Security Council Renews EUFOR-Althea Mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2658 (2022)
With Elections Done, Political Leaders Must Focus on Reforms, Speakers Say
With the general elections now behind, it is up to the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement much-needed reforms, members of the Security Council spoke today as the 15-nation organ extended the mandate of the European Union-led stabilization force in the Western Balkan nation for another year.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2658 (2022) (to be issued as document S/RES/2658(2022)), the Council authorized the Member States acting through or in cooperation with the European Union to establish a multinational stabilization force, or EUFOR-Althea, for another 12 months. EUFOR-Althea is mandated to help implement the military aspects of the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Peace Agreement.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members and representatives of concerned States welcomed the extension of EUFOR-Althea’s mandate, while also raising alarm over the increased use of inflammatory rhetoric aimed at dividing the country, especially before or during the general elections held on 2 October.
Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs, welcoming that the general elections was mostly peaceful, stressed that a newly formed Government must put a quick end to the political deadlock and the paralysis of State institutions. Calling on parties to repudiate the use of divisive and negative rhetoric in the country, he emphasized that “there is no place for such rhetoric in a modern European democracy”.
The representative of the United States, expressing concern over the alleged electoral fraud, particularly in Republika Srpska’s presidential race, as well as the lack of accountability for perpetrators of fraud, encouraged Bosnian institutions to fully address the shortcomings raised by electoral observers. Once election results are fully certified, he added, leaders on all sides must make every effort to support the speedy formation of a Government.
Albania’s delegate welcomed the European Commission’s recommendation on 12 October to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that the political agreement reached among the country’s leaders on 12 June must be implemented. Those who impede the functionality of the State and incite hatred among ethnicities must be met with a strong response, including sanctions and other legal actions, he said.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that Western countries are imposing Special Envoys and an “illegitimate protégé” — as she described the internationally appointed High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina — on the country, usurping the authority of those who have been lawfully elected. She called for the Office of the High Representative, or the “body of colonial governance”, to be closed, thus enabling the population to heave a sigh of relief.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s delegate noted that, while the Dayton Peace Agreement does not identify anyone as its guarantor, neighbouring countries are falsely claiming that role to intervene in its political system. Asserting that the measures introduced by the Office of the High Representative concerning the elections had violated the Agreement, he concluded that “the intention of the High Representative to enable fairer elections with his decisions was not realized”.
Serbia’s delegate expressed his commitment to the transparent development of its relations with Republika Srpska in line with the Dayton Agreement, which he called an irreplaceable foundation for reconciliation. “Imposed solutions, which violate consensus and disturb the internal checks and balances, are counterproductive and potentially detrimental to the stability of the country and the region as a whole,” he said.
Croatia’s representative expressed regret that the general election was marred by warmongering rhetoric and hate speech. Noting that Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been barred for the fourth time from having a legitimate representative in the presidency, he emphasized that the electoral engineering which lingers in his country goes against the spirit of the Dayton accord.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcoming the 2 October elections, said that polls conducted in line with European standards is a key priority set out in the European Commission’s opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application to join the bloc. All political actors must now cooperate to swiftly set up functioning institutions at all levels to focus on reforms that will put the country on the road to European Union membership, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, Norway, France, China, Gabon, Brazil, India, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Kenya and Ghana.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:43 p.m.
THOMAS BYRNE, Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, said that due to the war in Ukraine, young Europeans today are experiencing the same sense of disbelief as older generations did during the Balkans War in the 1990s. He welcomed that the European Commission has recommended Bosnia and Herzegovina for candidate status in the European Union, adding however that the impetus for reform must come from within. He also encouraged all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to respect and engage with the Office of the High Representative. While it was positive that last month’s elections were largely peaceful, he called on parties to repudiate the use of divisive and negative rhetoric. “There is no place for such rhetoric in a modern European democracy,” he said.
With the elections completed, a Government must be formed to put a quick end to political deadlock and the paralysis of State institutions, he continued. Threats and unilateral actions which entrench ethnic tensions and further divide the State cannot be tolerated, he said, pressing elected representatives to address the needs of their citizens. Urging the authorities to ensure the development of effective mechanisms to implement gender quotas, he called on the High Representative to include updates on gender equality in future reports. He went on to stress the need for progress on electoral reforms, so that all citizens can exercise their political rights, but expressed regret that the country’s leaders have been unable to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico) stressed the need to implement the package of measures aimed at quickly establishing legislative, executive and judicial branches in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also fundamental is the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in political life, he said, voicing regret that less than 25 per cent of the elected members of parliament are women and that, in the executive branch, women's participation is even lower. He expressed concern about the attempts in Republika Srpska to assume the competencies and responsibilities of the State, stressing that they are counter to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, stoke secessionist rhetoric and undermine national institutions. Deploring the continued glorification of war criminals, he stressed that such a narrative is not propitious to reconciliation. He urged an end to hate speech, noting that his delegation expects the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina to bring to justice those responsible for glorifying criminals. He went on to urge the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue advancing implementation of the 5+2 Agenda with a view to the closure of the Office of the High Representative.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) welcomed the peaceful conduct of the general elections held on 2 October as well as the European Commission’s decision to recommend candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the country still faces serious challenges, with considerable work to be done before the General Framework Agreement for Peace is fully implemented. Therefore, Norway urges the authorities to stay committed to the process of democratic transition. Noting that the High Representative’s report outlines that limited political progress has been made on crucial issues, she expressed concern about polarizing ethnic-based rhetoric, calling on all political actors to both condemn — and refrain from — hate speech. The limited participation of women in political life in Bosnia and Herzegovina is another concern, she said, strongly encouraging authorities to strengthen legal protections and ensure accountability. Turning to accountability and justice for war crimes, including conflict-related sexual violence, she said that although a reparation scheme has been in place for many decades, there is a need to increase efforts to deliver justice for survivors. On EUFOR-Althea, she welcomed the Council’s unanimous vote in favour of its extension in light of the country’s fragile security situation and political crisis. She went on to echo other Council Members in expressing her full support for the Office of the High Representative, and its important role in overseeing the implementation of the civilian aspects of the General Framework Agreement for Peace.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), stressing that the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina must engage resolutely in reforms to achieve closer ties to the European Union, voiced regret that only limited progress has been made over the last year. She expressed concern over the ongoing exacerbation of communal and divisional tensions, noting that it is intolerable that some leaders are calling for secession while others call into question the principle of a multiple, open and inclusive society. Reaffirming the importance of justice for all victims, she stressed the need for reparations and guarantees of non-repetition for all crimes committed during the conflict, adding that the transitional justice process is the only way to achieve the ultimate aim of reconciliation. She also condemned the glorification of war criminals and the negation of genocide, emphasizing that this is incompatible with European Union values.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said his country remains committed to the goal of a democratic, stable and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina. It supports its full integration in the transatlantic community and eventual path to European Union membership. He expressed concern about alleged electoral fraud, particularly in Republika Srpska’s presidential race, as well as the lack of accountability for perpetrators of fraud. He encouraged Bosnian institutions to fully address the shortcomings raised by electoral observers and urged all stakeholders and citizens to pursue any grievances through established channels. Once election results are fully certified, all leaders on all sides must make every effort to support the speedy formation of a Government. The United States supports the Office of the High Representative and the use of the Bonn Powers when the High Representative deems necessary, he said, adding that those powers are a key tool for maintaining stability in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. Until Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfils the criteria for its graduation from international supervision, the Office of the High Representative must remain, he added.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) noted with concern the worsening ethnic differences in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that it is a direct consequence of the interference of Western countries which adopted a neocolonial approach that threatens the General Framework Agreement for Peace, undermines the constitutional foundations of the country’s statehood and gives rise to a new spiral of tension. Such a situation is not due to Republika Srpska, but rather to the targeted demonization of everything that does not fit into the Euro-Atlantic framework, she said. Noting that the outcome of the 2 October elections revealed overwhelming support for the Dayton Agreement, she noted with regret that “not all colleagues were happy with the country’s sovereign choice”. Instead, she said, Western countries are imposing a multiplying number of Special Envoys and an “illegitimate protégé — the so-called High Representative” on the country, usurping the authority of those who have been lawfully elected. She deplored the “short-sighted policies” imposed by such countries, including sanctions, pressure and blackmail. Referring to the Office of the High Representative, she called for that “body of colonial governance” to be closed down so that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina can heave a sigh of relief. Turning to the “so-called report of the so-called High Representative”, she characterized it as the “random musings of a private person” which should not be submitted as a Security Council document, adding that the real state of affairs is reflected in the report by Republika Srpska. While the Russian Federation voted in favour of extending EUFOR-Althea, it is concerned at the unexplained doubling of the contingent in 2022, despite no immediate threats posed to the country’s security.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), noting that the recent general elections were overall well-organized, urged all parties to remain fully engaged in dialogue and to enable much-needed electoral law reforms. Welcoming the recommendation of the European Commission to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, he stressed that the political agreement reached among the country’s leaders on 12 June must be implemented. Expressing concern over the inflammatory and secessionist rhetoric of Milorad Dodik, leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, he warned that the international community should not take him lightly: “If somebody is in doubt where Mr. Dodik gets such inspiration … just check his flight destinations before every election process, looking for fresh instructions.” Politicians and others who impede the functionality of the State and incite hatred among ethnicities must be met with a strong response, including sanctions and other legal actions. He went on to condemn genocide denial and the glorification of war criminals.
GENG SHUANG (China) said it is concerning that for some time, the use of the Bonn Powers has become controversial in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The High Representative system and the Bonn Powers are a special arrangement, he pointed out, underscoring that as a sovereign country, Bosnia and Herzegovina must find a peaceful path for independent and effective governance. For its part, the international community must act in a fair, balanced and prudent manner and refrain from imposing its plans on the country. China has always opposed unilateral sanctions not authorized by the Council, he said, urging relevant countries to refrain from using such measures to interfere in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s internal affairs. The international community should also increase its support and assistance, pay more attention to the outflow of population, especially the youth, and help the country meet its development challenges. Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina must create a fair and just business environment to help attract foreign investment, create employment opportunities and promote sustainable socioeconomic development.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) took note of steps taken to enhance the participation of citizens in the general elections on 2 October and urged all political actors to engage in dialogue to enable peaceful coexistence. Different entities must honour the Dayton Agreement and differences must be resolved by consensus. As well, the rule of law should be ensured and all unilateral rhetoric or fait accompli policies must be avoided. Further, additional efforts must be made promote intercommunity cohesion, he added. Taking note of measures to recognize victims of war as a step towards reconciliation, he called for obstacles to the 2023 budget to be resolved. He expressed concern about the significant outflow of young people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and called for enhanced political action to resolve differences. Turning to EUFOR-Althea, he welcomed its role in bringing about peace and political stability and took note of the High Representative’s efforts to get the country out of its political impasse.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), expressing concern at rhetoric that accentuates resentments and ethnic-based divisions, encouraged the country’s leaders to remain engaged in the reconciliation process and to avoid words and actions that could result in violence. While the presence of EUFOR-Althea remains essential to ensure peace and resilience, he added, the people themselves must take the lead to undertake institutional reforms needed to build a functioning State that can ensure their well-being and prosperity. Expressing regret over the lack of progress in the implementation of the 5 plus 2 agenda, he said that the time has come to increase the engagement among political forces with the aim of modernizing legislation and strengthening the rule of law.
MADHU SUDAN RAVINDRAN (India) said that to realize the objectives of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, all parties must engage in dialogue, understanding and cooperation. He commended the successful holding of general elections on 2 October and hoped that all political parties and their leaders will work together in a constructive and progressive manner. The disagreement over the Office of the High Representative must be resolved through constructive engagement, in line with the Dayton Agreement, he said. Initiatives to combat corruption and promote good governance, non-discriminatory politics, the rule of law and a safe and secure environment will pave the way for economic development and more trade. He called on the Council to support all endeavours for cooperation, development and peace and to avoid divisive rhetoric that could undermine the Peace Agreement. In that regard, the Office of High Representative must work with all parties objectively, thus playing a pivotal role in strengthening the country’s democratic and constitutional framework.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the unanimous renewal of EUFOR-Althea’s mandate, which reflects the Council’s confidence in the European Union Force and its important role in promoting stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He stressed the need to address hate speech, commending in this regard the reported decrease in hate speech incidents during the last electoral cycle as well as the positive impact of laws put in place for this purpose. Further, he stressed the importance of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in political life and decision-making, especially considering the challenges facing women’s participation in those areas as described in the High Representative’s report. Reaffirming support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity, in line with international law and the Dayton Agreement, he also commended the High Representative’s important role and stressed the importance of fully respecting national institutions.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), welcoming the unanimous renewal of EUFOR-Althea’s mandate, pointed out that the country’s hard-won peace remains fragile and under pressure. Congratulating all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the 2 October elections, she urged the relevant actors to prioritize collaboration and cooperation over political obstructionism to ensure that the election results are implemented swiftly and effectively. Taking note of the executive actions taken by the High Representative in the run-up to and following the elections, she said that they were designed to improve governance to benefit everyone in the country. She further urged all actors to set aside narrow interests and focus instead on improving the quality of life for all citizens while also making progress on the agreed aim of Euro-Atlantic integration.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) encouraged the authorities to keep making progress towards implementing the 5 plus 2 agenda and achieving European Union integration and to work together to ensure full compliance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace. He further urged them to respect the agreements and the constitutional provisions and create a society inclusive of all its peoples and citizens. He urged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities to avoid any actions that might divide the people along ethnic or religious lines. Any resistance to inclusion and respect for diversity will endanger the peace which the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve. All parties must work together to create an environment that is conducive to the return of refugees and displaced persons, he added, calling for an end to divisive rhetoric and the glorification of war criminals. These are the minimum requirements for Bosnia and Herzegovina to chart its way to becoming a stable democracy, he said, stressing that unity of purpose, especially at the leadership levels, is critical to successful governance.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming today’s adoption of the resolution that paves the way for EUFOR-Althea’s continued presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He regretted the inability of the High Representative to participate in today’s meeting due to a lack of consensus among Council members and hoped that the Council can resume its established format for the meeting. Turning to the Dayton Agreement, he called for its effective implementation. However, he expressed concern about the political deadlock which assails progress in this regard. Welcoming the High Representative’s efforts to facilitate the speedy formation of a new Government, he said cooperation must be forged among all sides and their respective concerns be addressed. He also called on all political actors to forge a collaborative arrangement to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement. He went on to express concern about the use of divisive rhetoric and the mass exodus of young people from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Steps must be taken to forge peace, generate work opportunities and prioritize gender equality at all levels, he said.
SVEN ALKALAJ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), welcoming the Council’s unanimous adoption of today’s resolution, stated that the previous reporting period was relatively peaceful and largely dedicated to the holding of the general elections. He noted that while the Dayton Peace Agreement does not identify anyone as its guarantor, neighbouring countries are falsely claiming that role in order to intervene in its political system. He stressed that the previous period saw significant violations of the Agreement’s provisions not only by neighbouring countries but also by the Office of the High Representative, which is tasked with monitoring the implementation of Agreement’s civilian aspect.
That Office amended the election law two months before the vote, making it impossible for the Central Election Commission to adequately organize everything on time. Moreover, the Office imposed new rules for assigning delegates to the upper house of the State’s legislative body the day after citizens had cast their ballots. Through that first measure, the High Representative deceived voters as well as the political parties and independent candidates. The second measure, meanwhile, resulted in ethnic discrimination through a mathematical formula that provided a certain ethnic group greater chances in the elections. He further said that that the High Representative used two different censuses in favour of Croatia, and that these changes were made in cooperation with that country. “The intention of the High Representative to enable fairer elections with his decisions was not realized. On the contrary, it introduced a number of confusing elements and made it difficult to carry out the election process,” he said.
SILVIO GONZATO, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcomed the holding of general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 2 October, stressing that elections conducted in line with European standards is a key priority set out in the European Commission’s opinion on its application for European Union membership. All political actors must take full responsibility and cooperate to swiftly set up functioning legislatures and governments at the State, entity and cantonal levels to focus on reforms that will put the country onto the European Union path. He welcomed the political agreement reached on 12 June in Brussels by the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it is necessary for the stability and proper functioning of the country and to meet the aspirations of the population. All political leaders must swiftly implement the commitments set out in the Brussels agreement and urgently finalize constitutional and electoral reform. This will enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward on its European path. He recalled that in June, the European Council stated its readiness to grant candidate country status to Bosnia and Herzegovina. To that end, he said the European Council invited the European Commission to report on implementation of the 14 essential priorities in its opinion, while paying particular attention to the significant package of reforms for further consideration.
NEMANJA STEVANOVIC (Serbia) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to preserving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It supports that country as a single State with two entities within the framework of the Dayton Agreement. On the 2 October elections, he hoped that the process will be finalized without delays and that the new State institutions will assume their responsibilities soon. Serbia is committed to the transparent development of its relations with Republika Srpska in line with the Dayton Agreement, which is an irreplaceable foundation for reconciliation. “Imposed solutions, which violate consensus and disturb the internal checks and balances, are counterproductive and potentially detrimental to the stability of the country and the region as a whole,” he said, emphasizing the importance of consensus and dialogue. He welcomed the European Commission’s decision to recommend “conditional” candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He went on to express the hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s newly elected representatives will make additional steps towards closer cooperation within the Open Balkans framework.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia) expressed regret that the general election was marred by warmongering rhetoric and hate speech. It is now up to the country’s political leaders to take this opportunity to pursue work on constitutional and electoral reform. Stating that the democratic rights of the ethnic minorities have been denied through electoral engineering, he said that the High Representative had made decisions to ensure the legitimacy of the elections and that when he intervened, it was in accordance with his mandate when national political mechanisms had seriously failed. Noting that Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina have been deprived for the fourth time from having a legitimate representative in the Presidency, he emphasized that this electoral manipulation goes against the spirit of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Hopefully, the political parties will continue to work on electoral and other reforms in good faith and that High Representative’s further interventions will not be needed in future.