Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at UNSC briefing on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
To our regret, we must say that over the six months since the previous discussion of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Security Council, there has been no improvement on the ground. BiH is having the deepest internal political crisis in all its post-conflict period, the level of interethnic trust and dialogue has declined dramatically. Constituent peoples of BiH encounter more and more difficulties when trying to find some common ground. The ideals of Dayton, which were a consensus and a compromise back in the day, are almost unattainable now.
Against this backdrop, there is a trend that we are very concerned about. The multinational Bosnian state tends to centralize around the majority of one of its ethnic communities, bosniaks, to the detriment of constitutional rights of two other peoples and BiH entities with broad authorities. It clearly shows both in discussions of electoral legislation reform and in the format of adopting foreign policy decisions that do not reflect either interests or will of entire BiH. We perceive this as a gross violation of the 1995 agreement, which is directly encouraged by some Western states, i.a those responsible for its implementation. In this regard, we regret that today’s statement by Chair of BiH Presidency Šefik Džaferović was not coordinated with other members of the Presidency as per the established procedure.
Apparently, no conclusion was made after the recent High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr.Valentin Inzko, recklessly interfered with the affairs of sovereign BiH and its peoples in summer last year. Today we see how prior international commitment to transfer full responsibility for the country to legitimately elected authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina is being deliberately sacrificed for the benefit of manual management of all Bosnian processes by Brussels, Washington, and some European capitals, who impose external scenarios and own rules. Unilateral illegal sanctions against Bosnian political representatives, pressure, intimidation and blackmail become a commonplace practice. This paves the path towards further degradation of internal Bosnian dialogue and destabilization of the situation in the country. This by no means helps to stabilize the situation in BiH and foster its socio-economic development. Responsibility for continuing deterioration of political environment and mass outflow of the population rests with those who seek to reform Dayton-based Bosnia and Herzegovina and make it meet their own interests. This irresponsible policy is fraught with dangerous implications. So we call to stop doing experiments on the independent Bosnian state and its peoples and give them an opportunity for self-dependent development, in full compliance with the principles of the UN Charter.
The destructive role played by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) becomes more evident. This mechanism lost any remains of impartiality and adequacy and turned into an instrument that is used to impose decisions of rather doubtful value and feasibility. Attempts to engage so-called Bonn Powers for revoking the unwanted domestic legislation are both illicit and null in legal terms. This happens because there is no international consent that would allow to use them, and because this “special toolbox” can only be used by the High Representative, whose office has remained vacant since V.Inzko resigned. As we stressed at the beginning of this meeting, we consider German citizen Christian Schmidt to be a private individual who holds no mandate allowing him to represent international community.
The so-called report contains insinuations against the Russian Ambassador in Sarajevo, which we consider totally inappropriate. What’s more, those are insinuations related to the situation around Ukraine which has nothing to do with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
What we need is an open and frank conversation about practical ways to shut down the Office of the High Representative as soon as possible, because it has exhausted its positive capacity.
We are particularly concerned that EU forces carrying out operation Althea under a UNSC mandate also contribute to building the atmosphere of danger and fear in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In March this year, Althea’s military component increased twofold without any explanation. Bosnian cities are patrolled by people in camo uniform and heavy military equipment – this is pure panicmongering. Such behavior makes us think carefully whether further presence of EU forces in BiH adds any value. From a factor of stability it has turned into an element of intimidation and political confrontation, which is both unacceptable and dangerous.
General elections in BiH, scheduled for October, have a large role to play. The vote must fully comply with Bosnian legislation and Dayton-based principles of representation, whereas the results of the vote must express sovereign will of BiH peoples. We demand that all external forces stop interfering in the elections-related agenda.
We call on the Security Council to give a constructive assessment to current developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina that should proceed from UNSC-endorsed Dayton Agreement rather than arbitrary conclusions made by the OHR. As an alternative source of information about the state of affairs in BiH, we propose the report prepared by Republika Srpska that was circulated as UNSC official document S/2022/376.
As one of Dayton’s guarantor states, Russia fully supports the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, equality of the three constituent peoples and two entities with broad authorities. The 1995 agreement fully retains its relevance, it envisages a rather effective pattern of maintaining balance of interests of the three peoples. What’s more, this pattern has no alternatives, any striving to undermine it is fraught with most serious implications for both the Balkans and Europe at large.