Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
I would like to congratulate you, Madam, on your assumption of the presidency of the Security Council, and to wish you success in your duties.
We have carefully studied the report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (S/2018/416), which was once again issued belatedly and just before the start of today’s meeting.
We would once again like to point out the importance of complying with the time frame for submitting it to the Council. We are compelled to note that like its predecessors, the text has a certain anti-Serbian tone, suffers from biased and politicized conclusions and does not provide an objective picture of the situation in the country. Republika Srpska is once again being blamed for literally all of the current difficulties afflicting the process of achieving the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, which is particularly surprising, for the major political crisis that has overtaken the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As before, the selection of evidence in support of the report’s assertions is unbalanced and frequently based on unverified information. As a result, the real situation in the country is distorted and false impressions are created. That applies particularly to the celebration on 9 January of Republika Srpska Day, which took place in accordance with a law enacted in October 2016 that the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not object to at the time. The report’s concerns about the modernization of automatic weapons that the Republika Srpska police are equipped with are also difficult to understand.
The process is being conducted in full compliance with the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been acknowledged, incidentally, by the Europeanled force responsible for security in the country. For some reason, the report does not mention the fact that similar replacement programmes for outdated police weapons are also being carried out in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation. We were baffled by the so-called concern expressed in the new report about the March pilgrimage tour to Orthodox and historic sites in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Night Wolves multinational motorcycle club, which is dragged in inappropriate references to unilateral United States sanctions and Ukrainian issues. The Night Wolves always coordinate their events with law-enforcement bodies and have been conducting regular tours of European countries, with purely humanitarian intentions, for several years now. The primary aim is to pay tribute to the memory of our great forebears who defeated fascism during the Second World War.
By the way, Victory Day is celebrated in Europe today and tomorrow in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. We call on the High Representative to focus his efforts on implementing the 5+2 plan, which should have remained his top priority. Regrettably, in practice he has focused on other issues that have nothing to do with his mandate. It is strange to hear his say publicly that there should be less Dayton and more Brussels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is an overly free interpretation of his mandate, to put it mildly. The result is that we have an obvious impasse in implementing the 5+2 plan.
In that regard, we support the principle of transferring all responsibility for the current processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina to the local authorities and further reducing the budget and personnel of the Office of the High Representative with the aim of closing it in accordance with the existing conditions and criteria. We see no reason for any executive role for the Office. The time for this special instrument is over. In the Bosnian leadership’s view, the current internal situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is experiencing the worst systemic political crisis of the post-Dayton period both at the State level and in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reaching a point of paralysis in the normal functioning of Government bodies. At its heart is a rupture in relations of trust and cooperation among the three constituent peoples of the Federation whose depth is worse than at any time since the end of the period of armed conflict. There are serious fears for the inviolability of one of the key, foundational premises of the Dayton Agreement — equality. That is a major concern, since we believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina has no viable alternative to the Dayton framework. The Dayton algorithm is also fully applicable to the most serious practical problem, which is reform of the Federation’s election laws.
The key event in Bosnia and Herzegovina this year is the upcoming general elections in October. That expression of the people’s will should be fair, free and independent, including free from foreign interference, and should reflect the interests of all the country’s peoples. The role of the international community in internal Bosnian affairs needs particular attention. The main function of foreign participation should be to encourage the processes of genuine national reconciliation and the strengthening of mutual understanding and cooperation among all the peoples living in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the past few months, unfortunately, we have seen our partners take a number of steps aimed at interfering directly in the work of the Bosnian authorities, of which the most revealing is the pressure that has been put on the Bosnia and Herzegovina High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council to change decisions that do not meet certain external expectations. Regrettably, with regard to reform of the election laws, the international mediators also deliberately favour one side, which cannot contribute to establishing the necessary climate of trust. The activity of the semi-clandestine so-called Bern process in Sarajevo initiated by a group of States last year is not part of any coordinated efforts.
As far as we know, the agenda of that closed diplomatic club includes issues related to broad constitutional reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which come under the Dayton Agreement. By the way, representatives from the Office of the High Representative took part in the work on that so-called process, but we were not officially informed. There is no information about it in the report. It is hardly likely that this kind of factionalism in the international community can benefit the common goals of strengthening peace, stability and security in the country and the region.
We must be united if we truly want that for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the context of procedural issues, apart from the importance of submitting the report on time, we would also like to draw attention to the extract it contains from the final communiqué of the December meeting of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board in Sarajevo, which was not adopted by consensus. In future, we would request that in such cases it be compulsory for the reports to include the relevant references to the particular positions of the States members of the Steering Board.
We would also like to propose to Council members and anyone else who wants to that they study the alternative report on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina prepared by Republika Srpska. It contains useful information on a number of issues, including the outside funding for a number of media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina that position themselves as so-called independent sources.
Russia intends to continue to consistently contribute to the implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which still has significant positive potential, and to strengthen its constructive bilateral cooperation with the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina has every chance of becoming a place for successful political, economic and cultural cooperation for the broadest possible range of participants.
We hope that those chances can become a reality through our joint efforts.