I will now make a statement in my capacity as the representative of Switzerland.
I would like to thank the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Christian Schmidt, for his presentation I welcome the participation of the Chairwoman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Switzerland has been involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire Western Balkans for more than thirty years. Our countries are closely linked - over 60,000 people originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina live in Switzerland. We contribute to lasting peace, security, prosperity and good governance in the country. To this end, we also support efforts to better integrate the country into European institutions and welcome its achievement of candidate status in the European Union.
With the aim of implementing the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, Switzerland supports the Office of the High Representative. While its role is key for the time being and its presence is necessary, the main goal remains to advance towards the end of its mandate by accomplishing the reforms essential to the progress of the 5+2 agenda. We also recall the important work of the EUFOR Althea Mission, which is making a substantial contribution to peacekeeping in a region facing renewed tensions.
The latest report of the High Representative shows that the difficulties in Bosnia and Herzegovina have deep roots that require lasting solutions. In order to achieve this, I would like to emphasize three aspects:
First, cooperation between all political actors serves the interests of the entire population of the country. Switzerland welcomes the swift formation of the central government following the elections last October. We encourage the political leaders to use this constructive momentum and to seize the opportunity of the recent formation of the government in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance reforms and strengthen government institutions. Sustainable progress, however, requires the support of all members of society. This includes full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all political levels and decision-making processes. Long-standing stereotypes and lack of efforts to promote their participation have contributed to their underrepresentation in public office. Greater participation of women would be beneficial to reconciliation processes. We welcome the references to this in the High Representative's report and encourage gender analysis throughout his work.
Second, the unity of the country must be strengthened by respect for diversity and fundamental freedoms. While recognizing positive advances in human rights in key areas, we are concerned about the persistence of hate speech, glorification of war criminals, historical revisionism and attempts to deny genocide. They jeopardize the peaceful and multi-ethnic coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Switzerland is concerned about the separatist and nationalistic rhetoric of some representatives in recent months, especially in Republika Srpska. We urge to refrain from this type of rhetoric. We also remain concerned about the violation of fundamental rights of citizens. Fighting against the violation of these rights and against discrimination will be a way forward to reconciliation and dealing with the past. This includes a greater commitment to justice and reparation, including for unresolved cases of enforced disappearances and conflict-related sexual violence. Finally, the rights of minorities must be protected and freedoms of media and association must be guaranteed.
Third, young people must be given a central place in decisions that determine the future of their country. They represent an indispensable potential for the whole society. Young women and men are particularly affected by the long-term consequences of conflict. Their exodus illustrates the impact of the political, economic and social challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina. To counter this trend, their voices must be taken into account. In addition, they should be able to benefit from initiatives to encourage dealing with the past and better social cohesion, especially through education. Young people must be empowered to become agents of change for peace and prosperity.
Switzerland will continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European path. I reaffirm our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, as well as for its united, peaceful and multi-ethnic future.