Bosnia and Herzegovina

Forty-fifth report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (S/2014/314)

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The present report covers the period from 21 October 2013 to 21 April 2014.
Regrettably the downward trajectory the country has been on during the last eight years has continued during the reporting period. Political leaders continued to fail to advance on a broad range of issues including those which are conditions for Bosnia and Herzegovina to move towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Despite the commendable and exhaustive efforts of senior European Union officials, political leaders failed to reach an agreement on the Sejdic-Finci case, key to opening the way for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership in the European Union and for demonstrating the equality of all citizens under the law. As a result, the discrimination cited in the Sejdic-Finci case against a sizeable group of citizens remains. Similarly, there was no concrete progress on resolving the status of military property, a necessary step to allow for the activation of the country’s NATO membership action plan. Despite some good economic news in regard to increases in exports of 6.6 per cent in 2013, there was a significant drop in direct foreign investment and unemployment remained high, indicating the bleak economic conditions under which many citizens continue to live.

Early in February demonstrations broke out in several major cities in the country over citizens’ frustration with the socioeconomic situation, corruption and elected politicians in general. Regrettably, those demonstrations turned violent over two days, but thankfully did not result in loss of life and continued peacefully from that point on. During the violence, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency building was attacked and suffered minor damage. Continuing problems in coordination between police agencies at different levels were also evident. The international community has been supportive of the right to demonstrate while also making clear that violence is not acceptable. While the demonstrations were first and foremost a call for elected officials and political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to change their approach, especially on corrupt patronage networks that underpin the public sector, they should also serve as a signal to the international community that our current approach needs to be recalibrated if we are to effectively support irreversible progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Direct-democracy citizen groups calling themselves “plenums” followed from the protests in the Federation and the Brcko District, in which interested citizens were given an opportunity to articulate grievances, and these were redacted into a set of concrete demands put to local authorities. Those demands have included calls for resignations of local governments, reductions in salaries and benefits for elected officials, audits of dubious privatizations and various socioeconomic reforms. In four cantons in the Federation, local governments accepted the calls by plenums that they resign. This new form of civic engagement is a welcome development in terms of holding governments to account and encouraging the political class in the country to refocus their energies on serving the interests of citizens, but it must now continue as active engagement in the run-up to and participation in general elections in October 2014 if it is to have a lasting effect.

From the point of view of my mandate to uphold the civilian aspects of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, the marked increase during the reporting period of statements by officials of Republika Srpska challenging the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country is a significant concern. The frequency and directness of those statements increased significantly following recent events in Ukraine, and they have included almost daily advocacy for a future referendum in Republika Srpska on secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular by the President of Republika Srpska. Under the authority vested in me, I have made clear that the General Framework Agreement does not provide the entities the right to secede.

In the complex environment that currently prevails in the country, the presence of the European Union military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina with an executive mandate remains of vital importance, enabling my Office and others in the international community to fulfil our respective mandates.