Remarks by the HR/EUSR at the Press Conference on PIC conclusions: “My Challenge to BiH’s Leaders“

Good afternoon and welcome.

I assume you are all familiar with the conclusions by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council that met end of February in Brussels.

I have asked you here today to inform you that in line with these conclusions on Friday I wrote to the BiH Presidency, Council of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, entity Prime Ministers and the leaders of the ruling parties to underline that the objectives and conditions that were unanimously adopted by the Peace Implementation Council must now be turned into concrete actions.

Only a decisive action going in this direction opens up the road towards the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, sets Bosnia and Herzegovina firmly and irreversibly on the road of Euro-Atlantic integration processes, and enables the beginning of the OHR transition into the Office of the EU special representative.

I have also emphasized in my letters to them that this is the opportunity that BiH must not afford to miss. 

I am reminding you of the fact that the Council has established objectives and conditions that, among other things, were earlier undertaken by the BiH institutions as their obligations.

The five objectives are:

1. Registration of State Property on behalf of the BiH Institutions through an agreement between appropriate levels of government i.e. through legislation.

2. Transfer Agreement on Defence Property, both movables and real estate signed by all and legally registered.

3. Passage of appropriate legal acts regulating the status of Brčko District thus ensuring that Brčko has adequate legal protections in its relationship with the state and entities.

4. Adoption of a permanent methodology for revenue allocation and legal establishment of a National Fiscal Council.

5. Adoption of the National Strategy dealing with War Crimes Cases. Passage of the Law on Stay and Movement of Aliens and Asylum. Adoption of the National Justice Sector Reform Strategy.

In addition we have two “conditions” that must be met prior to OHR closure and its transition.

·        signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement; and

·        a positive assessment of the situation in BiH by the Peace Implementation Council.

If the responsible leaders of this country want to achieve their goals they will have to work hard; at the moment all I’m seeing is political hot air aimed at doing everything but finding agreement.

The International Community is looking for clear evidence that BiH’s political leaders are ready and capable of leading this country in a positive direction, towards the European Union.

Politics is the art of the possible and it is high time we got back to a serious discussion on what needs to be done:

The first priority is adopting police reform legislation in order to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement.

Rather than seeing concrete discussions on how to get the Stabilization and Association Agreement signed – and let me say that the attitudes in Brussels are positively inclined towards BiH at the moment, it would be foolish to miss this opportunity – some political leaders continue to play their zero sum game.

I have to admit that I am displeased with the atmosphere that is being created here with regard to the forthcoming discussion in the Assembly. Once again we have had public statements rejecting in advance any democratic discussion, once again we have seen blackmail at work. All that unnecessarily makes the parliamentary process that we are starting this week harder.

The coming days will show us which of the political leaders are committed to European integration, not only in words but also in action. We will be watching closely the behaviour of the political parties and their leaders in this process, which is of key importance for signing the SAA and the European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And let me remind you once again: it is not the EU that requests BiH to join the Union, but the citizens of BiH who rightfully expect their elected leaders to make that possible for them.

In Brussels the International Community was united in its view that the end of the OHR is not a time-based process, but one based on results that the BiH authorities must deliver.

Let me reiterate, there are clear goals and conditions.

These objectives have been accepted as obligations by the BiH authorities in various policy documents.

If there is a political will among the BiH actors they can be met quickly. Until then, the OHR will remain in place.

It is clear to us that the goal is end-based and not date-based.

That is why I expect all those who bear political responsibility to focus on meeting them.

For this, deliberate provocations, such as resolutions calculated to create instability, must stop.

Threats of secession are empty rhetoric designed to unbalance the country’s progress.

Let me clarify:

First: all three constituent peoples are constituent in all parts of the country. Neither of the entities is the exclusive property of one of the peoples.

Second: the International Community will never allow or recognise any such unilateral move which violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country or questions it constitutional structure.

Third: the only way to get internal change is through agreement among the representatives in BiH’s institutions under the procedure defined by the constitution.

This means that there are legitimate partners in the country that have to agree on any constitutional changes, as well as one important player outside the country – the international community.

The International Community is united and clear. BiH can choose to stagnate and slide backwards or it can choose to move forward on the path of integration and cooperation.

Continuous calls for me to impose decisions are not a solution. They are signs of political immaturity. I am very much aware of my mandate, my powers and my responsibility and no one needs to remind me of that.

There is no third choice. No magic solution. There can be no secession or abolition, one cannot constantly threaten with a referendum as an ultimatum. Such, as well as any other action that is imposed by only one partner against three or four others is anti-constitutional, politically unacceptable and technically unfeasible, and primarily immoral.

So it is time for the political leadership to stop looking for excuses, stop blaming public opinion – the opinion they themselves have created – or the international community – and start doing their job.

The international community expects to see a positive change: we will be watching closely to see if politicians in BiH  are as capable as they say but at the same time we are ready to offer help and support in that joint endeavour, whose goal is to build Bosnia and Herzegovina which is stable, efficient and definitely and irreversibly on the road to the EU membership.

Thank you – I will now take your questions.