Interview: Valentin Inzko, EU Special Representative and High Representative in BiH: “Property inventory process will not influence the agreement on apportionment”

Glas srpske: The RS prime minister Milorad Dodik said that the “political interference” of the Office of the High Representative in the property inventory process in BiH was unnecessary. Dodik says that the OHR had earlier on several occasions changed its positions regarding the issue of property and that it is “now clear that the OHR has taken the Bosniak side in the property inventory process and that it has long ago lost its impartiality”. What’s your comment on that?


Valentin Inzko: There is no politics here! This is a process of compiling public information. I do not see why anyone would have a problem with that. The issue of the apportionment of the property has been on the agenda for years already, and the inventory has not even been started yet. I have no reason for my Office to make the inventory of the property. But, four months have passed since the establishment of the working group and we have not moved further from the beginning!


It is necessary to resolve the issue of the state property for it is one of the conditions for the closure of OHR. If we know the views of the RS with respect to the closure of OHR, then with the best of will I cannot understand why the RS is now objecting to the resolution of this issue. I will reiterate once again: there is no politics here, the property inventory itself is a purely technical issue, we will only compile data that are anyhow available to the public and draft a report. We will forward this report to the Council of Ministers and entity governments and then all is in their hands, they are those who will have to reach an agreement and decide how and in what way they will apportion the property, trough an agreement between the state and entity governments. The inventory that will be made will not prejudice the agreement on the apportionment of the state property between the state, entities and the Brčko District.


The property that will be subject to this inventory and the start date of the inventory have been established by a unanimous decision of the Council of Ministers dated April 9, 2009. Thus, I see no room here either for any speculations on partiality and behind-the-scene games! It is not the people from the OHR who are sitting on the Council of Ministers, but representatives of the constituent peoples of BiH, thereby Serbs as well! And this decision was adopted unanimously, so let your readers conclude on their own to what extent the OHR was in the position to influence that!   


Glas srpske: The chairman of the Commission for the state property of BiH Zvonimir Kutleša has said that the process of the property inventory in BiH will take around four months, and that the OHR working group will also not be able to complete that job within the shorter designated deadline? Does the OHR have capacities to make the inventory of the property by September 30, 2009?


Valentin Inzko: At this juncture, the OHR is in the process of composing a team that will be making the property inventory. This team will comprise both domestic people but internationals as well. When it comes to funding this team, it will be financed by the Peace Implementation Council. I believe that this job can be done in a few weeks’ time, if it is done diligently and intensively and I believe that it can be done before the November session of the PIC Steering Board. Also, I expect full cooperation of all 48 land registry offices in the country. Certainly, the pace of compiling the inventory will also depend on that cooperation. Here we are talking about data that already exist, information is available, the information just need to be collected and translated into a report.


Glas srpske: In the process of the apportionment of property in BiH is there a possibility for the entities to remain without the property they have been disposing of so far?


Valentin Inzko: Like I already said, OHR will carry out the technical part of the job, make the inventory of the property and forward a report it drafts to the entity governments and the Council of Ministers. Then it is their turn to reach an agreement on the apportionment of the property. How they will agree, it depends on them, not on the OHR.


Glas srpske: What’s your comment on the positions of the RS MUP representatives that with the establishment of an anti-corruption team of BiH as a special police agency that would be the only one in the country in charge of combating corruption, the police of Srpska would lose 34 competencies in this area that belong to it under the RS Criminal Code? The end of August was the deadline by which a proposal of the law for establishing a body for combating corruption at the level of BiH should have been drafted. What’s your view on this issue?


Valentin Inzko: We need to stop wasting time on discussions on competencies that, unfortunately, still dominate the political scene in BiH. We have to focus more on the contents and the way in which the problem of corruption can be solved more efficiently. It’s no secret that corruption continues to be a huge problem in BiH. Accordingly, the existing institutional solution under which the competency for this issue has been entrusted with the entity institutions has not yielded success in combating corruption. Corruption is a complex problem that cannot be easily solved and that is why we need more efficient institutions that will be resolving this, and not extensive political debates on the issue of competency.


Besides, there is a problem pertaining to the visa liberalization. It is clear that in the course of the process of establishing visa-free regime Bosnia and Herzegovina must set up an institution for combating corruption. I expect from BiH politicians, including politicians from Republika Srpska, who have declared the issue of visa liberalization their priority, to show political maturity and avoid unnecessary politicization of issues relating to the visa liberalization.


Glas srpske: Do you support further engagement of international judges and prosecutors in the BiH judiciary? Are they really necessary for the BiH judiciary?


Valentin Inzko: I absolutely support their work and their stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is not only my opinion, this is also the opinion of highest judicial institutions of this country, Court of BiH and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. The PIC Steering Board, the Hague tribunal president, as well as the EU High Representative for foreign and security politics, Javier Solana share the same opinion. That is why I am very astonished that the Council of Ministers of BiH decided to ignore all these recommendations and not to extend the mandate for international judges and prosecutors working in the Court of BiH and Prosecutor’s office of BiH on cases of terrorism, organized crime and corruption. All this is pointing me to a conclusion that this decision has not been taken for what is best for BiH, but for political pressures.


The Decision by the Council of Ministers will only damage the interests of BiH citizens for combating corruption has for more than ten years been one of the two most important issues for the constituency in BiH. This will also have an impact on BiH’s aspirations to join the European Union, given that the European Union has strict conditions in the area of combating crime and corruption.


There are many reasons due to which international judges and prosecutors should remain in BiH. They are also exposed to various pressures, but these pressures are much stronger when domestic judges and prosecutors are in question.


Also, with international judges and prosecutors leaving at the end of this year, in line with the Council of Ministers’ Decision, we will be in a situation to have a backlog of cases, to have ongoing cases go back to the beginning. I think that BiH cannot and must not allow itself to waste so many invested efforts and so much work.


You also have to bear in mind the fact that international judges and prosecutors work on serious cases, we are not talking here about a theft of several packs of cigarettes from a kiosk, big cases are really in question here. I am sure that no BiH citizen, no matter where s/he might live, and no matter to which constituent people s/he might belong, has nothing against the rule of law prevailing in his/her country in which everybody will have the right to a just investigation and a quick and just trial.


Arguments we have heard in the explanation by the Council of Ministers with regard to the endorsement of such a decision really, as you say here, don’t hold water. Enormous costs for translation services for persons working on cases of terrorism, organized crime and corruption have been mentioned, but it is nothing else but a smoke screen. This is simply not true: citizens need to know that not a single KM of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been spent for those needs, this is all being financed by the international community.


I would like to hear from the Council of Ministers why for two years consecutively not even a single item has been foreseen, in the 2008 and 2009 budgets, for educating and training domestic personnel that should replace international judges and prosecutors. This was, in very concrete terms, the Council of Ministers’ task, and they have not done it.


Also, the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina should, without any further delay, adopt necessary amendments to the Law on the Court of BiH and the Law on the Prosecutor’s office of BiH, taking fully into account views presented by domestic legal institutions.


Glas srpske: The public, politicians and institutions of the RS are embittered by the fact that, despite numerous material evidence and witnesses, those responsible for crimes committed over Serbs in the cases “Dobrovoljačka street”, the “Tuzla convoy”, the case of “Atif Dudaković” have not yet been processed. What’s your assessment of that?


Valentin Inzko: Every criminal who escapes justice is an insult to the victims and those closest to them who survived. My view is that all who have committed a crime should be held to account for it, I have no dilemma whatsoever with respect to that.