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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

On 5-6 November, I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina. During my visit I met with the three member joint presidency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska and leaders of seven political parties. I also met with representatives of civil society and visited the International Commission For Missing Persons.

The British Government are strongly committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s security and stability. Our vision is of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a fully functioning state making real progress towards membership of the EU and NATO. In my meetings with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders, I reconfirmed the UK’s commitment to the processes of EU and NATO enlargement, and to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future membership of both organisations. I emphasised the need for compliance with the Dayton framework. I made clear UK concern about the prolonged slowing down of reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and stressed that without genuine action to unblock reforms there was a risk of Bosnia and Herzegovina falling behind the rest of the region on its path to membership of the EU and NATO.

I made clear that the UK wanted to see the transition of the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Office of the High Representative to a European Union Special Representative but only on the basis of full completion of the conditions and objectives set by the Peace Implementation Council in February 2008. I encouraged the party leaders to redouble their efforts to make progress on the outstanding conditionality.

In this context, I urged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders to engage wholeheartedly and constructively in the EU/US initiative to reinvigorate the reform process. The initiative offers an important opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders to engage together in order to find a way through some of the blockages. This initiative is evidence of the international community’s strong engagement: it needs to be met with a corresponding political will on the part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders.

In my meetings with the joint presidency and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s election to non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2010-11. This will be an important opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina to contribute to addressing threats to international peace and security. The United Kingdom looks forward to developing a close partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina on UN Security Council business including through intensified policy exchanges and the provision, by our Embassy in Sarajevo, of capacity-building workshops.

I visited the headquarters of the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) which is based in Sarajevo and saw at first hand the pioneering DNA-based work carried out by ICMP to identify the remains of missing persons. This work makes a vital contribution to peace and stability in the region and to regional and international judicial processes. The British Government are a strong supporter of ICMP’s work.

I also had valuable meetings with representatives of civil society including with representatives of non-governmental organisations who have been partners of the UK in taking forward project work under our conflict prevention and strategic programme funds. I also met with British members of the EU military and policing missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.