NEW YORK, September 23 (FENA) – Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Šefik Džaferović, in a video format, addressed today the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
In the introductory part of his presentation, Džaferović spoke about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing that the crisis, in addition to posing barriers, has led to a new form of solidarity among people and countries around the world.
The address of the Chairman of the Presidency of BiH, Šefik Džaferović, follows below in its entirety:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honor to address you on behalf of Bosnia and Herzegovina at this year’s United Nations General Assembly. Although we did not have the opportunity to gather at the UN headquarters due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the health crisis, it is extremely important that we exchange experiences and opinions in this manner, and maintain the continuity of the UN General Assembly sessions.
Human life in general, and therefore all aspects of social life, is comprised of few things that are as important as conversation, and it is of the utmost importance that this year as well, despite the health crisis, we are holding this largest dialogue platform that humanity has had.
I would like to congratulate Mr. Tiani Muhammad Bandi on his successful presidency of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. I would like to emphasize this in particular, bearing in mind the effort that Mr. Bandi has made, together with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, making it possible for this year’s General Assembly to take place.
I also congratulate Mr. Volkan Bozkir on his election, with the message that he can count on the full support of Bosnia and Herzegovina in ensuring the productive work of the General Assembly in the coming year.
This year, the United Nations is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Continuing after the terrifying experiences of World War II, out of the need to prevent their recurrence, the United Nations has, since its inception, been a factor without which it was impossible to imagine regulating issues of international peace and security, as well as global development planning and human rights protection.
Despite numerous challenges and certain difficulties in fulfilling its mission, the United Nations remains an indispensable framework for international cooperation that needs to be further enhanced and developed.
The coronavirus pandemic has certainly marked this year throughout the world, and brought us challenges we could not have even imagined before. Taking hundreds of thousands of lives, the pandemic has sown disaster around the world, grieving many families with whose pain we sincerely sympathize.
At the same time, this very dangerous pandemic blocked physical connections and traffic between continents, regions, countries, and finally everyday encounters of people. The only way to fight it effectively was to physically distance ourselves from each other. Having in mind human habits and the need to meet each other, this was very demanding, and finally traumatic, and caused enormous damage, first to the economy, and then to the overall quality of life.
However, we should not forget that in the absence of vaccines and appropriate treatment, that was the only way to fight for human lives, whose preservation was more important than economic growth or anything else.
Although during the first wave of the pandemic, we all had to physically distance ourselves from each other, strong solidarity arose that brought us all closer, both internationally and within individual societies. We had the opportunity to see how many communities, in the moments when they themselves were fighting a deadly pandemic, still provided help to others, to those most endangered, not allowing them to be left only to themselves and to shut down altogether.
On behalf of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I want to thank the friends who came to our aid, not allowing us to be left alone in the most difficult moments.
Although we do not have large resources, we also tried to respond to appeals for help.
So, like any other great misfortune, this one reminded us of how much we are oriented towards each other and how important it is to have friends.
We especially appreciate that Bosnia and Herzegovina, although not a member of the EU, has been included in the European public procurement system.
Also, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that the coronavirus vaccine must be made available to all of humanity.
It is an indisputable fact that there has been a strong crisis of multilateralism on the scene in recent years. International organizations in general, and the United Nations itself, have become the subject of intense questioning and even challenges to its existence.
Let me share with you an observation that multilateral organizations, even in the time of the pandemic, have shown their extraordinary importance in today’s globalized world, which is based on interdependence and the need for constant cooperation.
The pandemic has shown that the biggest problems today can no longer be solved by one, three or five countries alone. Such difficulties can only be addressed through a transnational, multilateral response based on dialogue and cooperation from as many countries as possible.
We have had a special opportunity to see this on the European continent, where the historic agreement on the European Union’s economic recovery package worth almost two trillion euros, has shown that European unity is extremely strong and can set an example to all other parts of the world.
The strength of the European Union was also shown in the fact that it has not only directed its huge financial resources towards its own needs, but also supported others, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a country on the path to membership in the European Union.
On this occasion, Bosnia and Herzegovina also expresses its gratitude to the European Union for its strong support to the economy and the health care system, which has had an exceptional stabilization effect.
The European Union’s aid package to Bosnia and Herzegovina worth a total of 300 million euros, for the purpose of mitigating the economic consequences of the pandemic, has certainly further strengthened our commitment to European integration, and at the same time ensuring stability in the immediate neighborhood.
At the end of this year, it will be 25 years since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which stopped the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although at the time of its conclusion, this agreement seemed fragile, and perhaps even unsustainable, it nevertheless proved to be a very strong and resilient stabilization framework that managed to withstand a number of challenges.
The main problem with the Dayton Peace Agreement is that some parts of it have not been implemented at all, and some have been only partially implemented. Annex IV, also known as the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina implied full implementation of the entire agreement. This shortcoming must be remedied. The Dayton Agreement must be fully implemented, all decisions of international courts must be respected and equal rights must be ensured for all citizens in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. This is especially true for displaced persons who have returned to pre-war places of residence.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been living in peace for 25 years and this has been of immeasurable importance, having in mind our experience in the 1990s, as well as the experience of numerous crisis hotspots that are active in the world right now.
However, when we talk about the shortcomings of the Dayton Peace Agreement, we should never forget that this was a peace agreement, whose primary goal was not to ensure the application of sophisticated constitutional standards, and it is quite natural that it needs an upgrade that is possible only with broad political consensus.
It is very important that all relevant political entities in our country are deeply aware of the fact that the foundations of the Dayton PA can be changed only through a broad consensus and consent of all.
Of course, such a situation means that there are no quick and easy changes, and therefore no quick and easy progress can be made, as it would be expected and demanded by many. But this situation at the same time guarantees everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina that they have a significant degree of security and protection.
We in Bosnia and Herzegovina have a general agreement on the irreplaceable importance of preserving peace, and thus the peace agreement on which it is based upon, which gives us hope that in the future, BiH society will be increasingly preoccupied with development issues, entering a new phase of its historical path.
Bosnia and Herzegovina shares the UN General Assembly’s concern over unresolved conflicts in current crisis hotspots.
We give our full support to the call of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an end to the conflicts in the world, after the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although there has been a decrease in violence in Syria in the recent period, we are aware of the fact that the conflict continues in sporadic forms, and the extremely difficult humanitarian situation of internally displaced persons in Syria is of particular concern.
We are concerned that no progress has been made in ending the conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Ukraine, and we call for more intensive involvement of the international community in order to bring about a lasting end to those conflicts.
Bosnia and Herzegovina believes that ensuring lasting peace and stability in relations between Israel and Palestine is possible only through diplomatic efforts, within the framework of international law, and we give our full support to such efforts.
Bosnia and Herzegovina supports the dialogue between Priština and Belgrade, which is being conducted under the auspices of the European Union and the United States.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a serious, reliable and determined partner in strengthening the European Security Area, and we are actively contributing to regional efforts to strengthen the stability and security of the Western Balkans.
Our country has been constantly strengthening its capacities to combat terrorism, all forms of violent extremism, international crime, drug production and trafficking. Bosnia and Herzegovina participates in regional and international initiatives that contribute to international security, and in the past, we have made a turn from a country that has consumed international aid, in terms of military missions, and become a country whose soldiers and police officers have participated in peacekeeping missions around the world.
We have good cooperation with neighboring countries in many areas, and we have put our relations with our neighbors at the very top of our foreign policy priorities. Our goal is to resolve any open issues with our neighbors through dialogue, on the principles of mutual respect and reciprocity, and with full respect for international law.
In this regard, I would like to convey the concerns of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the fact that some important issues such as the issue of the state border agreement have not been resolved to date with all neighboring countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina has concluded an agreement on the state border with Montenegro, and to this day we do not have such agreements with Serbia and Croatia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is of the opinion that these agreements should be concluded as soon as possible with full respect for the well-known, internationally recognized borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and with the full and consistent application of international law.
Since the last quarter of 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been facing a huge problem of illegal migration, which has worsened especially this year. Due to the closure of the remaining migrant routes, most migrants coming from the Middle East heading towards the countries of the European Union, pass through the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, representing huge security and humanitarian problem for which our country does not have enough resources.
Our plan is to further strengthen the competent institutions dealing with this issue, to protect the border and to increase assistance to local communities that are suffering the greatest burden of the crisis. But in order to completely solve this problem, we need much greater support from the European Union, as well as cooperation with the migrants’ countries of origin.
Migrants do not intend to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they want to go to Western Europe. They enter the region of the Western Balkans, and even Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the European Union, and then they encounter the barrier on the western border of Bosnia and Herzegovina and they stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina unnecessarily, which is a huge problem for us.
On the one hand, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the final destination of migrants, and we face this problem solely because of our geographical proximity to the European Union as the migrants’ end destination.
On the other hand, Bosnia and Herzegovina, responsibly, understands its position within the international community and the European Security Area, but we need stronger support from the European Union itself, as well as the entire international community.
We are also seeking to sign appropriate readmission agreements with migrants’ countries of origin. We have managed to reach an agreement with some of the countries, and on this occasion I invite other countries, whose citizens are currently located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to join us in this process.
One of the huge social problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the emigration of our young, educated people. Struggling with their own demographic deficit, the developed countries of the European Union are attracting young and educated people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, offering them much more favorable business and overall life opportunities in their organized social systems.
The only way to effectively counter this trend is to build a society based on the principle of equal opportunities, political stability and legal security where it would be possible for young people to plan for their future.
We are slowly but surely approaching this goal thanks to the particularly credible perspective of membership in the European Union. In this regard, we have started implementing the obligations from the Opinion of the European Commission on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership, and we expect that the competent institutions will fulfill the full set of obligations as soon as possible in the coming period.
Also, it is equally important to continue to fulfill the obligations that Bosnia and Herzegovina has undertaken in relation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), by unreservedly supporting all laws and decisions made by the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina on this matter.
Despite the difficulties in its functioning, Bosnia and Herzegovina is progressing slowly, and our ultimate commitment remains to build a secure, stable and prosperous country, which, as an equal member of the international community, will contribute to the security and prosperity of our global community.