President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Mr President, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to be able to attend your June part-session. Please allow me to thank you first for giving me this opportunity to address you on behalf of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The activities of the Council of Europe and the efforts of its members, invested over half a century already, have now brought us to the point where we are closer than ever to a true European community, based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The fact that we are close, and continually moving even closer, to achieving this goal with each new day is certainly encouraging, but also brings obligations, both for the institutions of the Council of Europe and for each of the member countries individually.

What is encouraging is that the message is clear: the entire European continent is committed to democracy instead of dictatorship, to human rights instead of discrimination, to the rule of law instead of autocracy, and to co-operation instead of isolation. On the other hand, our obligation is to cease to tolerate “black holes” on our continent, as they hold, regardless of their isolated nature, huge destabilising power. The region from which I come used to be a black hole in

Europe. It is my great pleasure to say here that, thanks to many, including the institutions of the Council of Europe, this is no longer the case.

I am aware that you are all familiar with the facts that are now but a chapter in “The history of 20th- century Europe”. However, I cannot and will not omit the fact that only ten years ago, in 1995, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was completely different. What happened there ten years ago can be summarised in two words – two words for two cities: Srebrenica and Dayton. Over 8 000 were murdered – children and men. That is the horrible truth of the crime that took place fifty years after the fighters for a free Europe dismissed Auschwitz and said, “Never again”. Today, as we face the memorial gathering on the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, Europe and the world are again in a position to utter a decisive “Never again” directed to all crimes against humanity. I would like to believe that this will be the last such vow the world will have to make.

The peace agreement drafted in Dayton and signed in Paris, usually cited for its complicated and nonfunctional solutions, stopped the war and enabled freedom of movement. It was a new beginning for the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over the past ten years, this agreement has lacked neither criticism nor praise, especially criticism on the part of those who never wanted it in the first place, and who were never too eager to implement it. But that agreement offered a light at the end of the tunnel. Obvious limitations imposed by the Dayton framework could and should be removed by introducing generally accepted European standards, prescribed by the Council of Europe and applied by the European Union.

Only the European reforming agenda can be the light at the end of the tunnel, the driver of reforms and the contribution to the political environment that is oriented towards relieving ethnic tensions and fears. Such a reforming process requires, as well as decisiveness on our side, an impartial and positive attitude on the part of the international community. Just as you expect the Bosnian authorities compellingly to lead the way in the process of adopting European standards, so we expect the European leadership to avoid having second thoughts about future enlargement after the double “no” to the European Constitution. This new development should be treated as just another impetus for us to build our unity even stronger, and to make our mutual understanding even more obvious.

We in Bosnia and Herzegovina have done more over the past three years in terms of reintegration and state building than others have done over the first seven years after the war. In April this year, Bosnia and Herzegovina celebrated its third anniversary under the auspices of this oldest of European institutions. This is to say that there is a clear correlation between the acquisition of full membership in the Council of Europe and the fulfilment of obligations that follow. There is a correlation between encouragements and obligations on one side, and the reforming tidal wave on the other.

In becoming a member of the Council of Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed to fulfil 73 obligations and was given the first blueprint for the implementation of reforms. The obligations from the first year have been completed in full and in time; 21 obligations are finalised; another 15 are running according to the agreed timeframes; and 37 of them are processes that need continuous activity. This third year of our membership was the hardest one. We were completing the tasks from years one and two, and we adjusted our whole agenda to the requirements of the third year.

I want especially to draw the Assembly’s attention to the fact that we never lacked the political will to fulfil the obligations, and that delays in certain fields are due to lack of finance and qualified personnel. All political forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina remain completely unanimous in one thing: membership of the Council of Europe is the best choice for our country along the way to achieving full and true democracy, and actual embracing of standards, norms of the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The main priority of the Council of Ministers, which I chair, is the continuous harmonisation of the entire domestic legislation with the European conventions, and especially with the European Convention on Human Rights. Today, political figures from all nations and of all political persuasions in the country are unanimous: the only way to have a stable Bosnia and Herzegovina is to integrate into the big European family. Bosnia and Herzegovina has now moved from Dayton towards Brussels, thanks to Strasbourg. These things are not merely the decisions of a few politicians; they are the attitude of the general public. According to surveys, 80% of the Bosnia and Herzegovina population support the idea of an EU future.

The European Bosnia and Herzegovina that I stand for will have a single economic space, Schengen-like borders, an independent judiciary, efficient police, an internationally recognised education system, a credible health and social care system and professional media, and above all, functional democratic institutions that guarantee full equality and an equal starting point for all.

What have we achieved since we became members of the Council of Europe, during this short but intense period? Let me start with the 2002 elections. Bosnia and Herzegovina proved that it can organise and hold efficient general elections, according to the highest international standards. A new feature on local elections was the possibility to vote for mayors directly, which strengthened local self-governance. The key feature of the reforms implemented so far is that they were achieved through political agreement, and not by means of international pressure or impositions on the part of the High Representative. The entities have agreed to transfer their powers to the state. The establishment of a single economic space is the most important feature for the benefit of citizens, alongside the merger of two customs departments into one and the initiative of entity governments to adopt a single sales tax at the state level.

Equally important is the merger of entity intelligence services into one state-level agency, which is now operating for the first time under strict parliamentary supervision. Furthermore, the establishment and functioning of the state-level Ministry of Defence was the key step in meeting the preconditions for the Partnership for Peace. The whole series of institutions and bodies in the field of phytosanitary protection were shifted up to state level as well. We are in the final phase of preparations for the introduction of fixed-rate VAT, aiming to improve the business environment required in terms of foreign investments. Over the past two years, we have marked a continuous growth of foreign direct investment, and as yet another illustration of our economic success, I wish to tell you that during 2004, our GDP growth was 6%, which sets the record in the region. Through judicial reform, we established the State Prosecutor’s office and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, which is in charge of introducing the rule of law according to the best European standards and practices. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the first country in the region to meet the international standards for processing of war crimes cases. The state council is expected to operate according to best practices and under best technical conditions.

Our reform in the electric power sector enabled one of the most important regional projects to come true: the creation of the energy community of South-East Europe. This was the first ever official connection of our region with the European Union, and it will impact on stable economic growth in the region, as well as resulting in the adjustment of the entire regional energetic sector to that of the EU. The signing ceremony for this project will be held in London shortly.

The 16 conditions from the feasibility study are implemented almost in full, under a tight schedule with shortened deadlines that we set ourselves. Two things stand in the way of Bosnia and Herzegovina in terms of launching the stabilisation and association agreement negotiations – police reforms and the law on the public broadcasting service. There is still a chance for those two tasks to be completed in time, and we must do everything possible not to lose this chance.

I would also like to bring to the Assembly’s attention the significant change in the form of international military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The arrival of the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the beginning of the EU-led Althea mission send out a clear message in their slogan, “From stabilisation towards integration”. I believe that there is widespread international understanding of the fact that the Althea mission is not there to establish or keep the peace. The current international military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a message to the entire region that it is not yet fully organised according to NATO standards. I would like to use this opportunity to thank all the countries whose troops were part of the stabilisation force, as well as those whose troops will either come to or stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina as EUFOR.

Another subject that I want to mention here is the recent opinion of the Venice Commission on the constitutional conditions and the authorities of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the end of March, when the opinion was published, it has been the most frequently read document in the political life of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This points to the credibility, properness and timeliness of the publishing of the said opinion. With this in mind, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Assembly for passing Resolution 1384 on strengthening of the democratic institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, back in 2004. In this resolution, you requested that the Venice Commission come out with an opinion. As this is a convenient time for all segments of society to take part in commenting on the opinion, we would welcome once again the knowledge and the experience of the Council of Europe in organising debates, seminars and workshops, even conferences, on items that are vital to the success of reforms and the transformation of Bosnian society.

The encouragement and the support of the integration processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina are a clear message to the rest of the region that democratisation pays, that embracing European standards is in itself valuable progress and to the benefit of citizens. It is also a way to be recognised in regional and international terms, and it is a path towards a European future. Bosnia and Herzegovina especially welcomes the fact that the Warsaw declaration underlines the commitment of the Council of Europe to establishing a creative community, open to knowledge and different cultures, a civil community based on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These are long-term goals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, at both a domestic and an EU level.

The achievement of these goals, as envisaged in the action plan, requires the full engagement of all Council of Europe institutions, individual member states, and inter-state and inter-institutional co-operation with organisations that promote core European values and interests, such as the EU and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The examples of reforming activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina stand witness to the efficiency and necessity of having the Council of Europe, the EU and the OSCE act together.

Mr President, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you once again for giving me this opportunity to address you, and thank you for your attention. It will be my pleasure to answer your questions now.


Thank you very much, Mr Terzic, for your interesting and encouraging address to the Assembly. Members have expressed a wish to put questions to you.

I remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches. The first question is from Mr Van den Brande.


The next monitoring report of the Parliamentary Assembly on Bosnia and Herzegovina is due to be debated in June next year. I am convinced that there are many challenges you must face, but we must honestly say that there has been little progress in fulfilling a number of important Council of Europe commitments, such as the reform of higher education, public service broadcasting and the merger of the ombudsman institution. What are the priorities for a concrete plan to fulfil those commitments?

Mr Terzić, President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (interpretation)

accepted that the three issues that Mr Van den Brande had mentioned were obligations that Bosnia and Herzegovina had not yet fulfilled. However, the lack of fulfilment was only partial. All three areas had been adopted by the Council of Ministers. In the case of higher education, the Constitutional Court had ordered that certain changes needed to be made and that was being worked on. Co-operation had also been sought from the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union with regard to laws on public broadcasting. The Council of Ministers had introduced measures which were now subject to parliamentary procedures.

It had to be appreciated that Bosnia and Herzegovina was in effect three nations. Often that meant compromise, as efforts were made to harmonise legal texts that could be agreed by all parties. On the question of progress on an ombudsman, again the Council of Ministers had submitted proposals which were the subject of parliamentary procedures. He was certain that obstacles would be overcome. He again reiterated the difficulties of reaching agreement in sensitive areas, such as education, in a multi-ethnic state. Reaching a consensus was often a painstaking and time-consuming process.

Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom)

We listened to your encouraging words about the development of the rule of law and the rights of the courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is with regret that I have to ask you about the progress that has been made in getting the six citizens of your country who are unlawfully detained in Guantanamo Bay returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular because they were transferred from the country unlawfully against the direct orders of the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Chamber. This is a very serious matter, both in principle and more particularly for those men who are suffering seriously, including possibly grievous torture and inhuman treatment.

Mr Terzić, President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (interpretation)

was pleased that the question had been raised as it demonstrated the progress that had been made in terms of democracy in his country. It was correct that those six individuals had been taken to Guantanamo Bay against the wishes of the Constitutional Court. The Council of Ministers had written to the United States Secretary of State to request their release. Before that, a delegation had been despatched to Guantanamo Bay to see that the six Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens had been treated well. He had also written to the United States Secretary of State to enquire what evidence was being used to authorise the detention of the six citizens. A month and a half later, a reply had been received in which the United States expressed its view that the six detainees held vital intelligence information. The previous day he had spoken to the lawyers representing the six detainees and agreement had been reached on how best to proceed to secure their eventual release. The Parliamentary Assembly’s resolution of April 2005 in relation to human rights had been of help in suggesting to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina how best to act in the interests of its citizens.


We observe with great appreciation the positive steps that have been taken in your time towards Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions. However, we also observe some obstacles to the reform process, as we have recently seen with regard to the national police. What is your opinion of the effect of those obstacles on the institution-building process in your country and of the possible ways to eliminate them?

Mr Terzić, President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (interpretation)

said Bosnia and Herzegovina faced many obstacles. Every citizen of his country faced the daily challenge of contributing to the solutions that would solve these problems. He was perhaps more aware than most of the difficulties that that would involve.

His country had no alternative to the European Union road. Since the early 1990s all progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina had led towards a democratic society which was respectful of the highest standards to be found across Europe. Since his government had come to power in 2003 it had proposed many democratic reforms, in areas such as the rule of law and full equality; that was what Bosnia and Herzegovina needed. His country was going down the EU road not to foist itself upon the EU, but because that process would help foster a society with the most modern democratic standards. The steps that would need to be taken to become part of the EU would help stabilise the economy and lay the basis for a successful society.

Many of the reforms that had so far been implemented were economic. The Dayton Agreements had in effect created two economic states, but within two years those two states had been integrated. That had been achieved by applying European standards, and indicated that Bosnia and Herzegovina had matured as a nation. However, more politically sensitive reforms, such as reform of the police, would be harder. He had spoken to the prime ministers of many other European countries on the question of police reform. They had told him that it took at least three years. Taking that into account, one could not, therefore, expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve faster results.

The solutions to such problems needed to be seen through the prism of EU integration and not through the prism of the collapse of the old Yugoslavia, with its winners and losers. EU integration would be a case of a win-win situation. He believed that, even given understandable fears in Bosnia and Herzegovina, constitutional changes would start within a framework. That would also meet other needs.

Mr GLIGORIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (interpretation)

asked Mr Terzic how he intended to continue constitutional reform despite dismissing some ministers. Could Mr Terzic see a way out of the crisis, and would there be new elections and even his own withdrawal from office?

Mr SASI (Finland)

Although the co-operation with the ICTY has improved somewhat over the last few months with the voluntary surrender of a number of indictees, Karadzic and Mladic are still on the run. Do you think that police reform, which has been blocked so far by Republika Srpska, would improve the chances of arresting them?

Mr MIMICA (Croatia)

There should be no dispute over the right to have public information in your own language. That represents a basic right of a national minority, let alone a constituent people, in any state.

Political representatives of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been constantly voicing their concerns, claiming that current legal arrangements and practice on the national and federation public television channels deprive Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina of their constitutional right to unhindered and full access to public information in the Croatian language.

How do you assess the possibility of addressing those concerns by legal amendments that would ensure a comprehensive solution of introducing a public television channel, either national or federal, using the Croatian language?


Thank you, Mr Mimica. May I ask you, Mr Terzic, to answer those questions in five minutes, if possible, so that the others who want to ask a question get the opportunity to do so?

Mr Terzić, President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (interpretation)

said the hardest questions were from the Council of Europe representatives. This was a situation where he could not be sure that the Council of Europe should be involved. It was his choice to choose or dismiss ministers. He hoped that with every new election there would be better positions and constructive opposition.

Defence reforms illustrated that police reform could be the hardest issue to tackle without causing huge political damages or turbulence. The first package had been agreed with NATO. The military reform process was going smoothly; police reform was progressing, with obstacles. Police had more authority and had taken a greater part in hiding and assisting indictees. Representatives of the international community did not understand. It would have to be made clear to citizens that the issue was about creating complete security.

Mr Terzic said that it was sad that Mr Mimica had asked his question about public broadcasting services. There needed to be a balance. Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not a minority; they were a constituent nation with a constituent language. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina said there were three constituent nations and languages. Broadcasts could only be made in line with the constitution, and many services were operated privately outside direct control.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

In some legal analogies, Bosnia and Herzegovina is perceived as a sort of protectorate of international organisations. Putting aside the question of whether such an attitude is true or completely distorted, what are the prospects for the path to full sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Mr JOVASEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro)

A great many citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have limited political, social and economic rights as a result of the decisions of the High Representative, which were passed without the proper legal proceedings and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights such as the freedom to vote and freedom of conscience. What has the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and you as its chairman, undertaken to do to remove those legally unfounded deprivations and limitations of human rights and freedoms? Mr Terzic, do the courts in your country provide judicial protection to such individuals?

Mr MATUSlC (Croatia) (interpretation)

said that there were talks of changes taking place. What would those changes look like, and how would human rights be monitored?

Mrs DURRIEU (France) (translation)

Mr President, your words are optimistic, and we are delighted for your country.

You talked of “black holes” and of “light”. I should like to ask you a question concerning the whole region. The other key player, alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina, is Kosovo. Could you tell me what your position is on this issue, which needs to be settled by the end of 2005? What should be done? What should not be done?

Mrs OSKINA (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

asked when measures would be taken to initiate war crimes investigations.

Mr Terzić, President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (interpretation)

said that Bosnian authorities should make decisions and that they had completed 90% of the tasks arising from the feasibility study. That was a good scenario for the Office of the High Representative and its mandate in terms of solving problems. Ten years after Dayton was too soon to discuss dismissing the High Representative. There should be political agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Brussels, and only after agreement could the High Representative cease to exist.

In respect of human rights and political freedoms, Bosnia and Herzegovina could ratify every convention that came from Europe, but that was not feasible. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina had ratified the European Social Charter from the Council of Europe.

He could not speak about the judiciary directly, but considered reform of the judiciary to be the best reform implemented so far. Monitoring carried out by the Council of Europe did not agree with that and he admitted that judicial violations had occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Council of Europe could help the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to secure a better legal system, for the benefit of its citizens.

In response to Mr Matusic he said there was no chance of a change in the Dayton Agreements, which had been signed by three parties and five witnesses. Bosnia and Herzegovina was just one eighth of that combination. The agreement had stopped the war and created peace. Bosnia and Herzegovina could only change its own constitution and had to define what was good for generations to come.

In response to Mrs Durrieu he said that Bosnia and Herzegovina had been taking effective measures against war crimes, and had been doing so for years. There had been over 180 verdicts in war crimes cases. Republika Srpska police had caught six people accused of war crimes. Results had been achieved; however, there were a huge number of active cases and more needed to be done. It was expected that by the end of 2005 Bosnia and Herzegovina would be given four or five cases and would initiate procedures. He was proud that Bosnia and Herzegovina was described by The Hague Tribunal as the only country in the region to which it could transfer cases.

In response to the question from Mrs Oskina, he could only give a personal opinion. Bosnia and Herzegovina did not like independence for Kosovo.

There had been waste in developing key standards for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He predicted that there would be a smooth resolution to the problems and said that basic human rights must be respected.


Thank you very much. That brings us to the end of questions to Mr Terzic. I thank him warmly on behalf of the Assembly for his address, and for his extensive and precise answers to questions.