The current gridlocked political landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina demands the Security Council’s attention before stagnation and divisive dialogue unravels fragile gains, the United Nations’ top official told Council members this morning.
“While other countries in the region moved forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina was left behind,” said High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, presenting his latest report covering developments between April and October. “How does one respond when a leading politician says that Bosnia and Herzegovina makes him feel sick and that he hopes to God it will fall apart? These challenges are worrisome enough to warrant particular attention of this body.”
Seventeen years after the Dayton Peace Agreements had ended armed conflict in the country, he noted that gains made earlier in the year, including the formation of the Government and passage of a budget, had, in the last six months, seriously deteriorated, with political leaders challenging the country’s sovereignty. Those continued challenges to the State must be taken seriously, he said, especially considering the history of the armed conflicts of the 1990s.
Echoing a broadly held view among speakers, the United Kingdom’s representative said 2012 had been a year of contrasts, with such gains returning to “political inertia”, and frustrating progress toward the closure of the Office of the High Representative. The situation was a symptom of a wider trend that saw authorities not putting their citizens’ interests first, he said.
Still, some achievements, including last month’s elections, merited praise, said other speakers. Congratulating the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegate of Pakistan noted the successful elections and the calm security environment. However, he called the intensification of divisive rhetoric and lack of political progress “alarming”, and said that the Security Council must play its role in keeping the situation from worsening.
Other speakers believed the power to change the current realities rested with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The representative of the Russian Federation said the report had been written in alarmist terms and had been critical of the country’s leadership.
“We need to stop ignoring the fact that the situation in Bosnia has been stable,” he said, emphasizing that outstanding problems must be tackled by the Bosnians themselves through achieving conciliation between the three peoples — the Bosnians, Serbs and Croatians.
Indeed, many speakers, while supporting the country’s progress, expressed a common concern for its future. The United States’ representative said efforts were needed to restructure the State coalition and to overcome the long months of stalemate. She also said that her country was prepared to support Bosnia and Herzegovina along the path to reform and integration into North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union.
Stating the same desire for long-term stability, some speakers offered possible ingredients needed to do so. Azerbaijan’s speaker said the rule of law and a constitutional framework were essential, while Togo’s representative said only candid and sincere dialogue and the quest for compromise could lead to the lasting settling of differences. To that end, he called on all political leaders to refrain from unilateral actions and to pursue a search for consensus.
A number of speakers highlighted some of the challenges ahead. Croatia’s speaker pointed out that the current political system did not secure the equality aimed at in the Dayton Agreements, but said it was up to current Bosnian leaders to reach a sustainable solution, with the objective being European integration.
Serbia’s representative welcomed the setting up of a commission to review judiciary and prosecution practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that its recommendations were also a good basis for strengthening institutions towards finalizing reconciliation. He further hoped that the legitimately elected representatives of the country would, in the near future, be able to manage affairs independently, making the maintenance of the Office of the High Representative unnecessary.
Many overwhelmingly agreed that the Security Council must focus its attention on the current situation. The head of the Delegation of the European Union encouraged the Council to send a message of support for those working towards a strong and stable future. For its part, the Union had stepped up its engagement, underlining the responsibility of political leaders to constructively address pressing challenges in the rule of law, the economy, jobs and social welfare, he said.
India’s representative, imploring that nothing should be done to undermine stability or to roll back reform, urged the country’s leadership and the international community to persevere in spite of problems encountered.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina was an experiment of building a new nation from the rubbles of war,” he said. Noting that it was never easy to build a multi-lingual, multi-religious country, he highlighted that India’s own experience had shown that while the process of nation-building was arduous, the fruits were plentiful.