Bosnia and Herzegovina

Security Council Delegates Call for Unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina amid Political Stalemate, Republika Srpska Threats to Withdraw from State Institutions

SC/14886

‘We Will Not Sit Still’ while Others Dismantle 26 Years of Peace, High Representative Declares in Defence of Dayton Accords

The international community must stand firm behind a peaceful, unified Bosnia and Herzegovina, the High Representative for that country told the Security Council today, citing rising tensions, a months-long political stalemate and increasing speculation about the possibility of yet another conflict in Europe.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a country traumatized by war,” said Christian Schmidt, the United Nations High Representative. More than 26 years after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace — known as the Dayton Accords — he said threats to the constitutional order have returned. Citizens are speculating about the possibility of another conflict, and the immediate risk of inflammatory incidents is real. “The conflict in Ukraine, not so far away, is a sobering reminder that even in the twenty-first century, another war on European soil is not an impossibility,” he stressed.

Outlining the main challenges, he said authorities in Republika Srpska — one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two entities, alongside the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina — have increasingly embraced rhetoric and actions that could undermine the constitutional framework, including attempts to render State laws inapplicable. Among other things, this would lead to Republika Srpska’s withdrawal from the country’s unified forces. Emphasizing that constitutional changes cannot be made unilaterally, he said the international community has a responsibility to defend the Dayton Accords and the rights of the country’s three constituent peoples.

Praising Governments that have supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s unity through targeted sanctions and other means, he declared: “We will not sit still while others seek to dismantle 26 years of peace, stability and progress.” Elections are scheduled to take place in October, and despite the lack of agreement on an electoral law, all candidates must conduct themselves with grace and dignity. With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s candidature for membership in the European Union — a path which would help resolve grievances and foster peace — he urged Europe to keep is doors open to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of the Western Balkan nations.

At the meeting’s outset, several delegates expressed their reservations to hearing a briefing by Mr. Schmidt in his capacity as High Representatives, noting that the Council did not authorize his appointment to that position.

Following the briefing, Council members took the floor to outline their national positions, with delegations divided on both Mr. Schmidt’s participation and the appropriate course of action for the international community. Many rejected the use of unilateral sanctions or other outside attempts to influence the country’s trajectory. However, delegates were largely united in their support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and efforts to achieve a brighter future for its people.

The representative of Gabon said the threat by Republika Srpska to withdraw from State institutions demonstrates the scale of the constitutional crisis. The State is regularly hamstrung in its ability to take decisions, and for three years, it has been unable to adopt a budget. Stressing that the Dayton Accords must remain the basis for peaceful coexistence, he added that the State must recognize the rights of all citizens from all groups and allow them to participate on an equal footing in public life.

Norway’s representative, pointing to the limited political progress achieved in Bosnia and Hercegovina, expressed concern that the political crisis could develop into a more serious security situation. She voiced concern about aggressive ethnic rhetoric and called on authorities to both condemn and refrain from hate speech, noting that conditions could worsen due to the impact of the war in Ukraine. She also expressed her country’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to make progress on European integration, known as the “5+2” agenda.

Also expressing support for that agenda was the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer. Urging political leaders to refrain from and renounce provocative and divisive rhetoric and action — including questioning Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity — he urged them to undertake joint efforts to fulfil all 14 priorities identified in the European Commission’s Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for European Union membership, as endorsed by the Council in 2019.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative described the High Representative’s report as an objective account. “Unfortunately […] during the past 10 months, we are witnessing efforts to destroy all that has been achieved through the implementation of the Dayton Agreement,” he said, calling for the international community’s full support. Underlining the need to unblock the work of State institutions, he said that given the geopolitical situation — “when we feel the strong consequences of the aggression on Ukraine” — the European Union should consider responding positively to his country’s request for candidate status.

China’s delegate said that while a profound deadlock and political uncertainty persists, all members of society — including Republika Srpska — have pledged to uphold the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Describing the High Representative system as a relic from another time, he declared: “Picking sides by external forces will not help resolve differences between ethnic groups”. He also warned against the imposition of unilateral sanctions.

The representative of Serbia, meanwhile, acknowledged the political tensions in the Balkan region and highlighted the importance of learning from its common history. Reaffirming respect for the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina — as well as that of Republika Srpska within the country — he stressed the validity of the Dayton Accords and cautioned against any unilateral revisions. All decisions relevant for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future must be taken in agreement between its entities and among the three constituent peoples, he stressed, warning against politicization of painful issues from the past.

Also speaking were representatives of Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, Albania, France, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Russian Federation, India, Ghana, Mexico, United States and Croatia.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:18 p.m.

Briefing

At the meeting’s outset, the representative of the Russian Federation took the floor to stress that his country does not recognize the German citizen Christian Schmidt to be the rightful High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the Council did not authorize his appointment. Indeed, Mr. Schmidt does not have the right to speak on behalf of the international community or to submit any documents, he said, emphasizing that in the Russian Federation’s view, the post of High Representative remains vacant. However, the Council does allow individuals to be heard as briefers in their personal capacity.

The representative of China, echoing those points, said the Security Council’s role in appointing the High Representative is indispensable. As Mr. Schmidt’s appointment was not endorsed by the Council, it is therefore inappropriate for him to brief the Council in that capacity, he said.

CHRISTIAN SCHMIDT, United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2022/369), said threats exist to the constitutional order — emanating from one part of the country — as do severe challenges to its functionality throughout the country. April marked 30 years since the start of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and citizens are now speculating about the possibility of another conflict. “More than 26 years since the singing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a country traumatized by war,” he said, noting that that collective memory casts a long shadow over younger generations, who are regrettably leaving the country in large numbers.

“The conflict in Ukraine, not so far away, is a sobering reminder that even in the twenty-first century, another war on European soil is not an impossibility,” he continued. Warning of the possibility of rising tensions or of inflammatory incidents, he welcomed the continued presence of EUFOR-ALTHEA as an important stabilizing force. Republika Srpska authorities continue to embrace rhetoric and actions that could undermine the constitutional framework, including attempts to render State laws inapplicable, which would mean — at the minimum — its withdrawal from the unified armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The phrase “original Dayton”, often used by Republika Srpska, implies disrespect for the Constitution, he explained, noting that changes to that document cannot be made unilaterally and that Republika Srpska has no right to secede, as such actions would undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity.

Emphasizing that the international community has a responsibility to defend the General Framework Agreement and the rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three constituent peoples, he said there is also an important responsibility to entrench reconciliation and social cohesion in the country. The international community had long advocated for local ownership over the situation. However, facing escalating challenges, he and the ambassadors of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board agreed on the need for a different response. Supported by the Board, he used his executive authority as High Representative to issue decisions as a countermeasure to the illegal and destabilizing actions being taken by the Republika Srpska, he said. Those related to the “Law on Immovable Property Used for the Functioning of Public Authority”, adopted by Republika Srpska in February 2022, which disregarded several final and binding decisions by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitutional Council. Those decisions were not taken lightly and were only taken after every other option was exhausted.

In support of his authority as High Representative, and through targeted sanctions and other means, the international community has also demonstrated it is prepared to take a different approach. “We will not sit still while others seek to dismantle 26 years of peace, stability and progress,” he stressed. Also outlining various forms of dysfunction in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other State institution, he expressed regret that the Federation authorities have not updated existing laws to be in line with the Constitution. There are reports of outright violations of the State property disposal ban and other laws, and no agreement has been reached on the electoral laws — despite much international mediation and attempts to restore voter confidence. Noting that elections are planned for October, he urged all candidates to conduct themselves with grace and dignity.

He went on to stress that the fulfilment of the “5+2” agenda and the European Union’s recommendations would not only help resolve grievances but also foster lasting peace and stability, thereby improving the lives of every citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would also help stem the ever-increasing flow of young people out of the country and provide hope for a brighter future, he said, calling on the European Union to keep its door open to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of the Western Balkans. Describing the country as standing at a crossroads, he added that what happens going forward — and how the international community reacts — will resonate across the wider region for years to come.

Statements

RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said it is disturbing that some Bosnian politicians are taking steps to create parallel legislative and institutional frameworks to undermine the current State institutions, and by doing so jeopardizing the very existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Much remains to be done by Bosnians to achieve full statehood. Expressing regret over the lack of progress on the “5+2 agenda” established by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council, he called on all Bosnian authorities to recommit and work together toward its fulfilment. As free and fair elections are essential to democracy, the lack of progress by Bosnians to reform their electoral legislation, due to political divergences, is disturbing, he said, pointing out that no Government was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the 2018 elections. Expressing concern over the legislative paralysis preventing much-needed State reforms, he said parties must engage in open dialogue and political negotiation with real flexibility to adopt necessary laws. Noting the failure on many levels of government to fully conform legislation with judicial rulings, he called for strengthening the rule of law and urged the Steering Board to consider the views of all its participants and to improve transparency in its decision-making.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said the actions of some Republika Srpska leaders, particularly Milorad Dodik, who threatened to re-establish a Republika Srpska army and to pull out of other State institutions, are dangerous and risk conflict. This could lead to the undoing of 26 years of hard-won peace and progress, she warned, underscoring the importance of the Council’s support for implementing the Dayton Agreement, including the role of the High Representative and EUFOR-ALTHEA. The Council should refrain from undermining or destabilizing the situation and instead promote collaborative and constructive politics. She affirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to remain a member of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board and support the territorial integrity and fundamental structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single, sovereign State comprising two entities. Noting its recent use of sanctions to send a message to those threatening the country’s future, she expressed support for the High Representative’s judicious use of his executive powers. She condemned attempts to undermine the High Representative and close his Office prematurely, noting that such ideas are not motivated by the interests of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina but rather a desire to undermine regional security for geopolitical objectives. She urged all parties to work together, improve the quality of life for all citizens and advance the agreed aim of Euro-Atlantic integration.

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said the threat by Republika Srpska to withdraw from State institutions demonstrates the scale of the constitutional crisis. The State is regularly hamstrung in its ability to take decisions, and for three years, it has been unable to adopt a budget. Community tensions must be resolved within the existing institutional framework, he said, citing a particularly tense regional context. Moreover, the Dayton Accords must continue to be the basis and road map to peaceful coexistence, he stressed, citing the important stabilizing role being played by EUFOR-ALTHEA. An agreement must be reached on electoral reforms in order to hold elections in a fair and peaceful context in October. He added that the State must recognize the rights of all citizens from all groups and allow them to participate on an equal footing in public life.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), reaffirming support for a united and multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina, encouraged all parties to engage to the fullest extent with the High Representative’s Office. Calling on all parties to renounce deeply divisive rhetoric and the glorification of war criminals, she stressed the need to address the impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Although elections have been called for October, the political deadlock and paralysis of State institutions are compounding public frustration. Recalling the country’s significant achievements over the past quarter-century in building public institutions and developing its economy, she said elected representatives must step up the pace of constitutional and electoral reforms to ensure non-discrimination for all citizens, as well as gender equity and the rule of law. Underscoring the importance of the forthcoming State elections and implementation of the Sejdić-Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina case law of the European Court of Human Rights, she said an agreement on these issues would undoubtedly bring the country closer to European Union candidate status.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said Milorad Dodik is trying to transfer competencies from the central Government to Republika Srpska institutions, aiming to undo reforms undertaken over the last 26 years, stop the Euro-Atlantic integration process and open the path for dissolution of the country. Voicing concern over the political rhetoric, denying the Srebrenica genocide, glorifying war criminals and using hate speech with ethnic slurs, he said stoking divisions among ethnic groups for political gain is Mr. Dodik’s “signature”. His repeated public denial of the genocide is central to those efforts — behaviour that was rightly sanctioned, he said, welcoming actions taken by the United States and the United Kingdom against Mr. Dodik’s attempts to undermine the functionality of the State and hard-won peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Noting that a lack of clear perspective on Euro-Atlantic integration creates undue space for harmful interference, he said the Russian Federation is becoming a threat to security, using ethnic and religious tensions to block reforms and derail the Euro-Atlantic integration process.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) called on all leaders to resume the dialogue and compromise for the correct functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutions and European progress. Expressing regret over the lack of agreement on constitutional and electoral reforms, she said France will continue to support efforts to reach compromise on that issue. The lack of agreement on a new electoral framework must not deprive citizens of their right to elect their representatives, she stressed, calling on authorities to ensure the timely organization and financing of elections as planned. Given these worrisome dynamics, an international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains necessary for stability in the country and region. Stressing that no effort will be spared to ensure European stability, particularly in the Balkans, she stressed the importance of reparations for all crimes committed during conflicts, with transitional justice and reconciliation underpinning the foundation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future. As President of the Council of the European Union in the first semester of 2022, France will organize a conference in June on the Western Balkans, with the participation of 27 member States and 6 States of the region, to reaffirm their commitment to European integration and building cooperation, she said.

MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya), affirming that the Dayton Peace Accords are the cornerstone for building peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, urged the High Representative to collaborate with all parties to build trust and prioritize implementation of the “5+2” agenda. Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities must advance these five objectives and conditions and comply with the peace agreement. Reiterating the need to counter divisive rhetoric and hate speech, especially through social media, he stressed the importance of understanding of the grievances driving such speech, as well as the instigators of and outlets used for it, with the aim of addressing its root causes. “Bosnia and Herzegovina will find its own way to democracy,” he said, highlighting the importance of the rule of law and collaboration to allow for the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes of origin. On the matter of the High Representative, any disagreement among Peace Implementation Council Steering Board members must be resolved through consensus and constructive engagement, in line with the peace agreement.

DAI BING (China) said the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina features a profound deadlock and political uncertainty. However, all members of society — including Republika Srpska — have pledged to uphold the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. China also strongly respects those principles, as well as the choice by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s people to determine their own future. Describing the High Representative system as a relic, he said the international community should provide assistance in a way that genuinely supports people. “Picking sides by external forces will not help resolve differences between ethnic groups,” he said, warning against the imposition of unilateral sanctions. Citing the new situation in Europe and effects of the COVID‑19 crisis — which have resulted in food shortages and inflation — he urged the international community to continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) voiced concern over political tensions threatening to exacerbate the political and security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Efforts must be made to prevent the situation from worsening, particularly given the dangerous juncture that Europe is facing as a result of the war in Ukraine. Reaffirming support for the unity and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with international law and the Dayton Agreement, he emphasized the importance of full respect for national institutions. He commended the important role played by the High Representative, which has maintained peace in the country by protecting the political aspects of the Dayton Agreement. Meanwhile, encouraging peaceful coexistence among the various communities and keeping communication channels open between them is essential to achieve sustainable peace. In that context, he condemned any attempts to provoke sectarian and ethnic tensions, spread hate speech, encourage racial incitement or glorify war crimes and their perpetrators.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) expressed concern about growing trends to centralize the multi-ethnic Bosnian State based on the majority of one ethnic group — the Bosniaks — to the detriment of the constitutional rights of the country’s two other groups. That was also evident during discussions on election legislation reform and in the way in which domestic political decisions are taken. Noting that foreign approaches and outside values are being imposed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she said unilateral illegal sanctions against the Bosnian people, pressure, threats and blackmail are becoming ubiquitous, further destabilizing the country. The responsibility for the deteriorating political climate and mass exodus of the population lies with those trying to reshape the Dayton-era Bosnia and Herzegovina “from the outside” to suit their own interests. Warning about the dangerous consequences of such an approach, she called for an end to the experimentation on the independent Bosnian State and its peoples so they can develop independently. Further, the destructive role of the Office of the High Representative is becoming clear. The Office has lost impartiality and propriety and become a tool for imposing decisions of dubious value. Mr. Schmidt is a citizen of Germany, she said, a private individual who does not have the mandate to represent the international community. A frank discussion about how to quickly close the Office is needed, she said.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said the General Framework Agreement for Peace continues to define the structure for finding solutions to inter-ethnic conflict through dialogue based on equality, mutual respect, compromise and consensus. Disagreement over the Office of the High Representative must be resolved through constructive engagement, in line with the Peace Agreement and with expeditious implementation of the “5+2” agenda as the top priority. Voicing concern that recent political developments are undermining progress made over the last 25 years, he called on all sides to engage in dialogue — in a spirit of mutual understanding and empathy towards each other’s positions — to realize the objectives of the Peace Agreement.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) called on all political stakeholders to fulfil the Peace Agreement by committing to peaceful co-existence, avoiding divisive rhetoric and upholding zero tolerance for hate speech. Noting their responsibility to maintain the unity of the country and ensure the functioning of State institutions, he expressed hope that cooperation in the Brčko District can inspire representatives of both entities, as overcoming the mistrust is essential to any effort to address the fiscal needs of State institutions, he added. He encouraged efforts to address all aspects of the “5+2” agenda, including the apportionment of property between the State and other levels of Government, as well as of defence property, and entrenchment of the rule of law. He pressed the High Representative to deepen engagement with the entities, and the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to unify their public messaging and enhance the coherence of their actions. He also called for support to create conditions conducive to the safe return and reintegration of refugees and displaced persons, without discrimination.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), pointing to the limited political progress achieved in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed concern that the political crisis could develop into a more serious security situation. She also expressed concern about aggressive ethnic rhetoric and called on authorities to both condemn and refrain from hate speech, noting that conditions could worsen due to the impact of the war in Ukraine. EUFOR-ALTHEA’s presence is vital and she welcomed the deployment of an additional 500 reserve personnel to the operation, noting that Norway will work with others towards the renewal of a strong mandate in November. She urged the High Representative to engage with authorities and partners to advance accountability for conflict-related sexual violence and calling on Bosnia and Herzegovina to make progress on the “5+2” agenda.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said the last six months have been marked by a near-total paralysis of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutions, as well as the attempt by Republika Srpska to create a parallel legislative and institutional system and to withdraw from national agreements. Those actions are a threat to the State and jeopardize achievements made over the last 25 years, he said, adding that they could also derail the country’s European integration. Noting that the elections will be crucial, he called on both Bosnian and Croat parties to reach an agreement on electoral reforms and voiced hope that all parties will redouble their efforts to resolve their differences. He also noted with concern reports of the justification of war criminals, denials of genocide and war crimes and the downplaying of conclusions by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It is unacceptable that there has been no official condemnation of such rhetoric, and he called for legislation to be enacted to that end.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said Republika Srpska is working to withdraw from the constitutional, legal and institutional order of the State and establish parallel frameworks. These actions are undemocratic, escalatory, not in the spirit or letter of the Dayton Accords and jeopardize the health, prosperity and future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens. It is unfortunate that all ethno-nationalist leaders have chosen to employ corruption, fear and division to stay in power, eroding trust in State institutions from within. Voicing regret over rhetoric by political parties aimed at stoking tensions and distracting from other issues, she welcomed encouraged parties to resolve their differences through dialogue. Now is the time to advance much needed anti-corruption, democratic, economic and rule of law reforms, she added. She welcomed the Central Election Commission’s decision to hold elections on 2 October, urging the immediate allocation of funds to enable their conduct. The basic duty of any credible democracy is to enable their citizens to exercise their right to choose their elected officials, she said. Until the “5+2” agenda is completed, the role of the High Representative in ensuring full implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Accords remains indispensable, she said, expressing regret over some Council members’ attempts to undermine the High Representative’s mandate and to thwart efforts to bring permanent stability and prosperity to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens.

ŠEFIK DŽAFEROVIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, described the High Representative’s report on the situation in his country as an objective account. For over 10 months, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been in a deep political crisis caused by the secessionist threats, blockade of institutions and other actions by Republika Srpska authorities against the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Dayton Peace Agreement. Outlining strides made in the 27 years since the signing of that accord, he said the Council and its resolutions have given clear support to the process of strengthening State institutions and pursuing European integration. “Unfortunately […] during the past 10 months, we are witnessing efforts to destroy all that has been achieved through the implementation of the Dayton Agreement.”

Noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina lacks a fully developed mechanism to prevent secessionist activities in a timely manner, he called for the international community’s full support. It is imperative that the Office of the High Representative, as part of the Dayton Agreement, does its job in accordance with the mandate entrusted to it. Noting that the High Representative has decided to suspend the secessionist State property law, he emphasized that the annulment of all unconstitutional laws is critical to stabilize the situation. It is also critical to unblock the work of State institutions, which have not functioned at all since the summer of 2021, due to the absence of Republika Srpska representatives and lack of a quorum. Given the current geopolitical situation, “when we feel the strong consequences of the aggression on Ukraine”, he urged the European Union to respond positively to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s request for candidate status. He also expressed concern over signals from Serbia that show a disrespect for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and urged the Council to renew EUFOR’s mandate in November.

SILVIO GONZATO, speaking on behalf of the European Union in its capacity as observer, reiterated support for the work of the High Representative to implement the “5+2” agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Expressing regret over the prolonged political crisis — which held back progress on reforms in 2021 — he condemned the blockage of the State institutions and urged all political leaders to refrain from and renounce provocative and divisive rhetoric and action, including questioning Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. “Rhetoric and initiatives aimed at rolling back reforms and withdrawing from State institutions are unacceptable and endanger the country’s alignment with the [European Union],” he said, calling on all leaders to engage in dialogue with the goal of overcoming the stalemate as a matter of priority. They should also undertake joint efforts to fulfil all 14 key priorities identified in the European Commission’s Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for European Union membership, as endorsed by the Council in 2019, he added.

NEMANJA STEVANOVIC (Serbia), stressing that peace and cooperation with neighbours is a foreign policy priority for his country, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a key partner in achieving these goals. Noting the recent political tensions in the Balkans, he highlighted the importance of dialogue and learning from the common history of the region. Reaffirming respect for the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the territorial integrity of Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina, he stressed the validity of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which provides the basis for stability both in that country and the entire region, and cautioned against unilateral revisions of the Agreement. All decisions relevant for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future must be taken in agreement between its entities and among the three constituent peoples, he explained.

While it is impossible to bring back to life all victims of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is vital to restore confidence by condemning all crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice, he added. Equally, it is necessary to avoid politicization of this painful issue and attempts to revise the achieved peace solutions. Serbia does not support possible sanctions against Bosnia and Herzegovina and will focus on strengthening economic, political and cultural cooperation. Highlighting the Open Balkans Initiative as an example of regional cooperation, he voiced support for all efforts to achieve common goals, including the European Union membership. Reaffirming the importance of the Berlin Process [for the future enlargement of the European Union], he said that establishing the Common Regional Market would greatly contribute to stability and security in the Western Balkans.

HRVOJE ĆURIĆ HRVATINIĆ (Croatia) said that in its current form, the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina weakens and delegitimizes State institutions and negatively affects their functioning. To stop that decay of democratic norms and allow for fair participation in the electoral process — and ensure its results are legitimate — changes in the electoral law and limited constitutional reform are urgently required. Moreover, the principles of legitimate representation of constituent peoples and of non-discrimination against citizens in political institutions must be implemented, he said, adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina would benefit from more constitutionalism and less unitarism and separatism.

Voicing concern about the actions of Bosniak political leaders who are openly obstructing electoral reform and who abuse the electoral process for political gains, he called for swift consensus on electoral reform, in accordance with European Court of Human Rights rulings and relevant decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He emphasized Croatia’s commitment to working with Bosnia and Herzegovina in further expanding cooperation, especially in increasingly volatile global trade and market circumstances, financial conditions and supply disturbances. Both countries are implementing infrastructure connectivity projects, he added, reaffirming Croatia’s continued support of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr. SCHMIDT, responding to questions and comments raised, thanked Council members for their support for a peaceful resolution to the challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina. “This country is one with a lot of opportunities,” he said, encouraging all political leaders to work together towards consensus on such critical matters as an electoral law. Efforts must be made to advance national reconciliation rather than simply looking to the past, he said, warning in particular against glorifying war criminals from decades past. He thanked the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and other senior officials for their support in that regard, noting that his next report will feature the important role of women in politics more prominently.

For information media. Not an official record.