Interview: Miroslav Lajčák, EU Special Representative/High Representative for BiH: “I will Break the Support Network of Hague Fugitives”

Through my mediation, I will try to help Bosnia and Herzegovina – which completed technical negotiations on the SAA a long time ago – come closer to the European Union, says the new High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajčák, in an interview with Evropa.


What will be the priorities in your work?

Miroslav Lajčák: Meeting EU conditions is my short-term priority, because there is no better future for BiH than a European future. I am saying this as someone who can compare, from his own experience, what it means to be outside the EU with being inside it. In the long term, I will work on constitutional reform, which is needed for the goal to which everyone aspires: membership in the European Union.

Agreement among political leaders will be key for reforming the BiH Constitution, but is is not even within sight?

Miroslav Lajčák: BiH needs a new constitution urgently so that the state can become more functional and efficient, and its administration less expensive. reflects its structure and the fact that the state is made up of three constituent peoples and two entities.

You took up your mandate at a time of heated passions, which have intensified since the judgment of the International Court of Justice.

Miroslav Lajčák: The International Court of Justice confirmed that genocide took place in Srebrenica, and found Serbia guilty of failing to prevent it and punish its perpetrators. The only way to wash this terrible stain off the face of today’s Serbia is by arresting and extraditing Ratko Mladić and other indictees who might be on the territory of Serbia as soon as possible. This is both a legal and moral obligation of Serbia. By meeting this obligation, Serbia would contribute to the easing of tensions that have arisen in the wake of the judgment.

The past must not be an obstacle on the road to the future. Victims need justice, which has to be equitable, objective and fair. Justice cannot be interpreted by those who were themselves in any way active participants in the complex political events of the time, because they cannot be objective. They will not help the victims, and to build anyone’s political agenda on the Srebrenica genocide or any other tragedy is damaging for the citizens of today’s BiH.

BiH lags behind other countries in the region when it comes to the process of European integration?

Miroslav Lajčák: The international community has invested a lot in BiH in terms of human resources, as well as politically and financially. Common institutions and bodies have been strengthened – look at the army and the taxation system; the powers of the central government have increased, common security agencies have been formed. The international community is here to help BiH. Noone should try to work against us. By attacking those who want to help you, you harm yourself.

There are speculations that, in contrast to Schwarz-Schilling, you will be using your so-called Bonn Powers.

Miroslav Lajčák: I would like us all together to stop speculating about the High Representative’s so-called Bonn Powers. They create tension on the one hand, and unrealistic euphoria on the other. I wish everyone involved to participate in the project of creating a stable and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its citizens, domestic politicians and representatives of the International Community must start from the one and only relevant political category: responsibility. In this process, each one of us has our own responsibility – we all need to be aware of this responsibility and act accordingly.

You began with removals in the RS Police?

Miroslav Lajčák: I removed the RS Police deputy director in consultation with the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. It is a purely technical action meant to prevent this man from being able to use his position to continue as a member of the war criminal support network.

The RS Police suspended the police officers because they were subject to investigations recently initiated by the BiH prosecutor. I am convinced that the RS authorities were prepared to take action themselves in this case, but there were limitations to their scope of action. For this reason, I issued a series of orders and decisions that will make it easier for the prosecutors and the police to conduct investigations and criminal prosecution of war crimes indictees and those who help them evade justice. I also issued a decision that will make it harder for war criminals convicted by the Court of BiH to escape from prison.

You said recently that Serbia is developing well and that there is a positive atmosphere in Belgrade.

Miroslav Lajčák: I have a feeling that much has been recently in Serbia to promote the European Union and create a positive atmosphere when it comes to the reforms required for EU accession. I still do not see a similar commitment in Bosnia and Herzegovina in favour of the European Union. While other countries in the region are doing their best to prove that they deserve membership in the EU, politicians here prefer engaging in mutual accusations and criticism of the international community, including the EU.

Do you agree with assessments that the International Community has a different attitude towards the Bosniak and Serb political elites?

Miroslav Lajčák: No, I don’t. Politicians here must understand that compromise is a virtue, not a weakness. The role of the international community in BiH is not to cheer on certain politicians, but to help in reaching compromises on key issues for the future of the country. I have told politicians here that the successes of the international community are also their successes, and that our failures are also their failures.

What steps are you going to take to strengthen BiH’s cooperation with the Hague Tribunal?

Miroslav Lajčák: On my first day as High Representative I said that cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague was a priority for me. Immediately after coming to this office I spoke with Carla del Ponte and international military forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is about justice and obligations of us all, both domestic and international officials. It is about upholding the rule of law in a fair and impartial manner. It is about building confidence among the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. My first measures, which you mentioned at the beginning of the interview, concerned cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. I expect domestic authorities to show their commitment in this area.

Do you expect Radovan Karadžić to be transferred to the Hague Tribunal during your mandate?

Miroslav Lajčák: I do not want to speculate about the date of the arrest, but will instead work towards the goal of bringing all remaining fugitives to justice as soon as possible. In order for this to happen, we must break the support networks of the Hague indictees. I am determined to act in support of this goal.

Are you going to suspend the Law on the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Center?

Miroslav Lajčák: I have no intention of changing that decision, which my predecessor took in accordance with his powers. I am sorry that this decision was misinterpreted on several occasions as satisfying requests for separating Srebrenica from the Republika Srpska. That is not the case. The Memorial Centre continues to be on the territory of Republika Srpska, but the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina will now manage its activities and be responsible for its funding and security. The status of the Centre is comparable to the status of the central institutions building of BiH, such as the building of the Indirect Taxation Authority in Banja Luka.

The Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Center is one of the core elements in this country’s effort to come to terms with the past and should not subject to party-political calculations.