Interview: Miroslav Lajčák, EU Special Representative/High Representative in BiH: “I Endorse Measures of the Council of Ministers”

Author: Nataša Krsman


Miroslav Lajčák, the High Representative in BiH endorses the measures of the Council of Ministers of BiH, aimed at establishing whether or not somebody violated the procedure within the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) and raising the issue of accountability in case of parallelism within the institutions of BiH.


His message to the politicians in BiH is that they must respect the state institutions and those people who work in these institutions should also uphold this principle.


Lajčák says that the RS representatives should not be thinking about the withdrawal from the BiH institutions because they have mechanisms to realize their interests; otherwise, the international community would react adequately. He emphasizes that the political climate in last two weeks was not contributing to the process of fulfillment of the PIC requirements and that this is the reason why PIC is not going to discuss the OHR transformation at its next session.


He claims that he does not know who will replace him at the position of the High Representative and underlines that he still carries out his duties in a responsible manner and tries to reduce tensions in BiH.


NN: Although you are no longer in BiH, you are following the developments in our country and you are still the High Representative. In your opinion, what is the main reason for a bad political climate in BiH?


Miroslav Lajčák: The causes have not changed. The problem is always in the fact that everybody has his own interests in mind and looks for ways to push his own agenda, neglecting the fact that there are other sides too that also have their own interests. In addition, there is no sufficient understanding of the fact that only agreement can bring this country forward and that BiH is always at loss as long as somebody looks for his allies outside the country, to push through his own agenda, at the expense of the other two people. 


NN: Does your statement that they have allies outside the country confirm the fact that the international community does not have a single position on BiH and that those allies influence the situation more than our politicians?


Miroslav Lajčák: The international community has a single position insofar as it wants to see BiH as a functional, politically stabile and self-sustainable state that is making progress on the path of European integration. There is no dilemma about that. That position enjoys absolute support of the EU, Washington, Russia, Turkey and all international actors.


NN: The PIC will soon consider a progress that has been achieved in fulfillment of the defined objectives and conditions but also the political situation in BiH, in relation with the OHR’s transformation. Is it possible that tensions are being increased because of this PIC’s decision?


Miroslav Lajčák I do not like to speculate. It would be much better to have all players – local institutions – focused on the fulfillment of the established objectives and conditions and not to speculate on what is behind some idea and who wants and who does not want something. The international community repeatedly stated the conditions and once those five plus two are met we can discuss how to proceed and the next thing that follows is the OHR transformation. There is no giving up on these conditions, and they have not been met up to date. We have the status of Brcko and the state property issue, and the developments of the last two weeks in BiH certainly did not contribute to the fulfillment of the second condition – political stability in BiH. Let’s speculate less and let’s focus on what we have to do ourselves. The fulfillment of conditions and objectives in the responsibility of the BiH institutions.


NN: The Prud Agreement was an indication of improvement of the political situation in BiH. Have political leaders over-ambitiously engaged into negotiations, in the part that refers to the constitutional reform?


Miroslav Lajčák: That question, after all, should be addressed to the Prud Troika that decided to engage in the negotiations on the Constitution. BiH cannot run away from the constitution-related discussion and it is clear that the constitutional issue is the most difficult issue raised by the signatories to the Prud Agreement. I am not hiding the fact that I would much more prefer if they decided to focus on issues raised by the PIC first- state property and Brcko. Especially when the politicians have proven that the Prud Agreement can be realized – the budget has been adopted, there has been progress with regard to Brcko status in line with the agreement and some steps have been made with regard to the Census. Instead of dealing with all issues at once it would be good to tackle one by one. However, the politicians have decided to take this approach and it is not my intention to criticize them.


NN: It has been said on several occasions that the constitutional reform does not represent a requirement for the EU. Should this issue be left on the sidelines for some time?


Miroslav Lajčák: The Constitution is not some kind of a formal requirement and I am against having it as the formal requirement for some stage of progress towards European integration. On the other hand, everybody is clear that the Dayton represents a guaranty for status quo and that there is no going back but there is no progress too. That is bad because BiH needs to make progress. We therefore need a modern and more efficient Constitution. The existing Constitution stopped the war but we need something that will create an efficient state capable of facing challenges of the European integration. Nobody is going to dictate the design of the Constitution and what needs to be done but as long as there is no progress on the constitutional issue it means that we have decided to stagnate. Yet, BiH’s neighbors are making progress.


NN: Do you expect from the PIC to accept some of the agreed issues as a progress?


Miroslav Lajčák: The last session of PIC took place in November; an overview of progress has to be made in March. That will rather clearly show the direction that is being followed and the pace of progress. If the five plus two were met, the PIC session would be quite different and we would discuss the OHR transition. If those things that were supposed to be fulfilled have not been fulfilled than we will have a discussion on what still needs to be done. It means that the discussion on the OHR transformation is being postponed.            


NN: The latest events on the submission of the SIPA Report to the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH against the RS Prime Minister and 14 other individuals have raised the issue of the functioning of the BiH Institutions and mutual confidence in this country. What are your views on possible ways to overcome this crisis?


Miroslav Lajčák: It can be done in a way that everybody respects the institutions of this country. The BiH Council of Minister made a decision, at its last session, and expects to see some proposal of measures on the basis of their decision. The best way will be for the institutions to deal with this issue, meaning that it has to be clearly identified who violated what within that institution and those who made violations should be held responsible. My recommendation to all politicians is that they should not underestimate the institutions of this country and that everybody has to respect the institutions. That is a condition for this country’s progress.


NN: When you say that the institutions have to be respected, does it also apply to the people working in those institutions?


Miroslav Lajčák: I am referring to both people who work in those institutions and violate their own procedure and to politicians, primarily politicians from the RS, who underestimate those institutions. There is not point in passing a problem from one place to another. We have to identify the causes, establish who is guilty and who should be held responsible. We should not waste time and point fingers at each other. That does not lead us forward; however, this situation has to be resolved. 


NN: Have you as the High Representative or some of your closest associates had information on the parallelism in the BiH institutions that is being mentioned a lot nowadays?


Miroslav Lajčák: That is a too broad question. Neither my associates, and I believe them, nor me personally had any information on what had been prepared and about the manner in which it had been prepared. It is no secret that there is room in every institution for improving their efficiency.


NN: The Chairman of the Presidency of BiH, Nebojša Radmanović said that the people who refer to the OHR’s support participate in the parallelism within the BiH institutions. How do you comment?


Miroslav Lajčák: The OHR is committed to the functioning of the institutions in BiH. My Deputy Raffi Gregorian and I are the OHR and all other people are OHR employees. Nobody can refer to the OHR in that way. Instead of looking for culprits let’s look for solution and thereby identify the people responsible for the violation of procedures and possible creation of parallelism.      

NN: Is a possible solution the fact that the Council of Ministers has established a working group which is supposed to establish communication between security institutions that has not existed so far?

Miroslav Lajčák: It is. I agree with it since it is a local solution and within the institutions. It is very good, and it is also supported by the PIC ambassadors, that local institutions, starting with the BiH Council of Ministers, seek solutions and methods how to overcome those problems. You know well that the International Community supports solutions of local institutions.

NN: Do you believe that the justice reform in BiH was a success?

Miroslav Lajčák: This is all a process and we will never be able to say it has succeeded or not and it is finished now. The reform is completed with certain respects but we are ask for further progress and institutions should always adjust to that.

NN: When will BiH get a new High Representative, is it already certain that Valentin Inzko is not that person and are we going to hear a new name soon?

Miroslav Lajčák: That is not a question for me. I do not appoint the High Representative.

NN: You are the Foreign Minister of Slovakia, an EU member-state, and you certainly have some information.

Miroslav Lajčák: I know that the process is underway and the new High Representative will be selected and I am aware of my responsibility till the moment he is elected. That is al I can say.

NN: Did the USA stop the process of appointment of the High Representative and whether the EU showed by that that it is not that powerful?

Miroslav Lajčák: No, no – I cannot say that. I have no intention to comment on those speculations. A serious process is underway and we should not vulgarize it. It is certainly everyone’s goal to identify a person who will have mandate of the International Community and who will work in the direction of BiH’s advancing towards the European integration.

NN: Why is your Deputy Raffi Gregorian in the USA at the moment? Is it because a new High Representative is to be selected or is it just because of his serious cold, as he stated in the media?

Miroslav Lajčák: His trip was planned before and I talked with my Deputy about it last December. The main purpose of the trip was related to Brčko in order to inform Roberts Owen, international arbiter for Brčko, and the institutions about the progress achieved in relation with the Brčko District. I had been familiar with that trip far before I went to Bratislava.

NN: Only now after you took the office of the Slovakian Foreign Minister you said openly that BiH could not become a EU candidate-state with the OHR. Why had not you said that before, perhaps the approach of BiH politicians would have been different?

Miroslav Lajčák: The concept of the High Representative and a country that cannot manage its own affairs and the concept of a country that fits into the regional frame and is the same partner to the EU as other countries are, cannot run in parallel. It is necessary that only one of these two concepts enjoy undivided support of the International Community. There are countries that believe that the International Community’s job in BiH has not been completed and the countries that believe the time has come and that BiH may assume full responsibility and run its affairs with the EU’s support. Both of these options stated that there is legitimacy for what I have said. However, both options cannot exist since we are then in an unenviable situation that BiH is the country with the High Representative and cannot manage its own affairs and, on the other hand, it may run for candidacy in the UN Security Council. Uniform position is necessary.

NN: You do not seem concerned about the situation in BiH, while the citizens believe it is extremely tense political atmosphere in the last days?

Miroslav Lajčák: I do not know how I look but I use the office of the Foreign Minister, which gives me a different level of communication and influence. Naturally, from the office of the High Representative I plead to calm down the situation and I have constant contacts with politicians in BiH from Bratislava, too, and I am also using my stay in BiH to lessen tensions and calm down the situation. I am not running from my responsibility.

NN: Many criticized you for being too soft, for having a different approach than your predecessors. Do you believe you worked in a right way?

Miroslav Lajčák: It is not up to me to assess my work, but I absolutely believe that BiH may become stronger and make progress by us assisting local politicians to take over accountability and to help in philosophy of agreement. Only such philosophy may give results and by that philosophy we got the agreement on the police, the SAA, the Prud Agreement, which has strong support of the International Community. Any behavior towards BiH politicians as persons who are not capable of being accountable for their moves only delays the situation which has to come and that is that BiH takes over full accountability and I advocate that it should be as soon as possible. For me politicians in power are partners since the people elected them. I have dialogue with them and I have no problem with that. It is necessary to promote the culture of political dialogue and everyone from the ruling “six parties” had willingness, desire and capacity to reach agreement, while those who were not part of that attacked more.

NN: What could happen if the RS representatives decide to leave the BiH institutions?

Miroslav Lajčák: It would cause a serious crisis to which the International Community would adequately react and I recommend everyone not event to think about it.

NN: What do you mean by adequate reactions? No reaction of the International Community followed when there were problems with amendments to the Law on the Council of Ministers and the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

Miroslav Lajčák: Let us not play games with such moves as leaving BiH institutions. There is a number of democratic instruments from the Council of Ministers, the BiH Parliament and every ethnic group may express its positions and defends its interests. This is an extreme move and I see no reason that anyone plays with such moves. When I say adequate I mean adequate because every action provokes a reaction. I do not want that these categories are considered, the consideration should be given to where the problem is, who is responsible and how to solve it. Extremism does not help any party.

NN: Is there extremism on all sides in BiH?

Miroslav Lajčák: Of course, there are signals of extremism on all sides, but it is the responsibility of elected political leaders to ignore extremism and lead the country forward in talks and agreements.

NN: In BiH Milorad Dodik is most often characterized as the main culprit in different situations. Do you think the same?

Miroslav Lajčák: The political leaders that have the largest support of the people also get most attention and highest expectations, as well as largest responsibility. Directly or indirectly, for each success and each failure. They assumed that responsibility when they won the elections and that also refers to Haris Silajdžić and Sulejman Tihić. These things go hand in hand when you are strong and when you are a leader. I am not in favour of demonizing anybody, but that is a part of political folklore, in particular in BiH.

Propaganda on Abolishing and Dissolution

NN: For years people here have been asking questions as to whether one should support the survival of the RS in its current territorial integrity, or the survival of BiH.


Miroslav Lajčák: Survival is not the adequate word, regardless of how much talk there is about it, because that is not relevant. The survival of BiH is not on the agenda nor will it ever be, because BiH is a country with the absolute support of the international community, and its internal structure is the responsibility of local institutions and all three constituent peoples, because there are no unilateral changes. The architecture of BiH is defined by Dayton and no matter what anybody says, they cannot change that, the fact that BiH is an internationally recognized country that consists of two entities, RS and FBiH, and the constellation can only be changed with the consent of all three constituent people and clearly defined procedures. We should not get upset because of such statements and announcements, because that is propaganda.

Too Early to be Relieved

NN: Is it a relief for you to have left before these turbulent events in BiH? Would you be able to once again go through the events that took place in the end of 2007, when the Law on the Council of Ministers and Rules of Procedure of BiH Parliament were amended?


Miroslav Lajčák: What relief, I am still the High Representative in BiH. I can start thinking about relief once my successor is appointed and I hand over my duties. Right now I have two offices and two responsibilities – I cannot talk about relief.