Opening Remarks by High Representative and EU Special Representative Valentin Inzko at a Session of Citizens for Europe

A Return to Serious Politics

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will speak briefly – because the key to the Citizens for Europe process is that civil society organisations engage directly with policymakers, so the substance of today’s session is in the dialogue among BiH stakeholders rather than in interventions from the International Community.

However, I would like to take a few moments to thank the Swedish International Development Agency for their continuous generous support for Citizens for Europe.

And I would also like to thank the technical experts – from the civil society sector -– who have prepared the recommendations that will be discussed today.

The process is focused on practical and realistic steps that can move the country closer to Europe – and the experts have made it possible for today’s discussion to deal with nuts-and-bolts issues in the field of energy and the environment.

I also want to thank all of the civil society organisations that are involved in Citizens for Europe – 38 so far. Never has a country been more in need of a dynamic, forthright and constructive civil society than Bosnia and Herzegovina today.

All of us are familiar with the shortcomings of a political establishment that for the past seven months has struggled to meet the demands of four million citizens who rightly expect functional authorities to deliver progress. In the meantime, normal politics in this country has been suspended. Party leaders have instead been preoccupied by issues that have nothing to do with the declining economy, or with mounting social problems or with the stalled EU accession process.

Today, however, I believe we have a duty of returning to serious and constructive politics. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that forming a BiH Council of Ministers is now manifestly a matter of the highest urgency. Pressure to end the delay and start tackling the economic crisis has become overwhelming.

And the second reason is that public exasperation with the status quo is now being translated into political action. Today’s meeting is just one example of this. Citizens in every part of Bosnia and Herzegovina are frustrated and angry with leaders who have been unable to deliver solutions – now citizens are coming forward with solutions of their own.

The civil society organisations that have drafted the proposals to be discussed today have taken into account the fact that the EU has allocated 433 billion Euros for sustainable development between 2007 and 2013 – and Bosnia and Herzegovina can tap into these funds.

It can only tap into these funds, however, if it re-starts the EU integration process.

Let me put it this way.

The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina will NOT benefit from EU funds that are available for sustainable development unless those in charge return to the business of implementing decisions and enacting legislation as per the SAA and European Partnership agenda.

The decision makers can make use of these funds in the best interest of the citizens.

Or they can block those funds.

The first thing that must be done in order to launch a virtuous cycle of structured and properly funded reforms that bring Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to Europe is to form a Council of Ministers.

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The recommendations that will be discussed today are designed to help the authorities make realistic and rapid progress.

I want to stress that the EU has actively supported the Citizens for Europe process, but the process itself has been sustained and carried forward by BiH civil society organisations.

I also want to stress that the EU fully supports the recommendations that are being presented today by these organisations.

This is partnership.

This is the European Union working with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

And it is a partnership that ought to bear fruit – because the parties represented in this Parliament endorsed similar recommendations during the 2010 election campaign. 

I hope that legislators will respond to today’s proposals in a clear and pragmatic way.

If you object to certain aspects of particular proposals, it is your responsibility to say what you dislike and why you dislike it.

If you support proposals you must give a clear indication of how you will turn your support into parliamentary and executive action.

Thank you!