Remarks by Hristian Schmidt, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, at a UN Security Council Briefing on Bosnia and Herzegovina

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May 15, 2024

Hristian Schmidt, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalled that he has submitted six reports on the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement since his appointment on 27 May 2021. “Collectively, my reports plea not only for continued international attention, but also for more robust international support to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.  Such support is essential for that country to be set irreversibly on the course to sustainable peace, stability and progress, he stressed — and to prevent its fall into “a vortex of instability, economic hardship and social decay”.  Spotlighting the “good news” that the European Council, on 21 March, decided to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said that European Union membership — “by transcending individual, party, ethnic or entity interests” — offers an opportunity for communities in that country to work together.  To seize this, he stated that the Agreement is the starting point:  “It is the basis on which we build.”

“Opening EU accession negotiations is a watershed moment,” he observed.  However, he pointed to threats — coming from Republika Srpska authorities and others — that actively subvert the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, thus, the Agreement.  Among them, equating the inter-entity boundary line — an administrative line — to an international border attempts to promote the idea of secessionism.  “As the final interpreter of the Dayton Peace Agreement, I am of the view that Republika Srpska authorities are contributing severely to a grave violation of Dayton,” he said, adding that the international community and State institutions must observe and, if necessary, act together to address this.  He also stressed that the way forward starts with an understanding that the Agreement and the path to European Union accession are complementary, not competing. “Everybody has to acknowledge and respect the simple axiom that no one demolishes the foundations of a house while attempting to build it,” he said.

He went on to recall his signing, on 26 March, of a decision regarding amendments to the election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “My amendments have been broadly recognized by citizens throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina for strengthening the integrity of the electoral process,” he said, adding that preparations for municipal elections on 6 October 2024 “are going very well and intensively”. He also recalled his introduction of a prohibition against those convicted by any international or domestic court for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes standing for election or holding any elective or appointed office.  He then drew the Council’s attention to a recent “scandal” in which certain military officials were photographed, in uniform, paying tribute to Ratko Mladić — who was convicted at The Hague for war crimes. “If this is the case, this is a severe violation of the sense and tendency of criminal law in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said, underscoring the unacceptability of the glorification of war criminals.

Stating both that “it is a historical fact” that a genocide was committed in Srebrenica in July 1995 and that “there is no such thing as collective guilt under criminal law”, he underscored that remembrance, memorialization and truth-telling for future generations are preconditions for peaceful coexistence among different groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Noting, however, that “there remains a lot of work to be done” to teach children about “never again”, he underlined the collective responsibility for a peaceful, prosperous future for youth in that country. “We owe them this perspective,” he concluded.

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