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Let Bosnia and Herzegovina stand on its own: envoy

Let Bosnia and Herzegovina stand on its own, envoy tells Security Council

Bosnia and Herzegovina, emerging from the devastation of inter-ethnic bloodshed, must now be allowed to take responsibility for its own political reforms and economic development while the international community clears up defined, outstanding issues, the world’s envoy to the country told the United Nations Security Council today.

“The international community has set out clearly the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and put in place the foundations of a functioning State – now it is the time to hand over the reins to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and their elected representatives,” the High Representative for the Balkan country, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, said in his first Council briefing since taking over from British politician Paddy Ashdown in early 2006.

“I look forward to assisting, advocating and advising the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but no longer doing their job for them,” he added. “They must seize the opportunities that stand before them to shape their own future.

Mr. Schwarz-Schilling, a former German Government Minister, said that the reconstruction phase, which followed the 1995 Dayton accords that ended three-years of fighting and crimes against humanity, is coming to an end and that he was focused on the completion of that work as well as progress toward integrating the country into the European Union.

Outstanding issues to be dealt with by the international community included bringing to justice the remaining war-crimes fugitives, most importantly Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, he said.

In addition, he said that bans on public officials previously removed from their positions by the international community should be lifted, and their cases reviewed on a case by case basis, with responsibility transferred to Bosnian authorities.

Similarly, the issue of police officers who were decertified by the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF) immediately following the war had to be resolved, as the European Union’s successor Police Mission did not assume recertification and appeal responsibilities.

The tasks before the Bosnians included constitutional reform, the general elections in October and the ongoing negotiations with the European Union, he said. After months of negotiations, the Bosnian political leaders had reached agreement on a package of measures that would reform the constitution, the first step toward a more functional State. Discussions on further reform would commence after the October elections.

Mr. Schwarz-Schilling warned that there would be temptations for the international community to intervene in these areas and others in order to ensure short-term gains, but such intervention would no longer be compatible with the long-term development of an independent and sovereign country.

“We have talked about ownership for some time,” he said. “Now we must be ready to uphold this principle in our actions, as well as in our words. This may mean we have to stand back and allow the Bosnian authorities to take decisions, which previously we would have acted and directed the process.”

In the discussion that followed Mr. Schwarz-Schilling’s presentation, members of the Security Council affirmed their support for constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and called for war criminals still at large to be brought to justice to prevent impunity and make it possible for the country to overcome the remaining legacy of war.

Members also supported the High Representative’s call for reducing international intervention and allowing national and local authorities greater ownership.

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