Bosnia: From the Ground Up
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MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Bildt, thanks for being with us. NATO troops are supposed to leave Bosnia by December. What do you have to achieve on the civilian side between now and then? What’s your timetable for doing it?
CARL BILDT, European Union Representative, Bosnia: I think the most important thing that must be achieved is the setting up of the new common institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, between those who were conducting war with each other only a few months ago. They must by the end of the year of the democratic elections be ready to work together in the common government. In order to do that, we have to go through a number of phases. We now have the first phase, which is the military phase, behind us. That’s been a success. It’s not been really challenged by either party. It has been a success. The second phase and in summary is going to be the preparations for elections, the beginning of economic reconstruction, where I hope that different governments and nations are going to contribute as generously as they’ve done to the military side, and the beginning of the return of the refugees. Then we’ve got the election campaign, highly, highly important, and that must be a free and fair election, and then we go to the final phase, which is the setting up of the government, the taking out of the implementation force, the NATO force, and the resolution of some of the outstanding difficult issues.
MARGARET WARNER: You wrote a column that ran in the “Washington Post” on Sunday in which you said that you and the secretary of state had had a conversation last week about whether the civilian or political side was just frozen or irretrievably broken down. What has happened or not happened to cause you to even ask a question like that?
MR. BILDT: There had been a number of difficulties, primarily in getting the two parties to cooperate with each other. That has been influenced also by the fact that there are power struggles, you could say, going on in both of the entities. There have been–
MARGARET WARNER: Are you saying in the Bosnian Serbs–
MR. BILDT: Among the Bosnian Serbs–
MARGARET WARNER: –and the Bosnian government.
MR. BILDT: –very clearly being those that want to cooperate with the international community and those–the Karadzics and others that don’t. On the federation side, the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims, there have been the adjustment process inside the federation as well as the beginning of an election campaign, with new parties being set up and, and new forces of political competition coming in. This has made it more difficult to start the political process of reconciliation and cooperation between the entities, what is so central to their role of political operation.
MARGARET WARNER: And tell us–give us your assessment of the situation on the ground, itself. I mean, do you see the political will to create a multiethnic Bosnian state that was called for in the Dayton Accords?
MR. BILDT: At the moment, the forces that are there are working for ethnic separation. And those forces are the forces of fear. People fear, which is perhaps not entirely unnatural after the extremely bitter and brutal war. Those forces are stronger. They’re the forces of reintegration. And it is only by starting reconstruction, starting reconciliation on the political level, dealing with war criminals, and getting the common institution set up that I think we can start to reduce the fear factor that is now driving the ethnic separation that we, sorry to say, still see in Bosnia.
MARGARET WARNER: Was it fear, do you think, that drove that spectacle we saw when the so many Serbs left that suburb from Sarajevo?
MR. BILDT: It was primarily fear. I spent long, long, long hours with very, very ordinary people discussing with them, and they feared. Some of that fear was fueled by extremists on the Bosnian Serb side, but it was not sufficiently answered, in my opinion, by confidence-building measures on the side of the Bosnian government. And they were driven by fear away from what in very many cases were their homes since generations back, and that’s a tragedy. Unification of Sarajevo was good. We’ve been aiming at that for a long time, but the fear was so great that it also contributed to the separation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that we must overcome.
MARGARET WARNER: And what are the motives of both the Bosnian Serb government, those elements that didn’t want this to happen peacefully, didn’t want Bosnian Serbs to stay there, and also the Bosnian government for not reassuring Serbs they could stay?
MR. BILDT: There are, of course, after war likely those who’ll say, well, let’s be with our own people, this reintegration, reconciliation was too difficult, it will have to take time. Umm, and they seek security and safety among their own, so to say, among their own either Serbs or Croats or Bosnian Muslims, and, umm, in an age of negative political campaigning it’s very easy to fuel those fears and play on them for particular political purpose, and that is to a certain extent done on all sides, and that’s what I mean when I say that the forces for ethnic separation are so far stronger than the forces for ethnic reintegration. And it will require statesmanship and wisdom and political leadership and quite a lot involvement of the international community to, to break this up, but I think we can do it, and I think we will do it. But it is not an easy task.
MARGARET WARNER: So what will it take from the international community now in the non-military side in these six, seven months you have remaining?
MR. BILDT: Well, a lot. First, umm, you start with economic reconstruction, and there will be the need in the order of 1.8 billion U.S. dollars this year. Some of that money is there; some of it is forthcoming; more will be needed. Help people moving back–more than 50 percent of the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina have been displaced the one way or other during this war.
MARGARET WARNER: Given what happened in Sarajevo, do you expect–how many of the refugees do you really expect to want to return to areas of Bosnia that are now patrolled by another ethnic group as they may see it?
MR. BILDT: I think a lot of them would like to do that. They are asking–is there a climate for security–of security, do I dare to go back home, if that is in an area that is now ethnically cleansed by the one community or the other? We find these problems on all sides. And that remains to be seen. I think the next few months is going to tell us to which extent it’s going to happen. So far, we have had in the order of 50,000 refugees returning, but there have–almost all of them have been returning to areas where some say their own people live. During the Spring, you’ll see more attempts to get people moved back to other areas. That will be very important.
MARGARET WARNER: So if I were a Bosnian refugee of any ethnic stripe and I were to say I wanted to return to my home area if it’s safe, what would you say?
MR. BILDT: I would encourage that, and then I would hope that we with the presence of IFOR, with the presence of the international police force can contribute to the security and the safety. If that person were to ask me can you guarantee my personal security, I would, of course, have to say no, I can’t. I don’t have that instrument. IFOR is not a police force. The international police force is not doing law enforcement. We don’t run the country. Umm, but we do have human rights monitoring. We do have a number of instruments that should make it easier, but this is going to be one of the most critical and one of the most crucial aspects of the entire process.
MARGARET WARNER: Are there any things that you would like IFOR, the international or NATO force to be doing to help you on the civilian side that it isn’t doing? Is there anything more it could be doing?
MR. BILDT: Well, quite a lot, and we are discussing that, and the IFOR commander, Adm. Leighton Smith, and myself, and the NATO authority, we, we agree in most of these things, but now the essential military forces behind IFOR, they are still very important, but we have 60,000 military men and vast resources there, and they can be used for other things. They can help with rehabilitation in economic terms; they can help in issuing the freedom of movement by taking on checkpoints; they can help with training people to do the de-mining that’s going to be so important; they can help with transportation for key political meetings. There are a number of things that they can do, and which they are also ready to do.
MARGARET WARNER: Did Adm. Smith say that American troops are ready to do these things?
MR. BILDT: Yes, well, American troops and others. It’s a unified force. The same applies to Russians, Americans, and Swedes and Germans, and, and Brits, and that’s a decision that’s been taken by the North Atlantic Council, and I’ve had discussions here yesterday with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shalikashvili, who is also very forthcoming when it comes to what–with respect for the primariness of the military mission, the IFOR forces can do.
MARGARET WARNER: War crimes have received a lot of international attention. How important to your civilian side, your civilian operation is the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals?
MR. BILDT: Longer term I think is crucial for the process of reconciliation, and it’s very important that there is not established collective guilt in the sense that all of the Serbs, all of the Croats, all of the Muslims, depending upon the perspective of the different nations, are responsible. They are not. Responsibility lies with political leaders or those that actually committed the crimes. And the tribunal is the instrument to ensure that individual responsibility for these hideous crimes that makes it possible long-term for the peoples to live together in peace.
MARGARET WARNER: Defense Sec. Perry and other IFOR military leaders have said we are not a police force, we’re not out there to apprehend these war criminals. Are you comfortable with that, or do you wish they would do more?
MR. BILDT: Well, they are a military force, I agree to that. They are not a police force. I have great confidence in the IFOR forces. They’re very professional, but they are a military force. And, and the responsibility with dealing with war crimes rests primarily on the part of themselves. Then, of course, if IFOR, when they are doing something runs into a criminal–or he runs into them or whatever–then, of course, I would expect them to apprehend him or her, whichever it is. And I’m quite certain they will do that.
MARGARET WARNER: Finally, do you think American troops will be able and NATO troops will be able to leave in December?
MR. BILDT: Well, I would hope so. I think it’s important that we make clear that it is not our country. The responsibility for the future stability, security, prosperity, whatever, is for the political leaders, themselves; that they would have the maturity and the responsibility to have the full responsibility for their country. And that implies that we will be there to help them, of course, but I can see no foreseeable circumstances in which we would need 60,000 soldiers there after the end of this year.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you, Mr. Bildt. Thanks very much.
MR. BILDT: Thank you.