If we want to lead BiH into the EU and transform it into a democratic country, we must not have a purely ethnic orientation, said the new High Representative in BiH, Christian Schmidt. He added that the violation of the territorial integrity in the Balkans is unsustainable.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he said that many would wonder why, 26 years after the Dayton Peace Agreement and after Srebrenica, such an institution is needed that imposes certain barriers to the “ownership” (ed .: governing the country by domestic politicians). and free democratic development? But, he noted that the last ten years have seen the country go backward not only in terms of the High Representative but, unfortunately, also in terms of the overall development.
“And that is why Bosnia and Herzegovina still needs such international support. I will perform this function in the hope of making myself redundant at some point. I think we need to clarify three issues. First: I'm coming to BiH as a politician, not as a diplomat. I warn you that some of my sentences may not be diplomatically concise, but they will be clear. I must point out that excursions made in recent years, such as the exchange of territories as a kind of solution or a way of calming potential conflicts in the Western Balkans, are not valid. Such an idea, that one minority should be replaced by another, is not sustainable. Therefore, there can be no talk of violating (changing) the territorial integrity of Western Balkan countries,” he said.
The second question, he said, is how the functionality of the state can be improved in a country as big as Lower Saxony, with a smaller population than Berlin, but with over 137 ministries.
“And third: When 70 percent of youth from BiH – if the numbers I have are correct – prefer to go elsewhere to look for their future – then that is not good. We need to look more at the young generation, both us in the EU and the High Representative and all of us together. Because it’s not enough to just play the grey people card. I play the card of the young generation,” Schmidt added.
He pointed out that he is not coming to Bosnia to represent someone's interests, but that he is there equally for everyone.
“It also applies to Serbs. Serbs in this region also had a difficult fate and experienced bad things. That is why some things cannot be viewed one-sidedly. We have all ethnic groups here, but also the ‘others’, ie those who aren't Croats, Bosniaks, or Serbs, e.g. Jews, but also everyone else. That's why my message to everyone is: Just relax,” he said.
Speaking about the territorial integrity as outlined in the Dayton Peace Agreement and if there is a will to transform BiH into a country capable of joining the EU, into a democratic country, „then we mustn't have one purely ethnic orientation of voters and their votes. Because it’s like squaring a circle. I think this is a matter that we have to consider very carefully in our work.” The High Representative said.
He emphasized that he would not want to prescribe a unitary state to the citizens of BiH because not even Germany has such a system.
“By the way, I myself belong to the Frankish-Lutheran minority in Catholic ultramontane Bavaria (Catholic clergy, which sought to centralize the church and strengthen the Pope). It dates back to the time of Napoleon. It took us a long time to achieve peace.
We had no contingents, but we got involved in the whole process. And this is where it’s crucial that society must have an internal conversation and work on itself. The belief that legal provisions could ensure someone’s influence will not work in the long run. That is not possible in a common state. Other ways need to be found. But I am also of the opinion that it is legitimate for ethnic groups, in this case, the constituent peoples, to find themselves again in the bodies making political decisions. But some kind of political blood count – I don't think that's going to be enough in the long run,” Schmidt told DW.