Interview: Valentin Inzko, EU Special Representative and High Representative in BiH: “EU drives reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina”

A key objective of the European Union in BiH is to assist the country in becoming a stable, viable, peaceful and multiethnic, says in an exclusive interview for the Council website Valentin Inzko, the EU´s Special Representative (EUSR) in this Balkan state.


How is the EU contributing to Bosnia and Herzegovina´s (BiH) efforts to develop a prosperous and sustainable democracy?


Valentin Inzko: Our key objective is to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in becoming a stable, viable, peaceful and multiethnic country, which cooperates peacefully with its neighbours and is irreversibly on track towards EU membership. Compared to the state of affairs in 1995, when the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement brought an end to the war, we have come a very long way towards meeting this objective.


The European Union has indeed had a key role in developing democracy and the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It has invested more than 2.6 billion euros into post-war reconstruction and institution-building. In addition, over the last fourteen years the EU successfully deployed all Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) instruments at its disposal to help stabilise the country and prepare it for closer integration with the European Union.


Our engagement is far from over, but its nature is changing as Bosnia and Herzegovina is moving from the Dayton legacy to a Brussels-led process of EU integration. My role as the EUSR is to provide, in close cooperation with the Delegation of the European Commission, political advice to local actors and facilitate the enactment of EU-driven reforms. The EU Police Mission (EUPM) is engaged in strengthening the country’s police forces through monitoring, mentoring and inspecting. EUFOR, which replaced the NATO-led Stabilization Force in 2004, has a mandate to maintain a safe and secure environment.


Can you assess the reform agenda that can boost BiH´s prosperity?


Valentin Inzko: Since taking office in April 2009, I have been advocating a stronger focus on economic reforms and investments that would lead to greater prosperity and closer EU integration. Unfortunately, politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina prefer to argue over issues on which they disagree, instead of pooling their energy to address the real life concerns of citizens. I see several areas in dire need of investment and which have the potential to change the economic picture: hydropower, infrastructure, information systems, agriculture, forestry and tourism.


Let me also remind you that, regardless of their national persuasions, between 70 and 80 percent of citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina tell us that they want to join the EU. This is a huge number. Their reasons are not difficult to understand. They want economic prosperity, the freedom to travel without visas, and the security that EU membership would guarantee.  The challenge is to bridge this clear gap between the aspirations of citizens and the agenda of their elected representatives.


What are the results of EU assistance to the BiH authorities in their fight against organised crime?


Valentin Inzko: A more effective fight against organised crime is an important priority for the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some notable successes have been achieved in this respect, namely the establishment of a professional State Border Service and better information systems and databases. Thanks to the efforts of EUPM, there has been an improvement in the cooperation between the 16 police bodies in the country, as well as between police and prosecutors. Upon the EU’s insistence, there has also been an improvement in regional cooperation in the fight against organised crime. These are only some examples of our assistance, and the results to date have been encouraging: there have been several high-profile arrests of “mafia bosses” in recent months, and the efforts aimed at dismantling the networks of organised crime are continuing.