German politician Christian Schmidt took office as Bosnia’s international peace overseer this week, in spite of opposition from Bosnian Serb leaders calling for the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to be scrapped.
Previously a government minister of the centre-right Christian Social Union (CSU), Schmidt replaced Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko after the latter held the OHR post for 12 years.
“I am honored and pleased to serve your country and its people in the years to come. I take office firmly determined to help people,” Schmidt told an audience at the official takeover ceremony in Bosnia’s capital of Sarajevo.
The Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, had a different take.
“Mr Schmidt, you are not welcome here. You are not an elected High Representative and Republika Srpska will not respect your decisions,” he said of Schmidt’s appointment.
The OHR oversees the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), under which Bosnia and Herzegovina negotiated the end of the Bosnian War. Under Annex 10 of the Agreement, the OHR has the status of a diplomatic mission to the country, and is made up of diplomats seconded by the governments of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC).
According to Dodik, Annex 10 of the Agreement was violated in the case of Schmidt’s appointment to the OHR. The Annex prescribes that all signatories and members of the UN Security Council need to consent to new OHR appointments; Republika Srpska and Serbia have not given their consent in this case. Instead, the Bosnian Serb entity has called for the abolishment of the OHR altogether.
“It is time for the OHR to be closed, and responsibility for the future and functioning of Bosnia to become the exclusive right and competence of the people of Bosnia,” the Republika Srpska parliament concluded after a recent assessment of the OHR.
“If this is not on the agenda soon, talks on a peaceful break-up should be launched, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, which guarantees every nation the right to self-determination,” it added.
The Ambassadors of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SBA) have condemned the escalation of tensions, and called on all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to prioritise peace, stability and the advancement of reconciliation.