Today marks the departure from Sarajevo of Paddy Ashdown after his service there as High Representative. Tomorrow it is Christian Schwarz-Schilling that takes over.
Paddy was the fourth High Representative under the provisions in Annex 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia. I had the honour of being the first in the series, but he’s the one who has served the longest, and probably the one who has sought to maintain the highest political profile.
Much has changed during the years. When I arrived in the winter of 1995/96 we had absolutely nothing in a city heavily scarred by the war that had just ended. I brought a bunch of D-Marks in an envelope from Brussels and we started to set up whatever we could in the middle of acuta political tensions and enormous humanitarian challenges.
That was then. My own view has been that the entire Office of the High Representative – now in the order of 500 persons all over the country – should have been closed down 10 years after Dayton and replaced with a more low-profile European Union mission.
With its high profile and its intrusive powers the OHR has certainly done much good in Bosnia over the years, but the cumulative effect has increasingly been one of fostering a climate of irresponsibility in the domestic Bosnian political environment.
It’s been too easy to just abstain from taking difficult decisions and instead ask the High Representative to sort things out – only to blame him when he tries to get things going.
Paddy was less than happy when criticism along these lines started to become more prominent some years ago, but today he essentially agrees.
That one – in spite of this – decided to appoint a new High Representative was in my opinion a mistake. But Christian Schwarz-Schilling knows the country well and will in all probability take a somewhat lower political profile than what Paddy did.
At the end of the day, it is the citizens and politicians of Bosnia themselves that should prove that their country has a future.