The Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Statement by H.E. Ms Philippa King
Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for convening this debate. I would like to join others in thanking the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr Valentin Inzko, for his report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dr Inzko has brought forward a typically thorough and objective account of the continuing challenges to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress and its European and Euro-Atlantic integration. I express Australia’s strong support for him and the work of his Office.
Australia has a close association with Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the 1990s, Australian peacekeepers served alongside their EU and NATO counterparts to help build peace. During that period, we were proud to receive over 30,000 people displaced from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Australia through our humanitarian immigration program. Today, they are valued members of our multi-cultural society. We are demonstrably committed to seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina consolidate itself as a stable, unified country that can provide for the needs of all its citizens.
Seventeen years after the historic Dayton Peace Agreement was signed, Bosnia and Herzegovina finds itself in the midst of a difficult political phase. There have been some positive recent developments. We welcome, for example, regular meetings between the Presidency and the Council of Ministers and that the 2013 state budget was adopted on time for the first time in two years. We encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to display the unity of purpose that will allow them to build on these achievements.
We are, however, concerned by other developments that threaten to roll back the progress achieved since the mid-1990s. In particular, challenges in some quarters to the fundamentals of the Peace Agreement and the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina risk eroding the fragile gains that have been made in nation building.
Australia fully supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the fundamental pillar of the Dayton Peace Agreement which has underwritten peace and stability. This remains critical to broader peace and stability in the Balkans.
We encourage all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to respect the status of the country as an independent sovereign nation and engage in a constructive dialogue to strengthen government in ways that deliver on the aspirations of the people. This is all the more important as Bosnia and Herzegovina approaches the elections scheduled for next year.
We also encourage political leaders to commit to constitutional reform to establish strong and representative state structures. Agreement on constitutional amendments to implement the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case should be an immediate priority, as a strong signal that Bosnia and Herzegovina guarantees to all its citizens an equal stake in the country’s future. And it is also needed to place Bosnia and Herzegovina firmly back on the path toward its goal of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Australia acknowledges the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina remains relatively safe and secure for its citizens. We share the view that stability – at present – is in no small part backed by the presence of the European Union and NATO military missions. This is another example of the role regional organisations can and must play in securing regional stability, and the importance of this Council engaging closely with them.
Australia endorses the ongoing presence of EUFOR. Its ongoing monitoring and reporting, and arms disposal activities, contribute to peace and stability every day. EUFOR will not – and should not – stay forever, but for now remains important to sustaining confidence among communities.
So long as the remaining objectives and conditions for closure of the Office remain unmet, we should continue to support the efforts of the High Representative to help deliver sustainable peace and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a climate of fiscal constraint, we applaud the efforts by the Office of the High Representative to reduce costs. These ensure the Office’s ongoing financial viability.
The leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves have the ultimate responsibility to put their country where we all want to see it: on an irreversible path to peace and greater prosperity. To do so, we encourage them to put aside their differences and work together to implement the outstanding objectives and conditions of the 5+2 agenda.
Of course, the international community – and particularly the Security Council – has an important support role to play. We must continue to engage to help realise the goal of a stable, sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina at peace with itself and united in building a prosperous future for its own people.
Thank you, Mr President.