President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Mr Terzić thanked the Assembly for the opportunity to speak at the part-session. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the 44th member state of the Council of Europe. At its inauguration on 24 April 2002 the then President of the Council of Europe had described Bosnia and Herzegovina as a young state with a tragic past which was turning to the future. The then President had asked Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfil its commitments to build a new democracy.

Admission to the Council of Europe had meant that Bosnia and Herzegovina had realised that it was not alone and the way ahead had become clear. The experiences that Bosnia and Herzegovina had had since joining the Council of Europe had confirmed that. The Council had helped Bosnia and Herzegovina to democratise, to reform institutions, to set up an independent judiciary, to strengthen state bodies, to hold elections that met international standards and to fight organised crime. The future of the region was the key issue in the committee’s report. Two mechanisms were necessary to ensure positive developments: first, coordinated action through the Common Foreign and Security Policy; and, secondly, a clear perspective on European Union membership.

In 2003, at Thessaloniki, a clear signal had been given to the Western Balkans on future inclusion in the European Union. The signal had not been repeated, although there had been many changes in the region. The perspective of European Union membership had led to a transformation similar to that which had occurred in eastern European states. However, the Western Balkans had faced the additional challenges of conflict and had been required to meet conditions such as co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. There had been reforms in many sectors, including health, education, employment, defence, taxation, the judiciary and the police. It was very difficult to make reforms simultaneously across so many areas. All countries in the region had been able to implement widespread reforms because of the encouraging signals received from the European Union. The political consensus had not been imposed from above. Three years after Thessaloniki, the region had been encompassed by European Union policy, and peace and prosperity were spreading through the promotion of common values.

However, the European Union itself had not learnt from the success of its transformative policy. The double “no” to the Constitutional Treaty had led to a debate on the future of the Union. It was not a tragic result, as a timely dose of scepticism was good for political elites across Europe and for those who felt that further integration was inevitable. The current debate on “absorption capacity” posed the danger of weakening the effects of enlargement and having an impact on the global reputation of the European Union. It was in the interests of the European Union that the Western Balkans should be an area of safety and prosperity. The European Union should accept its global and historical role and not leave black holes in Europe. There were risks in the process of implementing reforms widely across the Western Balkan states. Those countries might experience “reform fatigue”, which would strengthen conservative forces against further reform, and the public might be swayed against painful reforms. The European Union should therefore shoulder its historic responsibility and not tum back. The internal problems in the European Union had to be solved and the Union had to export reliability, not uncertainty. An open door policy would strengthen those in favour of reform in the Western Balkans. In the past, waiting for the European Union and the United States to get involved had led to painful consequences for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The involvement of those two powers had led to stabilisation after the wars. Eleven years later, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a different image and identity. The obligations and values of the European Union and the Council of Europe would lead Bosnia and Herzegovina to prosperity. It was essential to work in the common interests of all. The Council of Europe and the European Union had constructed new identities for central and eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War. That should now be turned into reality for Bosnia and Herzegovina.