Statement by Ambassador Wittig on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Security Council
Thank you Mr. President,
Let me at the outset thank the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina for his comprehensive and informative briefing.
We welcome the contribution to peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina that the High Representative and his Office have made in the course of the past 16 years.
Germany also aligns itself with the statement to be made by the Representative of the European Union.
I would like to offer three brief observations on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Firstly: The security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to be calm and stable. EUFOR ALTHEA – and the preceding military operations IFOR and SFOR – have never had to intervene to restore peace. There are no indications of violent destabilization.
Looking back less than two decades – when Bosnia and Herzegovina was on the brink of violent disintegration – this positive development deserves explicit recognition.
Against this backdrop, the European Union has decided to reconfigure EUFOR ALTHEA. The mission’s main focus will be directed towards providing capacity building and training to Bosnia and Herzegovina's armed forces, so that they themselves can maintain peace and stability.
However, the continuing political paralysis gives reason for concern. The recent EU Progress Report has highlighted the stalemate in the reform process. The lack of a shared vision of the political leadership on the overall direction of the country is particularly worrisome.
This brings me to my second observation: Namely, what the international community can do to support Bosnia and Herzegovina's resumption of the reform process – and thus also its return on the path towards Europe.
It is up to Bosnia and Herzegovina's political leaders themselves to place the well-being of their country as a whole and that of all of its citizens at the top of their agendas, to form a new state-level government as a matter of urgency, and to tackle the outstanding reform projects. This should happen without further delay.
Since Dayton, however, the international community has often ended up rectifying shortcomings in domestic political processes. This can not continue.
Given Bosnia and Herzegovina's history, close monitoring and far-reaching supervision by the international community have undoubtedly been necessary in the past. But this approach has not succeeded in creating incentives for local politicians to choose the route of compromise over advancing their nationalist agendas. In fact, the international community’s approach at times serves as an impediment to political leaders’ accountability to their electorate and their assumption of ownership of the reform process.
We should not continue this way. Our focus should be on employing instruments better suited to initiating positive developments. Obsolete approaches should be discontinued.
Decoupling the High Representative and the EU Special Representative, and endowing the EU Special Representative with a sound mandate was an important first step. Further steps have to follow. The European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU perspective should become the ”only game in town“. This will include the continued reconfiguration of EUFOR ALTHEA. In addition, we are of the view that the OHR should be downsized and relocated abroad. Its staff levels should be commensurate with its remaining tasks.
Thirdly, Mr. President, to safeguard OHR’s footprint in stabilizing Bosnia and Herzegovina, a sustainable and comprehensive answer to the question of immunity from legal proceedings of present and former OHR staff has to be found. We intend to initiate more thorough discussions on the issue and invite members to join.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that we fully support the extension of the mandate for EUFOR ALTHEA for another year, to be decided by the Security Council tomorrow. The mission provides an important contribution to the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It epitomizes our joint commitment to the peaceful, democratic and prosperous future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people.
Such a Bosnia and Herzegovina, willing and able to conduct the EU accession process by its own strength, is the best guarantee for peaceful development in the region. Germany will continue to support all efforts to advance this goal.