Bosnia's Leaders Fail to Move Forward With Region

Bosnia's international administrator accused the country's leaders Tuesday of being more interested in "personal political and financial advantage" than in moving forward with the rest of the region to become part of the European Union and NATO.

Valentin Inzko. the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed regret that with less than a year left until the next general elections the country's elected leadership has failed to make "a serious effort towards progress on Euro-Atlantic integration."

Inzko addressed the U.N. Security Council shortly after it voted unanimously to renew the mandate of the 900-member European Union peacekeeping force in Bosnia, known as EUFOR, for a year.

Inzko's position was created in 1995 immediately after the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the vicious 1992-1995 civil war between Bosnia's three ethnic groups — Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs — to oversee the civilian implementation of the accord.

The country was split down ethnic lines into a Serb part — Republika Srpska — and another shared by Bosniak Muslims and Croats after the war that killed an estimated 100,000 people. The two semi-autonomous mini-states each have a president, government and parliament — and they are linked by a joint parliament, government and a three-member presidency.

Inzko said Bosnia's leaders have failed to make changes required by the European Court of Human Rights to the constitution, which now bars minorities from running for parliament or president. Similarly, he said, progress has been "elusive" on the question of the ownership of military property, which has kept Bosnia from activating its "Membership Action Plan" with NATO.

"The failure of the ruling parties and the relevant institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina to agree on these limited reforms has been symptomatic of an overall lack of urgency in carrying out basic political and economic reforms to move the country forward," he said.

"And so while the other countries in the region move forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina's leaders seem less interested in delivering long-term change in the interests of the people, and more interested in the zero-sum politics they believe will ensure them personal political and financial advantage," Inzko said.

Britain's Michael Tatham, a deputy ambassador, cited the April agreement between Serbia and Kosovo and the accession of Kosovo to the EU but said that "unfortunately there has been no sign that regional progress has influenced Bosnia and Herzegovina's leaders" because politicians "are unwilling to put the needs of their electorate and their country above their own interests."

He said Britain therefore supports "as a regrettable necessity" a decision by the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefar Fule to begin cutting Bosnia's funding for 2013 by 47 million euros.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina's political leaders are locked into short-term, narrowly-focused, zero-sum-game mindsets," Tathan told the council. "This is a road to nowhere in terms of the country's future. Indeed it risks undermining the hard earned gains of the past 18 years."

Inzko said an exception to the negative political developments was the country's first census since 1991 which showed that the population shrunk by half a million over the past two decades from 4.37 million to 3.79 million. Data showing how wartime ethnic expulsions and killings have changed the country's ethnic composition are expected at the beginning of next year.

"It will be important that the results of the census not be used to promote divisions or exacerbate ethnic tensions," Inzko said.

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