Bosnia and Herzegovina

Security Council Extends Mandate of European Union-Led Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina for One Year, Adopting Resolution 2604 (2021)

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SC/14685

SECURITY COUNCIL
8896TH MEETING* (PM)

Meeting today amid heightened political tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Security Council extended the mandate of the European Union-led stabilization force in the Balkan country for another year, as members reviewed progress on implementation of the 26-year-old Dayton Peace Agreement.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2604 (2021) (to be issued as document S/RES/2604(2021)) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the 15-member Council authorized the Member States acting through or in cooperation with the European Union to establish a multinational stabilization force, or EUFOR-Althea, for another 12 months. EUFOR-Althea is mandated to help implement the military aspects of the Peace Agreement, which was initialled in Dayton, Ohio, in the United States, and signed in Paris in 1995.

Also by the text, the Council renewed its authorization to maintain a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in the country for 12 months.

In the ensuing debate, Council members and representatives of concerned States broadly welcomed the resolution, but were divided about the absence of references in that text to the role played by the Office of the High Representative in implementing the civilian aspects of the Dayton accord, formally known as General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The debate also touched on the budget shortfall of the Peace Implementation Council, which was created in 1995 to rally international support for the Dayton Agreement and provides the High Representative with political guidance. Several members expressed grave concern over the escalated tensions between the predominantly Bosniak and Croat entity and the mostly Serb one, notably the recent announcement by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik that the Republika Srpska would withdraw from joint State institutions.

Estonia’s delegate said he voted in favour of EUFOR-Althea’s operational 12‑month rollover, as the force is a strong contributor to efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, he would have liked to have seen references to the Office of the High Representative, to previous resolutions and to the country’s path towards its admission to the European Union.

The representative of the United States expressed concern over Mr. Dodik’s statements indicating an intention to withdraw Republika Srpska “entirely” from the Government, adding that such assertions represent “a dangerous path” for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region. As for the Office of the High Representative, she called on all “non-payers” in the Peace Implementation Council to contribute to its budget, adding that the 7 per cent fiscal decline per year over the past few years threatens peace.

The Russian Federation’s representative warned that the worsening political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is being compounded by the irresponsible actions of several external forces. Some Western countries tried to appoint Christian Schmidt as the High Representative in violation of the established practice, he said, insisting that the post, however, remains vacant. He denounced the 30 October report by Mr. Schmidt as an “extremely biased and anti-Serb document aimed at destroying the glimmer of peace and cooperation among people in Bosnia.” Demonizing Serbs appears to be the policy of some external parties, he said, calling for an equitable discussion on ways to end that “outside trusteeship”.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative said the country is facing its greatest existential threat of the post-war period. Republika Srpska’s move would “turn the clock back 15 years”. Its policy aims to undermine hard-won reforms, not only obstructing implementation of the Dayton Agreement, but reversing it, in a move tantamount to succession without proclaiming it.

The Head of the European Union Delegation, speaking in its capacity as observer, expressed regret that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution remains uncompliant with the European Convention on Human Rights. Calling for an inclusive process of electoral reform through genuine dialogue, in line with European standards, he said all forms of inequality and discrimination should be eliminated from the electoral process.

Croatia’s delegate said the current electoral framework allows for “electoral engineering”, thereby depriving Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina of their right to elect their legitimate representative in the State presidency. “This is unacceptable and has to be changed,” he stressed, adding that he strongly supports legislative changes necessary for the election law to comply with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and other relevant decisions.

Meanwhile, Serbia’s delegate stressed that the mechanism for enacting a potential change in the Dayton Agreement requires consent of both entities and three constituent peoples. Therefore, any attempt by any other party to impose a solution is unacceptable, he said. Reiterating that dialogue within the institutions is the only way to reach a compromise on important issues, he said that Serbia, as a guarantor of the Dayton Agreement, supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and rejects decisions not reached by consensus.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Ireland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, United Kingdom, Norway, India, Tunisia, China, Niger, Kenya, Viet Nam and Mexico.

The meeting began at 3:01 p.m. and ended at 4:42 p.m.

Statements

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said Bosnia and Herzegovina has made progress since the conflict in the 1990s, with the support of the European Union. Although tensions remain strong, he reaffirmed the prospect of the country joining the European Union and underscored the bloc’s important role in stabilizing the Balkans through the presence of a stabilization force since 2004, including the European Union military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR-Althea). Welcoming the adoption of today’s resolution, he urged political leaders to overcome divisions and enact reforms, including of the electoral framework to meet European standards. In this regard, the participation of women is a priority. Stressing that the High Representative is the “guarantor” that civilian components in the Dayton Agreement are implemented, he expressed regret that State institutions have been blocked. France supports the unity of the country and rejects the glorification of war criminals, he said, emphasizing that the process of transitional justice remains critical for the country’s future.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) expressed support for the Office of the High Representative and welcomed the adoption of the resolution renewing the authorization for EUFOR-Althea. She expressed deep concern over the deadlock in Bosnia and Herzegovina and called on all parties to engage to enable greater progress on the “5+2” agenda, which is the “agreed prerequisite for the closure of the Office”. Further, she expressed great concern with the divisive rhetoric that is diminishing prospects for reconciliation, and called on parties to refrain from unilateral actions which undermine progress, including the glorification of war criminals and the denial of genocide. She called on elected representatives to cooperate to address their citizens’ needs, and to step up the pace of reforms required for accession to the European Union. Further, she urged authorities to develop effective mechanisms — including quotas — to enhance women’s representation and encouraged the High Representative to report on the issue in future reports.

HALIMAH DESHONG (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) reaffirmed support for the stability, political independence and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and noted that EUFOR-Althea plays a key role in maintaining a safe and secure environment in the country. She expressed concern over recent political developments threatening stability and undermining progress achieved over the last 26 years, calling on political leaders to engage in constructive dialogue and implement much-needed reforms. Further, she encouraged leaders to uphold their commitments pursuant to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is a pillar for building lasting peace and stability. She expressed concern over actions detailed in the latest report on the implementation of the Agreement, including divisive rhetoric and the glorification of war criminals, encouraging leaders to put aside their differences to fully implement the Dayton Peace Agreement and the objectives and conditions of the “5+2” agenda.

SONIA FARREY (United Kingdom) said the present turbulent environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina highlights difficulties in ensuring peace and security. The strength of the current resolution rests on existing ones, he said, which set out the Council’s position in full. The High Representative’s report paints a dire picture, suggesting that Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing its greatest threat in the post-war period, with divisive rhetoric emanating from Republika Srpska. Threats to set up its own army and pull out of other State institutions suggest a cessation of compliance with the Dayton Agreement, threatening stability for the people of the region. Now, more than ever, the Security Council must make clear its full support for implementation of the Agreement, he said, adding that the United Kingdom fully supports the new High Representative. Closing that office prematurely goes counter to the interests of the region’s citizens, he said, expressing support for the stability, democracy and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said EUFOR-Althea’s contribution to maintaining a safe and secure environment is still necessary to ensure sustainable peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, welcoming the continued work of the force. At the same time, she expressed regret that the Council failed to proceed with the more substantial text, which would have sent a signal to the actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina to stay committed to the transition towards a peaceful, reform-oriented and prosperous European country. She pressed authorities to take the necessary actions to fulfil the conditions under the “5+2” agenda, stressing that only then could the High Representative’s office be closed and the international supervision of Bosnia and Herzegovina phased out. However, “we are not there yet”, she said.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) welcomed the reauthorization of EUFOR-Althea, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina stands at “a critical juncture in post-war history”. She focused on three aspects: dangerous rhetoric; the need to fund and protect the Office of the High Representative; and electoral reform and battling corruption. She expressed concern over statements by Milorad Dodik, who said he would withdraw Republika Srpska “entirely” from the Government, adding that she agreed with the High Representative who said that such assertions represent “a dangerous path” for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region. Further, the claimed efforts to draft a new Constitution pose a serious threat to the Dayton architecture, which has preserved peace so far, she said, calling on all sides to remain calm and de-escalate tensions. Turning to the Office of the High Representative, she called on all non-payers among the Peace Implementation Council to contribute to its budget, adding that the 7 per cent decline in its budget per year over the past few years is due to non-payment and threatens peace. Finally, she called for steps to be taken towards electoral reform and combating corruption so that Bosnia and Herzegovina can move forward on its European Union path. “Corruption is anti-democratic and the spark that sets off instability,” she cautioned. “The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve better.”

PRATIK MATHUR (India), stating that the General Framework Agreement for Peace provides the basis to find solutions related to interethnic conflict settlement through dialogue of the parties based on equality and mutual respect, compromise and consensus, said it is incumbent on the High Representative to work with all parties objectively to build trust and overcome the impediments in implementing the Agreement. He underlined the need to prioritize the “expeditious implementation” of the “5+2” agenda, noting that the emerging political situation “if not addressed diligently, could adversely impact the Peace Agreement”. Moreover, “all sides must shun divisive rhetoric in their statements which may be used to stoke tensions between different communities”, he said, expressing hope that the new High Representative “will play an objective role in line with the provisions of the Peace Agreement”.

ALI CHERIF(Tunisia), highlighting challenges the Dayton Agreement is facing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed concern over political developments since July, especially obstructions to the work of institutions and difficulties in forming a government. Adding that divisive rhetoric can only exacerbate the situation, he called for any behaviour undermining the Agreement to be avoided, as it can dangerously threaten ongoing efforts at peacebuilding. Underscoring the importance of the European Union’s military force in the region, he encouraged all parties to honour their commitments in creating an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina.

GENG SHUANG (China) noting growing challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina, highlighted election reform difficulties and disputes over national governance models. Encouraging all parties to place the people’s interests first, he urged them to implement the Dayton Agreement “to the letter”, promote development, achieve national reconciliation and avoid imposing external solutions. Noting that current views on the region differ, he said the Security Council has an undeniable role to play in the High Representative’s appointment process, according to the Dayton Agreement, which should be fully respected. The international community should model its assistance in a way suitable to the evolving situation, he added, respecting the region’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the people’s choice for the future, as they are fully capable of resolving the problems facing them.

ABDOU ABARRY (Niger) deplored the harmful political climate that persists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which poses a threat to the foundation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace and institutional stability. He called on all parties to respect the Framework Agreement, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions, in order to create conditions favorable for deescalating tensions. He expressed concern over the deadlock in the “5+2” agenda, noting that it is essential for the closure of the Office of the High Representative. He called on authorities to take steps to consolidate the rule of law, and to improve the socioeconomic climate to enable the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons. Given the situation, and the vital role played by EUFOR-Althea, Niger voted in favor of its extension.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed concern over the worsening political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, compounded by the irresponsible actions of a number of external forces, which are placing at risk the laborious process of integration and reconciliation. As a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Agreement, he said his country will not ignore statements by those who have a “dismissive attitude” to the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, exhibiting a “protectionist attitude” and attempting to dictate how it should build the State and govern the country. Further, some Western countries created an “unseemly ruckus” around the Office of the High Representative at the end of the previous mandate. This “egregious high‑handedness sparked deleterious rhetoric among the people of the country”, he stressed, adding that, although colleagues tried to appoint Christian Schmidt in “unceremonious violation of established practice”, the post remains vacant.

Therefore, the document circulated on 30 October “which, by inertia, was called a report”, represents a blow to authority of the Security Council, he stressed. Moreover, it is an “extremely biased and anti-Serb document aimed at destroying the glimmer of peace and cooperation among people in Bosnia”, he said, asking: “Why are you trying to bury the fragile peace of a country in the heart of Europe? Where do these double standards come from?” He warned those who seek to place blame exclusively on Serbs, observing that “demonizing” them appears to be the central element of the policy of some external parties. He went on to deplore the open and growing threats of sanctions, asserting: “We are convinced that equitable dialogue without external interference is the solution.” Turning to the extension of the EUFOR‑Althea mandate, which he called the sole “common denominator”, he underlined the need for an equitable discussion on how to end “the outside trusteeship” and helping the country constructively in its efforts towards national reconciliation.

MICHAEL KIBOINO (Kenya) urged authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to work together to ensure full compliance with the Framework Agreement and to make progress on the five objectives and two conditions, expressing concern over threats to withdraw from key joint institutions. “It is critical that the leaders avoid any actions that cause division and erode trust,” he stressed, calling on authorities to lead the way towards constructive dialogue based on trust, respect and dignity, and to refocus their efforts on unifying actions that build trust among all peoples, regardless of identity. All leaders, citizens and media outlets should also avoid negative rhetoric and hate speech, he continued, urging all levels of authorities to coordinate and implement socioeconomic reforms.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said his delegation voted for EUFOR-Althea’s operational 12-month rollover, as the force is a strong contributor to efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, he would have liked to have seen references to the Office of the High Representative, to previous resolutions and to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European perspective in the current text, he said, expressing regret that the Council was unable to reiterate its positions about these important elements. Expressing strong support for the Office’s continuation, he encouraged the country’s leaders to jointly advance implementation of the 14 key priorities of the European Commission’s Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for European Union membership.

PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam) expressed concern about the volatile situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including interethnic and intercommunal tensions, as well as a lack of dialogue, trust and reconciliation. Urging all parties to work together to overcome their differences, he said the challenges include interpretation and implementation of the Dayton Agreement and domestic legislation. The international community should engage in constructive support aimed at fostering dialogue, mutual understanding and trust, with a view to achieving national reconciliation and meeting the legitimate interests and aspirations of the various communities.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the Council’s decision to unanimously renew the mandate of EUFOR‑Althea. Recognizing the fundamental stabilizing role of the mission, he expressed hope that it can continue to work for peace and security. Noting the institutional deadlock, he said cooperation and dialogue are pillars for coexistence and the functioning of a State. The Parliamentary Assembly has not fully exercised its legislative functions due to internal tensions, he pointed out, calling on all parties to engage constructively to consolidate democracy and sustainable development. Implementation of the “5+2” agenda is the most viable way to build the conditions that will eventually allow the tasks of the Office of the High Representative to be concluded.

SVEN ALKALAJ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) welcomed the resolution to extend EUFOR‑Althea, underscoring the respect and mutual cooperation his country has enjoyed with the force. Stressing that Bosnia and Herzegovina faces its greatest existential threat of the post-war period, he said this threatens the Dayton Agreement and could lead to its undoing. The Republika Srpska has underscored its entitlement to reclaim its state judiciary, law enforcement and intelligence services and reject any decisions imposed on it. This would mean the withdrawal of its armed forces and reestablishment of the Republika Srpska army, a move that would “turn the clock back 15 years”, undermining any confidence and security building that has occurred.

The Republika Srpska policy aims to undermine hard-won reforms, he continued, not only obstructing implementation of the Dayton Agreement, but reversing it, in a move tantamount to succession without proclaiming it. This would hamper the State’s ability to carry out functions and build up its institutions, he said, adding that these exist as Bosnia and Herzegovina bodies. As an example of Republika Srpska behaviour, he said it prevented the Bosnia and Herzegovina President from engaging the armed forces for a fire fight in the southern part of country. The Republika Srpska has also adopted a law, which entered into force in early October, making the High Representative’s decisions nonapplicable in that State.

OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina has returned to divisive nationalistic rhetoric, resulting in a serious political crisis. The persistent lack of dialogue has hampered progress on implementation of the 14 key priorities. The recent blockade of State institutions is unacceptable and holds back the overall reform process, he said, stressing that political leaders must overcome the stalemate and ensure that elections are conducted in line with European standards. Moreover, Bosnia and Herzegovina must undertake further constitutional and electoral reforms to ensure the equality and non-discrimination of citizens, he said, notably by addressing Sejdić-Finci case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Expressing regret that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution remains uncompliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, he noted that several Constitutional Court decisions have yet to be fully enforced. Calling for an inclusive process of electoral reform through genuine dialogue in line with European standards, he said all forms of inequality and discrimination should be eliminated from the electoral process. He urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to work on implementation of the other 14 key priorities: strengthening rule of law; independence of the judiciary; fighting corruption and organized crime; countering radicalization; guaranteeing independence of the media; safety of journalists; promoting youth employment and education; gender equality; and renewing efforts towards socioeconomic reforms. Noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the European Union stands ready to provide support, including to address its resilience to future health crises.

IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), aligning with the European Union, reiterated support for the extension of the EUFOR-Althea operation, as well as to High Representative Christian Schmidt. Noting that tensions in and over Bosnia and Herzegovina have increased since the last debate, he said it is “critical” to ease the pressure and “not add fuel to the fire”. He expressed concern over the disrespect of its Constitution, blockade of institutions and lack of progress on the electoral and other necessary reforms, adding that overcoming such challenges is important for the country, and for the stability of the “increasingly turbulent” Western Balkans. Recalling that Croatia is a signatory of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said that the current electoral framework allows for “electoral engineering”, thereby depriving Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina of their right to elect their legitimate representative in the State Presidency. “This is unacceptable and has to be changed,” he stressed, adding that he strongly supports legislative changes necessary for the election law to comply with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and other relevant decisions. He pointed out that such changes will enable the people of the country get what they need: “legitimate, functioning institutions that will neither be manipulated, nor blocked”. Further, consensus on electoral reform should be reached as soon as possible in order to ensure the legitimacy of the 2022 general elections, he stated.

NEMANJA STEVANOVIC (Serbia) said his country is facing unilateral actions by the Provisional Institutions of Self Government in Pristina, which pose a direct threat to peace and stability in the region. As such, Serbia again calls on all sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina to lower tensions and to rationally address open issues through dialogue. “Above all, Serbia wants peace and stability in the region,” he assured. Calling on all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to act in a responsible manner, in accordance with the Dayton Peace Agreement as the only legal framework for the country’s functioning, he stressed that the mechanism for enacting a potential change in the Dayton accord is clearly defined, requiring consent of both entities and three constituent peoples. Therefore, any attempt by any other party to impose a solution is unacceptable, he said.

Reiterating that dialogue within the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only way to reach a compromise solution on important issues, he said that, as the guarantor of the Dayton Agreement, Serbia supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and stands strongly against decisions not reached by consensus, as they threaten stability in the country and wider region. “The road to the future we want is paved by good‑neighbourly relations and active cooperation in the region in various areas of mutual interest,” he said, adding that Serbia will continue to call on all political actors to engage in that direction. Serbia also strongly supports efforts by all Western Balkan countries to join the European Union, with the “Open Balkans” initiative representing the best way to prepare for membership. He objected to wording around “situation in the region of the Former Yugoslavia” in the resolution’s preambular paragraph 1, which is not appropriate in the current context, as it was used during the 1990s and carries negative connotations. This new language therefore should not be used.

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* The 8894th & 8895th Meetings were closed.

EUROPE BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

For information media. Not an official record.