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Bosnia-Herzegovina: High Commissioner Candidate Interviewed By RFE/RL

Christian Schwarz-Schilling (file photo) (official website) Christian Schwarz-Schilling served as an international mediator in Bosnia-Herzegovina for nearly a decade and is now Germany's candidate to succeed Britain's Paddy Ashdown as the international community's and EU's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the end of the year. He spoke on 3 November with RFE/RL correspondent Mehmed Agovic. Schwarz-Schilling, a former Christian Democratic government minister, knows Bosnia well from having made more than 180 visits to more than 50 communities there, and reportedly enjoys broad respect among the three main ethnic groups as an impartial arbitrator. He is generally considered the front-runner to replace Ashdown, with whom he has often differed. (To listen the RFE/RL's interview with Mr. Schwarz-Schilling, click here --> rtsp:// for Real Audio or here --> mms:// for Windows Media.)

RFE/RL: Even 10 years after the Dayton agreement, due to its solutions, Bosnia is still a nationally divided and unsustainable state. Mr. Schwarz-Schilling, how do you see this problem today? Did you expect it?

Christian Schwarz-Schilling: Well, nobody could know how the development after Dayton is going on, but I think Dayton was a very important milestone because it brought peace and terminated the war. Then, it reflected the situation of those times we had 10 years ago. Many things are achieved. Institutions are built and so on. But, of course, we have to make further development and, perhaps, a creative possibility to go on in the framework of Dayton. But we must develop to new milestones, otherwise the goal that B-H will be quite a normal state as an integrated part of Europe would not be reached.
If they don't act in line with their constitution and with human rights and with the legal state -- then there will be a very bad fate for Bosnia that comes totally on the end of the integration process to Europe.

RFE/RL: As the international mediator for Bosnia-Herzegovina, you witnessed difficulties in the process of the implementation of peace in that country. In your opinion, what were the main problems and difficulties in implementing the solutions from the Dayton peace plan?

Schwarz-Schilling: Well, one main problem is the difficulty of a very complicated constitutional framework in Bosnia-Herzegovina with many administration levels and, also, a high burden on the budget just only for governments and ministers and so on. And with ethnic blockade, they are possible because the constitution is [such that] the ethnic [groups] have great power by themselves and can block developments they don't like. So, the majority principle of a democracy is very much relative and also the human rights of the person, of the citizen, is not fully existing because of the importance of who is belonging to what ethnic group. So those developments, of course, have to be gotten rid of to [achieve] a normal citizenship in a normal state with normal rights of humanity, of legal status, for everybody in the country regardless of what entity he is living in or what ethnic [group] he is belonging to.

[The] second point is that there must be another push for the economical development. I think that the complicated regulations in this state are making fears for many investors inside and outside, foreign investors, to come to Bosnia. But that must be done very, very quick and soon because otherwise economic development [will not proceed] in the way that is necessary and the prospectives for the citizens will be not in the way that they would really like to be there, like to live there, like to work there.

And the third point would be that the institutions are not for the paper and the agreement. They must be full of life and they must respect the decisions that [other] institutions are doing in their responsibilities. So, the role of the high representative to be a government above the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina should be reduced step by step, but in a strict way so that the responsiblity of the state is really in the hands of the political leaders of Bosnia, and that means in the hands of the Bosnian people.

Do you agree with the numerous initiatives about the necessity of revising the Dayton constitution and the organization of Bosnia according to criteria which are not national?

If this is only on paper, it is also useless. It must be full of life and this must be done by Bosnian politicians on all levels. So, the constitution is one thing, but to respect the rules and to respect the constitution is another thing and this is an educational and psychological process for each politician in this country. So, I think it is not just a theoretical world -- it is a world of the daily attitude of how to solve problems for the people and for the men and women in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- to overcome their problems in their daily life. That is the important point.

Mr. Schwarz-Schilling, the German government has proposed you as the new high representative in Bosnia. If you take up this duty, what should your mandate look like? To what extent will it be different from the present role of the high representative?

Schwarz-Schilling: Well, this I can only judge if I really see what is to be done, what is there. I think everybody has his own style. I will follow my style, but I think in our goals, we [have much in] common.

RFE/RL: What will be your style?

Well, I will listen to the people, I will listen to the Bosnian politicians. Then I will try to convince them to come to a decision by themselves and then everybody has to follow up that.

RFE/RL: What do you see as your main task as the possible new international representative in Bosnia? Is it time to establish some kind of partner relationship with the local authorities?

Schwarz-Schilling: The local authorities...they have to give their opinions in a democratic process and the politicians on a higher level have to listen to that. I think that is essential, the principle of all democracies, and that has to be exercised in a higher degree. That is true.

RFE/RL: Do you think that the current Bosnian authorities are able to act alone and to govern the country without the presence of the high representative?

Schwarz-Schilling: This I will not judge at the moment. I will see; I have optimism that they see that the fate of their country, if they don't act in line with their constitution and with human rights and with the legal state -- then there will be a very bad fate for Bosnia that comes totally on the end of the integration process to Europe. And that would be a tragedy because Bosnia has suffered so much, the people have suffered so much. There are so many people with good will, so I think that we have to do anything to bring Bosnia very quickly on the way to Europe and to be a normal state.

RFE/RL Balkan Report

RFE/RL Balkan Report


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