Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you High Representative Inzko for your briefing and for your tireless efforts on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States continues to support your mandate and commends your work encouraging the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance on a broad range of issues related to the General Framework Agreement.
We remain steadfast in encouraging government at all levels to focus on key priorities, including capitalizing on positive civic engagement, ensuring that general elections go forward as planned this October, enacting reforms necessary for Euro-Atlantic integration, and refraining from disturbing secessionist rhetoric. Today I would like to touch briefly on each of these four issues.
This past February, thousands of protesters in cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina joined together to express dissatisfaction with the lack of long-term economic and political progress in the country. Protesters noted grievances about unemployment, corruption, and other social concerns. We regret that the protests briefly turned violent, resulting in injuries and damage to buildings, and that some political actors attempted to use the protests to discourage public discourse and to stoke ethnic tensions.
The United States recognizes that both peaceful protests and democratic institutions such as plenums can serve key roles. They allow the public to express views that political leaders should listen to and respect. We hope that Bosnian citizens will continue active, peaceful engagement in advance of – and beyond – October’s general elections. Further, we commend the government for passing necessary amendments to the election law, and we hope election preparations move forward smoothly. As preparations progress, we call on politicians and political parties to campaign on concrete proposals for economic and political reforms, instead of attempting to distract the public with divisive nationalist rhetoric.
The politicization of the regulation on residency has been yet another concern in the lead up to elections. Although there is a need to amend existing legislation, the rights of returnees and freedom of movement of all citizens must be respected. Attempts to address these issues unilaterally at the entity-level and to block the functioning of state-level institutions are unacceptable.
In addition to holding general elections throughout the country, authorities are to hold local elections in Mostar no later than October 2014. In that regard, we hope that political parties and institutions will meet their obligations to implement the ruling of the Bosnian Constitutional Court on the electoral system for Mostar.
Looking beyond elections, we hope Bosnia-Herzegovina will again focus on key reforms for Euro-Atlantic integration, which the United States continues to view as the surest and most expeditious path to the country’s long-term stability and prosperity. As the High Representative has noted in his report, authorities failed to make any concrete progress on the outstanding 5+2 objectives and criteria. We also share his concern over the Republika Srpska’s lack of compliance with their obligation to provide the High Representative with timely access to officials, institutions and documents.
Despite efforts by senior European Union officials, Bosnian leaders failed to reach a final agreement on implementing the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in the Sejdic-Finci case, a key requirement for EU integration. And a defense property solution, which is also a 5+2 requirement, remains a condition for activating Bosnia-Herzegovina’s NATO Membership Action Plan.
Finally, the United States strongly supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. as guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Accords. We strongly condemn recent statements in the country calling for Republika Srpska’s secession. Any action taken by Republika Srpska towards the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina would violate Dayton as well as the Bosnia constitution. Secessionist statements are nothing more than an attempt to distract the public from the economic and political stagnation of the past four years.
We continue to support EUFOR Althea and NATO Headquarters-Sarajevo. We believe these institutions are essential in sustaining a safe and secure environment in Bosnia, provide essential capacity building to the government, and provide reassurance across ethnic lines that the international community is committed to Bosnia’s stability.
Mr. President, we are optimistic about the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and will continue to work with the Bosnian government to encourage progress to improve the lives of its citizens and to advance its path to Euro-Atlantic integration.
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