Press Releases

    Note to Correspondents

    Note No. 220
    28 October 2002


    By Jacques Paul Klein

    Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Coordinator
    Of the United Nations Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Following the recent elections, some commentaries in the media have correctly called for greater realism in how the international community approaches the challenges of peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). However, I would disagree with those observers who conclude that, for the sake of the development of democratic values in the country, BiH should be partitioned.

    Commentators advocating partition argue that the apparent success of nationalists in the recent elections represents a failure of the international strategy in Bosnia since Dayton. The recent elections warrant a closer analysis of the real meaning of the preliminary results so far along with an objective identification of remaining tasks and the political will to carry them through. The alternative to the current approach dictated by Dayton -- a return to hypothetical solutions over which the war was fought -- is not what the people of Bosnia want. Moreover, this could not be implemented without a prolonged massive international military presence and would send political earthquakes throughout the region.

    Voting for opposition parties that are nationalist does not mean voting for Milosevic/Tudjman-style ultra nationalism. There are two reasons for this. First, this was a protest vote against non-nationalist non-performance. Parties most closely associated with the failed government of the past two years were punished regardless of their "nationalist" status -- even the Bosnian Serb nationalist party (SDS) lost votes; overall, opposition parties of whatever hue, did well. In times of severe economic downturn, are we really surprised that parties in government were voted out?

    Second, the "nationalist" parties today are not the same as in the early 1990’s. Each of them has internal factions -- reformers, pragmatists and obstructionists. Some factions still harbour the illusion that partition will be tolerated. Most factions, though, understand that the international community will not allow forcible changes of borders and that consensual changes are simply out of the question. Even the best efforts of international negotiators during the war could not produce a map of ethnic partition that would be acceptable to all parties.

    Finally, one should not forget that there remain three ethnic armies in BiH. Should non-consensual partition be attempted, the descent to war would be measured in days not weeks. In such circumstances massive international military presence would again be required -- meaning the reversal of the reduction of international troops that has occurred in the past 3-4 years. With regard to the region at-large, consequences for other festering or already turbulent areas could be catastrophic especially in Kosovo, where there would be immediate action for independence, and FYROM, that at last has a chance, albeit an uncertain one, for sovereign integrity and multi-ethnic reconciliation.

    The electoral victory of nationalist parties is not a defeat for democracy or multi-ethnicity in Bosnia; but it is a recognition that much of what the international community has been doing since Dayton has been uncoordinated, tempo-centric and lacking a strategic plan. Cobbling together exceptionally weak non-nationalist coalitions that clearly enjoyed neither support nor credibility from the core of the three ethnic groups has not been the answer. Fractured by inter-coalition rivalry and egocentric leaderships, these coalitions failed themselves and the people they purported to represent.

    Despite these political problems, there have been a number of important achievements. Bosnia’s Convertible Mark is the most stable currency in the region, serving as an essential precondition for economic revival. The BiH State Border Service, a multi-ethnic state level institution, is now fully deployed resulting in 90 per cent reduction in illegal migration in only one year and an increase in customs revenues of nearly 30 per cent. The United Nations mission (UNMIBH) has worked with local police authorities to launch the most comprehensive and effective anti-human trafficking program (S.T.O.P) in the region. Security is no longer an impediment to minority returns in record numbers, even back to the Republika Srpska. Indeed, crime rates are so low and local police performance so high that UNMIBH is able to finish its job of overseeing the largest police reform mission ever undertaken and leave.

    The new High Representative Paddy Ashdown has brought much needed vision, coordination and practical experience to his Office. He has correctly identified the rule of law, job creation and clean government as his priorities and has taken robust steps to bring these onto the public agenda. Prudently, from the beginning of his tenure in May, Ashdown has stated his support for policies and programmes -- not parties and personalities.

    All winners of these recent elections have committed themselves to reform -- that is, making BiH work rather than tearing it apart. With the agenda set, it is now time for Ashdown to use his powers as High Representative to see this reform through regardless of which parties are in power. The vast majority of the people of Bosnia will support him. Ashdown deserves the fullest international support to get that job done.

    * *** *