I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its 27 Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, align themselves with this statement.
Let me first join others in thanking High Representative Valentin Inzko and reiterating the EU’s continued support to his mission.
In December 2019, the Council of the European Union urged executive and legislative bodies at all levels of government to start addressing the 14 key priorities identified in the Commission Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina's application for membership of the European Union, in line with the interests of all citizens to advance towards the European Union.
Last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina's authorities have made some steps to address the Opinion’s key priorities, including with the holding of local elections in Mostar for the first time since 2008, the adoption of the revised National War Crimes Strategy and of the Strategic Framework on Public Administration Reform at all levels of government, as well as the preparations for holding the Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee.
We call on the authorities of the country to build on this momentum and to seize the opportunity of this year 2021, which is a non-election year, to continue to engage on reforms, thereby giving tangible proof that Bosnia and Herzegovina is willing to do what it takes to become a member of the EU. Only by delivering on reforms will Bosnia and Herzegovina advance towards the EU.
This year in particular, we expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that future elections are conducted in line with European standards by implementing OSCE/ODIHR and relevant Venice Commission recommendations, and ensuring transparency of political party financing. Taking into account the institutional mechanisms which were set by the Dayton Peace Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to undertake further constitutional and electoral reforms to ensure equality and non-discrimination of citizens, notably by addressing Sejdić-Finci case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The EU regrets that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution remains not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, as per the ruling in the Sejdić-Finci and related cases. The EU underlines that a number of Constitutional Court decisions have yet to be fully enforced. The EU calls for an inclusive process of electoral reform, through genuine dialogue and in line with European standards that would eliminate all forms of inequality and discrimination in the electoral process. In this regard, we underline that no legislative or political steps should be taken which would make the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci and related ECtHR rulings more challenging.
We also expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to work with determination on the implementation of the other 14 key priorities, in particular towards strengthening the rule of law, in particular the independence and integrity of the judiciary, fighting corruption and organised crime, countering radicalisation as well as guaranteeing the independence of the media, safety of journalists, promoting youth employment and education, gender equality and renewing their efforts towards socioeconomic reforms.
Monsieur le Président,
Nous regrettons que l’année 2020, qui a célébré la 25e commémoration du génocide de Srebrenica et l'anniversaire des accords de paix de Dayton / Paris, ait été marquée par la persistance de discours nationalistes visant à créer un climat de division, y compris de la part d’autorités publiques/de responsables politiques.
Cette année 2021, nous attendons des responsables politiques des actes forts et concrets démontrant leur engagement profond pour promouvoir la réconciliation dans le pays. Le révisionnisme, notamment la minimisation ou le négationnisme du génocide de Srebrenica, et la glorification des criminels de guerre contredisent les valeurs de l'Union Européenne et sont incompatibles avec la perspective d'intégration dans l'Union Européenne.
En dépit de nos appels répétés pour la mise en place d’un système efficace de gestion de la migration et de l’asile, les autorités se sont trouvées en décembre dernier dans l’incapacité de prévenir et de remédier rapidement à une grave crise humanitaire, qui a vu plusieurs centaines de migrants et réfugiés sans abri décent, au coeur de l’hiver. Des mesures tangibles ont été prises depuis par les autorités pour faire face aux besoins humanitaires les plus pressants. Ces efforts doivent être poursuivis, en tenant compte aussi de la nécessité d’un partage équitable des responsabilités entre les entités et les cantons en ce qui concerne les capacités d’hébergement, ainsi que le travail visant au renforcement des capacités de gestion de frontières.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, like the rest of Europe, continues to be severely impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In these difficult times, the EU remains firmly engaged in assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina in addressing the immediate health needs as well as with the long-term social and economic impact resulting from the pandemic. The Commission’s 2020 Economic and Investment Plan, and the delivery of vaccines started on the basis of recently-signed IPA grants to cover the cost of vaccine re-sold to the Western Balkans by EU Member States, as well as the important support being provided by Team Europe to the COVAX facility, once again demonstrates the EU’s strong commitment towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and all the Western Balkans partners.
Lastly, with regard to the political and security situation on the ground and the importance of maintaining a safe and secure environment, the European Union reiterates its firm support to EUFOR Althea and to the mandate entrusted to it by the Security Council. The EU urges all political actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina to abandon the divisive and secessionist rhetoric rooted in the past. We wish as well to reiterate the EU’s unequivocal commitment to the sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and multi-ethnic diversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is our firm and unchanged position. The EU and its Member States fully and firmly support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective as a single, united and sovereign country. Thank you.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.