IBNA Interview/Mladen Ivanic: We can expect further tensions in the state

IBNA Interview/Mladen Ivanic: We can expect further tensions in the state

Mladen Ivanic is a Bosnian Serb politician who has been a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2014. He spoke to Mladen Dragojlovic of IBNA, about the current developments in BiH and the Republic of Srpska (he has lived in Banja Luka since 1971, when he earned his university diploma in economics there) connected with Mladic’s trial in The Hague, internal politics, Kosovo and reforms that the country would need. He said that, three years ago, the situation in BiH was better than today noting that, this Presidency’s members cannot do anything to improve it even if they try until the end of their mandate. Moreover, Ivanic did not mince words, clearly saying he expects more tensions in national relations among Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks after the final verdict in the (Croat) case “Jadranko Prlic and others” — On 29 May 2013, in a first instance verdict, the ICTY sentenced Prlic to 25 years in prison. The tribunal also convicted five other war time leaders of the joint trial (…) However, on 19 July 2016 the Appeals Chamber in the case announced that the “Trial Chamber made no explicit findings concerning (Tudjman’s, Šušak’s and Bobetko’s) participation in the JCE and did not find (them) guilty of any crimes.”

The Appeal judgement in the case is expected for 29 November 2017.

Mr. Ivanic, a few days ago, the Hague Tribunal reached and pronounced the verdict of guilty on the former war general of the Army of Republika Srpska, Ratko Mladic. After the decision had become known, you had said you expected problems in BiH due to it. What are these problems and are they already visible?

There is tension already. In Sarajevo, there is a wish among Bosniak politicians to use the Mladic verdict for dissolution of the Republic of Srpska (RS) and for attacking the RS. The most radical individuals are trying to use it as the means to attack the entire Serbian nation. There is also an issue about “collective responsibility” of the Serbs. These are absurdities that cannot be tolerated.

We can expect additional tensions on November 29, when the Hague Tribunal will pronounce the final verdict in the case of the Croat officials “Jadranko Prlic and others”. Tensions will rise yet again.

Instead of working on the real problems and their solutions, always, a problem from the past comes up obliging us to move our focus there instead of the future. Everybody has a different opinion about that past.

This year was marked with events which burden relations within BiH. We had problems with January 9, the RS Day celebration, then came the unsuccessful attempt of renewal of the indictment against Serbia for genocide. Additionally, we had the statements of the Bosniak member (Bakir Izetbegovic) of the BiH Presidency about Kosovo and its recognition. How much do such events influence the working atmosphere in tripartite Presidency? Can you work in a proper manner?

We are mostly working on the daily issues. It means that there is no process which is stopped because of relations in the Presidency. But it is not the main aim of this institution.

The BiH Presidency should be the engine for the more serious reforms, more serious changes and political ambient. We ratify all the documents, decide about the ambassadors’ profile and give the green light for international contracts, but there is no real power, a real  symbolism of a strong, positive movement forward.

What (would you think) should happen in order to get the BiH Presidency out of this dead end?

Present members of the Presidency are so deeply divided that it is impossible to expect that we will make any positive steps until the end of mandate next year. To what extent is every single one of us individually responsible for that situation? Personally, I think that my responsibility in this case is the smallest, because I did not begin discussing matters which could spoil our relations. I just reacted on the attempts of other members of the Presidency, but never imposed something as my exclusive demand.

You have now covered more than three quarters of your mandate in the BiH Presidency. Can you compare the present situation in the state with the time you first embarked on this “journey”?

At the beginning of the mandate of this Presidency we had a lot of good things going on. For example, the EU perspective for BiH was opened, BiH signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with EU, it was ratified and was implemented. Really, we had a lot of positive elements until the middle of the mandate’s term. Then, old, well known politics in BiH begun to show their true face. We had political scams, especially about the census, which is maybe the biggest negative thing that caused great damage but, as we could see, it was completely meaningless. After more than 20 years, there was an attempt to abolish the RS Day celebration. Leaving official institutions out, there was an attempt of renewing the genocide indictment against Serbia, BiH ambassadors of Bosniak nationality began to respond only to Bosniak members of the Presidency instead (of doing so) to all of them, we had “parallel institutions” and work outside of the official institutions. We can now see the consequences of such actions.

So, I can say that there is less of BiH as a state now than at the beginning of the mandate, first and foremost because of Bosniak politicians’ actions.

What is necessary to be done in order to make efficient changes that will be felt by citizens in their everyday lives?

As long as citizens vote for such politicians, it is their choice. Politicians are doing what citizens expect them to do.

If the purpose of somebody’s actions is to abolish January 9, as the RS Day, he will get the answer to that. If the purpose of the actions is to build better roads and schools, to improve the image of BiH and to attract investors, the answer will be positive. We will move together towards that direction.

At the end of the day, everybody will be responsible in the future for what is happening now.

To what extent is BiH (a state with so many internal problems) influencing regional developments? Is BiH influencing them or they are influencing the situation in BiH? 

We had a lot of influence because, for example, the CEFTA Agreement would be impossible to be sign without BiH, as well as a lot of other regional contracts. We could say that we have some influence, but we are not some big political power.

Thank you, Mr Ivanic…/IBNA