We fully support the Office of the High Representative and its ongoing work on the implementation of the “5+2 agenda”. Let me thank High Representative Inzko for his briefing today. We also appreciate his report on the current situation, outlining the challenges Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to face. It shows there is still considerable work to be done before we can see the full implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Norway also welcomes the continued work of Operation Althea. Its contribution to maintain stability and a safe and secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina is important. And let me confirm that we fully support the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and fundamental structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single, sovereign state comprising two entities.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 crisis, experiencing significant negative socio-economic and political impacts. There are worrying trends of: growing unemployment, loss of income, setbacks within the health and education sectors, and an increase in domestic violence. We express our support and sympathy with the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina during these daunting and exceptional times.
It is however a sad reality that neither the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina nor other levels of government, have been able to cope adequately with the crisis and mitigate the challenges now faced by its population.
That said, we would like to commend the execution of local elections last year. 2021 now constitutes a window of opportunity for reforms, as it is a year with no elections planned.
We urge the political actors to use this momentum for dialogue, and to make a genuine commitment to democratic principles, towards a common agenda.
Appointing a new government in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina should be a high priority, as it is already two and a half years since the last General Elections. Continued reforms are necessary to secure stability and the welfare of the people. Reforms are also a prerequisite for further European cooperation and integration. All parties must prioritize the implementation of comprehensive reforms in a manner benefiting all citizens. This will require political will, and strong leadership.
We encourage the government also to make further efforts to improve the rule of law. Upholding standards of judicial impartiality and integrity, and of police independence and accountability, are essential to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina develop as a State based on the rule of law. This includes abiding by its international commitments on human rights and implementing decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.
We welcome also the decision by the Council of Ministers to establish the Commission on cooperation with NATO. By endorsing the new Reform Programme with NATO for 2021, Bosnia and Herzegovina will make progress on necessary reforms within its Armed Forces and secure increased interoperability with the Alliance.
Women are key to peace. Hence, we continue to call on all parties to ensure women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in all aspects of peacebuilding. And we encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina to fully implement their National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security. We would welcome possible update on this issue in the next report.
Let me conclude by reiterating that Norway will remain an active partner; supporting reforms and furthering the European cooperation and integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina.