This year, the OSCE Mission to BiH marks 21 years of presence in BiH. There were numerous activities done in order to support good governance, defense, civil society and human rights initiatives in BiH. Can you single out several of the most positive ones?
We are present in BiH since December 1995. We came here as a part of the Dayton Peace Accords, with the focus on elections and that was our main priority until 2002. Since then, the Central Election Commission has taken over elections. We still follow that issue, but our role has shifted. In fact, I met with the CEC President last week to talk about what is going on in Stolac and about reform of the Election Law in BiH.
In addition to broad human rights areas, we are very active in the field of education. There was a number of questions throughout the society of BiH, different issues in the Federation and different issues in Republika Srpska. In all cases we spoke for the needs of the kids and the parents, with the focus on equality, quality education, not segregated and non-discriminatory education. Those were the areas where we raised our voice and we see some schools that are very successful with common programs for all kids of all nationalities. Some communities handle this issue very well. Unfortunately, some communities and institutions do not handle it very well.
I would like to point the rule of law, as another area where we are very active. Recently, I met with Medzida Kreso, President of the Court of BiH, just as she was finishing her mandate. Also, I just saw Ranko Debevec, new President of the Court of BiH. We have excellent cooperation with judicial institutions at all levels, including the HJPC, the Court of BiH, the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH and entity, cantonal and lower levels. A very big project for us is making sure that we see justice in war crimes cases in BH. As part of that, we conducted a detailed analysis of processing of war crimes cases at the state level. We released that analysis back in June last year. The analysis presented recommendations and suggestions as how the work in war crimes processing can be improved. We got a positive feedback and I am very glad that all the institutions affected, victims’ associations and others have praised the analysis and have praised the work of OSCE Mission to BiH.
I would also like to highlight that our Mission responded immediately and opened an office in Stolac after democracy was stolen from the people of Stolac on the 2nd of October and our office is playing a very important role both for the international and the local community in Stolac.
Two schools under one roof? Was this the only solution after the war?
If you have a war, the first thing you do is stop the fighting and then you try to build the peace. In the case of education, as a consequence of the war, education was completely divided. Some children were going to school in the schools, other children were going to school in private homes, restaurants, etc. After the war, “two schools under one roof” was an initial step to, at least have all kids going to school in the same building. For some people, the idea was difficult and revolutionary and there was a lot of resistance to the idea back then. It is an interim step and not a conclusive solution. I have to praise communities like Zepce that have managed to take it another step further and have administratively unified schools. There are ways to make sure that children are educated with common values and common understanding and at the same time have the opportunity for education in their language. Unfortunately, in a number of communities, this issue is still not resolved. The important point to remember is that there is no single authority for education in BiH and each of the cantons and both of the entities have very different rules for education and different authorities. Therefore, solving this issue is not something that can be done very easily.
What can OSCE do about previously mentioned problem?
We are very actively involved in working with directors of schools, mayors, parents, teachers and also with the students to show that there are good examples of combining schools. Combining schools saves money and increases quality. The best we can do is to highlight the positive examples and try to encourage change, but we do not have the authority to impose change.
What is your opinion on the amount of corruption in BiH and in which branches can the most corruption be found?
Any corruption at all is a problem. There are forms of corruption in all countries around the world to a lesser extent or to a greater extent. Maybe the better way to answer your question is to talk about the positive work that is being done. For example, the work that has been done in Canton Sarajevo with regard to transparency, such as making the salaries of employees in public institutions public, which is very important. Moreover, it is necessary to make sure that the cantonal prosecutor continues to get support for taking on some very comprehensive cases of corruption. For example, the Bosnalijek case is a concrete example of extensive corruption that has been investigated and that needs to be prosecuted.
One of the important aspects is whistleblowing, the people who report incidents of corruption. Those people must be protected. When people who are engaged in corrupt practices realize that they are being watched, that they can be prosecuted or fined, or lose their freedom by going to jail, that should reduce the amount of corruption. But many more tools need to be exercised to reduce corruption in BiH.
Do we have reduction of corruption in BiH, are there any statistics?
I am not a big believer in statistics. How do you guarantee when corruption happened or did not happen? Exactly how you deal with it depends on national skills and abilities. In one respect things are getting better. The issue of corruption has more attention, at least in some parts of the country. There are players in the international community who are working very actively on corruption and I am glad to tell you that the OSCE Mission to BiH is one of those players. Thanks to a large project funded by the United States, we are beginning monitoring corruption trials in BiH.
You worked in the US Embassy in Belgrade back in the 1990’s and you followed the rhetoric of politicians in 90’s. Are there any similarities between then and now?
I have said before and I will repeat, people in BiH are clever and they know what is going on in their country. There is far too much rhetoric in BiH and far too few results. People want results, not rhetoric. Unfortunately, rhetoric is cheap and rhetoric is easy. Results are expensive and hard to achieve. Any empty rhetoric, threat or claim bears a degree of similarity. I hear too often in BiH “It has not been so bad since the war” or “This is a war time rhetoric”. I think it is very important to remind people that this is not the 1990’s. The situation in BiH then was different. Now, in Zagreb, we have a responsible, democratic government. Croatia is an EU and NATO member. In Serbia, we also have a responsible, democratic government that is pursuing EU membership. Both of these countries are the signatories of the Dayton Accords and support the development and integration of BiH.
The opportunities and atmosphere for BiH are much more positive than they were in the 1990’s. The visit of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic to his counterpart, the President of the Government of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, is very important. There should be more bilateral meetings, more concrete involvement, interaction and direct dialogue, whether bilateral or regional.
Austria has the chairmanship of OSCE this year and we are working very closely with the Austrian Embassy on this and I think we will see very good examples of Austria getting directly involved in BiH.
“Bosniaks are trying to make a lawsuit, not Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state. Two members of the Presidency have made it clear that they are against it, and one member is for the lawsuit. It is clear that this complaint has no legitimacy and in my opinion, there is no chance of it being passed”, said Mladen Ivanic. What is your opinion on the possible revision of the lawsuit against Serbia?
It is extremely important to focus on moving this country forward. Yes, it is important to see that justice is done. More than 20 years after the war, we have many concrete and important opportunities inside the country and in the region to focus on.
What are the steps to overcome ethnic and political divisions, and remain united in the process of evaluation of the application for membership in the EU?
To overcome divisions, we need to spend more time together, particularly in local communities where young people spend time together, become friends and find common interests. I will go mention a concrete example of Jajce, where pupils in their elementary schools were divided and in their secondary schools they are together. They found common interests, common goals and common friends. That is an excellent example of how society should be operating on all levels in BiH and in the region. Political leaders as well need to be meeting with each other, not just sitting in their offices and making pronouncements and threats. The three members of the Presidency all sit in the same building and do not take as many opportunities as they could to meet with each other and define common positions. Leaders between the two entities need to interact more. When you look at the concrete issue of how the Federation and RS are working, there is too much attention to the negative rhetoric where, in fact, the governments of the two entities, thanks to Prime Ministers Novalić and Cvijanović, actually are managing to work on a quite a number of concrete issues.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted a progress report on BiH in 2016 with 45 votes for, 11 against and three abstentions. When do you expect BiH to enter the EU?
The issue of the timing is an entirely separate matter. It is up to the EU and its member states as well as up to BiH to meet the criteria. It is going to take a long time and everybody knows that. It is important that political forces in BiH agree that the path of EU integration is a very important path forward for the country. This is important to us of course, because it is the state policy of BiH and because it is a good way for BiH to meet its OSCE commitments. The possibility of timing will be clear only once the questionnaire is completed, submitted, reviewed and once the member states declare BiH to be a candidate country. It has been said by the EU for years that the path for BiH to the EU goes through the Sarajevo. It is the policy of the country and BiH needs to continue on that path.
Ambassador Jonathan Moore is Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was also an advisor for several months in 1996. A U.S. Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor, he has spent over 10 years of a 25-year career working in the Balkans and on Balkan issues. His previous assignments include work at the U.S. Embassies in Yugoslavia and Lithuania, service as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Namibia, Belarus, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 16 months as U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Belarus. He has also served as the deputy director for Russian affairs at the State Department, as a fellow in the Policy Office of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and as the State Department’s Balkan director.
Interview by Zejna SY