Greetings to the participants of the international conference, The Legacy of Peace - 25 Years of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement. I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, which made this event possible, for the invitation to speak.
The conference itself is quite important, and the subject matter was formulated quite aptly. The date is important. A quarter of a century ago, the coordinated efforts of the international community put an end to the tragic conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was an internecine and interethnic civil war that shook the Balkans for over three years and horrified Europe. The peace agreement initialed in Dayton in November and signed in Paris in December 1995 set new realities in the Balkan region. Back to peace, Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged as a community of three equal nations, and its two entities - the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska - obtained broad powers in areas outside the central government’s competence.
Much has happened over the past 25 years of peaceful life in Bosnia and Herzegovina and southeastern Europe in general. Today, we can analyse the “legacy of the peace agreement” as it shows in the title of today's conference. What is the most important thing? The Dayton system of internal balance and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina has stood the test of time and proved its functionality. Peace and security are effectively maintained in the country, and proper conditions have been created for progress in socioeconomic life. Taking into account the interests of the three nations and the two entities through equal representation in the government and decision-making at all levels – an arrangement which is laid down in the peace agreement – has become a key element that has ensured progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country has become a responsible and respected member of the international community, a member of several multilateral organisations and an important factor in regional affairs.
I’m convinced that there is no alternative to the Dayton architecture of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is a lot of speculation about modernisation and adaptation to someone else’s standards, even some kind of “normalisation,” but it does not hold water. None of the promoted concepts can provide the vital internal balance of interests of the three nations, which was laid in Dayton in 1995. No other formulas will work, and the consequences of experiments can be risky.
Let’s face it, not everything is smooth in terms of strengthening internal political understanding in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are difficulties in advancing interethnic reconciliation. Sometimes, we witness outbursts of tension. However, this does not mean that the Dayton rules are no longer valid. Quite the opposite, they are doing fine. They just need to be followed as they appear in the peace agreement. To question the internal decentralised architecture of the state, the role and even the name of the entities, or the rights of the peoples means working against the spirit and letter of Dayton, against stability and security.
The "legacy of peace" in Bosnia and Herzegovina is indicative of the fact that the international community has already accomplished its mission there. Clearly, this sovereign and independent state no longer needs external trustees. The mentoring or patronising tone, instructions or barking on behalf of the international community regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina’s internal affairs are unacceptable. Unfortunately, we see examples of this behavior quite often. The High Representative has long since run its course as a positive influence, and we see no value in keeping this protectorate mechanism. It’s strange that instead of admitting this obvious fact, we hear people talking about nominating new candidates to this position, which has become meaningless.
The key to solving internal Bosnian problems lies in maintaining a dialogue and the mutual understanding of the three state-forming nations and taking into account their mutual interests relying on positive and unifying themes, with a gradual expansion of the range of joint tasks. Harmonising relations within Bosnia and Herzegovina can only be achieved through building an attractive platform that is comfortable for all its citizens. We believe that future solutions will be sustainable only when they are the product of mutually acceptable agreements between Bosnia’s parties. Ultimately, the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies in the hands of its people.
I wish you good luck, and thank you.