'Alarm and regret'
by Ivan Lovrenovic
At the eleventh hour, when it was already crystal clear which way the talks were going, a despairing cry of protest and warning was raised. The Sarajevo media published an open letter to Wolfgang Petritsch from seven citizens - Fr Mile Babic, professor of philosophy and theology, Gojko Beric, journalist and writer, Zdravko Grebo, professor of law, Senka Nozica, lawyer, Haris Pasovic, editor and writer, Senad Pecanin, journalist, and the author of these lines - in which they expressed to Petritsch their ‘alarm and regret’, because the way in which he was conducting the talks indicated: ‘a continuation of the short-sighted and tragic policy of the international community towards Bosnia-Herzegovina, a policy that for reasons beyond our comprehension seeks to maintain neutrality in disputes between the protagonists of ethnic ideologies and nationalism, on the one hand, and democratic European standards, on the other, in order to achieve a rotten compromise between essentially incompatible aims.’
The signatories warned Petritsch that: ‘Every solution concerning implementation of the B-H Constitutional Court ruling that does not involve full institutional and substantive symmetry in defence of vital national interests - in the parliament of the Federation of B-H and in the national assembly of Republika Srpska - represents also your own immense personal contribution to the definitive legalization of ethnically exclusive territories within this country, created through the crime of genocide.’ And they went on to challenge as follows the arguments deployed in public by the High Representative to justify his stance and his way of conducting the talks: ‘In all your explanations to date of your intention to support solutions that will not be founded on full institutional symmetry, there is not a single solid argument. Your explanation that you do not want to impose a solution is not an argument, since you are performing the function of a High Representative in this country precisely because on the political scene there are still influential nationalistic and chauvinistic forces preventing the construction of a democratic, multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina. The same is true for your assertion that the "main problem is how to draw the Serbs into the state". Apart from being insulting to Serbs and to all B-H citizens, this indicates your misapprehension that someone can and should be "drawn into the state" by giving them more rights than those belonging to other peoples and citizens. We consider that Bosnia-Herzegovina can function as a democratic state only when all its peoples and citizens are convinced that they have exactly the same rights in it as everybody else, neither more nor less. Finally, when you justify your unwillingness to ensure fully institutional symmetry in the defence of vital national interests by the different constitutional structures of the Federation and RS, here too your argument has no validity. The differences you invoke must and can find their expression in the electoral law, not in those parts of the entity constitutions that are supposed to ensure full institutional symmetry in the defence of vital national interests.’
A day after this open letter, a similar view was expressed in a joint statement from three NGOs: the Council of the Congress of Bosniak Intellectuals, the Serb Civic Council and the Croat National Council. They demanded that Petritsch put an end to ‘the agony of B-H society, intensified by the course hitherto of the talks between the country’s leaders’, and that ‘the decision to be reached guarantee and establish full institutional and substantive symmetry in the defence of vital national interests’ in both entities.
From an article in Feral Tribune (Split), 30 March 2002