It depends on how you look at it. If you compare the situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina with that in the Middle East or Ireland, then it can be said that the implementation is going pretty well. In the Middle East, we've hardly had any changes for 40 years. It is a great achievement that our men, women and children are not dying any more; I'm sure you'd agree with me that there was way too much dying in our country. Also one should not forget the fact that there are no serious incidents along the separation line, that there is enough electricity, that many schools and hospitals have been rebuilt, that, with small exceptions, the freedom of movement in the Federation has been established, that the Sarajevo airport has opened for civil flights, that over 400,000 people are receiving regular salaries, and about 200,000 pension which are several times larger than at the beginning of this year, etc. Of course we could look at it differently and point out that there is still no freedom of movement through all of whole Bosnia-Hercegovina, that people are being captured along roads, that houses are blown up, that refugees haven't returned to their homes, that the industry is still sitting still, that war criminals are still at large, that the setting up of the Federation is going slowly, that the danger of the division of the country is still there, that a large number of people still depends on humanitarian aid, etc. This is the truth about the current situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina, but both of these statements, not only one. It isn't true that the war was better, as was recently printed in a newspaper which we've learnt to consider as a serious publication. Why have we so quickly forgotten the grenades, darkness, cold, and a day when a kilogram [2 pounds] of sugar in Sarajevo, Zenica and Bihac cost DEM 20. I do not want to idealize the situation, but today for DEM 20 one can buy a whole sack of sugar. We must be realists; Perhaps this is a good occasion to urge your paper, which has a lot of readers, to publish the truth and the truth only; if I remember well, based on your editorials, this should be the goal and role of your paper.
It is very unpleasant to follow the way in which the sessions of the newly formed Presidency were moved from one location to another. The first one was held in a restaurant, second one in a museum, the third one in a military barracks. Has the session in Lukavica reminded you of May 2 1992 [when Mr. Izetbegovic was briefly held by the Yugoslav peoples Army]? Is there a chance that such practice of moving the sessions will stop and that Bosnia-Hercegovina will begin to function like a normal state. Will the Presidency meet in the [old] Presidency building before the end of this year?
I don't think so, at least not for a while. Bosnia is a complicated country: three religions, three nations and those "others". Nationalism is strong in all three nations; in two of them there are a lot of racism, chauvinism, separatism; and now we are supposed to make a state out of that. It is impossible to forge a normal state our of such material. Does that mean that we will give up our state because of that? In the present situation we can either fight or negotiate. Because of hundreds of reasons I think that we shouldn't again go to war unless we have to. Bosnia is our state, but it is not ours only; Bosniaks make up a half of the population in Bosnia. We have to share the territory with others, which would lead to the division of the country, or we have to share power, and that leads to the present situation. We urgently need common institutions because the world refuses to co-operate with us unless we have them; without co-operation there is no international financial assistance, there is no work and reconstruction, but we could have poverty, unemployment, strikes, social disturbances and general chaos. This incessant moving of the Presidency is ugly, but there are far more uglier things which are avoided by that.
What does Krajisnik say about the events in Banja Luka?
He says that similar things happen on our side as well; that is the beginning of an endless and fruitless discussion about what is true and what is not. A cure for Banja Luka and other similar situations must be found in a different way. That will take a while.
It seems that people in Bosnia have stopped waiting for the future, they are less and less paying attention to the past; it seems that we have entered the endless present. Bosnia is still supposed to be patient, all the way to exhaustion.
This is a very philosophical question, but I think I know what you are trying to say.
We asked a Bosniak writer a similar question...
I could agree with you, but I'm not sure what we would do with our agreement. Bosnia is ill. It is useless for a victim of a car crash to cry over his misfortune. He can not live as other people do. He must lie in bed and take medications. You are approaching Bosnia and its problems as if Bosnia weren't "broken", wounded, as if it were healthy. But it isn't. In this moment, the only true question is whether the therapy we are applying is the right one, whether it will lead to good health. A certain professor read to me a constitution of a normal state, I think it was the Austrian constitution. He didn't say it, but, obviously, he was trying to suggest that Bosnia should be like that and that I should demand that. I didn't respond. It's easy for him, he's a professor.
The international community has, after the elections in September, started to get involved in the Bosnian personnel policy; some American and European politicians are openly doing that. Demands for the resignation of deputy Defense Minister Hasan Cengic were only the most obvious and direct. In the public there is an opinion that you are the real target of such demands. Your comment?
That may be true; then, that may not be true. A strategy for a country can not be based on theories. Such way of thinking is present in the public, but we can also find the other kind, that of pragmatists. They ask: what is more important, arms or that a man preserves his position? This is how I see that: our goal is unitary and democratic state. We must try to achieve that goal by political means, therefore peacefully, because the war option would be too risky. If that is our goal, we must be strong. In order to be strong, we must arm ourselves, or at least realize military balance with potential aggressors. That can be achieved in two ways: Vienna agreement about the control of armament which will lead to destruction of surplus Serb heavy arms and "Equip and train" program. Neither of these two programs can be realized without American assistance, nor is there an alternative military plan which could replace either one of the two mentioned programs. America is offering its support and assistance. Should we refuse that support and assistance because we cannot get enough guarantees and security? What do we do then? If we stay on our own in this sort of surroundings, wouldn't that increase the appetites of our neighbors? Are we going to believe in miracles? But, you must admit, that is not a policy, that is something else, and we are talking about policy as human action. I believe that the God directs history, but by us and through us. Because of all that, we will carry out demanded changes in the Ministry of Defense, while at the same time protecting our interests and the moral integrity of our people.
Many diplomats, peace mediators and, most of all, commanders of UNPROFOR and now IFOR, once they return from a civilian or military mission from Bosnia, tend to give statements which contradict those they gave while they were still in Bosnia. The case of Canadian general MacKenzie has already been forgotten. However, recently Leighton Smith said that Bosniaks tried to dominate all spheres of life in Bosnia; according to Smith: "we will not allow them to do so". That "feeling of pulse", both in Bosnia and in the international public, as far as Bosnia is concerned, has been recently especially erratic.
Smith's assertion can be interpreted differently, for example, that other nations have some say in the running of Bosnia. Would it be correct if a foreigner and a responsible official said the opposite: that Bosniaks should dominate all walks of life in Bosnia? Besides, we do not demand domination in everything; therefore there is no reason for general Smith to give it to us. It is true that, until recently, exclusively Bosniaks represented Bosnia. The president was a Bosniak, prime minister was a Bosniak, foreign minister and majority of ambassadors as well. That could work during the war, therefore for a limited period of time. The inclusion of Croats and, later, Serbs in the Bosnian government is the price for peace. Of course there is another combination, where our nation would dominate everything, but that could only be possible in a divided Bosnia, in some our part of Bosnia. And we have said that we do not want the division.
There are opinions that the problem regarding the Ministry of Defense and the implementation of the "Equip and train" program is, as much as it is a political problem, also the result of the desires of the American companies to "pull out" some of the money that will be involved in the program; with that in mind they try to provoke problems, and go for the version which will have the most effect in the media: story about Iran and "militant Muslims", the fundamentalists.
All that may be true. Even with all of that taken into account, I would still decide to accept the offered arms. Besides, these are the only arms we can get; nothing else can enter Bosnia. Just look at the map and you'll understand why. We can manufacture some arms ourselves, but more significant equipment requires large components from abroad and it would be easy to make sure we cannot import those components. I wouldn't risk something like that. From your question, I conclude that you'd take that risk, but in that case you should tell me what to do. It is not enough to point out deficiencies in some plan or solution and go on with one's own business. We need an alternative, a better plan. There are so many critics, but most of the time no one offers any alternative solutions.
Still, it is obvious that the American officials, as far as we know, until today only publicly demanded that Radovan Karadzic and Hasan Cengic be dismissed. It is impossible to compare the two of them, but there is always the well known game of the international community which tries to treat equally the victim [Bosnia-Hercegovina] and the aggressor [Serbs]. How much does all of that affect the sovereignty of Bosnia-Hercegovina?
The comparison between Karadzic and Cengic is tasteless and completely inappropriate. As far as the sovereignty of Bosnia-Hercegovina is concerned we agreed to have limited sovereignty for a limited time and that is clear from the Dayton Agreement. That Agreement, if I remember well, was unanimously accepted by the Bosnian Parliament in December 1995. For a country to have sovereignty, dignity and all other nice things, one condition must be fulfilled: that country must exist, must live, must be on the face of the Earth. If that isn't true, than there is no sovereignty nor dignity; the struggle for the survival of Bosnia is still on. I believe in Bosnia and our people; ours is a strong people; when we recover and get on our own feet we will thank foreigners and solve our problems ourselves. But we cannot do that today, as you demand; with the help of God, we'll be able to do that in the future; I do not doubt that.
Leading officials in the Serb entity are still working on the destruction of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Will the Serb side ask for more concessions from the Bosnian authorities in the search for compromise?
They will demand that we make concessions, but we will also demand some concessions from them. Try for a moment to consider the situation from their point of view; for ours sake, not for theirs; Krajisnik had to come to Sarajevo and officially recognize Bosnia although he had insisted on calling in the former Bosnia-Hercegovina. He had to sign that he would defend the constitution of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Plavsic had to publicly state [on TV] that she would support the integrity of Bosnia-Hercegovina; they had to give up two of their leaders, Karadzic and Mladic; we entered Mahala, Jusici and Dugi Dio and now also villages near Doboj and Brcko; in the future they will have to deal with Annex 7 of the Dayton Agreement: either they will allow the return of the refugees or they will face the isolation which will lead to poverty for many years after that, etc. All in all this is a difficult political struggle which will go on for years, in which our people won't die anymore; I'm not sure how much we will be able to win, but I'm certain that we won't loose anything that we have now.
Yesterday, on November 9, representatives of HDZ and SDS met in Mostar. Do you fear they will try to make a deal at our expense?
No, not at all! Nothing can be done in Bosnia without us. Let them talk as much as they want; I wish them good luck.
Our readers would be interested to hear your opinion about various calculations with appointments on all levels of authority in the post election period. It seems that SDA, led by you, is forced to make concessions and seek compromise.
I told you earlier that in Bosnia, the way it is now, we are forced to choose between the division of territory or the division of authority; to be more precise, either full authority in divided Bosnia, on a part of its territory, or partial authority in all of Bosnia. The option of full Bosniak authority in all of Bosnia just isn't there. I say this to make it easier for our people to watch this haggling about division of portfolios in the Bosnian and federation governments. Therefore, these are not our concessions or compromise. This is simply the division of authority which cannot be avoided in Bosnia. Single nation countries such as Slovenia and Austria, do not have this problem, although it exists, to a lesser extent in multinational countries, such as Switzerland and Belgium.
There are speculations about "Dayton 2". Would it include renegotiation of the Dayton Agreement?
For now, "Dayton 2" isn't in the cards. We are still working on "Dayton 1", the implementation, not the revision, of the points agreed in Dayton. The world, actually USA (I'm not sure about other countries), still insists that the Dayton Agreement can be implemented. With those intentions, two international conferences dedicated to Bosnia were organized: the one in Paris, on December 14, and the one in London which will take place in December. Once we return from those conferences we will know more about the real intentions of the international community. We will never know everything about their intentions, but we must know what we want, and that we definitely do. In these negotiations we are not a helpless object, although great world powers are involved. We play an active role and try to influence our destiny; we have our own trump cards and we use them.
Do you have a personal message for the readers of Ljiljan?
Yes I do. Both to you and the readers of your paper. My message to you is to pay more attention to analysis and facts and less to scandals. To the readers of Ljiljan my selam and I hope they will not be offended by my open and sometimes unpleasant answers. I believe that the people, instead of pretty lies, should be told the truth, no matter how ugly it may be. What can we do, destiny hasn't been kind to us; but, with the help of God, we will prevail.
Translated on 2/28/97