“THE SITUATION IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA" - PUBLIC MEETING
I join previous speakers in thanking High
Representative Lord Ashdown for his useful update on the situation in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. I also welcome Minister Barisa Colac.
There have been many positive developments in
BiH. Authorities have been showing increased commitment to progress. Structural,
administrative and legislative reforms continue to proceed. NATO benchmarks have
in their most part been reached, and the launching of negotiations with the EU
is in sight. The ownership of the process is gradually being transferred to
Bosnian Authorities, which is testifies to the success of the effort by the
International Community. The High Representative and his Office have given able
guidance to the process of reform.
Cooperation with the International Tribunal
for the Former Yougoslavia, though, remains a thorny issue. In spite of positive
signs sent by the handing in of some indictees, BiH, and in particular the
authorities of Republika Srpska, must be encouraged to improve further their
cooperation with the Tribunal. Failure to do so is preventing the country to
achieve important national goals, such as acceptance in NATO’s Partnership for
Peace and the opening of negotiations no a stabilization and association
agreement with the EU.
Rebalancing government budgets, enacting
legislation on taxes and public procurement and other key initiatives have
pushed forward much-needed economic reform. Progress can be noted in the path
leading to a full-fledged market economy that will help attract foreign
investment and serve as the basis for the development and revitalization of the
The transition between SFOR and EUFOR
occurred smoothly in December, marking the boundaries between the Dayton era and
the Brussels era. The fact that the EU is already considering reductions in the
size of the force after June points out, in our opinion, to the good level of
stability already reached.
We are pleased to note that, according to
UNHCR, the situation regarding returns has improved dramatically, and a
sustained return momentum continues to exist. It is encouraging that the
governments of BiH, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro intend to combine their
individual action plans to solve the refugee issue by the end of 2006. In this
context, we renew our call to Republika Srpska to do more to harmonize its
legislation with the State Law on the subject.
International engagement is consistently
bearing fruit in BiH. The remaining steps, though in some cases difficult, must
be taken with the unwavering commitment to achieve a peaceful, fully
multi-ethnic country in its way to economic prosperity and in complete harmony
with its neighbours.