Press conference by the High Representative Miroslav Lajčák following the Peace Implement Council Steering Board session in Brussels on 26-27 February 2008

During the last two days Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council had an opportunity to exchange views on the situation in BiH among ourselves, with the BiH Presidency, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, his two deputies and the leaders of the 6 political parties that make up the governing coalition.

We discussed the current political situation in BiH and the strategy of future presence of International Community in BiH. The adopted Communiqué is now available.

There are three points I want to stress:

·        The first is that the Peace Implementation Council is united in its views and the Communique was adopted unanimously by all PIC members.

·        It was stressed several times that all parties must fully comply with the DPA.

·        Closure of OHR remains our goal, but the BiH authorities must ensure that conditions for OHR closure are met.

Let me elaborate on the last point.

Long-term objective of the PIC and OHR is to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a “peaceful, viable state irreversibly on course for European integration”.

In this context there are a number of longstanding objectives that the PIC Steering Board considers essential for the creation of such a peaceful, viable state.

The most critical issues will be considered objectives to be achieved by the BiH authorities before transition can take place. From a long list of known priorities we have selected the key ones for transition, for closure of OHR.

They are:

·        Resolution of State Property

·        Resolution of Defence Property

·        Completion of the Brcko Final Award

·        Fiscal Sustainability of the State

·        Entrenchment of the Rule of Law

In addition to these objectives there are also two conditions: signing of the SAA and a positive assessment of the situation in BiH by the PIC SB are essential prior to transition.

Let me stress that there is nothing new in these objectives. They are part of the OHR work-plan, are approved by the PIC SB and have all been previously recognized by BiH authorities as their obligations.

The fulfilment of these objectives and conditions would open the way for transition of OHR. Until then OHR will remain in place and continue to carry out its mandate under the Dayton Peace Agreement, ensuring full respect of the Peace Agreement.

There has been a declared goal of OHR closure since 2006. Rather than a time driven process we are now focusing on policy objectives to be achieved. Once they are in place OHR could close.

The Peace Implementation Council Steering Board will be regularly reviewing progress at its meetings in Sarajevo. The next comprehensive review will take place at the next PIC SB meeting in June.

In terms of next reform steps, it is clear that most urgent is adoption of police reform legislation.

The Steering Board of the PIC welcomed the progress made by BiH leadership, which led to the initialling of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 4 December last year.

The signing of the SAA is finally in reach, as soon as the necessary conditions are met.

However PIC SB also stated that important underlying problems, which gave rise to recent crises, remain in BiH.

It is worrying that the positive, constructive atmosphere which led to the initialling of the SAA deteriorated so quickly.

Instead of engaging in intense dialogue to find solutions; the political leadership, once again took up diametrically opposed and maximalist positions.

There have been renewed tensions between political actors over the future constitutional make-up of the country as well as the role and competencies of the state. State-level institutions have been called into question and there have also been challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement.

The PIC SB expressed deep concern with official calls for secession and stressed that it is clear that an Entity of BiH has no right to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One of the important elements stressed by all the members of the Peace Implementation Steering Board is that the BiH politicians must fully comply with the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement. They must end the practice of threatening unilateral changes to the constitutional structure of the country.

There must be no question that Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities and that Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs are constituent peoples throughout the whole country.

In every country political life has its positive and negative cycles, but in BiH the negative political cycles seem to be much longer and more difficult to break. Through their words and actions the political leadership can either transform the negative cycles into positive ones or escalate the situation into another downward spiral.

We have many examples that progress can be achieved quickly when there is dialogue and political will. This is currently missing in BiH. PIC stressed that all the local leaders must engage in a dialogue.

The Peace Implementation Council will continue to review and monitor the situation in the country against the objectives and conditions I have outlined and which are presented in more detail in our Communiqué.

Before concluding I just want to stress once again that we have full unanimity in the PIC Steering Board that all parties must comply with the Dayton Peace Agreement as well as all other issues we discussed. It is important and encouraging that we adopted a joint platform in which we defined what must be done to start the process of OHR transition.

Thank you.