Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to welcome His Excellency, Nikola Spiric, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, back to the Council, and thank him for his comments. Let me also welcome High Representative Valentin Inzko and thank him for his comprehensive briefing and express our gratitude for his dedication and hard work. The United States fully supports the actions taken by the High Representative to implement the Dayton Peace Accords.
Mr. President, Bosnia-Herzegovina has made extraordinary progress in the years since the war that tore the country apart in the early 1990s and caused such suffering for all its people. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement 14 years ago, Bosnians have worked hard to rebuild their economy and infrastructure, and they have begun the long, difficult process of reconciliation.
The country has assumed its obligations as a responsible member of the international community. It has dedicated itself to playing a constructive role in the region and the world.
The members of NATO have welcomed it into the Partnership for Peace, and Bosnia-Herzegovina has signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. At the United Nations, we are proud to sit on the Human Rights Council with Bosnia-Herzegovina, and we look forward to welcoming it to the Security Council in January.
Mr. President, the United States is committed to helping the Bosnian people achieve their aspirations to become members of the European Union and NATO. In this spirit, the United States and the European Union have engaged with party leaders, civil society representatives, and parliamentary committees in Bosnia-Herzegovina in what has become known as the Butmir process, so named since meetings of these groups took place at the military base outside of Sarajevo that has served the headquarters of international peacekeepers since IFOR. The Butmir process is an effort to help Bosnian leaders not only resolve the remaining issues in the “five-plus-two” agenda set by the Peace Implementation Council for closure of the Office of the High Representative, but also to reform the Bosnian constitution within the Dayton framework so that the state can advance toward joining the European Union and NATO.
For all the distance that Bosnia-Herzegovina has come, several aspects of the High Representative’s report are indeed troubling.
First, we are greatly concerned that very limited progress has been made toward meeting the outstanding requirements that the Peace Implementation Council set for the transition from the Office of the High Representative to an enhanced European Union Special Representative mission. We are similarly troubled by the lack of progress on the priorities and conditions required for Euro-Atlantic integration.
Second, Bosnia-Herzegovina has witnessed a sharp and dangerous increase in nationalist political rhetoric that could stir up anger and resentment—and undermine the very state institutions that must be strengthened for the country to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Such divisive and aggressive rhetoric is particularly troubling as the campaign season for the October 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections approaches.
Third, the High Representative has noted that war crimes prosecutions and reform of the justice sector have suffered due to the inability of leaders to reach political decisions that advance national goals.
We agree with the highest state-level judicial and prosecutorial officials: the mandates of international judges and prosecutors in the war crimes and organized crime chambers of the State Court and prosecutor’s office should be extended past December. Extending the mandates of these international officials is critical to the successful completion of related investigations. The practical, political, and budgetary preconditions that would let this vital work continue without international assistance are not yet in place.
Finally, and fourth Mr. President, we are deeply concerned about the lack of support for the authority of the Office of the High Representative. Let me state once again that the United States continues to fully support the High Representative and his work. We look forward to the day when the office can transition to an enhanced EU Special Representative mission, but first, the agreed-upon reform agenda—the five objectives and the two conditions—must be completed. A successful transition will require action and support from all Bosnians, including the country’s leaders.
As the High Representative points out, Bosnian leaders have taken some positive steps recently, including the adoption of legislation that will help fulfill the conditions necessary for visa-free travel within the European Union and steps toward resolving issues among the entities that had threatened the state electric-transmission company, Transco.
Finally, let me note the one-year extension of the mandate of the European Union’s peacekeeping force, EUFOR, which this Council adopted last week. As High Representative Inzko has pointed out, EUFOR plays a key role in contributing to a safe and secure environment. We believe that EUFOR should remain in its current executive mandate and configuration for the time being.
Mr. President, the United States remains fully committed to supporting peace and stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to supporting its greater integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. We stand ready to assist the Bosnian people in these efforts.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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