Bosnia’s former international administrator, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, told N1 on Wednesday that he will not apologise for meeting only with Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat political leaders last week and called the criticism he received for leaving out Bosniak representatives “paranoid ideas which have nothing to do with reality.”
Lajcak, who is currently Slovakia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, used to serve as High Representative in Bosnia between 2007 and 2009 and was tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the Bosnian war.
The diplomat came under fire for meeting with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic in Bratislava last weekend without anybody from Bosniak leadership being present.
“The way Lajcak organised this meeting, by inviting the representatives of only two ethnic parties, sends a bad message to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a several times repeated practice of one-sided briefings and meetings, which is indicative,” said the Chairman of Bosnia’s Council of Ministers, Denis Zvizdic, on Monday.
Zvizdic, who is a member of the main Bosniak party in the country, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), added that Lajcak should have learned during his term in Bosnia that “the axiom of work of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina never rules out all relevant sides.”
Lajcak told N1 that he is surprised by the reactions coming from Sarajevo.
“As a former High Representative, I am in constant contact with leaders in the region. If anyone wanted to ask me why we met, they have my phone number,” he said, adding that he tries to “talk to everybody” and that he proved it when he visited Sarajevo in June.
The diplomat told N1 that he is simply trying to “understand what is happening and why it is happening.”
“Of course, I will not apologize to anyone for the meeting in Bratislava which some are trying to turn into a scandal. I'm sure they are doing so for the sake of internal politics. I would recommend that they use their energy for serious internal dialogue,” Lajcak said.
He said that the deadlock in forming Bosnia’s government and the country’s path toward NATO membership were topics discussed at the meeting.
Bosnia has not formed a government – officially called the Council of Ministers – since the October 2018 election because the Croat and Bosniak members of the tripartite Presidency refuse to vote for the new head of government.
The new prime minister is supposed to come from the party of the Bosnian Serb Presidency member which opposes the country’s path toward NATO membership and announced it would not allow the next step in this direction to be made.
“Everyone presented his view. I encouraged them to use this opportunity to bring Bosnia closer to the EU and form the Council of Ministers. I am sure that this would contribute to the internal consensus,” he said, adding that he is “not too optimistic.”
Lajcak said that he feels that the meeting produced some agreement and that “we will see a positive result for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
“I do not want to predict, but we are searching for a solution which produces no losers but has Bosnia and Herzegovina coming out as the winner,” he said.
When asked why SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic was not invited to the meeting, Lajcak said that he is available to anyone who wants to talk to him.
“I have no intention to lead internal processes on behalf of the international community. Whoever wants to meet with me, I accept it,” he said, adding that he only wants to help Bosnia form its institutions and that he is not working against anyone.