interview by Igor GAJIC
NOVI REPORTER: The so-called "anti-European atmosphere" in Croatia was mentioned as one of the possible reasons for the explosion. How would you describe the attitude with respect to Europe in B-H?
RYCROFT: There is no cause, atmosphere or excuse that could justify what happened in Zagreb. Therefore, whatever causes, whatever atmosphere in Croatia we all must condemn that attack. As far as Bosnia-Hercegovina is concerned I think that the public opinion in the country is pro-European and wants to bring this country close to Europe as soon as possible. I think that nations in Bosnia-Hercegovina are aware that they can benefit only by getting closer to Europe. Citizens of the Republic of Srpska can benefit only if the country gets closer to Europe.
What fallout can Srpska expect after the interruption of the talks about the police reform in B-H? What consequences can be expected by the ruling parties and certain politicians in Srpska?
The immediate consequence is that negotiations about stabilization and accession cannot start before the anniversary of the Dayton. That is a big step back not only for Srpska but also for the whole B-H. We gave a deadline to the authorities in Srpska to give us additional explanations. Only by getting closer to Europe they can create new jobs, secure travel without restrictions, prosperity... Naturally, the European Union and the European Commission will asses the progress made in the sense of getting closer to Europe and naturally we shall assess who is responsible for the delay. And in this case the situation is clear. There is only one obstacle, and that is police reform and in the negotiations only one side has been making problems regarding three principles of the European Commission and that is the government of the Republic of Srpska.
Do you believe that the government will bear all consequences? I mean, will Mr. Ashdown force the Prime Minister and the government of Srpska to resign?
I believe that in this case Prime Minister Bukejlovic and whose who are responsible for the delay in police reform will bear all consequences.
Does the same apply to members of Srpska parliament?
We seek leaders who are prepared to lead. We regret very much that other political parties voted together with the SDS against reform. In that sense the whole Srpska Parliament shares responsibility. But the parliament is led by the government of Srpska, and the government by Prime Minister Bukejlovic and the SDS, respectively.
What about the President of Srpska, Dragan Cavic? Where does he fit in the picture? Would you say that President Cavic is as responsible as Prime Minister Bukejlovic?
If you consider that the negotiating team members were Dragan Matijasevic, Svetlana Cenic and Pero Bukejlovic, they bear most responsibility for the whole process. On the other hand, if you consider public appearances and interviews of President Cavic, you can see what he is actually trying to do. He is trying to change the attitude of the SDS. He is trying to change his own political party, to change Srpska and to lead them towards Europe.
How much has Ashdown's project "Dragan Cavic" cost both Srpska and B-H? In the last two and a half years, at the same time when both Mr. Ashdown and the international community supported Mr. Cavic in his attempts to reform the SDS, the high representative eliminated Cavic's collaborators who could fight with the eastern part of the SDS, i.e. hard liners from the eastern part of Srpska. The direct consequence of that is that ten years after the Dayton Agreement hardliners are stronger than ever. Can you explain that? Has the project "Dragan Cavic" been a mistake from the very start?
I believe that after the last general election the international community had the responsibility to work with those political forces that were elected by the voters. I believe that at that point Paddy Ashdown and others who were in B-H three years ago believed that it was possible to work on reforms with elected politicians, including Cavic. Therefore, in this, let's say sad situation regarding police reform it should be emphasized and should not be forgotten that progress has been achieved in other aspects of the Implementation Study. For example, value added tax, defense reform, car registration plates... Only the full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal remains. I think that they were right to do so and that they were able to cooperate with the elected politicians. However, now perhaps we have reached the end of the road. If that is the case, there will be certain consequences. If this is not the end of the road, then we shall reach an agreement regarding police reform and other reforms and the country will continue its journey towards Europe.
Is it possible to impose sanctions on only one part of a country? When I say sanctions I mean economic sanctions, trade sanctions, import and export quotas, punishment for politicians and political parties.
Yes, that is possible. But that is not our preferred route. We want to have constructive relations with B-H as a whole. And the best way to do that is through NATO and the EU. Therefore through negotiations about stabilization and accession and the Partnership for Peace. However, these two organizations have conditions for membership and those conditions must be fulfilled. Most of the conditions have been fulfilled, but two very important conditions remain. One condition was set by the EU - police reform - and the other one by the NATO - full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.
Would you care to comment on the refusal of the Srpska Government Finances Minister Ms. Svetlana Cenic, who is also a member of the Indirect Taxation Directorate to attend the opening of the border crossing Raca because Prime Minister Bukejlovic had not been invited. Is that only another example of worsening relations?
As I have already said, Bukejlovic and his government will suffer certain consequences due to their blockade of police reform. Naturally, we do not want to always have to resort to the stick, sanctions and punishment. We would rather work within NATO and the EU. But, naturally, conditions must be met and if they are not certain consequences must follow. Everything is possible.
If only one entity, in this case Srpska, is punished, does that imply a sort of recognition of greater independence or autonomy of Srpska which can be linked with the solution of the status of Kosovo, as could be heard during the last few years?
No, it does not. Srpska is not a country. The Republic of Srpska has never been a country.
Is Kosovo a country?
Srpska is an entity and a part of Bosnia-Hercegovina, while Bosnia-Hercegovina is a country. The Republic of Srpska was defined as an entity by the Dayton Agreement, which gave it some responsibilities and duties. Additionally, Srpska also has responsibility towards the citizens of Srpska and Bosnia's path towards Europe. Kosovo is a totally different constitutional matter with its own process. There is no direct relation between the two. I and many others have frequently spoken in Banja Luka that Srpska is not endangered by police reform. Some people in Srpska claim that police reform implies the end of Srpska. But, as I have said several times in Banja Luka, if Srpska is threatened by something, that is the refusal to implement police reform.
What is your attitude regarding the influence of Belgrade on the refusal to adopt proposed police reform? Adnan Terzic and even Paddy Ashdown believe that Belgrade had an important role in this case?
We expect from Belgrade, as the capital of a neighboring country that aspires to full EU membership as well to fulfill its obligations regarding its neighbor. Therefore, Belgrade must have a positive role. And that is part of the process, actually progress for Serbia-Montenegro on the path towards Europe.
Any thoughts regarding their influence on police reform?
I expect that they exert positive influence in that sense.
Therefore, you reject Mr. Terzic's assertions that Belgrade essentially blocked police reform?
I have already said that I expect that Belgrade exert positive influence.
Mr. Terzic claims that Srpska rejected his proposed police reforms based on suggestions from certain "European centers". Is the EU not unanimous in its attitude with respect to recent developments in B-H?
There is one European attitude, and that is that all 16 points in the Implementation Study must be fulfilled before B-H can initiate talks on the stabilization and accession agreement. That means that regarding police reform three principles of the European Commission must be respected. That is the unanimous European attitude. Anyone with different ideas is out of the picture.
After the publication of transcripts of negotiations on the Bjelasnica mountain, would you care to comment on Mr. Terzic's proposal to present the public with one version of an agreement, different from the actual, secret agreement, which would later be implemented similarly to the defense reform?
I believe it is not realistic to expect the existence of secret agreements in the area such as this. It is important to reach an agreement of all sides and then present that agreement to the competent parliaments for adoption.
Would you care to comment on the work of the Council of Ministers which under Mr. Terzic's leadership seems to have almost lost the sense of existence and credibility that had been created over many years of hard work. I am referring to conflicts with resignations that were rejected, dismissals after which ministers to continue to work as if nothing has happened, proposals that are supported by ministers from only one ethnic group as for example the most recent police reform proposal. Also, consider that one of the ministers has recently received a suspended sentence. Has the Council of Ministers lost its credibility?
I do not think that the Council of Ministers has lost its credibility. What matters the most is whether that institution can function, whether it is capable of implementing reforms. Much work needs to be done and it is very important that institutions at the country level be sufficiently strong to implement reforms.
Would you say that current developments within the Council of Ministers are characteristic of a strong institution? Some ministers submit resignations, then change their mind... Then Mr. Terzic fires a minister, but that minister refuses to leave his post... A condemned criminal is in charge of a very important ministry...
The Council of Ministers should function regularly and naturally it needs those ministers who are capable of implementing reforms on the country level.
So, it would not be surprising if one of the ministers in the United Kingdom Government were found guilty of abuse of office during his tenure, and would not resign and instead would remain in office while serving his suspended sentence?
Something like that would not be possible in the United Kingdom.
How come it is possible in Bosnia-Hercegovina?
Would you care to explain the absurd behavior of the Office of the High Representative: according to the OHR individuals who are under investigation are forced to resign, while officials who are found guilty and sentenced are allowed to remain in office?
As far as I know the parliament must approve the resignation of a minister before he can be replaced.
Yes, but he was sentenced four months ago. Wouldn't you agree that it is absurd that a man found guilty of committing a crime is allowed to keep his government post even after being sentenced, while someone who is under investigation or undergoing a trial is forced to resign by the High Representative? Isn't that only another one of Mr. Ashdown's failed stratagems whose goal is to prevent Milorad Dodik from becoming a prime minister? The OHR stated as much during the talks about the composition of the new government of Srpska.
I don't think that is the case.
You were a member of the delegation in Dayton. Do you think that the OHR and the international community made a fateful error in cooperating with nationalist political parties in the belief that they would be easier to control due to their highly compromised past? The belief that they would be easier to blackmail and that thereby it would be easier to achieve certain goals?
As I said earlier after the elections three years ago the international community believed that it would work with those who were elected and certain reforms were implemented. If we have reached the end of the road as far as reforms are concerned, than that is the end of the road.
But, given that most reforms were achieved by applying pressure on local politicians or blackmailing corrupt politicians, wouldn't you say that in the end that approach has backfired, given that the reform process is blocked?
I don't think that three years ago we had a better option.
Recently, a web site in the United States has published a list of over two hundred individuals who are supposedly MI6 agents. Given that some of the individuals on that list, including the High Representative, are active in United Kingdom foreign service or international bodies in the Balkans, could this publication have an effect on the future developments in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia-Montenegro and Kosovo?
I don't think so. As the United Kingdom Government stated at the time that list was published, we do not discuss such matters in public and are aware that many of the individuals included on that list were never members of either the SAS or MI6.
President of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Ivo Miro Jovic hinted in his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly that politicians from all three ethnic groups have reached an agreement regarding the future constitutional reform, which was later denied by the Serb member of the presidency. Mr. Jovic's statement matches a recent statement by Richard Holbrooke, a former Balkan negotiator, that a non-governmental organization in the USA is writing a new constitution for Bosnia-Hercegovina. Are United Kingdom representatives in B-H participating in these initiatives? If not, are they at least aware of their existence?
Until recently I have believed that the best way for constitutional reform in B-H was for the local leaders to reach an agreement on their own. It is clear that the B-H Constitution must in time be modified so that B-H could set on the path towards Europe. Ideally, B-H leaders would agree what changes are needed, naturally with assistance of the international community, if that is necessary. But the blockade of the police reform and other blockades indicate that the government of Srpska systematically uses the Dayton Constitution to block reforms. And as I have already said, the Dayton Agreement established the Republic of Srpska, but the Dayton Agreement also reserves certain duties for Srpska, partly regarding the implementation of the Dayton Agreement and partly regarding the path of Srpska and B-H as a whole towards Europe.
The mandate of the High Representative is about to end. What is the attitude of the United Kingdom regarding his future replacement and the authority of the future top international official in B-H? In that sense, to what extent is it important from which country the future high representative comes? I'm asking you that because in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar much importance is given to that fact.
Regarding the first part of your question no decisions have been made, so it would not make sense to speculate.
I think that regarding the authority of the new high representative, the most important issue is when that authority should be reduced. We want that the authorities in B-H take an increasing share of responsibility for the future of the country. We have a plan how to reduce the authority of the high representative. Therefore, over somewhat more than one year the authority of the high representative is to be reduced and in the end the office will be closed. But the transitional period can only start when B-H initiates stabilization and association agreement negotiations. Thus, anyone wanting to reduce the authority of the high representative should pressure the government of Srpska to implement police reform so that the talks on the stabilization and association agreement can start.
If the Republic of Srpska has a guaranteed future and no one wants to abolish it, why is every proposal for autonomous activities of Srpska, even in sports, immediately rejected and condemned both in Sarajevo and by the international community? For example, is a soccer match Wales-Srpska possible in the future?
Srpska is not a country. The Dayton Constitution gives Srpska a lot of jurisdiction, while keeping very little authority for Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, if B-H is to get closer to Europe that must change. The citizens of Srpska want to join Europe, which means that they are a part of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and not of the "country" named Srpska or some other constitutional arrangement.
Are Wales and Scotland countries?
United Kingdom has a very complicated state organization. I think that Wales and Srpska cannot be compared.
I am referring to simple issues. For example, Wales has a parliament, Srpska has a parliament; Wales has a government, Srpska has a government; Wales has a soccer and rugby national teams, but Srpska does not. Why?
The differences between Wales and Srpska are huge, starting with economy. Starting with the fact that citizens of Wales can freely travel anywhere in the world; then the fact that all global companies want to invest in Wales; then, let me point out that there is a stable constitutional arrangement that regulates the relationship between Wales and the United Kingdom. My message to all of those talking about soccer is that once Srpska becomes like Wales in other aspects, we can talk about soccer.