– AS DELIVERED –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding country Croatia*, the candidate countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Iceland+, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Albania, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
I join other speakers in welcoming High Representative Valentin Inzko back to the Council and would like to reassure him of our continued support.
The lack of progress in implementing necessary political and economic reforms, the continued use of divisive rhetoric, and deeply rooted divisions among political parties, continue to cause considerable headwind for the efforts of those who want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a united, stable, viable, multi-ethnic and prosperous state, cooperating peacefully with its neighbours and irreversibly on track towards EU membership.
We therefore encourage Council members to urge BiH’s political leadership to overcome the political stalemate and to undertake the reforms necessary to move the country forward in its European perspective.
Political deadlock in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to burden the process of further stabilisation and development.
At the entity level, particularly in the Federation, the political climate remains tense and difficult. Several attempts at reshuffling the Federation government have failed due to political and constitutional challenges. Regrettably, this struggle for political control compromises the ability of local political parties to constructively engage in important reform agendas. Stakes were raised further when Federation President Budimir was apprehended at the end of April on charges of organised crime and corruption.
There are only remote prospects for the resolution of this stalemate in the near future. Moreover, we have noted some important signs of premature pre-election positioning by the parties ahead of the October 2014 general elections. There is therefore a serious risk of a prolonged period marked by political deadlock in the Federation.
This would further negatively affect an already serious economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country which is already dependent on IMF and EU macrofinancial support.
In Republika Srpska, the government was reshuffled on 12 March in response to the results of municipal elections in October last year. The leadership in Banja Luka nonetheless continued to challenge the effectiveness and functionality of state structures as well as the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is unacceptable, complicates the political processes in the country and makes it more difficult to establish sustained positive momentum.
Difficulties at the entity level are translated into a weakened ability of BiH state level institutions to address in particular the fight against corruption and organised crime. They also complicate efforts to strengthen the judiciary and implement reforms in the area of defence, including the necessity to resolve the problem of unstable stockpiles of surplus arms and ammunition in the country.
The EU has been engaged for many years in efforts to anchor BiH on its EU path. We believe that it is critical that Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfils as a matter of priority its obligations under the Interim/Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
If it fails to do so, the country will not be in a position to make progress on the path towards European integration which its citizens rightly expect. In particular, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to urgently bring its Constitution into compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights and implement the ECtHR’s ruling in the Sejdic – Finci case. This ruling embodies the principle of ethnic non-discrimination, which is at the core of the values promoted both by the EU and the United Nations. Implementation of this ruling will allow the EU to decide on the entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina, paving the way for further steps forward, including a credible EU membership application.
A new round of EU facilitation efforts in this regard started in early 2013 and was led by EU Special Representative and Head of Delegation Peter Sørensen and Commissioner Stefan Füle. Despite significant time, efforts and resources devoted by the EU, political leaders in BiH again failed to agree on a solution, leading to the cancellation of the11 April meeting of the EU High Level Dialogue.
Both EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle have recently visited Bosnia and Herzegovina and have urged BiH political leaders to continue to seek compromise and move the country forward on its EU path, including by implementing the ECtHR ruling. By not bringing BiH’s constitution in line with European standards, BiH risks the legitimacy and credibility of its future leaders to be selected in the 2014 general elections. HR/VP Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle also reaffirmed, once again, the EU’s commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European future.
Recent progress towards the EU by the rest of the region and in particular the beginning of the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, as well as the upcoming accession of Croatia to the EU, should help encourage progress in BiH too.
Since September 2011, the European Union has strengthened its political presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to facilitate progress towards European integration. The single EU presence on the ground (EU Special Representative/Head of Delegation) is fully engaged in supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina in all EU related matters. The EU increased its regional presence in 2012, with new offices in Mostar and Brcko and a larger office in Banja Luka. The EUSR/HoD is also offering the EU Force Commander political guidance on military issues with a local political dimension, in particular concerning sensitive operations, relations with local authorities and with the local media.
The EU also continues to accompany Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress in the security field. The overall security situation has remained calm and stable, and Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities have so far proven capable of dealing with threats to the security environment. The EU will therefore keep EUFOR Althea focused on capacity-building and training.
However, EUFOR Althea will retain an executive military role to support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment under a UN mandate. It therefore remains able to contribute to the BiH authorities’ deterrence capacity if the situation so requires.
The European Union will also continue to provide considerable pre-accession assistance.
In the context of the overall EU strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina, we look forward to continuing the discussion with the international community on the reconfiguration of the international presence, in the appropriate forum. We call on the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet the outstanding objectives and conditions for the closure of the OHR.
The EU reiterates its unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country. We remain ready to provide the necessary assistance to support progress towards Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration. It is this approach that will take the country forward on its reform agenda, towards stability and development, on its path to the EU.
Thank you Mr. President.
* Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.