Bosnia’s New Top Envoy Feels “Heavy Burden”

resizer86Bosnia’s new High Representative and EU Special Representative, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, said he is coming to the troubled country with “mixed feelings”, encouraged by strong international support but also aware of the “heavy burden” of the difficult task that lies ahead.

Over the weekend, local and international officials greeted Inzko’s appointment and expressed their great and somewhat conflicting hopes and expectations.

Meanwhile analysts already predicted Inzko’s downfall if he does not get stronger international support.

The Austrian diplomat was last Wednesday approved by the EU as the new EU Special Representative, while on Friday ambassadors of the Steering Board of the so-called Peace Implementation Council, PIC, appointed Inzko also as the new head of the Office of the High Representative. The PIC is made of representatives of all countries included in the peace implementation process in Bosnia, including EU member countries, the US and Russia.

The official confirmation of Inzko’s appointment is expected at the upcoming March 26-27 PIC meeting. He is expected to take up his post immediately after that.

Meanwhile, Inzko continues touring capitals, to meet and be assessed by the world leaders and to get their support for his future work. After visiting Washington and London, he is currently visiting Moscow and plans to go to Turkey after that, Inzko told Balkan Insight.

Inzko refused to speculate about his plans until his official and final confirmation.

The US administration has already welcomed Inzko’s appointment.

However local leaders have mixed, or even contradictory expectations for his work.

The leader of the strongest Bosnian Croat HDZ party, Dragan Covic, said he expected Inzko to be a “much stronger” player than the previous High Representative, Slovak Diplomat Miroslav Lajcak. Covic also said he expected Inzko to “very clearly set the rules of the game.”

On the other hand, the leader of the ruling Bosnian Serb Alliance of Independent Social Democrats and Premier of the Serb-dominated Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, said he expected Inzko to “realize reality” and work towards the closure of the OHR.

Far from fazing the OHR out, Bosniak leaders have expressed expectations that Inzko uses the so-called Bonn executive powers bestowed to his position. “I expect him to use the Bonn powers and if he is not going to use them, he should not be coming at all,” said the leader of the Bosnia Patriotic Party, Sefer Halilovic.

The extent of complexity of Inzko’s new post was reflected in a comment which former US diplomat Morton Abramowitz and Balkan expert Daniel Serwer published last week in web publication, where they said that Inzko “will fail unless something is done to strengthen his position.”

The two blamed Dodik and his archrival, Haris Silajdzic, leader of the Bosniak Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, SZBH, for triggering the current crisis in Bosnia through their politics which were “war by other means”. “The situation could degenerate into instability and even renewed violence,” the two experts claimed in their article.

The EU and US should demand that Bosnian leaders adopt a new Bosnian constitution and if that approach fails, the two suggested that the EU and US should reconvene a new peace conference – similar to the one held in Dayton, Ohio in late 1995, where Bosnia’s original peace plan which stopped the war was adopted.

“The Dayton conference should be reconvened, with all its original participants: Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and its two entities (Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation) as well as the EU, UK, France, Germany and Russia. After consultations with all participants, the US and the EU would prepare a draft new constitution that meets European standards,” the article said.

“Such a conference could only be called if the parameters were clear: no partition of Bosnia would be permitted,” they stressed. “This Dayton II would remain in session until solutions are reached.”

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