‘We Will Not Sit Still’ while Others Dismantle 26 Years of Peace, High Representative Declares in Defence of Dayton Accords
The international community must stand firm behind a peaceful, unified Bosnia and Herzegovina, the High Representative for that country told the Security Council today, citing rising tensions, a months-long political stalemate and increasing speculation about the possibility of yet another conflict in Europe.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a country traumatized by war,” said Christian Schmidt, the United Nations High Representative. More than 26 years after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace — known as the Dayton Accords — he said threats to the constitutional order have returned. Citizens are speculating about the possibility of another conflict, and the immediate risk of inflammatory incidents is real. “The conflict in Ukraine, not so far away, is a sobering reminder that even in the twenty-first century, another war on European soil is not an impossibility,” he stressed.
Outlining the main challenges, he said authorities in Republika Srpska — one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two entities, alongside the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina — have increasingly embraced rhetoric and actions that could undermine the constitutional framework, including attempts to render State laws inapplicable. Among other things, this would lead to Republika Srpska’s withdrawal from the country’s unified forces. Emphasizing that constitutional changes cannot be made unilaterally, he said the international community has a responsibility to defend the Dayton Accords and the rights of the country’s three constituent peoples.
Praising Governments that have supported Bosnia and Herzegovina’s unity through targeted sanctions and other means, he declared: “We will not sit still while others seek to dismantle 26 years of peace, stability and progress.” Elections are scheduled to take place in October, and despite the lack of agreement on an electoral law, all candidates must conduct themselves with grace and dignity. With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s candidature for membership in the European Union — a path which would help resolve grievances and foster peace — he urged Europe to keep is doors open to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of the Western Balkan nations.
At the meeting’s outset, several delegates expressed their reservations to hearing a briefing by Mr. Schmidt in his capacity as High Representatives, noting that the Council did not authorize his appointment to that position.
Following the briefing, Council members took the floor to outline their national positions, with delegations divided on both Mr. Schmidt’s participation and the appropriate course of action for the international community. Many rejected the use of unilateral sanctions or other outside attempts to influence the country’s trajectory. However, delegates were largely united in their support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and efforts to achieve a brighter future for its people.
The representative of Gabon said the threat by Republika Srpska to withdraw from State institutions demonstrates the scale of the constitutional crisis. The State is regularly hamstrung in its ability to take decisions, and for three years, it has been unable to adopt a budget. Stressing that the Dayton Accords must remain the basis for peaceful coexistence, he added that the State must recognize the rights of all citizens from all groups and allow them to participate on an equal footing in public life.
Norway’s representative, pointing to the limited political progress achieved in Bosnia and Hercegovina, expressed concern that the political crisis could develop into a more serious security situation. She voiced concern about aggressive ethnic rhetoric and called on authorities to both condemn and refrain from hate speech, noting that conditions could worsen due to the impact of the war in Ukraine. She also expressed her country’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to make progress on European integration, known as the “5+2” agenda.
Also expressing support for that agenda was the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer. Urging political leaders to refrain from and renounce provocative and divisive rhetoric and action — including questioning Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity — he urged them to undertake joint efforts to fulfil all 14 priorities identified in the European Commission’s Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for European Union membership, as endorsed by the Council in 2019.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative described the High Representative’s report as an objective account. “Unfortunately […] during the past 10 months, we are witnessing efforts to destroy all that has been achieved through the implementation of the Dayton Agreement,” he said, calling for the international community’s full support. Underlining the need to unblock the work of State institutions, he said that given the geopolitical situation — “when we feel the strong consequences of the aggression on Ukraine” — the European Union should consider responding positively to his country’s request for candidate status.
China’s delegate said that while a profound deadlock and political uncertainty persists, all members of society — including Republika Srpska — have pledged to uphold the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Describing the High Representative system as a relic from another time, he declared: “Picking sides by external forces will not help resolve differences between ethnic groups”. He also warned against the imposition of unilateral sanctions.
The representative of Serbia, meanwhile, acknowledged the political tensions in the Balkan region and highlighted the importance of learning from its common history. Reaffirming respect for the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina — as well as that of Republika Srpska within the country — he stressed the validity of the Dayton Accords and cautioned against any unilateral revisions. All decisions relevant for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future must be taken in agreement between its entities and among the three constituent peoples, he stressed, warning against politicization of painful issues from the past.
Also speaking were representatives of Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, Albania, France, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Russian Federation, India, Ghana, Mexico, United States and Croatia.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:18 p.m.