Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina
Regrettably, we have concluded that the quality of the reports of the High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina gets worse every time.
It is clear that Mr. Inzko is trying to tailor his assessments of what is going on in the country according to his notion — which suits him and the other supporters of the never-ending preservation of an outside protectorate for Bosnia and Herzegovina — of the incapacity of the country’s governing bodies and entire political class generally.
We believe that approach is fundamentally mistaken, disrespectful to Bosnians and untethered to reality. Despite the painful legacy of the 1992-1995 conflict, Bosnia and Herzegovina is gradually developing on both the social and economic fronts. Its gross domestic product, exports and people’s incomes are increasing and unemployment is falling. On 7 October general elections were once again held in accordance with democratic standards, as was confirmed by international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A foreign policy based on a balance of the interests of the Bosnian parties is being implemented.
In 2010 and 2011, Sarajevo successfully carried out the functions of a non-permanent member of the Security Council, and in 2015 it presided over the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Problems arise, as with any State, but they are far from insurmountable for Bosnians. The successful experience of the Brčko District, where the foreign Supervisor’s activities had been frozen since 2012, clearly shows that the Office of the High Representative is a relic of the past for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Worse than that, its very presence hampers the internal Bosnian dialogue and fuels attitudes of dependency among a certain part of the establishment.
For the entire period of almost 10 years that the High Representative has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he has exploited the resources of his Office to advance the NATO and European Union agendas and settle accounts with Bosnian leaders who acknowledge the protectorate’s irrelevance, instead of carrying out the tasks assigned to him with regard to implementing the civilian aspects of the General Framework Agreement for Peace.
In future, we urge the High Representative to avoid tendentious comments about one or other of the country’s political parties on the eve of elections, as occurred during Mr. Inzko’s interview with the Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung on 2 October, widely reproduced in the Bosnian media. In the interview, the High Representative directed one-sided criticism at the major Bosnian Serb party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, breaching every democratic norm and his own mandate by essentially joining the election campaign on the side of the opposition.
The smearing of Bosnian Serbs and Croats who are against the erosion of the Dayton Peace Agreement and attempts to centralize the country long ago morphed into an end in themselves for the High Representative, who in his most recent report (S/2018/974, annex) has no qualms about referring to unverified media accounts or simply plucking overreaching conclusions out of the air. For example, he expounds on the alleged rampant corruption and the Bosnian authorities’ inability to combat it based on the overtly politicized and completely unsubstantiated decision — which means there should be no place for it in a report — of the United States Department of State to include a Bosnian-Serb parliamentarian, Nikola Špirić, on its restricted list on the eve of the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The High Representative also speculates about the tragic death of a student, David Dragičević, in a way that portrays what occurred as some sort of systemic flaw in the Republika Srpska judiciary. In our view such assessments are cynical and irresponsible. For those of our colleagues who would like to have a more balanced and factual picture of what is happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we once again recommend that they read the report of the Government of Republika Srpska, which according to tradition is drafted in Banja Luka to coincide with today’s meeting.
We urge the High Representative to abandon his one-sided selfinvolvement in Bosnia’s internal political wrangling and do his proper job, the implementation of the 5+2 plan, which the Office has so far abandoned that this key task is barely mentioned in passing, like some minor side issue. A clear inadequacy in the High Representative’s report, in our view, is the absence, for all practical purposes, of any serious analysis of possible ways to emerge from the crisis situation in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina related to the exclusion of the procedure for filling the upper house of the Parliament from the current version of the Bosnia and Herzegovina election law.
The situation is fraught with issues regarding the composition of the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliamentary Assembly and the installation of the President and members of the Government of the Federation. We hope that the Office of the High Representative will prepare the relevant completed plans at least by early December, when the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board meets. As for Russia’s approach to a Bosnian settlement, we continue to focus on doing everything possible to facilitate compliance with the Dayton Agreement and to develop a mutually beneficial dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Our message about the importance of respect for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the broad powers of the two entities and the equality of the country’s three constituent peoples, as provided for in the Peace Agreement, were received in a constructive spirit by all the Bosnian parties during the working visit on 21 September by Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
We believe that the time for an outside protectorate has passed. The international community’s role in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be based on helping Bosnians broaden the scope of their common interests and find their own recipes for compromise solutions to problem issues, including reforming the judicial system and removing the foreign experts from the country’s Constitutional Court. The Bosnian Croats’ idea for fine-tuning Bosnia and Herzegovina’s electoral system deserves attention. It would provide sufficient guarantees for filling senior leadership positions exclusively with legitimate representatives of each of the country’s constituent peoples.
Unfortunately, during the recent elections a member of the Presidium of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Croats was once again elected by votes from the Bosniak majority. It would be desirable for the Bosnians to reach an agreement on how to prevent this practice in the future. It is not acceptable to artificially crank up the pressure on the Republika Srspka in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its legitimately elected leaders.
We have a principled objection to unilateral sanctions on Bosnian Serb leaders. In response to my British colleague, I want to confirm that as a member of the Contact Group of the Steering Board, Russia is committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stability and development. But we have not signed on to any obligations to drag the country into Euro-Atlantic structures. That is not our business and it is not the United Kingdom’s, either. It is the business of the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
However, we definitely do not agree with the policy of dragging Bosnia and Herzegovina into NATO. Such actions only worsen the tensions in the country and distract the Bosnian parties from working for reform. In this case, the consensus on domestic political issues provided for in the 1995 Peace Agreement cannot be achieved, owing to the principled position of the Bosnian Serbs, who are not prepared to see alliance-based dividing lines drawn between the Republika Srpska and Serbia.
We stand in solidarity with the views of many European States on the gravity of the threat of the proliferation of radical extremist ideologies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The activities of the Islamic underground must be eliminated by the country’s relevant bodies, including in the context of regional cooperation.