In Bosnia, High Representative Still Needed

In Bosnia, High Representative Still Needed

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- The newly appointed High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina takes office as the country's finances are on the verge of meltdown, making the need for an arbiter to break the stalemate of the country's dysfuntional political system more urgent than ever.

The 59-year-old Austrian diplomat, Valentin Inzko, is the seventh high representative since the Dayton Peace Agreement created the position 14 years ago. Unlike each of his three immediate predecessors, Inzko was not expected to be the last to exercise the office when he was introduced last Thursday. The acceptance of the continued need for the position is a sign of how vital its role of political tie-breaker has become to this country whose constitution recognizes two almost entirely separate political entities -- the Bosniak-Croat-dominated Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) -- and whose political culture serves only narrow, ethnic interests.

"We need a high representative, unfortunately," says Zeljko Komsic, a Croat who is one of Bosnia's three co-presidents, along with a Bosniak and a Serb. "The new one needs to exert his full powers, in contrast to his predecessor, who had the powers but did not use them." But there is little chance the new representative will use his powers to make and redraft laws or sack politicians more widely, he says. "The High Representative is only as powerful as the states who support him, and they are disunited."

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