Brian Gallagher fromLondon
2 Paddya articles in the Guardian and FT. Also attached is article from International Herald Tribune, calling for division of BiH which has caused much comment.
He used to lead a small British political party. Now he's running a European country. Julian Glover joins 'high representative' Paddy Ashdown on his mission to save war-torn Bosnia
Friday October 11, 2002
In the heart of Europe a British politician is governing a country whose language he hardly speaks. He enjoys an autonomy and authority which Queen Victoria's colonial administrators would have envied. Everybody knows him there. Everybody looks up to him. Everything centres around him. And yet Britain has almost completely forgotten him.
When I walked into the dusty studios of Radio Mostar late last month, Paddy Ashdown, the International High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was on his way. There were bullet-holes in the lift door and the town outside was partly in ruins but Ashdown hardly seemed to notice. The former Liberal Democrat leader has never been one to shy from gunfire, and now, brow furrowed, eyes narrowed and jacket tossed over his shoulder, he strode into the studio as Bosnia's boss to beg and berate his people. "The question is simple," he says through his interpreter. "Will you join Europe or will you be left behind as the stagnant pool of the Balkans?" It is not the only time in the day Ashdown uses the phrase "stagnant pool". It visibly shocks his audience. But he aims to shock. Complacency, he says, has failed.
Anyone who watched Ashdown lead the Liberal Democrats will recognise the sense of mission. He seems to have twice the energy and twice the passion of a man whose biggest job before now was leadership of a small British political party. You almost feel that post was a practice run for saving a nation.
And Bosnia needs a saviour. Though the Balkan war came to a halt almost seven years ago, the Dayton agreement that silenced the guns did not end the country's pain. The world has poured in some Ł33bn, including military costs, but signs of war are everywhere, even in central Sarajevo, a city of blasted tower blocks and scarred houses. Despite 12,000 Nato troops, organised crime thrives.
Political life too is in a rut: still trapped in obstructionism and the nationalist language of the war. The tangled peace settlement left Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country with the population of Scotland, with 13 prime ministers - one for every 175,000 citizens - 57 political parties and perhaps 4,500 politicians (no one knows the full number). Public workers go unpaid. Corruption is a growth industry.
Four months ago, Ashdown arrived to sort out the mess. His predecessors had been bureaucrats; he promised action. But can one man rescue a nation?
The man himself appears to have his doubts. At dawn, as we leave his modest offices - four or five storeys, potted geraniums in the yard - in his black armoured BMW, he wearily predicts the day ahead. Judges will complain they are unpaid, farmers will say they have no land and weeping mothers will be unable to return to their burned-out homes. "Bosnia has been ruled by the Ottomans, the Hapsburgs and the communists," he says. "So it's not surprising that the people regard me as just another Hapsburg governor, someone they should petition to get their problems solved." But beneath a weary shrug about getting 1,000 letters a week, there is a hint of pride.
The petitioning goes on all day from frustrated people with insoluble problems who have never before had a chance to speak to someone important. He looks sorry at their plight.
Caught in commuter traffic on Sarajevo's main highway - nicknamed sniper's alley because of its past exposure to Serb guns - Ashdown's official car halts by packed trams shuddering along grass-covered tracks. There are bullet holes everywhere and the first snows of winter have reached the mountaintops. A far cry from pavement politics in Yeovil. Yet Ashdown is still on the campaign trail. On October 5 Bosnia went to the polls in an election that its new ruler described as "a last chance". Though he uses verbal formulas to avoid being seen to back individual politicians - "ghosts of the past", "reformers", "this election is about the future" - it was clear enough who Ashdown supported: "Any individual who will produce what I want - a state on its way to Europe." But the results of the poll showed the scale of his task. Turnout fell to a post-conflict low of 55% and nationalist parties outperformed moderate rivals who had been running Bosnia-Herzegovina for the past two years. Some interpreted the result as a slap in the face for the international community. But Ashdown only redoubled his determination to get his message of reform to every corner of the country.
Nothing - not Marshall Tito nor five years of war - has prepared the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina for the Ashdown campaign machine. A mix of confidence, charisma and sheer momentum, it stuns voters who have never heard of a spin doctor or soundbite. "Why do you keep repeating the same thing?" asks one local journalist who hasn't yet come to terms with what it means to be on message.
At a public meeting in the Serb town of Trebinje, Ashdown runs in, throws his mobile across the room to an aide and demands questions. The audience, big sullen people who have had to cope with war, capitalism and democracy all in a decade, are first shocked, then encouraged to complain about their position. This is a new kind of politics for Bosnia.
I put it to Ashdown that there are similarities between what he tried to achieve in British politics and what he is doing here. "You could say we're putting into practice the 1992 Liberal Democrat manifesto," he says as I perch in the back of his car and a policeman salutes by the roadside. "It's about the devolution of power, investment, European integration and coalition building."
Among his problems is the military's persistent failure to capture the two most wanted war criminals in the country, Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic. Karadzic, says Ashdown, "is wandering in the company of goat-herds and exercising his baleful curse on this country" - but will be caught. Later, rumours circulate that he is hiding in the hills somewhere beneath the flight path of the aged Slovenian airforce helicopter Ashdown takes home that night.
His authority as high representative is ill-defined but not far short of absolute. A sort of unelected monarch watching over troublesome politicians, he can effectively sack anyone, appoint anyone and arrest anyone he believes to be obstructing peace - and has done so, courting controversy earlier this year by removing one of the country's deputy finance ministers and dismissing a string of judges. One observer compares his powers to those of Charles II.
Are these powers a democrat should have? The answer sounds practised. "My job is to abolish my job," he says. "It has a Gilbert and Sullivan title and powers that should make a liberal blush." Was he blushing? If so I did not notice it.
But Ashdown knows well enough that democracy has not worked: this month's election only brought further political paralysis and he understands he can only achieve economic and legal reforms if he forces new laws through without the approval of the country's many parliaments. "It was a mistake to bring democracy here before the rule of law and it's a mistake we've repeated in Kosovo," he says. He implies that action will be taken on crime and economy with the election out of the way, whether the winners like it or not.
The danger is that Ashdown's high profile will only make the country more dependent on international leadership. By now we are driving fast down an empty limestone valley in the autonomous Republika Srpska and the official convoy has acquired a police escort with flashing blue lights. Ashdown gets agitated. "Can't we get rid of the police?" he asks. "I hate that sort of thing." The car is sent away.
This turns out to be the most encouraging visit of the day. Stolac, a hot, dry agricultural town in the middle of nowhere, was the scene of some of the worst atrocities in the war - the sort of place where neighbours blew the roofs of each others houses by pouring petrol onto an upstairs carpet and waiting for the vapours to reach a lighted candle on the ground floor. Croat forces flattened the local mosque and drove out the Muslim population. In the past year some have begun to return.
Ashdown visits an agricultural cooperative which exports herbal oils to Britain. It is a small scheme but a good one - multi-ethnic and with 500 active members. Behind the crowd that gathers around Ashdown, an elderly Bosnian Muslim husband and wife attempt to rebuild the ruins of their house, the man slowly breaking concrete with a builder's hammer.
The return of most refugees to their homes has been the triumph of postwar reconstruction. "We've invented a new human right here, the right to return after a war," Ashdown says. "It's absolutely astonishing, a huge success by Bosnians and the international community that has gone unrecognised."
But his visit to Mostar had suggested that success is only partial. Before the war it was a mixed town: now it is a divided one. "I always get depressed when I get to Mostar. We have made less progress here than elsewhere," he says.
We turn a corner and he leaps out of the car and into a glitzy hotel for a meeting with local aid workers. Ashdown tells his staff that their jobs will end soon. Mostly young, idealistic westerners, they look anxious. Gently, he eases them towards the thought that outsiders cannot stay forever, or even for long. "I'm keen to get the international community onto a glide path to something different," he tells me afterwards. "What we have now is near imperialism. We need to move from a quasi-protectorate to something more acceptable."
It is hard not to be won over by Ashdown's commitment. In a day we travel 250 miles by car and helicopter over rough mountains. He has no lunch and hardly time for a coffee and a cigarette. He has been doing this for four months, with only a week's break. Why do it, I ask. "Bosnia gets under your skin. It's certainly got under mine." A moment later, as we round a corner into a vast, pine-clad valley, he points through the window. "We're just going past one of my houses. I've bought a patch of land by the lake." His wife Jane is with him in Sarajevo. The couple have started to learn Serbo-Croat.
Ashdown insists this is his last job. "After this I'll retire to my garden." But in a country where division looks certain to block leadership from within, could there be room for an outsider to dream of leading it to the European future in which he so strongly believes? Only a daydream, no doubt, but it is hard to follow him for long without suspecting he has dreamed it too.
Paddy Ashdown | Friday, October 11, 2002
OHR related Articles
Article by the High Representative, Paddy Ashdown: "Bosnia wants change not nationalism"
The results of the general election last weekend in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been described as a swing back to nationalism - a vote for the parties that fought the Bosnia war. This makes good headlines at a time when the Balkans are finding it hard to make the news - but it is wrong.
The result was a protest vote - or perhaps, given the low turn-out, a protest non-vote - against the reformist parties that have been in government during the past two years. It was not a vote for a return to the nationalism of 10 years ago.
Bosnians' concerns are the concerns of people everywhere: jobs, criminal justice, hospitals and schools
First, the situation today is completely different. Gone is the Serb-dominated Yugoslav National Army. Gone are the paramilitary groups. Gone are Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman, who led Serbia and Croatia into war. Gone are the old party-controlled hate media. And even the nationalist movements that led the conflict have changed. They know as well as anyone that, seven years after the war, people want prosperity and normalcy, not conflict.
Second, two of the three old nationalist parties saw their share of the vote decline in these elections. And when the final results are in, I believe the overall votes cast for all three of these parties will have dropped compared with the last election. So, hardly a surge of support for nationalism.
Third, few reformist governments in eastern European countries are re-elected after a first term. Bosnia is, of course, unique because of its recent past. But the crucial difference is not to do with the war. It is that Bosnia's last government was voted out not for reforming too much but for reforming too little.
Fourth, anyone who travelled the length and breadth of the country before the elections, as I did, and thinks that the mood of the country is sliding back towards nationalism simply has not been listening. I came across people who were frustrated with the way things were. When the average salary is Ů100 a month, yet the Customs administration loses Ů200m a year through fraud, who can blame them? Their concerns are the concerns of people everywhere: jobs, the criminal justice system, hospitals and schools. National issues have little or nothing to do with it.
My fifth point is that the parties most involved in the last government lost the most votes. The closer they were to the centre of government, the more votes they lost. The party that saw its vote increase the most in these elections was a non-nationalist opposition party.
Last, the issue that dominated this election campaign was not nationalism, division or demands for secession. It was reform. And this was reflected in the parties' messages. All of them, including the old nationalist parties, talked almost exclusively about how to provide jobs, tackle corruption and fight crime. It was the first election since the war not to be dominated by a big national question.
That is why I do not believe Saturday's vote was a vote for nationalism. It was instead a vote for faster reform, for real change, for more progress. Ask any Bosnian the question: was the last government punished for changing too much, or for changing too little? - and the answer you get could not be clearer. The voters sent an unequivocal message to the politicians: stop messing about and get on with changing the country. That is what the parties have promised. Now it is time to do it.
I believe the role of the international community in this process should be to spell out clearly the sort of changes this country needs if it is to attract foreign investment and one day meet the standards for European Union membership. These include: creating a stable and effective form of cabinet government; putting into place a proper revenue stream to wean the Bosnian state off international subsidies; reforming the political system to tackle corruption; and building trust in the legal system.
These are only proposals. But they will be the test by which we measure the next government's commitment to transform Bosnia for the better. The formation of the next government should not be about individuals and parties but about programmes and actions. The old nationalist parties will have to work long and hard to demonstrate that they really have changed and are at last prepared to work in the interests of all citizens. Bosnia has no choice but to modernise. That is why I believe the next government must be a reformist one.
The writer is the international community's High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina
Copyright © 2002 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
Time to concede defeat in Bosnia-Herzegovina
William Pfaff IHT
Thursday, October 10, 2002
The Dayton accords
PARIS The electoral victory of nationalists last Saturday in Bosnia-Herzegovina suggests that it is time for the international community to make a serious re-examination of what is happening in that country, and of what eventual outcomes can reasonably be expected.
The Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is an artificial state improvised at the Dayton negotiations of 1995. It was imposed on the people of that unhappy country under American and NATO pressures, to stop interethnic slaughter.
Three years of ghastly fratricidal war had followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's declaration of independence in April 1992, following a referendum boycotted by the Serbs of Bosnia. This was a new step in the dismantlement of Yugoslavia, inspired by Slobodan Milosevic's program to create a "Greater Serbia" at the expense of Croatia and Bosnia.
Fighting immediately broke out, mainly instigated by the Serbian and Croatian communities bent on creating ethnically "pure" territories, with a view to union, respectively, with Serbia and with a newly independent Croatia.
The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina were the group that suffered most, but a major purpose of the attack was also to destroy cosmopolitan Sarajevo, a multiethnic city that was a center of liberal and tolerant political and cultural values.
The siege of Sarajevo, and the ethnic cleansing that took place during the Serbian attempt to gain domination of the city and its region, provided the most appalling violence Europe had experienced since World War II.
The European nations' irresolution and impotence in the face of this crisis seemed a frightening augury concerning the future of the European Union. The doubts then inspired about "Europe" have yet to be entirely dissipated.
When the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization eventually intervened, in the summer of 1995, all of the parties were convoked to the U.S. Air Force base at Dayton, Ohio, where, sequestered, and under intense pressures, they were made to accept unwanted compromises.
Bosnia-Herzegovina was divided into a Serbian republic composed of 49 percent of its territory, with an uneasy Croatian-Muslim Federation occupying 51 percent.
A central government with members from the three groups was established, with modest responsibilities under UN and subsequent NATO supervision. That supervision was politically timid and failed to pursue war criminals or give energetic support to reform.
Despite billions in international aid, the new state has not been a success. Living standards are low, the economy feeble, the unemployment level 60 percent. This has accelerated emigration of the young, mobile and talented. The country is being drained of its future.
Last Saturday's elections for the multiethnic presidency, the legislature and the cantonal governments, were the first organized by the Bosnian authorities themselves since the war ended. With a low electoral turnout (55 percent), and final results yet to be announced, the three individuals apparently elected to the collegial presidency all represent the nationalist parties. A similar outcome seems apparent in the other votes.
Compromises and coalitions will be necessary before the final complexion of the government becomes clear, but liberal, secular and multiethnic forces have lost. It now seems necessary for the international community to admit that the Dayton solution was not a solution. It was a way to end a war. It did not provide the foundation for a modern state. It did not offer a structure conducive to national reconciliation. It may be that the constructive response now is simply to concede the failure, to concede to the nationalists what the international community was mobilized to deny them.
Accepting the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina has, for practical purposes, already been ethnically cleansed, and accepting the consequences, now may be the only way to terminate this part of the problem of Yugoslav succession.
This would mean the Republika Srpska's union with Serbia; union of the Croatian territories of the Croat-Muslim Federation with Croatia; and the Muslim territories made into a new state centered on Sarajevo, possibly as an internationalized city-state, with guarantees, possibly as an independent republic.
The Serbian and Croatian nationalists would be politically disarmed, and would disappear into the larger communities to which they fought to belong - societies that now have been through the transition to democracy or are well on that road.
Nationalist and integrist forces inside the new Muslim identity would survive, part of a community dominated by traditionally cosmopolitan Sarajevo. On the other hand, Muslim integrist forces in Albania and Kosovo might be strengthened and given new ambitions.
This certainly is not a solution the international community has wanted, nor the surviving liberal forces inside today's Bosnia-Herzegovina. It amounts to a defeat for those forces.
But the defeat is to a political artifice with a dim future. Democratic values may better prosper if Bosnia-Herzegovina is partitioned once again. Realism demands that this be discussed.
International Herald Tribune Los Angeles Times Syndicate International
Copyright © 2002 The International Herald Tribune