TRIP REPORT 1-2/2001 - 19-23 FEBRUARY 2001 AND 1-8 MAY 2001

The last two trips by the Mediator have been overshadowed by a series of crises in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  As the country moves further on the path of democratic transition and Dayton implementation, the peoples of BaH have begun to tackle issues that were never before possible and appeared to be greater than they were.  First, after the November 1999 elections, BaH experienced for the first time the transfer of power from purely nationalist party governments to issues oriented and sometimes multiethnic parties, previously in opposition.  Second, the return of previously expelled minorities has by necessity raised civil issues related to the rebuilding of religious buildings and events commemorating and mourning family and friends lost in the war.  For a young democracy emerging from a brutal war these issues are sensitive and sometimes provoke emotional reactions that are difficult to reconcile with the democratic process.

The transfer of power is one of the most important steps in a young democracy and is bound to be accompanied by opposition from groups that are accustomed to wielding power through processes set up by outdated institutions.  For Bosnia and Herzegovina power-sharing and democratic arrangements were set up to overcome a war and resolve inter-ethnic divisions.  The rise of issues oriented or multiethnic parties was a new development.  In the November 2000 elections these parties managed to come together and form governments on the state and Federation levels that locked out the nationalist parties. 

In the RS some nationalist parties reacted by reinventing themselves; if they succeed remains to be seen.  However, the democratic transition received its greatest threat from the Croat community.  The HDZ reacted by boycotting institutions at all levels of government and sought to challenge the international community head on.  However, there were signs that not all Croats shared the HDZ position and in some areas, such as Central Bosnia, HDZ elected officials have been trying to resist getting caught up in the conflict between the HDZ party and the international community.

In the RS, the transfer of power was completed after much intervention from the international community.  The IC insisted that a government be formed without the participation of certain Serb nationalist parties that were known to be influenced by war criminals or have anti-multiethnic tendencies.  Nevertheless, the RS succeeded in forming a government that at least in appearance seemed to be moving toward focussing on issues.

The RS has, however, experienced other problems that threaten peace implementation throughout the whole of BaH.  A certain number of radical groups have been actively and violently opposing attempts by minority communities to fulfil their religious and ethnic needs.  In particular, in 2001 there have been a couple of violent protests against the opening of mosques, such as in Banja Luka and Trebinje.  Such events are a normal part of any community seeking to establish, and in the case of BaH re-establish, themselves.  How the IC and local elected officials react to organised mob violence will be a key to establishing a truly multi-ethnic state that respects the rights of all citizens.

In the mist of these two new developments, the Mediator conducted two mediation trips to BaH.  During the first trip on 19-23 February 2001, the Mediator concentrated his efforts on the Central Bosnia Canton and two of its municipalities.  These efforts were meant to demonstrate to the people of BaH that despite the government crisis at the State and Federation levels, local elected officials could work together.  Party politics and election results cannot interfere in daily government operations to the detriment of citizens.  Therefore, the Mediator visited Fojnica and Kiseljak, two municipalities which are moving quickly to implement property rights and the Dayton provisions.

During the second mediation trip, on 1-8 May 2001, the Mediator visited three areas where hard-line attitudes have stalled the peace process.  The Mediator visited Foca/Srbinje and Visegrad in Republika Srpska and Mostar in the Federation.  These municipalities were significant because they have been identified as black holes.  In Foca/Srbinje and Visegrad, mediation efforts proved to be successful insofar as the local authorities committed themselves to accelerating the pace of peace implementation.  Mostar, the centre of HDZ resistance, was chosen to support the mayor and deputy mayor of Mostar City who despite the HDZ and the lack of a cantonal government have made efforts to move forward and have continued to cooperate with each other.

Both delegations 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). 

At the international level, the Mediator met with High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, Senior Deputy High Representative Matthias Sonn, Deputy High Representative Colin Munro, Deputy High Representative Valerie Slujters, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Coordinator of UNMBiH Jacques Klein, SFOR Commander General Michael Dodson, OSCE Head of Mission Robert Barry, Swedish Ambassador Nils Eliasson, German Ambassador Hans Jochen Peters, US Ambassador Thomas Miller, British Ambassador Graham Stewart Hand. 

During the first trip, the Mediator also met with Chair of the Presidency of BiH Zivko Radisic, Acting President of the Constitutional Court Omer Ibrahimagic, President of the New Croat Initiative Kresmir Zubak, Minister for Foreign Affairs Jadranko Prlic, Prime Minister of the Federation of BiH Edhem Bicakcic, President of the Academy of Science of BiH Bozidar Matic, President of Republika Srpska Mirko Sarovic, Director of the State Border Police Muhamed Besic, Member of the Presidency of BiH Halid Genjac, Member of the Presidency of BiH Ante Jelavic, President of the Party for BaH Haris Silajdzic, and Mr. Drazenko Primovac (Advisor to Member of the Presidency of BiH Ante Jelavic).

During the second trip, the Mediator also met with Member of the Presidency Beriz Belkic, Member of the Presidency Jozo Krizanovic, President of the Federation Karlo Filipovic, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Prime Minister of the Federation Alija Behmen, Chair of the House of Peoples of the Federation of BiH Ivo Komsic.

During his visits, the Mediator was accompanied by 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, Salko Beba, Office of the Federation Ministry for Refugees, DPs and Social Policy, Mr. Mijat Tuka, Assistant to the BaH Ministry for Refugees and the 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, UNBiH, SFOR and OSCE officers in Cantons 6 and 7, Sarajevo, Foca and Visegrad for providing input and organisational support.  During the trip the delegation was assisted also by ECMM, IPTF,OHR/RRTF, OSCE, SFOR, UNBiH, UNHCR and the Federation and the RS Ombudspersons.

Trip Report 1-2/2001 - 19-23 February 2001 and 1-8 May 2001
(WORD, 48KB)