Emphasizing that the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) remains the basis for a stable, secure and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SB) reminded all parties of their obligation to comply fully with the GFAP, all its annexes, and decisions of the High Representative. It reaffirmed its unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity and fundamental structure of BiH as a single, sovereign state comprising two entities, said the PIC SB on Wednesday after a meeting on June 6 and 7.
The PIC SB restated that the entities have no right to secede from BiH and only exist legally by virtue of the BiH Constitution.
The PIC SB reminded authorities in BiH that the BiH Constitution is an integral part of the GFAP and that the decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court are final and binding, and must be implemented.
The PIC SB agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina is at a critical juncture.
“Having received EU candidate status and having almost completed government formation at all levels, BiH has the opportunity to make swift progress on reforms vital for stability and prosperity,” said the Communiqué published at the OHR website.
The PIC SB underlined that the future of the country is in the hands of BiH citizens and domestic politicians and urged all political actors to continue the recent positive trend and seize the opportunities to foster reconciliation and move the country forward on its Euro-Atlantic path for the benefit of all citizens.
At the same time, the PIC SB agreed that BiH still faces significant challenges, including the Republika Srpska ruling coalition’s secessionist threats and efforts to undermine the state and its institutions.
The pursuit of EU membership is a significant undertaking requiring political leadership, serious commitment to reforms, and the hard work of adopting and implementing legislation, the PIC SB said.
They commended the swift establishment of authorities following the October elections as well as the positive trend in the work of the Council of Ministers and the smooth adoption of the state budget for 2023, in contrast to the stagnation of the previous period. Noting this positive momentum, the PIC SB calls upon them to address key challenges without delay:
• Achieve immediate and concrete results in implementing the 14 key priorities of the European Commission’s Opinion, keeping in mind that EU candidate status was recommended on the understanding that a number of steps would be taken. These include, among others, the urgent adoption – in full compliance with EU standards – of integrity amendments to the BiH High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) Law, as well as new BiH laws on the HJPC, courts, and the prevention of conflict of interest.
• Strengthen the integrity of the electoral process by revising the legal framework to implement the OSCE/ODIHR, GRECO, and Venice Commission recommendations. In light of the numerous allegations of serious fraud that plagued the 2022 elections, the authorities should fulfil this objective as soon as possible to ensure the 2024 municipal elections take place in a framework of enhanced election transparency and integrity.
• As outlined in the 5+2 agenda, find an acceptable and sustainable resolution to the issue of the apportionment of state property between the state and other levels of authority by adopting state-level legislation to regulate the matter. The PIC SB commends the work of the OHR’s State Property Working Group as a source of technical information for competent domestic institutions. The resolution of state property is critical for completing the 5+2 agenda, which is necessary to close the Office of the High Representative, and will benefit BiH citizens by making the property available for productive use.
Condemnation of secessionist policies
The PIC SB condemns all rhetoric and actions that threaten Bosnia and Herzegovina’s peace, stability, and territorial integrity, including attempts to block or undermine the functioning of BiH institutions and the RS ruling coalition’s threats of secession. The PIC SB calls on RS authorities to engage constructively in state institutions and uphold the rule of law, including by refraining from any pressure on BiH Constitutional Court judges. The PIC SB discussed the risks to BiH’s democracy arising from recent moves by the RS authorities to limit freedom of speech, restrict civil society and stigmatize minorities. These actions are to the profound detriment of all citizens.
The PIC SB supported the strengthening of democracy in BiH and the integrity of its institutions. This includes ensuring full equality of all citizens and eliminating discrimination, particularly by implementing the European Court of Human Rights case law in the Sejdić and Finci group of cases.
The PIC SB underlined the need for constructive and collaborative politics at all levels and offered its unwavering support and tangible assistance to those genuinely committed to progress. The PIC SB will oversee the developments as highlighted in this communique.
The next regular PIC SB meeting will be held on December 5 and 6, 2023.