The High Representative has a lot of power in Bosnia-Herzegovina, can pass laws and create public officials. CSU politician Christian Schmidt wants to bring the former civil war country closer to the EU.
Former Federal Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt is the new high representative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The CSU member of the Bundestag succeeded the Austrian Valentin Inzko on Sunday in Sarajevo. Even more than a quarter of a century after the end of the Bosnian War, the mood in the country of 3.3 million people is still characterized by ethnic conflicts. As a high representative, the 63-year-old has far-reaching powers: Schmidt can pass laws and dismiss officials, regardless of government and parliament.
There is currently a new controversy over recent history in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Inzko changed the national penal code shortly before the end of his term in office: Anyone who denies that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide in 1995 can now be punished with years of imprisonment. The political leaders of the Bosnian Serbs do not want to accept this. On Friday, the parliament of the Serb-majority part of the country, Republika Srpska, decided that the change was invalid on their territory.
Schmidt wants to bring Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to the EU
In Srebrenica, the Serbian police and paramilitaries killed around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims after the conquest of the UN protection zone. The massacre has long been known internationally as genocide. There are also corresponding judgments by the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia (UN War Crimes Tribunal) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Schmidt supported the decision of his predecessor. He told the German Press Agency: “Anyone who wants to become part of the European Union must adhere to European guidelines. Such a law has long been standard in the EU and a prerequisite for accession.” The declared goal of the CSU politician is to bring Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to the European Union.
“A people cannot be charged”
Schmidt went on to say: “Every war crime must be punished, just like all war crimes in history, committed by whomever.” The focus is on the guilt of individuals. “It can never be a question of collective guilt for peoples. A people or an ethnic group cannot be charged.”
The so-called Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia-Herzegovina condemned the decision of the Republika Srpska. This leads to an “escalation of tensions” and undermines the functioning of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, said the international body. However, the statement states that Russia does not support this position. Together with China in the UN Security Council, Russia had tried to abolish the office of High Representative.
High Representative speaks for more than 50 states
The Peace Implementation Council is the body that appoints the High Representative. More than 50 states are represented in it. It was created by the 1995 Dayton Peace Treaty, which ended the Bosnian War.
In theory, the High Representative can also call on EU troops stationed in the country to help enforce resolutions. Schmidt said: “First and foremost, this is the task of the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” However, the latest example shows that the rule of law and the judiciary need to be strengthened. “In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the dysfunctionality of the state is still widespread. But we need a reliably functioning state if the young people are to stay in the country.”