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  Bosnia: Getting in Deeper in Order to Get Out
Paddy Ashdown’s First Year as High Representative

Sarajevo/Brussels, 22 July 2003: Lord Ashdown has been the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) since May 2002. In October 2002, the nationalist parties who had made and fought the war were returned to power. The election result was widely assessed as a calamity, but Lord Ashdown claimed he could work with the nationalists as long as they were faithful to their pre-election promises to embrace reform.

A new report, Bosnia’s Nationalist Governments: Paddy Ashdown and the Paradoxes of State Building*, published today by the International Crisis Group, concludes that it is too early to say whether the compact Ashdown believes he has established with the nationalists will achieve results.

“Lord Ashdown intended to be the last High Representative”, said Mark Wheeler, ICG’s Bosnia Project Director. “And he still aims to put himself out of a job. But that means that the terminal phase of the international community’s belated effort to build a self-sustaining Bosnia will be replete with paradox. In order to get out, Bosnia’s foreign guardians will have to get in more deeply. In order to abjure the use of the Bonn powers, Ashdown will need in the short run to use them more intensively. In order to realise the promise of Dayton, he will have to lift the ceiling of what is meant to be permissible under Dayton”.

The High Representative is trying to make up for lost time. He is trying to accomplish what might have been attempted, in better circumstances, at the outset: to establish the rule of law, to regenerate the economy, to streamline and enhance the competence of public services and to equip Bosnia with the attributes necessary to aspire to EU membership. However the High Representative cannot actually implement reforms. That has to be done by the domestic authorities, and here Lord Ashdown has engaged in a high-risk strategy.

“The performance of the Council of Ministers to date does not inspire much confidence”, said Nicholas Whyte, ICG’s Europe Program Director. “The entity governments are no more coherent or competent. The initiative still remains almost entirely with the High Representative, and there it is likely to stay for some time yet”.

Nearly eight years after Dayton, this state of affairs worries many – including Lord Ashdown. The dilemma over when and how to disengage is real. The longer the people and politicians of BiH rely on foreigners to make their tough decisions and to pay their bills, the more difficult will be the reckoning.

Media Contacts: Katy Cronin (London) +44 20 7981 0330 [email protected]
Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 00 65
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
*Read the ICG report in full on our website: http://www.crisisweb.org/

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 90 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.


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