International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Outgoing High Rep: BiH was most successful when int community was more engaged

July 28, 2021

Bosnia achieved its greatest successes when the international community was more engaged in the country, outgoing international administrator of BiH, Valentin Inzko, told N1 in his farewell interview, saying that the one thing he would advise his successor to focus on in the country is the rule of law.

“I did my job. Others should be concerned,” Inzko said, adding that he is sorry that he must leave BiH and calling the country his “second home.”

Inzko was appointed to the post of High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2009 and has been monitoring the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement in the country since then.

He is leaving the post in a few days and German politician Christian Schmidt is to take over the Office of the High Representative (OHR) as of August 1.

On Friday, Inzko used his special powers – the Bonn Powers – to impose amendments to the BiH’s Criminal Code which sanction the glorification of war criminals convicted by final and binding judgments, as well as the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The law came into force on Wednesday.

“My conscience is clear (…) I asked my conscience and I asked myself: what are the European values?” he said, explaining that, in 2008, the EU adopted a provision on genocide for all European countries.

“So, I was not the one to make the decision that there was genocide, who will get life sentences, who the war criminals are – but I did turn it into a law,” he said.

While welcomed by Bosniak top officials in the country, Inzko’s move prompted officials from Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, who have been denying that a genocide took place in the eastern town of Srebrenica for years, to discuss a “joint response.” Political leaders in the RS, including those from the opposition, decided on Monday that members of their parties will not participate in the work of BiH institutions “until the issue is resolved.”

According to Inzko, such reactions from Republika Srpska were to be expected as RS officials have boycotted institutions several times throughout the past years.

“This time, the boycott will be such that work will be done in the institutions, but no decisions will be made. A decision on the Budget will be made in August or September. It remains unknown at this time whether they (officials from the RS) will participate or not,” he said.

Inzko reiterated that the law he imposed is not directed against any specific ethnic group in BiH.

“I know that one war criminal was greeted by an auxiliary bishop and some priests with a Mass of gratitude and that there was a concert in Mostar in support of the six,” Inzko said, referring to the welcoming ceremony for convicted Bosnian Croat war criminal Dario Kordic after he was released from prison, as well as the support some in BiH expressed for six top Bosnian Croat wartime leaders who were sentenced for their involvement in a “joint criminal enterprise” that involved ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in the country.

“Three good peoples live here, there are no bad ones and that is why there is no collective guilt,” he said, adding that the issue should not be interpreted in terms of ethnic groups, but in terms of individual responsibility.

Inzko stressed that it would have been much better if local political representatives had adopted such a law, but this never happened.

“We witnessed an escalation and glorification of war criminals on a larger scale,” he said, giving the example of a mural dedicated to former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, convicted of genocide, which he personally saw during his visit to the eastern town of Foca.

He noted that the mural has meanwhile been painted over and Mladic’s face can not be seen anymore.

Inzko mentioned that “the darkest day” for him throughout his mandate was when foreign prosecutors had to leave BiH.

“I knew that it would have terrible consequences for the judiciary, it is the darkest moment during the mandate,” he said.

But he noted that “there were also nice moments.”

“I remember in 2010 when we achieved visa exemption for travel in Europe,” said Inzko, stressing that things in BiH worked much better when the international community was more engaged.

“We have had fantastic successes. The Bosnian Mark is the most stable in the Balkans, ID cards were the most modern, back then (…) BiH was then in the foreground. The international community expected that the local elites would continue to lead this way, but now we have what we have,” he said, expressing hope that “maybe Schmidt will open a new chapter in terms of taking action.”

The Austrian diplomat also commented on the problem of Bosnia’s electoral legislation, arguing that it is unacceptable that not every citizen in the country can run for every official post, which he called discrimination.

“Sometimes I wonder how people can swallow so much poison. I will also need a detox,” he said, arguing that BiH politicians who speak of European values do not respect those same principles.

“I feel sorry for all Jews, Roma, minority groups, all citizens who love the country and cannot run (for certain posts). Everyone who has a passport must be able to run for any post in BiH!” he stressed.

As for his successor, Inzko said that Schmidt has a lot of experience in the work of parliament, as he was the Parliamentary Secretary of State for Defence in Germany for eight years.

Inzko specified one particular issue he would advise Schmidt to tackle – the rule of law.

“Everything that is done here, public tenders and the rest, is a matter of the rule of law. If he does something in that area, then the whole country will be a state governed by the rule of law,” he said.

He also had a message to the citizens of BiH.

“Trust in this wonderful country. Trust in this common home, it has enough room for everyone! ”

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/outgoing-high-rep-bih-was-most-successful-when-int-community-was-more-engaged/

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