on uniting to face the common challenges of this moment, in the interests of, as is written in the General Framework Agreement for Peace, “an enduring peace and stability”.