TRIP REPORT 3/2000 - 21-31 AUGUST 2000

In recent months there have been indications that politicians in Republika Srpska are beginning to rethink their attitudes towards return-related issues. More importantly, it has become clear to them that the economic revival and the future of all Bosnian Serbs are inextricably linked to the fulfilment of the Dayton Peace Accords and their good intentions to accept multiethnic communities. As a result, this trip focused on the RS as a test of those intentions. The Mediator's also wanted to support municipalities which are truly committed to the concepts enshrined not only in the peace agreement but as well in the basic understanding of what it means to be European. He wanted also to investigate, before the upcoming elections, if politicians were complying with Annex 7.

The visit confirmed the Mediator's worries that there is a wide gap between the unending declarations of politicians and the actual work being done to realise these declarations. It is not enough for politicians to state publicly their intentions to implement the rule of law or to abide by agreed principles as a means to gain access to international funds. Instead, those promises must be put into action through transparent and uniform standards which encourage all groups to take part in the daily economic, cultural and political life of the country at all levels. More importantly, the true test of whether the nationalist parties have become more moderate and democratic is whether they are committed to ensuring respect for basic human rights, such as freedom of religion, implementation of property rights and the right to participate in the democratic process without obstruction from the majority.

The Mediator is concerned in general with the attitude of the present RS government in Banja Luka; the rebuilding of religious sites; and the slow pace of property rights implementation in the RS. At every turn obstruction has been institutionalised for fear that Serb votes will oust any politicians who makes concessions. Building permit for religious sites are bureaucratically delayed, double occupancies are not resolved and any attempt by minority groups to rebuild their cultural life is rebuffed by subtle but powerful efforts.

Despite these setbacks, municipal authorities in the RS are being confronted with the inevitable task of accepting previously expelled residents as part of the future of their community. They are also aware that the Banja Luka government is not able to give them the resources they need to provide a decent standard of living for their community. Therefore, they are showing signs of a willingness to adopt measures previously unheard. For example, the first mosque was opened in Prijedor, previously considered one of the major black holes of the RS. In addition, places like Modrica and Banja Luka are beginning to come to terms with the challenging task they face. To places which are used to hard-line rhetoric and nationalist policies, these tasks are not only difficult but also scary, and any attempts by their leaders to change the power structures should be guardedly supported by the international community.

There are also signs that the changing attitude in western RS has begun to have an affect on the eastern RS, renown for its hard-line politics and for harbouring indicted war criminals. For the first time the Mediator visited municipalities which until recently were closed to returns, such as Foca, Sokolac and Bratunac. However, the Mediator was interested to see if the SDS assertions that they had transformed the party and were ready to cooperate with the international community were true. As far as declarations and promises are concerned the signs are encouraging. Municipal leaders have agreed with the Mediator on certain preconditions and initiatives which if implemented would pave the way for full mediation. The Mediator is ready to assist these municipalities in their efforts to rejoin the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they will have to do the hard work themselves. More importantly, they will be looking towards the Banja Luka government for reassurances and support. A denial of this support would require a serious re-evaluation by the international community of their support for Mr. Dodik and his government. In turn Mr. Dodik could take the lead and set an example by joining the Mediator on his next trip and demonstrating that the RS is ready to accept change.

On this trip the Mediator visited Sarajevo, Modrica, Banja Luka, Prijedor, Bihac, Bosanska Krupa, Sanski Most, Sokolac, Foca/Srbinje and Bratunac. In Sarajevo the Mediator met with Mr. Alija Izetbegovic, Chair of the Presidency of BaH, Mr. Ejup Ganic, President of the Federation of BaH, Mr. Martin Raguz, Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of BaH, Mr. Ivo Luzanski, Vice President of the Federation of BaH, Ms. Fatima Leho, Deputy Minister of the Treasury of Institutions of BaH, Mr. Edhem Bicakcic, Prime Minster of the Federation of BaH, Mr. Spasoje Tusevljak, Chair of the Council of Ministers and Minster of the Treasury of BaH, Mr. Wolfgang Petritsch, High Representative, Mr. Thomas Miller, US Ambassador, Mr. Jacques Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Coordinator of the UN Operations in BaH, Mr. Dieter Woltmann, Deputy Head of Mission OSCE BiH, Mr. Hans Jörg Kretschmer, Head of Delegation of the European Commission, Ms. Elaine Paterson, World Bank, James Lyon, Director of ICG. In Banja Luka the Mediator met with Mr. Mirko Sarovic, Vice President of Republika Srpska, Mr. Miladin Dragicevic, Minister for Refugees and DPs of the RS, Bishop Franjo Komarica, Mr. Mile Marceta and Mr. Peter Hancock, Deputy High representative.

The delegation consisted of the International Mediator, Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling, Mr. Dieter Wolkewitz (Executive Representative), Mr. Gerald Knaus (Political Advisor and Sarajevo Representative), Mr. Juan Diaz (Political Analyst), Ms. Amela Curkovic (Interpreter). During his visits, the Mediator was accompanied by Mr. Goran Magas, the Advisor to the Federation Vice-President and Special Envoy for Drvar, Mr. Salko Beba, First Secretary of the Federation Vice-President, Ms. Mirsada Jahic, the Co-ordinator of the Task Force Group in the Federation Prime Minister’s Cabinet for the Support of the Mediator’s Activities and Mrs. Sabira Jahic, Assistant to the Federation Minister for Refugees.The delegation would like to express its special gratitude to OSCE Operations for its logistical support; OHR, RRTF and OSCE officers in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Prijedor, Bihac, Sarajevo, Sokolac, Foca and Bratunac for providing input and organisational support. During the trip the delegation was assisted also by ECMM, IPTF,OHR/RRTF, OSCE, SFOR, UNHCR and the Federation Ombudsmen.

Trip Report 3/2000 - 21-31 August 2000
(WORD, 136KB)