Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 29, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Lecoq, for your briefing – especially on such short notice.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently at peace, but its stability cannot be taken for granted. The country has yet to realize its full potential – and as we’ve heard from Mr. Lecoq – especially in strengthening its economy, rule of law, democratic institutions. The Office of the High Representative plays an essential role in monitoring and supporting the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Accords, and the Office has been critical to the stability we’ve seen over the last 25 years. The Office is needed to guide Bosnia and Herzegovina toward its own self-identified goals. A secure, stable, forward-looking Bosnia and Herzegovina undergoing continued work towards unity and reconciliation is in the best interests of the citizens of that country, as well as the international community.

As the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board established and many of the Council members before me have affirmed, Bosnia and Herzegovina must meet specific criteria – the 5+2 Agenda – in order to graduate from international supervision. And I note, in that regard, that Russia agreed to this Agenda in 2008. In contradiction to the 5+2 Agenda it has previously supported, Russia now appears to maintain that the Office of the High Representative should be closed. Russia’s opposition to the new High Representative is not based in law, but it is because Moscow does not agree with the appointment of a new High Representative as a matter of principle. So, let’s be clear on why we are here today: Russia seeks the immediate closure of the Office and is using some spurious legal arguments to advance that goal.

On May 27, the Peace Implementation Council appointed Christian Schmidt as the next High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the sole exception of Russia, all Steering Board members – Canada, France, Germany, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference represented by Turkey, the United States, Japan – agreed to his appointment. Decisions of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board do not require unanimity. Based on the Conclusions of the 1996 Peace Implementation Conference, there is no determinative role for the UN Security Council in the appointment process. There is no requirement that the Security Council take action to confirm Mr. Schmidt’s designation. High Representative-Designate Schmidt has the support of the Peace Implementation Committee Steering Board, barring only Russia. Therefore, his appointment as High Representative is a closed matter.

The United States opposes any effort to negotiate a change to the 5+2 Agenda or a timeline for the closure of the Office of the High Representative. Among the conditions of the Agenda include urgent reforms for a stable Bosnia and Herzegovina. And as was made abundantly clear to this Council from the briefers that Russia itself selected for the informal Arria-formula discussion last November to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Dayton, nationalistic rhetoric continues to divide the country and inhibit real progress on reform. The United States remains committed to the principles of the Dayton Peace Accords. There is no future for either of the entities outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Peaceful dissolution” is not an option. The redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans is not on the table.

Let me respond – if I may – to some of the earlier remarks from other delegations. The United States’ view is no one is trying to undermine the Council’s authority or to circumvent its procedures here. We welcome the Council’s support for the High Representative, and we look forward to a productive relationship – we hope – between the High Representative and the Council. However, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board appoints the High Representatives, not the Security Council. The letter from Representative Inzko has now been shared with the Council. In the past, as some have indicated, there may have been consensus – there was consensus in the Security Council – on the appointment of the High Representative, and the Security Council chose to explicitly welcome and support the appointment. However, this was not required.

Let me end, Mr. President, by saying the United States affirms our unwavering support for a Bosnia and Herzegovina that is democratic, multi-ethnic, sovereign, and for an independent state with unquestioned territorial integrity, destined for fuller integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

Thank you.