After everything that has happened, what does Mirko Sarovic himself think and plan? In an exclusive interview for "Nezavisne Novine", the vice-president of the Republic of Srpska answers the questions which are today undoubtedly of greatest interest to the readership.
NN: Do you intend to name a new Prime Minister to put together a new RS government at the next session of the Parliament?
SAROVIC: You are aware that until now, for the past ten months, the key to the resolution of the political crisis in the Republic of Srpska, and to the selection of a new government, was the question of my assuming the duties of the president. The lack of a so-called "first move" was pursued by both international and domestic factors, while they did not question at all the constitutional obligation to select a new government. The selection of a new government absolutely does not presume that anyone earlier did a poor job, that someone is being brought down or a possible destabilization of the republic and destruction of the Dayton agreement. This is a characteristic manipulation, trickery and posing of false premises. The republic is absolutely being protected by the performance of constitutional duties, implementation of the electoral will of the citizens, that is, by the selection of an executive government which will be responsible to this parliament. I do not believe that anyone in the republic who wishes her well has anything against this approach to matters regardless of his personal political persuasion with respect to any of the parties.
I agreed to take over presidential duties and make the "first move" possible under the condition that this move is given the political support of the parliamentary parties in the National Parliament and of the international community, and of OHR. If they do not give me this support, why should I bother to name a new Prime Minister? This is not something that is up to me and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I am prepared to make the next moves only with the support of the key factors participating in this process.
NN: Are the latest events a part of the Belgrade scenario and did you participate in the writing of this plan?
SAROVIC: I do not make agreements regarding anything in Belgrade with either the regime or the opposition. That is my exclusive position, although there are other misinterpretations and manipulations. I am not a darling of Belgrade's, nor am I a man who is trusted and counted on. All the other actors of the political crisis in the Republic of Srpska and all the leading officials have been to Belgrade innumerable times to talk to Slobodan Milosevic in the past several years. That is nothing new. The only thing that surprises me is that they themselves forget this. My impression, nonetheless, is that even today official Belgrade exclusively supports Nikola Poplasen and that it believes that he is the only one who can nominate a new Prime Minister.
NN: How do you assess the position of the office of the high representative according to which you are not empowered to name a new Prime Minister?
SAROVIC: I was surprised by both the harshness and the speed of the reaction. I don't plan to do nor do I wish to do anything that is unconstitutional, especially to destabilize the republic. If anything can be held against me, then it is my indecisiveness in not making this move earlier. Simply put, it is unacceptable that the earlier insistence that I assume the duties of the president was a constitutional action, whereas today, when I have made this move, it has been declared unconstitutional.
NN: Did dismissed president Nikola Poplasen authorize you to take over all presidential duties?
SAROVIC: I have Nikola Poplasen's authorization from earlier, which he signed before he was dismissed by the high representative. Recently during the events in the National Parliament we did not meet at all nor did we make any agreements. On the first day of the session we met in the restaurant of the Bosna Hotel where he was having lunch with the representatives of the Serb Radical Party. I congratulated him on the birth of his grandson. The following dramatic evening, during the debate in the parliament and following the proposal of prime minister Dodik and others, at the meeting of the parliamentary parties, regarding the coordination of parliamentary conclusions, when it was said that I should assume the duties of the president from February 10 and if I don't do this, that extraordinary presidential elections should be scheduled, from my office in Banski Dvor I called Nikola Poplasen at home and explained the situation to him. I told him that the atmosphere was such that I must further define my position. In that phone conversation I asked that his reaction and the reaction of the Serb Radical Party not be negative.
NN: If, following the next session of the parliament, due to the insistence on the selection of a new government, RS is pulled into a new conflict with the international community, could this be the beginning of the end of the Republic of Srpska?
SAROVIC: As far as I am concerned, the Republic of Srpska will not be pulled into a conflict with the international community. I don't believe that insisting on the selection of a new government automatically lead to conflict. I certainly will not make any move that would destabilize the republic but, on the other hand, it should be clear to everyone that the balance of power in the Republic of Srpska has changed dramatically and that consequently all issues should be addressed again, including the issue of the Republic of Srpska government. Insisting on solutions and achieving solutions guarantees survival. Insisting on maintaining the present situation at any price does not contribute to the stabilization of conditions in the Republic of Srpska and only supports the crisis in relations and the agony of key institutions in the republic.
NN: Are you afraid that because of confrontation with the international community you might end up as Nikola Poplasen?
SAROVIC: I absolutely do not want any kind of confrontation. I only want to make my contribution to the resolution of the accumulated problems in the Republic of Srpska. It is impossible to predict what kind of solution the international factors will choose but my personal fate is the least important thing. If sanctions against me personally will help to stabilize the Republic of Srpska, then I would be the first to advocate such a measure.
NN: Who has the seal of the president of the republic?
SAROVIC: I have absolutely no idea. I assume, but it is just an assumption, that Nikola Poplasen has it. I only use the seal of the vice-president of the republic.
NN: Can you comment on the dismissal of RS deputy prime minister Tihomir Gligoric?
SAROVIC: This dismissal has further complicated the crisis in relations in the republic. I have utmost respect for deputy prime minister Gligoric. I do not know the background of the conflict nor what the consequences will be for the Unity Coalition. I only know that the possible reconstruction of the cabinet of prime minister Dodik, following this dismissal, will be very complicated and unclear considering the current situation in the parliament.
NN: What is your personal working relationship with the RS government and prime minister Dodik like?
SAROVIC: I have said several times that our cooperation is correct. This government and Prime Minister are not to my liking but while this government and this Prime Minister are in power, I respect them. I am dissatisfied with many things but this is not my first priority. I do not want to base my policies on this nor to score cheap points in this manner. For example, I am dissatisfied with the approach of the government toward the budget allotted to the president of the republic but I have not reacted publicly. What my position is with respect to everything is shown by my response to prime minister Dodik at the last parliamentary session.
NN: How do you comment on Holbrooke's recommendation to Zivko Radisic to withdraw from the BH presidency because the law on the BH border patrol was not adopted?
SAROVIC: Many details from New York are unknown to me, as is the content of Holbrooke's letter. I don't know if any promises were made. I am advocating that we adopt a common state policy and positions with respect to such outstanding issues. Precisely because we are not doing this, we have such huge misunderstandings, lack of trust and divisions.
NN: What do you think of the Memorandum of "ordinary citizen" Haris Silajdzic in which he asks for a revision of the Dayton Agreement?
SAROVIC: My position toward Silajdzic's show is completely negative. And not only that. I consider this to be a classic scenario for the disappearance of the Republic of Srpska. That scenario has many chapters and many actors. The authors of the scenario probably believe that now is the right time to activate a plan in which the Memorandum only has the role of a trial balloon. In any case, for the realization of this plan it is considered very important that the Republic of Srpska remain unstable and vulnerable; the Hague trials, the case against Yugoslavia, the decision of the Bosnia-Hercegovina constitutional court, the change in the balance of power and some developments on the global plan would significantly help the realization of this idea.
I am starting from the position that the establishment of the balance of power in Dayton is, in fact, the compromise that led to the end of the war. Every upsetting of that balance can seriously destabilize Bosnia-Hercegovina. It is dangerous to play with matches. The Dayton Agreement can only be changed with the concurrence of all the signatories of the peace agreement, including the Republic of Srpska, and that is at this moment, quite simply, hard to imagine.