Bosnia-Herzegovina: Unity & Progress
Agnihotri, Newal K., Presidents & Prime Ministers
An interview with Ambassador Sven Alkalaj, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Can you give our readers an update on the peace process and any new challenges being tackled by the government?
I can tell you a number of very important things that have happened, still leading on the right track, and moving towards a unified and democratic Bosnia.
First of all, what we have seen in the Republika Srpska entity within Bosnia-Herzegovina is the election of some more modest and democrati-cally-oriented governments. Prime Minister Dodik is really a pleasant surprise. This new government has the intention and is really working towards full implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords in all its terms, i.e., the arrest of all criminals, or at least convincing them to surrender voluntarily; the return of all refugees; the freedom of movement; working with a joint institutional framework of Bosnia-Herzegovina and between the entities themselves; promoting economic health between both entities; and working very closely in the political life within unified Bosnia-Herzegovina. These are very positive moves and I will try to review each of these important issues.
First of all, the arresting of the war criminals I think is a key situation that we have to resolve in order to move forward. It was a big achievement to go from 7 war criminals in Hague a year ago to 30 war criminals. This is a big step forward.
Secondly, we have a number of refugees returned to their homes in both entities. We see the return of Bosnian Muslims to the territory controlled by the Croats and we see Serbs returning to Doboj, Brcko, a few to Banja Luka, Derventa, and other cities. Croats are returning to central Bosnia, so we see movement already happening in both directions. It is not very significant numbers, but the trend is very important and I believe that the election of more democratic figures in all communities will speed up this process.
This implies immediately the freedom of movement, and we now experience a number of people going back and forth between entities for trading purposes. We have industrial fairs from one entity to another. You see very intensive trade, economic ties, and interactions with the people which was unthinkable six months ago. These are positive trends and we encourage it.
Another very important thing that is crucial at this time is the decision of President Clinton and the U.S. Congress to extend the mandate of U.S. and NATO ground troops for an indefinite period. This is important because previously, these missions were limited by a time frame which was to some extent counter-productive. It was just stalling the process because the nationalist forces were just waiting for the troops to leave. That is not the case anymore. The process of implementation is the ultimate goal, and not the timeframe. When we implement Dayton, then the troops will leave. It is an open-ended mandate with the main goal to implement Dayton, which is really what matters.
So far we have established a number of joint institutions and joint efforts which prove that we are talking about unifying the country, such as one central bank, one currency, a single license plate, and transparency of the budgets. All these joint institutions on the state level are working to a large extent, but not as well as within the entities.
In central institutions we still have people trying to stall the process on the state level, but on the entity level, we have this new, more democratic process. What is happening is that the Serb entity is still trying to defend their old positions, but I believe that they are losing strength and ground, especially on the eve of the forth-coming September elections. The eve will be the general elections of all levels, from the municipal up to the Presidential level-municipal, cantonal, entity level, and state level. This is coming in less than six months which will be important in bringing totally new people. …