Real Bosnian peace needs new generation of politicians

BRUSSELS, May 25, 2000 -- (AFP) The real implementation of the Dayton peace accords in Bosnia-Hercegovina depends on the Bosnians themselves voting in a new generation of younger "peace-oriented politicians," a Bosnian Peace Implementation Council concluded here Wednesday.

"It is quite difficult for the old-style politicians who led their people into this war, through this war, now to be the ones who should build the peace," Wolfgang Petritsch, high representative for Bosnia-Hercegovina, told a press conference concluding the two-day meeting.

"We can only assist," he told the conference marking the fifth anniversary of the Dayton (Ohio) peace accords. "The bulk of the work needs to be done by the people themselves...

"They must become more active," he said. "They can't expect that everything will be done by the international community. We are partners there, but we need the support of the local communities."

Petritsch said he was confident the November 11 elections in Bosnia "will see another leap forward in implementation, in the occurrence of younger and more peace-oriented politicians."

The blame for slow implementation of the Dayton accords "lies squarely with obstructionist political parties and their allies," said Petritsch. "I often get the feeling that most of the brain power is being invested in how to obstruct rather than how to resolve an issue.

"There are still the main nationalist parties that in one way or another are obstructing the implementation of the Dayton accords, defending their own vested interests," he said.

"There is a great sense of urgency, time is running out," he said. "Our message very clear to the Bosnian leadership: No excuses any longer. Zero tolerance when it comes to obstruction. I do mean business.

"Things need to be done. Things cannot just go on like this. We need to improve the performance...the pace of implementation, and we need also to get Bosnian leaders to take on the ownership of the country and the responsibilities."

A crucial element in implementing Bosnian peace would be continued and accelerated refugee return over the next two years.

"In the year 2002," he said, "many of the displaced will have been away for 10 years, and realistically speaking, we cannot expect the mass return to go on...

"I hope the refugees living in other parts of western Europe will realize it is a good time now to go back and help rebuild their country," he said, adding there were still "several hundred thousand" displaced persons within Bosnia and "up to 300,000" living abroad, mostly in Yugoslavia or Croatia.

"The real litmus the return of refugees who will find themselves back in a minority situation," he said, adding the local authorities carried the responsibility for ensuring these refugees' safe return."

"When I arrived (in Bosnia) last August I said I would not stay long," said Petritsch. "This is their country, a country of its own citizens and they need to take ownership of the country and the problems there.

The "actors" in Bosnia today, he said, are "the people, the officials, the civil society...NGOs (non-governmental organizations). I would rely much more on them than on the old-style politicians still in power there."

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