As Bosnia and Herzegovina readies to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Second World War, it must seize the opportunity to “finally say farewell to the politics of the past” and decisively commit to a new way of doing politics that puts the interests of citizens firmly in first place, the United Nations Security Council heard today.
“Peace is of course a priceless commodity. It should never be taken for granted. But it is the base, not the end state,” the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, told the Council during the 15-member body's regular meeting on the situation in the country.
It is “entirely right” that after 20 years, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina – especially the young – expect “so much more” from their country and their politicians. “From the highest young unemployment rate in Europe and many of them are leaving the country,” Mr. Inzko added.
In July, Bosnia and Herzegovina will mark the 20th year anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide and in November, the Dayton/Paris peace Accords that ushered in peace to the region.
“So what needs to happen in the next six months is to mark the 20th with a sense of renewed optimism about the future?” he asked.
“The answer is very simple. We need to see the newly elected authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina come together to deliver steps to take advantage of European Union (EU) initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
“Bosnia and Herzegovina has been given a fresh chance and it must be taken,” said the High Representative, emphasizing that the EU initiative offers the country a chance to end years of stagnation.
The good news is that the Government is showing signs that they are ready to implement the written agreement that was adopted in March and has opened the way for the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU to enter into force.
However, he said that progress will require concrete results, some of which will be very difficult to deliver. This includes creating new jobs, improving functionality of institutions and the rule of law when it comes to fighting crime and corruption.
“I believe that a great deal can be achieved in 2015 if there is renewed commitment within the country and among its political leaders to pull together and work together, to work as one,” the High Representative said.
“The alternative is to continue doing what we have seen over and over again: to continue politics from the past that has [driven] the country ever deeper into the crisis at the expense of all its citizens, especially the young,” Mr. Inzko added.
There are politicians, however, who may be tempted to follow the “negative and dangerous path,” he said, pointing to recent developments that have directly challenged the Peace Agreement. Of particular concern is the Declaration adopted by the RS National Assembly that challenges the authority of the BiH Constitutional Court. Also of concern is another party document that threatens to hold an independence referendum in Republika Srpska in 2018.
“As I have made clear repeatedly, the Peace Agreement does not grant the Entities the right to secede, and any attempt to change the Peace Agreement requires the agreement of all parties,” he said.
“The drawing of borders in Bosnia and Herzegovina is behind us. Division and secession are failed strategies that were defeated twenty years ago. Their place is in history books,” the High Representative declared, stressing: “This is the era not of division but of renewed bridge-building. The expanding force of forward-looking people in Bosnia and Herzegovina is getting ever stronger by the day.”
Apart form the parties within the country, Mr. Inzko said the international community is “duty bound to recognize the importance of this moment,” and do all it could to help the forces of positive change in Bosnia and Herzegovina reach their “surge capacity.”