Western Bodies in Bosnia “Dead Horse” – Lajcak

The outgoing international peace envoy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajcak, said he is leaving his post and the troubled country because the international bodies there are a “dead horse”, doing nothing while rival local leaders held the country back.

Speaking in the Telering talk-show program at OBN Television on Sunday, Lajcak surprised viewers by being unusually open, blunt and undiplomatic about his experiences in Bosnia, the current situation and his departure and decision to become the new Slovak Foreign Minister.

While explaining the motives behind his move, Lajcak’s comments also amounted to scathing criticism of the international role in Bosnia. Hamstrung by internal ethnic squabbling, the country is behind its neighbours on the path to the EU despite billions in aid and hundreds of Western technocrats overseeing the path back to normality after the 1992-95 war. 

“I don’t want to be the rider on a dead horse,” Lajcak said, clarifying he was not referring to Bosnia itself but to the instruments which the international community was using in the country.

Over the past year, the Office of the High representative, OHR, effectively abandoned its once broad governing powers to pass decrees and fire officials it deemed were hampering the peace process.

Western diplomats say this happened because the OHR was sidelined by the EU and US administrations, and the meagre 2,100-strong EU peacekeeping force could not enforce any decisions.

The international community over the past couple of years capitulated to local hard-line politicians, and has now started looking for a new approach to Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans, diplomatic sources told Balkan Insight. (Read more: West Still Divided On New Approach to Bosnia)

Without his usual diplomatic vocabulary, Lajcak on Sunday portrayed a grim picture of a country where local leaders were at odds with each other over the country’s future, while the international community was divided over its own approach and role.

Lajcak also went beyond diplomatic protocol and openly gave his opinions about Bosnia’s top leaders. He said that the “biggest problems” during his mandate were caused by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, conceding that they nevertheless had “open, direct and correct communication.”

Dodik was the one who called the West’s bluff a few months ago and openly defied the OHR, saying he would be ready to “wrestle with NATO tanks” if the OHR used its powers against him. With no tanks in sight, the OHR refrained from using its powers although it accused Dodik and others of violating the Dayton peace accord.
“It is shocking to hear such an honest speech from such a diplomat,” Sarajevo-based analyst, Saida Mustajbegovic told Balkan Insight on Monday.

“After his interview, things can be observed from a new perspective. The most hopeful approach to take is that all those who are imprisoned in Bosnia and Herzegovina should do something so as not to stay under this ‘dead horse’ forever.”
In an interview for Croatian daily Vecernji List, published on Monday, Lajcak also said that the breakup of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be “unacceptable and impossible.” Any unilateral attempt to divide Bosnia would only mean “creating a new Abkhazia,” a small, poor and renegade territory with unrecognized passports.

Lajcak also said that one of the mean reasons for his early departure was his expectation that the next meeting of the Peace Implementation Council in March this year will change the role of the international community in Bosnia.

The PIC is expected to either close the OHR and establish a new Office of the Special EU Representative, or establish a much stronger mandate in the country, effectively making Bosnia an international protectorate, Lajcak said, adding he was not interested in being part of either option.

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