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Lajcak: U.S., EU 'Aware Of How Serious Situation In Bosnia Has Become'

Miroslav LajcakMiroslav Lajcak
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Miroslav Lajcak
Miroslav Lajcak
The Office of the High Representative (OHR) has recently come under attack from Bosnia-Herzegovina's Serbian entity, the Republika Srpska, whose prime minister, Milorad Dodik, has threatened to withdraw from federal structures and says the OHR should be dissolved.

EU and U.S. officials are gathering in Sarajevo to talk to leaders from Bosnia's three ethnic communities in hopes of preventing the political situation from destabilizing further.

Miroslav Lajcak, the foreign minister of Slovakia, served as the international community's high representative to Bosnia from 2007-09. RFE/RL Balkan Service correspondent Ljudmila Cvetkovic spoke to Lajcak in Belgrade ahead of the talks.

RFE/RL: There is a lot of tension these days between the Office of the High Representative and the leadership of Republika Srpska. If you were the high representative today, how would you respond to the refusal by the Republika Srpska and Prime Minister Dodik to accept Valentin Inzko's authority, and their threat to abandon federal institutions in Bosnia?

Miroslav Lajcak:
As a rule, I wouldn't give advice to someone doing a job I did previously. Mr. Inzko is there now. He has the support of the international community, and my support, of course.

I know it's not easy for him. But I won't offer advice, as I myself didn't find it pleasant, in similar situations, when others acted wise and gave me advice about what could be done better and how.

RFE/RL: After your conversation on October 2 with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, you said that the situation in Bosnia isn't satisfactory. Many see the Republika Srpska as the thing that's keeping Bosnia from functioning normally. Does the international community have a strategy regarding Banja Luka?

Lajcak:
I am happy to announce that the international community is aware of how serious the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina has become, and is finalizing a strategy which should be presented in the coming days.

It's clear to everyone that this situation demands the active involvement and initiative of the international community, as local leaders have not shown that they have the potential or the capacity to resolve the situation on their own. I believe that we will soon see the international community acting resolutely and displaying the kind of vision, strategy, and unified stance that has been lacking so long with regard to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bosnia Back In Focus

RFE/RL: Can it be considered a failure of the international community that, in spite of its presence in Bosnia and the Office of the High Representative, things remain far from stable?

Lajcak:
That's not a failure of the international community. Because the fact is, there has been an international presence there for the past 15 years.

There was a plan to decrease the international presence in the "hard" form of the high representative, and to increase the international presence in a softer form -- for example, a European representative. But that process has been stopped because of a few factors -- one of them being the international community's preoccupation with Kosovo, which meant Bosnia wasn't the center of attention anymore.

A package of constitutional reforms failed in 2006, which led to a worsening of the situation and so on. And the result is we've been going in circles for three years since then, instead of having some kind of strategy and vision. The result is a worsening of the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But now the international community has realized that it must direct its attention and capacities towards Bosnia-Herzegovina once again.

I have my share of engagement on that issue, as the foreign minister of an EU member state which is also a member of NATO. I have a range of opportunities to speak, and to answer questions concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in that way I try to contribute to that process.

RFE/RL: Is it possible that Dodik was encouraged by the fact that the international community lost its focus on Bosnia?

Lajcak:
My opinion is that everything in nature should be in some kind of balance. If there is a decrease in the presence of the international community, there is a space to increase, let us say, the activities -- and not always positive activities -- of local participants.

While it was preoccupied with Kosovo, the international community had no desire to deal with the issues, or resolve the issues, surrounding Bosnia-Herzegovina. The consequence was that those issues grew and accumulated. That was the trend. I'm not accusing or judging anyone.

The international community has a huge responsibility toward Bosnia-Herzegovina in terms of the high representative. It has a direct responsibility toward it because it created the Dayton accords. So it must play the part that it has prescribed for itself. In the last three years, the international community hasn't played that part well enough, and now we see the consequences.

RFE/RL: Who, apart from the international community, is most responsible for this dysfunctional situation? What responsibility does Dodik bear, for example?

Lajcak:
Bosnia-Herzegovina has a coalition government made up of five political parties, which means that five political leaders carry responsibility for all the successes and failures of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And the same basic logic holds for the present situation also.

The prime minister of Republika Srpska is practically the strongest politician in Bosnia-Herzegovina. His responsibility for whatever happens there flows from this. He contributes to the worsening of the atmosphere, above all, with his rhetoric and his attacks on the international community and the federal state.

All of that makes the rest of the country very nervous, and creates the feeling that he wants to destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina. It provokes reactions, also, from the [Muslim-Croat] Federation, and from the international community. And of course, only Mr. Dodik can be responsible for the things he says and does.

It's a fact that he says much worse things than he carries out in his actions. But one can see that the things he says have destructive potential as well.

Country, Or Protectorate?

RFE/RL: Some people suggest that dismissing Dodik could be a solution to the impasse. Did you ever consider that an option during your time in Sarajevo?

Lajcak:
I think that today, 14 years after the signing of the Dayton accords, we've already passed the phase where we can replace key politicians in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I don't think it would help. It might help solve some short-term problems, but I am convinced that it would create other serious and long-term problems.

We should lead the country forward by reducing the heavy presence of the international community. The dismissal of key political figures would create strong political tremors that could block the normalization of political life and the political system.

I'm not talking about Milorad Dodik or any other politician. But we are already in a phase where people have been through democratic elections, with results approved by the international community; where Bosnia-Herzegovina has applied for NATO membership and is planning to apply for entry to the EU; and when it has great chances for a seat on the UN Security Council.

That situation is incompatible with the international community taking administrative decisions to eliminate key political players. Bosnia-Herzegovina is either a serious country, which has its own problems but is still a country. Or it is a protectorate.

But in that case, let's forget about membership in the Security Council, about European integration and NATO, and let's treat Bosnia-Herzegovina as a protectorate. I've never wanted that. I've always wanted to treat Bosnia-Herzegovina as a country, to help it solve its issues by pushing it forward and not backward.

RFE/RL: You've spoken a lot about Bosnia with Serbian Foreign Minister Jeremic. He and Serbian President Boris Tadic have both spent time in Banja Luka recently. What's your opinion on Belgrade's behavior towards the Republika Srpska -- is it a provocation or an attempt, as Serbia claims, to calm the situation?

Lajcak:
A lot of the time I spent in discussion with Jeremic and Tadic was devoted to Bosnia-Herzegovina. It made sense, since they are following the situation there, and they are worried by it.

I appreciate Serbia's attitude toward Bosnia-Herzegovina. Both President Tadic and Mr. Jeremic have repeatedly made clear public statements in support of the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And I know that they honestly mean what they say.

It is much easier to cooperate with Belgrade -- and Belgrade's attitude towards Bosnia-Herzegovina is much more constructive today -- with Tadic as Serbian leader, compared to the situation two years ago with Vojislav Kostunica as prime minister. I also know, and I have reliable information to that effect, that the visits you mention to Banja Luka actually had as their goal the calming of the situation.

They spoke to Milorad Dodik in order to aid the high representative and the international community. I know that in Sarajevo this visit was seen in a different light, but that's not unusual for Sarajevo.

RFE/RL: And yet, Tadic recently caused a stir in Sarajevo, when he visited the Republika Srpska city of Pale, where he opened a school named "Serbia." Many people saw this as an insult.

Lajcak:
I did see the reaction. But I also saw the reaction of the high representative, who said that there was no problem with the visit, as it had been announced to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that diplomatic protocol had been followed in that sense. Naturally I accept the high representative's view as a legitimate official view.

RFE/RL: In a joint press conference with you, Jeremic said some progress will be made in Bosnia-Herzegovina by the end of the year. You've hinted the same in this conversation. Could you tell us more about this, and about what kind of steps the international community might take?

Lajcak:
The things I've said are based on discussions I've had during the past few days, and especially the last week during my visit to the United States, to New York and Washington. However, I'm not really authorized to make any specific announcement. Sweden currently holds the EU Presidency, and Swedish officials at present have the sole authority to officially announce decisions on behalf of the European Union.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Pau from: Barcelona
October 12, 2009 18:04
Could everybody explain me how someone can considerer to<br />open a school named &quot;Serbia&quot; in an area where the majority of the population is serb as a insult?<br />It is really posible to make a multiethnic state including a 32% of serbs when looks like most of theirs &quot;countrymen&quot; considers the word &quot;Serbia&quot; as a insult?!<br />Is it a democratic practice to &quot;eliminate&quot; leaders democratically elected because they dont do what we expected the should do?<br />Questions and more questions...

by: Mile
October 12, 2009 20:24
International community should give Serbs in Bosnia same right that was given to Albanians. Bosnia and Herzegovina is &quot;Small Yugoslavia&quot; and as such has no chance of surviving.

by: Jessica from: Sweden
October 13, 2009 03:56
&quot;International community should give Serbs in Bosnia same right that was given to Albanians. Bosnia and Herzegovina is &quot;Small Yugoslavia&quot; and as such has no chance of surviving.&quot; What?! Do you really think that they are Serbs? You think people consider them Serbs when they go to Serbia, they are Bosnians for them!? Do you really think that when one of them says he is from Banja Luka everybody is going to think they are from Serbia? Be realistic man, do you think all of the Americans claim for themselves they are Norweigns, Swedish, Irish. or wherever their ancestor came from! Ofcourse not! Above all, why those Serbs, if they really want to be called Serbs, don't go to Serbia to live there and call themselves Serbs there?

by: Pau from: Barcelona
October 13, 2009 16:38
&quot;Above all, why those Serbs, if they really want to be called Serbs, don't go to Serbia to live there and call themselves Serbs there?&quot;<br /><br />It is a very strange reason. If the international comunity would think the same than you they had told to the albanians of kosovo : - &quot;if you like to be called albanian, then go to Albania, leave Jugoslavia and dont disturb us anymore!&quot;<br />Fortunately, the ONU, and the UNESCO dont have the same opinion than you about the rights of the minorities...

by: Never western slaves!
October 14, 2009 21:20
The time is coming to finally solve the Serb question in the Balkans. Since NATO and Western powers can not easily integrate Serbs into their imperial, geo-political strategies, Serbs now take their destiny in their hands, democratically and peacefully. And guess what... no one can stop them now. On one side, the West wants "unified" Bosnia with concessions made from Serbs only while on the other side West has no problem with dismantling Serbia and recognizing the monster "state of Kosovo". Double standards in the Balkans mean you have a big, big problem. And we Serbs see it now very clear.

by: pat from: albania
October 23, 2009 20:49
The Balkans problem and Serbs can be resolved if the serbs will go back in their places far away from Europe. The history and them know very well this place from where they come as barbarians to fight and take others land.

by: sirivanhoe98 from: Sydney, Australia
October 26, 2009 09:48
Serbs have earned their right to remain in the Balkans. Including Bosnia. They have paid dearly in human sacrifice for the right to live in peace on their own land.

For a brief moment they were the last saviours of the Byzantine Empire. In fact, the Serbian Empire was the last vestige of the Byzantine Empire, before it fell to the Ottomans.

Despite the oppression, Serbs remained free spirited and lived in hope that one day they will regain their rightful place. They retained their faith, when others converted to Islam or Catholicism.

It took the better part of six hundred years before they secured their independence from the Ottomans. The Austrians threatened their freedoms by first annexing Bosnia. Serbs intervened. The result was WW1. It changed the course of history, and cost Serbia 1/3 of its population (50% of its males were killed), yet they endured and rebuilt.

During WW2, Serbs (Chetniks) initially led by Drazha Mihailovic, were the first to resist Hitler. As a result Hitler bombed Belgrade. Meanwhile Croats, Bosnia's Muslims and Albanians sided with Germany. Croats had a concentration camp at Jasenovac where they Slaughtered some 700,000 Serbs including 80,000 Jews and Romas. Big number for a small population. Albanians and Muslims formed the SS Handjar Divisions to fight Serbs and other partisans. Again during this episode, Serbs triumphed. And sadly, for them, those who sided with Hitler anre now working very hard to portray Serbs as fascist, when history is quite clear as to who are the real fascists.





by: Antifascist
October 26, 2009 23:26
OOOOH, Pooooor angelical Serbs! Naturally, all they have suffered is some outsiders' fault. And Serbs are the only ones in the Balkans who have stood up for the good. So what does it matter tthat in order to establish their good kingdom they had to kill some 100,000 Bosniaks, expel some 600.000, rape some 50.000 girls and women, destroy some 680 places of worship, burn libraries, besiege towns and cities and commit the massacre of Srebrenica? That was really hard work, so they really have earned Greater Serbia. After all the others are all only Muslims, the greatest scum on earth, and it is their fault if they are Muslims. Why didn't they all get baptized in 1878? Muslims have no right to live as Muslims in Christian Europe. Muslims have no right to live in Bosnia-Herzegovina, province of Great Greater Greatest Serbia. Muslims have no right to live. Is that what you want me to say sirivanhoe? What an obnoxious, evil, foul character you are. In Kosovo the West did the RIGHT thing! Too bad theys did not do it in Bosnia too. Sinfce Serbs have ben more evil than the Japanese were in WWII and what did the Japanese get? The Serbs desyerve that too! Do you knowe what Karadzic and Biljana Plavsic deserve? What Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu got! Too bad it will mnot happen but I hope those who imitate them will get it. And nobody should talk like you to my face. If he does, he'd better start runninbg very fast, for I will answer him the way some Serbofascists have tried to discuss with me. Under these circumstances, and if most Serbs share that view about us Muslims Not only will I forbid my daughter to marry one, I don't want them near me. I don't want ANYTHING to have to do with that accursedf nation, which I loathe more than anything on Earth. My girlfriend of that time, she lost ALL: Homeland, friends, brothers, sisters, father, mother, relatives, property, everything. And everything I hate about mankind I se embodied in those bearded scum with Kalashnikovs and knives, fur hats, waving their red-blue white flag and their crosses and singing &quot;Let's go out rape some balije and slit their throats!&quot; and in their flamboyant histrionic evil leaders like that SCUM Karadzic. And don't you ever try to equalize what Naseer Oric and Karadzic did. For every killed Serb there are NINE dead Biosniaks! Aren't you scum satisfied with your &quot;revenge for 1389?&quot; All your Bosniak-baiting is so reminiscent of that by Risto Dzogo before the war. And I wonder, what kind of mother could produce a Radovan Karadzic and a Milan Lukic, and some evil foul characters abroad who defend them and who talk about the Muslims in a way exactly as the Nazis talked about the Jews and the Poles. And they don't even notice it. Maybe then they would be a little ashamed. And why are you posting here and not on some appropriate site like defend-karadzic.com or serbianna?!?!

by: Abdul Majid
October 26, 2009 23:41
Somebody wrote a while back:

&quot;When it comes to any discussion on WWII history of that particular part of the world – the former Yugoslavia with you lot, the crimes of the Axis and their allies are often highlighted and even their number of victims hyper inflated. While the crimes of the ‘other’ side (...the Serbian Royalist Chetniks) are often downplayed and even whitewashed.&quot; Especially when the victims are Bosniaks.
The way youtalk and you glorify the Chetniks you RE a Serbofascist. Yes, you told me the pen i s a powerful weapon. You sourself wouldn't kill anybody. But your statemenst sounds exactly like the justifications the perpetrators of teh genocidal antio-Bosniak crusade used. S&#243; why do you eny you are an Islamophobe? You hate us Muslims. Admit it: Say like your hero Karadzic that you want &quot;these People&quot; to disappear from the Earth. I do hope someday the Bosniaks will be able to track down the killers of their people no matter where they are and make short shrift of them the way the Israelis did with so many Palestinians. But this time it would be deserved. And not only those who would kill &quot;with a sixgun&quot; but also those who did it with &quot;a fountain pen&quot;. ANd you will NEVER get your Great Greater Greatest Serbia. The Balije will prevail. The Bosniaks will not be brought to their knees and tha cross will never chase the Crescent out of Bosnia! And history has shown that the greatest and most evil fascists are often those who claim to have been victims of Fascism.

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