Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia at the UN Security Council open VTC meeting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina New York, 6 May 2020

New York, 06 May 2020


Mister President,


At the outset, allow me to welcome the High Representative Valentin Inzko, and thank him for his comprehensive briefing today, as well as for his Report.

[Croatia fully aligns itself with the EU statement, and I would like to take this opportunity to make some remarks in my national capacity.]

Croatia has been consistent participant in these semi-annual debates on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Council and we welcome - even more so in these unprecedented circumstances - this opportunity to discuss the situation in the country.

These unprecedented circumstances caused by global pandemics of COVID-19 has made the world of diplomacy and international politics to find new ways of doing things, some never tested before, and to adjust the working methods in order not to lose sight of important strategic issues.

For us the importance of this topic of today’s Council’s agenda is certainly of the highest degree. Many times we have stressed the importance Croatia attaches to the territorial integrity, stability, functionality and prosperity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many times we have testified that in words and deeds. Even at the worst of times.

Mister President,

Today, as we debate in this august Chambers, thanks to the modern technology, another debate important for the future of Western Balkans is taking place in the form of teleconference – the summit of 27 EU and six Western Balkans leaders.

Under the helm of Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU the EU-Western Balkans summit meeting was planned to be held in Zagreb in May.

As it cannot be physically organised due to restrictions introduced to fight the coronavirus pandemic, on the initiative of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, EU leaders agreed that the EU -WB Zagreb summit will be held via video conference in full configuration of all EU Member States, and the six Western Balkan countries.

Even in these extremely challenging times we are doing our best to support Western Balkans. We are not losing our focus nor allowing important issues to be left unaddressed.

Croatia from its part has provided our partners from Western Balkans with an extraordinary opportunity. Precisely this EU-Western Balkans summit and decision to open accession negotiation with Albania and North Macedonia speak volumes of Croatian engagement with Western Balkans.

We hope that Zagreb summit will be catalyst for encouraging B-H internal work on its EU agenda and related reforms.

A stable, peaceful and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisively progressing on its EU path, and a country where constitutional equality among three constituent peoples and rights of all the citizens are guaranteed, plays a pivotal role in the stability of Western Balkans, and by that of Europe and the world as whole.

Mister President,

The political impasse in Bosnia and Herzegovina and standstill in the formation of institutions after the October 2018 elections was finally resolved in December last year when new Council of Ministers was formed. Croatia as the biggest supporter of the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed that, hoping this will untangle political knots and allow for much needed reforms to be delivered.

Croatian foreign minister Mr. Gordan Grlić Radman was the first foreign minister to travel to Sarajevo after the confirmation of the new B-H Council of Ministers in December expressing not only Croatian, but also European Union’s, support to the reform processes ahead.

Council of the EU also expressed itself on those reforms at the end of the last year. It is evident that Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to invest enormous efforts and undertake significant political, institutional and economic reforms.

Those complex reform processes must be home-grown and can only be achieved through a rational and inclusive internal consensus-based process that will take place in an environment of compromise and reconciliation. It must stem from an agreement by legitimate political representatives of all three constituent peoples, as set out in Dayton/Paris Agreements, and based on the principles of their equality.

Bosnia and Herzegovina today needs far less divisions, inflammatory rhetoric and actions that cause the spiral of distrust and much more reforms aimed at strengthening of institutions and its functionality in general and the rule of law and judiciary in particular.

Too often policies towards B-H and in B-H itself were trapped in between two extremes of centralism or divisionism, id est growing tendencies of unitary domination on the one hand and separatism on the other are both destructive for Bosnia and Hercegovina, its integrity, functionality and in consequence its future.

In this regard, Croatia would like to echo the European Parliament’s resolutions on the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina (in 2015, 2016, 2017), which point out that B-H will not be a successful candidate for the EU membership until appropriate institutional conditions have been established on the basis of the principles of federalism, decentralisation and legitimate representation.

In long-term the citizens are fleeing to European countries due to political apathy, as they cannot adequately participate in political and social processes, the problem which is amplified with poor economic situation and overall lack of perspective. People today, especially young and educated, are voting with their feet.

Mister President,

The last general elections in autumn 2018 were held without prior changes to the provisions of the Election Law which the B-H Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional. The flawed Election Law allowed for the third time for more numerous constituent people to elect both their own candidate and to impose on Croats a candidate of their choice to the country’s collective head of state, the three-member Presidency.

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed that legitimate and proportional representation of the three constituent peoples at all levels of government is the basic principle enshrined in the Constitution of B-H, tasking the state parliament to harmonize the Election Law with the Constitution. It was in 2016.

It is therefore of key importance to embark on the reform of the Election law urgently without further delays as requested by the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Ljubić case and the Decision of the Constitutional Court on the city of Mostar. It is needed to implement the decisions of the Constitutional Court, contribute to the rule of law and also to prevent future election engineering.

It should enable full implementation of the principle of equality of the three constituent peoples – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – and their right to legitimate representation which remains essential element contributing to B&H's internal political stability.

This is becoming an even more pressing issue with local elections taking place in autumn this year.

That remains the basic precondition for faster progress towards a fully functional country concentrated on its future rather than its past.

Mister President,

Alongside these issues of structural nature, B&H also faces new challenges. The migration wave on the Western Balkan route and the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina has increased significantly in 2019 and the EU’s longest external land border is under significant pressure from illegal migration.

On top of that battle with COVID-19 pandemic is additionally burdening scarce resources and limited capacities, increasing pressure on local communities and institutions and creating even more political frictions and instabilities.

Republic of Croatia has been constantly providing technical, expert and financial assistance to B-H.

Croatian Government recently made two decisions to support B-H in fighting Covid-19 pandemic and mitigating its consequences. In these challenging times for my country, stricken with pandemic and devastating earthquake that caused severe damage to the Capital of Zagreb, Croatia is supporting health care system of Bosnia and Herzegovina with more than 5 million Euros (40 million of HRK) and is sending protective equipment to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help tackle the virus spread.

Mister President,

Let me conclude by stressing that Croatia has always been ready to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia remains the biggest supporter of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We provide support and help on its path to the integration in the EU as well as in fulfilling all the requirements in that regard. 

Reforms usually breed adversaries as they tackle the narrow specific interests. Fight for better past is useless and irrational. The one worth fighting is for a better future for all and for broader common good. We encourage our friend and neighbour to find internal strength and wisdom to proceed without delays with the comprehensive set of reforms as a path towards a better tomorrow.

I thank you.