Statement as delivered by Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 5 May 2016.

Thank you Mr President and thank you High Representative Inzko for your briefing.

Since the Council last discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it has taken the significant step of lodging an application for membership in the European Union. We wish Bosnia and Herzegovina well as it pursues an ambitious reform agenda, with a view to closer integration with the EU.

The reform process will undoubtedly encounter challenges and give rise to difficult choices. But it is clear that this program of modernisation will enable all citizens to reap the benefit of economic growth and strengthened institutions.

The reforms also aim to increase employment opportunities, which is particularly important for youth looking to contribute to a vibrant and prosperous society. We encourage the international community, especially neighbours in the region and the EU, to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in its reform process.

With a reform agenda laying a path forward, it is time for all political actors to look for ways to deliver it, and not to step backwards into divisive politics which have impeded socio-economic progress for all of its citizens. It is now over twenty years since the Dayton Peace Accords brought an end to the bitter conflict in the region. But, as we have seen in this Council over the past year, the wounds of the past are yet to fully heal.

We urge renewed commitment by the parties, and by the international community, to engage on the issues left unresolved by the Dayton Accords as they continue the process of national reconciliation. Divisive rhetoric and talk of referenda, challenge Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the Dayton Peace Agreement. This does nothing to move the country forward, and instead distracts from the reform agenda and undermines reconciliation efforts.

The reconciliation process requires due consideration of past events and, where appropriate, holding individuals to account. We hope that everyone can learn to respect the conclusions of independent judicial processes, whatever their outcome. When court decisions are used as justification for inflammatory language and provocative actions, it simply sets reconciliation backwards.
The process of administering justice should instead be used as an opportunity to move forward together. Not only should judicial decisions be respected, the judiciary itself should be able to freely operate with independence.

We reiterate the High Representative’s call for the judiciary to be left to prosecute and rule on cases free from political pressure, but fully in line with principles of professionalism and accountability.
Mr President, as we have heard today, in the reporting period only limited progress was made on the objectives and conditions necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative. We hope that progress on this track can accelerate. We welcome the ongoing work of the EU’s multinational stabilization force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which continues to play an important role in supporting the local authorities maintain a safe and secure environment. While the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is, as it should be, in the hands of its citizens, the international community, including this Council, has a responsibility to encourage and to support it.

Thank you Mr President.