Statement by H.E. Ambassador Ivan Šimonović, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council VTC meeting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

New York, 04 May 2021

Mr. President,

Croatia aligns itself with the statement delivered on behalf of the EU and its Member States. I would like to make some remarks in my national capacity.

I thank High Representative Inzko for his briefing today and for his recent comprehensive Report. Croatia remains committed to closely work with the Office of High Representative.

Mr. President,

Six months ago we marked the 25th anniversary of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement. Its major achievement was ending the war and achieving lasting peace and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Today, 25 years after Dayton, we deem that the country should finally turn the page and embrace more ambitious peace time goals and engage in reforms necessary for its Euro-Atlantic integration path with more determination.

We see this process as crucial for the long term stability, security, prosperity and democratic transformation of the country. It is a challenging process but it offers numerous benefits.

Croatia remains the staunch supporter and advocate of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Few weeks ago Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Mr. Gordan Grlić Radman, visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to manifest Croatia’s help and support to Bosnia and Herzegovina both in his meetings with political and religious leaders and in his public appearances. He also announced that Croatia will donate vaccines against the coronavirus to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr. President,

Stability and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina also greatly depend on equality of all its citizens and equality of its three constituent peoples - Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. If not fully respected it has a potential to be source of tensions, functional gridlocks and political crisis.

The equality of all citizens and constituent peoples can be ensured through the much-needed reform of Electoral Law.

Reformed Election Law needs to be adopted prior to the 2022 general election in order to ensure equality of all citizens and among constituent peoples and remove all forms of discrimination in the electoral process. Therefore, it is easy to understand that 2021 is a year of vast opportunity which needs to be seized.

Given the time sensitive process, inter-agency working group has to be formed promptly to tackle election law changes in order to implement B&H Constitutional Court rulings and to address ECHR court rulings. Moreover, credible and impartial election administration institutions are crucial for conducting free and fair elections. There is a clear need to restore citizens' confidence in elections which will also positively contribute to the legitimacy of its outcomes. In addition, it is imperative to ensure that future elections are conducted in line with European standards and on the basis of OSCE/ODIHR and relevant Venice Commission recommendations.

Mr. President,

Continuous attempts to shift focus from much-needed comprehensive reforms contributes to deepening of the challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What Bosnia and Herzegovina needs today is much more cooperation and far less division.

Unfortunately, in the past weeks we have been witnessing dangerous and unacceptable attempts to destabilize already fragile political landscape of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Border changing speculations recreating fear of instability, ethnic division and possible war, should be strongly and unanimously condemned.

The responsibility for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies primarily in the hands of its peoples, political leaders and institutions. We should encourage them to reach compromises that will result in a more stable and functional country. It is time for Bosnia and Herzegovina to take ownership over crucial reforms and show it is capable of successfully tailoring its own destiny. Backward-looking and keeping the unsatisfactory status quo is prompting thousands of young people to emigrate. Successful finishing of electoral reforms and relaxation of political tensions can serve as a good foundation to shift country's focus on building sound political, economic and demographic perspective.

Mr. President, let me conclude.

Croatia will strongly support Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfil 14 priorities defined by the European Commission, and therefore to achieve the candidate status for EU membership.

Also, we welcome the recent establishment of the Commission for Cooperation with NATO, which we see as evidence that solutions can be made in regard to important steps for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As an EU and NATO member, Croatia will keep strongly supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina in its ambitions for integration, extending our full political support and technical expertise and assistance in the process.

A prosperous future of Bosnia and Herzegovina can only be grounded on democracy and equality within the multinational society, the rule of law and good governance, and strong guarantees of human rights and freedoms for all.

In pursuing that noble cause, Bosnia and Herzegovina will always have friend and partner in the neighbouring Croatia.

I thank you.