I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Iceland+ and Montenegro*, the Country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Albania and the EFTA countries Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.
I would like to join other speakers in welcoming High Representative and European Union Special Representative Valentin Inzko back to the Council and to reiterate the EU’s full support for his office and his work.
The European Union shares the concern of the High Representative about the current political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. More than seven months after the elections of October 2010, we are still waiting for the formation of a government at the state level. In addition, we have since seen a further deterioration of the political climate and little progress in key reform areas. It is crucial that a state-level government be formed without further delay, that it re-start the reform process and put the country on the road towards EU integration. The EU encourages the Security Council to send a message of strong concern, urging all political actors to find common solutions within the framework of the General Framework Agreement for Peace.
In this context we deem the recent decision by the Republika Srpska to hold a referendum challenging the authority of state judicial institutions within that entity and rejecting the authority of the High Representative a step into the wrong direction. In recent meetings between EU officials and political representatives of the Republika Srpska we have made clear our strong concerns and our expectation that the referendum will not be held. While concerns related to the functioning of state institutions may be legitimate, they must be expressed through appropriate mechanisms; it is clear that only mutually agreed reforms would be acceptable. The EU regularly encourages BiH political representatives to act with a greater spirit of compromise, to step up consultations and to work for the long-term interests of the country. The EU has now called on BiH political leaders to engage in a constructive, structured political dialogue on legal issues and the judiciary. We also stand fully behind the authority of the High Representative. Moreover, we underline once more our firm commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of BiH and urge all to refrain from divisive rhetoric and actions that harm the interests of the citizens.
It is the prime responsibility of BiH political leaders to achieve concrete and tangible progress, including on the road towards EU integration, on the “5 objectives and 2 conditions” for OHR closure and on constitutional reform. The EU believes that, as a matter of priority, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to bring its Constitution into compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights. Fulfilment of the obligations under the Interim/Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU would demonstrate the commitment to the EU integration process, be a key element for a credible membership application and avoid that BiH falls further behind the region on its way towards EU accession.
The EU is in the process of further strengthening its engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina as to support its progress towards EU accession through a comprehensive approach and significant financial assistance and expertise. It will soon enhance its political presence through a reinforced, single EU representative. In addition, the EU maintains two crisis management missions on the ground – EUPM and EUFOR Althea, which, as our Foreign Ministers reaffirmed in March this year, are important elements of the EU’s overall strategy for BiH. Operation Althea supports BiH efforts to maintain a safe and secure environment and provides training to the BiH Armed Forces while the Police Mission’s activities center on the support to the fight against organised crime and corruption.
The recent high-level visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina by the President of the European Commission Barroso underlined our unequivocal commitment to BiH’s European perspective and the EU’s preparedness to assume the leading role in that regard. Fifteen years after the signature of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreements, BiH’s citizens deserve a qualitative step forward of their country on the path towards European integration. As the successful visa liberalisation shows, when there is political will and readiness to reach compromise, Bosnia and Herzegovina is able to carry out reforms and to deliver on commitments. With this in mind, and on Europe Day 2011, we encourage and appeal to the political leaders to put Bosnia and Herzegovina firmly on the way towards the European Union.
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 the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.