Interview: Valentin Inzko, EU Special Representative and High Representative in BiH: “Avaz Should Sue Me”

First the weekly magazine published by Avaz pompously announced an affair – persecution and criminalisation of Bosniaks, directed by the OHR, and one day later Avaz reported on the same story. Then the OHR reacted, regretting the public association of the Office of the High Representative with the papers that Avaz wrote about, and yesterday Avaz stated that the positions of the OHR were not the positions of the High Representative. Valentin Inzko spoke to Oslobodjenje about the accusations coming from Avaz, the coordinated attacks against his Deputy, and the Butmir talks.

By: Vildana Selimbegoviæ

Mr. Inzko, after Dnevni avaz reported on the allegations published in its weekly publication, in which they fabricated a supposed affair of persecution of Bosniaks in BiH, your office issued a press release, but Dnevni avaz then claimed that you did not agree with the official positions of the institution you lead. Who is lying?

There are No Different Positions

Valentin Inzko: The position of the OHR was given to the media and there are no other official positions. The structure of the organisation is very clear. All employees are responsible to me both as the High Representative and as the EUSR.

Oslobodjenje: Who did you apologise to in Avaz?

Valentin Inzko:If I made a mistake, I am prepared to apologise to everybody, and I am deeply and sincerely sorry for any inconvenience or trouble that might have been caused by the publication of these articles.

Oslobodjenje: The same paper also published an accusation against your Principle Deputy, Raffi Gregorian, and an unnamed person (called Eric, under quotation marks) in which the publisher of Avaz, as on so many occasions before, assumed the role of the guardian of Bosniak interests, and in that role announced the pressing of charges and a request for compensation of “at least 50 million Euro”. How do you view such announcements?

Valentin Inzko:I am not afraid of anything, because my conscience is clear. I also do not fear any legal proceedings. And if that means anything, then it is not my Deputy who should be sued, but I myself. In general I have an impression that it has become popular to talk about suing people and filing charges. That approach is maybe the American way of thinking. Meaning, if you do not agree with something, the first reaction is – see you in court. However, I think that one should look for a constructive approach. Also, the approach that someone is the guardian of the interests of only one people – that is very relative. That is a complex issue and the guardian of one people is someone different, maybe just an ordinary person, who does his or her work honestly and thus strengthens the society and his or her people.

Oslobodjenje: For months there have been attempts to drive Mr. Gregorian out of our country and out of the OHR, coming from Milorad Dodik: in Republika Srpska similar affairs have been fabricated according to the same pattern; on several occasions he was even declared persona non grata in Banja Luka. Now the identical pattern is being repeated in Sarajevo: do you have any explanation for this coordinated persecution?

Butmir is in BiH’s Interest

Valentin Inzko: It is not possible to satisfy everybody. For some people in Tuzla I am persona non grata. As I said during my first press conference: There is no one who can please everybody. First, the very fact that there are criticisms means that my Deputy is doing something. I think it would be bad if no one reacted to our work. Sometimes it is best if all criticise you a little, then it is certain that you do not work for one side only, so in that sense this could also be viewed positively. The mission of the OHR is not to be popular. The maintenance of peace and of the Dayton Peace Agreement is a very difficult and complex task. We will work on carrying out the mandate that the international community entrusted me with, as confirmed by the UN Security Council.

Oslobodjenje: The 18th of November, when the Butmir talks on the proposed package of constitutional amendments for BiH continue, is approaching; it is also the date when the PIC will be deciding on the extension of the OHR’s mandate: is all this a message that it is about time to close the OHR? Or is it merely another instance of raising tensions and radicalisation of positions, aimed at breaking up the talks?

Valentin Inzko: The international community is engaged in the Butmir process at the highest level. Next week experts from Washington, Brussels and Stockholm will be coming in once again, in order to continue the talks with political leaders, but also with certain sectors of society. I think that it is irresponsible only to criticise, and do nothing in order to improve the situation. One of the main tenets of all religions is “do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you”. I think that that should be the starting point for considering all problems. Those who do not work on improving relations between people do not work in the interest of their own people. It should be in everybody’s interest to have good neighbourly relations, good relations among people and a constructive dialogue.

Islamic Community Assembly in BiH: Conspiracy Theory

The Islamic Community Assembly in BiH is shocked in the face of the information that the Office of High Representative (OHR) deals with a conspiracy theory in which the highest representatives of Bosniaks in politics, business, culture and religion are marked as terrorists, criminals and mafiosi. The Bosniak people, which has a memory of genocide, confirmed by all relevant international institutions of justice, did not expect the representatives of the international community in their office in Sarajevo, a city which has the experience of a four-year siege, to be drawing up schemes on Bosniaks, schemes reminiscent of those of the “final solution” of the Jewish question in Europe, i.e. the final solution of the Bosniak question in the Balkans – this, among other things, is stated in yesterday’s press release of the Islamic Community Assembly in BiH.

US Embassy Has no Papers

The US Embassy in BiH stated that it has not received the papers that were recently published in the press. ‘We will not comment on speculation coming from the recent media reports’, Oslobodjenje was told.