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Europe

Bosnia's Staunch German Friend

Taking over as High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina from Britain's Paddy Ashdown, Christian Schwarz-Schilling will become the first German in the job. He'll be welcomed as a trusted friend.

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Schwarz-Schilling is glad that Germany is getting more involved

Even before taking office, Christian Schwarz-Schilling managed to accomplish something that happens rarely in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats all agree that he's the right man for the difficult job of UN high representative.

On Tuesday, the 75-year-old Christian Democrat will take over as head of the international Office of High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (OHR), which employs 500 people. He has far-reaching powers and already knows how he wants to use them.

Bildserie Bosnien 10 Jahre nach dem Krieg - heute

Buildings like this hotel in Sarajevo may have been restored, but the country's still far away from normalcy

"The first priority will be to do what we can to get the economy going," he said. "Secondly, the administration, the courts, the parliament have to be normalized in order for Bosnia and Herzegovina to become a normal state and for the people to have their civil rights. And thirdly, the road to Europe needs to be cleared, both in Brussels and in Bosnia."

Aimi n g to lose his job

But Schwarz-Schilling also wants to slowly liberate the country from the international community's paternalism. This means that he wants to make his own job redundant. But unlike his predecessor, he is not banking on removing disobedient politicians but convincing people instead. That doesn't mean that he's unwilling to take harsh measures, however.

"We're not an occupying power, but we're here to help people and make it clear to politicians how certain goals can be reached," he said. "If they manage to reach them on their own, we'll be there as advisors. If not, we'll make suggestions. If they don't accept these suggestions and oppose them, then we'll have to use our powers. I have to try to reach the goals that have been set for me by the international community."

Ein Mann blickt am 20.1.2001 auf neue Fahndungsplakate der als Kriegsverbrecher angeklagten bosnischen Serben Radovan Karadzic und General Ratko Mladic in Sarajevo

Despite rewards, Karadzic and Mladic still haven't been arrested

One of the main goals that was not reached during the past decade was the arrest of alleged war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Schwarz-Schilling also wants to increase international efforts in this respect.

"It's a shame and a scandal, but I don't primarily blame Bosnians," he said. "I've always said that the international community has to be willing to do this. We will do everything, together with the government in Bosnia, with the Allied troops and with the secret services, to achieve that goal."

Germa n y 's n ew role

Strengthening government institutions to clear the Bosnia's path to Europe is another goal for Schwarz-Schilling. He knows that a lot remains to be done in the Balkan state, but he's also expecting to see more support from Germany.

He appreciates the fact that the new German government is willing to share responsibility for the region. In 1992, he resigned from his post as German postal services minister because he could not accept Germany's policy of non-interference.

EUFOR in Bosnien

German soldiers in Bosnia

"I'm glad that Germany is taking on responsibility -- both militarily and politically," he said.

Schwarz-Schilling sees himself as a staunch friend of Bosnia. As mediator, he has managed to reach compromises on all sides. Without any formal powers, he fought against hardliners and helped refugees to return to their homes. As high representative, he will now have the power and the trust of Bosnians.

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