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Round Table - Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Council of Europe - 20 years

Strasbourg 12 May 2022
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As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe"

 

Excellencies,

Distinguished colleagues,

 

I begin by saying that it is a great pleasure to congratulate Bosnia and Herzegovina on reaching a very important milestone – 20 years as a Council of Europe member state:

You joined our Organisation in the wake of deep trauma.

Your leaders and the people invested their hopes in a sustainable peace, built on common standards of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

It was an historic decision – important to your country, to us in the Council of Europe – and to Europe as a whole.

Peace has indeed accompanied progress over the course of the past two decades.

You have either signed or ratified a total of 90 Council of Europe conventions.

And joined 13 of our Partial Agreements.

Taken alongside your active and very constructive approach in our Committee of Ministers – and all parts of our Organisation, – which has been very much appreciated.

I believe we all acknowledge Bosnia and Herzegovina’s firm commitment to setting and meeting the European standards as derived from our Organisation and the Convention system.

We also appreciate our close project-related
co-operation.

Three consecutive action plans have been central to making this happen.

Negotiated and agreed jointly between our Organisation and the national authorities, each of them has made a very positive impact.

The latest was agreed in December of last year and will run until 2025:

Based on the most recent Council of Europe monitoring reports and recommendations –

And reflecting the Government’s reform priorities –

The new Action Plan covers a wide range of issues that takes in everything from culture and cybercrime –

To combating human trafficking –

And electoral reform and strengthening local democracy.

New areas of co-operation include ensuring data protection –

Improving women’s access to justice –

And supporting the Constitutional Court.

Our thanks go to everyone involved in agreeing the plan –

Not least you personally, Ivan, and your Permanent Representation in Strasbourg.

I also would like to thank our good colleagues at our Field Office in Sarajevo, who play a crucial role.

And we are also grateful to the European Union, Norway, Sweden and Slovenia for their funding contributions.

And when we look at the result of co-operation activities in recent years, there are important results.

Let me today just mention three concrete achievements:

The Policy Recommendation and Roadmap for Improving Inclusive Education, adopted by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Council of Ministers –

The training of police, prison and medical officers so that they can ensure the protection of detainees’ human rights –

And Mostar’s first Citizens’ Assembly, supported by our Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which produced recommendations on keeping the city clean and maintaining its public spaces:

Recommendations that were adopted, unanimously, by the City Council last November.

So, I have no doubt that the new action plan will be very helpful as well.

But there are also some outstanding challenges for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities still to address.

Among these are issues relating to the execution of judgments by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Sejdić and Finci Group of judgments on eligibility to stand for election to the country’s Presidency and House of Peoples remain unimplemented.

And there are also recommendations by GRECO, our Group of Experts against Corruption.

Certainly, in these areas and more, the Council of Europe will always be there to support progress.

I believe developments in Europe only underline the importance of multilateralism –

The respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law as the gateway to peaceful coexistence in which every individual lives in dignity and security.

Bosnia and Herzegovina made an important decision 20 years ago.

I very much look forward to further enhancing our already excellent co-operation in the years to come.

Let me once again, congratulate you – and also thank you!

All the best and thank you very much for your attention.