UNITED NATIONS -- The permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union have urged competing sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina to work toward common solutions so the country can get on the fast track to join Euro-Atlantic structures.
Speaking at the UN on November 23, Valentin Inzko, the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, described the current situation as "worrisome and stagnant."
Inzko said that in the 14 years since the end of the Bosnian War, the UN and other international organizations have worked to help rebuild and maintain peace in the fragile, multiethnic state.
But if the task was once to rebuild the country's political strucures, he said, the challenges are now different.
"Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina today no longer focuses on practical challenges but on the fundamental political debate which has so far not resolved a number of relevant political problems," he said.
Inzko was referring to rising enmity between the country's main ethnic groups. Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided between two entities, Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation, and is ruled by a tripartite presidency comprising Bosnian Serb, Croat, and Muslim (Bosniak) officials.
'Failed To Grasp'
It has been the international community's task to transform that structure into a stable, unified state. But Inzko noted it is facing resistance from Bosnian Serbs, who favor political autonomy over further consolidation in Sarajevo.
"The Republika Srpska leadership has failed to grasp that the state and entity authorities have separate and clearly defined mandates, and that each must do its work complementing each other," he said.
But Inzko said he is convinced the country will find a way around obstruction for two reasons.
One is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a society with its own unique way of producing consensus. It may not always be possible to find the most straightforward solution, but in its distinctive Bosnian way it will be possible to reach the objectives, he said.
The second reason is that Bosnia is part of a sustained international effort to integrate the countries of the western Balkans into Euro-Atlantic structures.
The unresolved political issues, Inzko said, are a result of confusion.
"First, there is a confusion of the Republika Srpska over the nature of the entity and the nature of the state," he said. "And there's confusion in both entities about the proper focus and functioning of politics and the state as a system."
This discrepancy of approaches, he said, has generated considerable difficulties. At the same time, a number of political leaders in the federation advocate a much stronger role at the state level and a reduced role for the entities in the state structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"The reporting period has been characterized by persistent political problems and the lack of progress on key agendas Bosnia and Herzegovina is involved in," Inzko said. "As a result, a number of laws that were required for Euro-Atlantic integration and for the closure of my office have been delayed."
'Bleak And Honest'
Inzko's presentation at the UN comes less than a week after international negotiators in Sarajevo concluded that Bosnia has failed to meet a set of conditions considered key to its Western integration.
Inzko's Office of the High Representative (OHR), created in the wake of the 1995 Dayton peace accords, is slated for closure once Bosnia is seen as meeting its requirements as a stable and unified state. Bosnian Serbs, who resent the OHR for "meddling" in their affairs, have called for its immediate closure.
Swedish Ambassador Anders Linden, who chairs the European Union's group at the UN, said Bosnia and Herzegovina's domestic political process has reached a decisive phase and that compromises and common solutions must be sought to guide the country on the track toward EU and NATO membership.
British Ambassador Mark Grant described Inzko's report as "bleak and honest."
But in a speech before the Security Council, Bosnian Prime Minister Nikola Spiric, a Bosnian Serb, strongly disagreed with the assessment contained in Inzko's report. He called it superficial and unprofessional and insisted that the Bosnian Serb Party can contribute positively toward solutions.
On November 18, the Security Council extended for another year the European Union Stabilization Force (EUFOR), entrusted with ensuring continued compliance by all sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the ethnic war there.