Republika Srpska is at its most stable political phase in its history. Vision, however, is much larger than stability.
By: Andrea Vuković
Is Republika Srpska stable, economically and politically?
All those who believe it is not stable are constantly denied by stability of Republika Srpska politically and institutionally. All institutions function perfectly for a long time. Political position of Republika Srpska is different today, respected, in comparison to other periods. Republika Srpska today is an unavoidable factor in decision-making processes on issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina and especially on European issues. Republika Srpska is recognized and accepted even among those who dislike it and believe that it is not just it exists at all. Today, they have to respect the standpoint of Republika Srpska. Economy is also the base of everything. Economy in Republika Srpska has faced numerous challenges in the past, challenges of war, transition, up to liberation that destroyed economy of opening markets to new liberate requests from, in the first place, the foreigners that formed entire system. The biggest problems represent inability to raise the economy and industry to the higher level for the sake of competition and world crisis as well, of course. At this moment, Republika Srpska functions at the level of economic activity. It proves that finances and fiscal system are stabile institutionally.
What about banks?
We applied timely changes to stabilize bank system regardless various ownership structure. The fact is that the banks are not owned by Republika Srpska, but we affected stabilization of the bank system and it proves to be one of the most important elements of this stability and the economic activity at this level. Lately, we have done, we might say at the last moment, very important things, such as privatization of oil industry, which, in addition to challenges and probably many reasons to give up, still functions and provides certain results and hence affects our economic stability.
Do you have plans to privatize sector of energetics furthermore?
If you are talking about electric power, there will not be privatization in this area. We made this decision earlier, long ago. We said there were no conditions a creditor or some political processes could make us go for privatization. We witness some who did it under influence of some processes, such as Slovakia and they do not have sovereignty management over their energetic capacities, and today’s request of the modern world actually is energetic security. If you are not energetically secured, then you are not secure in any other way. So, I think that Republika Srpska standpoint in this issue is good. Moreover, Republika Srpska has to make certain strategic decisions concerning energetic sector. First of all, I believe we have a very depressed price of electric power. It is the lowest price of electric power in the region and this, of course, affects our developing capacity. Essentially, this low price has social rather than developing affect. In this sense, Republika Srpska currently exports about thirty percent of its production and has a possibility to develop for another 3 or 4 thousand Megawatts and we are doing just that by construction of two electric plants driven by coal at the moment.
Hence, should energy be focus of all upcoming governments in Republika Srpska? Is that the most competing business of Republika Srpska?
Today, energy is in focus of all world events, strategic fights fought by the biggest and the strongest ones. It is known that current amount of reserves of crude oil would not be able to meet consumption in thirty years period.
That is clear. Military industry is profitable, too, but we will not deal with it. Is energy definitely our strongest card?
I am talking about significant interests of the big and powerful in future, who would try to manage resources through standards and there does not always have to be that tanks come here in order to undertake some measures, there could be a regulation, for example, imposed by, let’s say, European Union or someone else. You can witness that the European Union has already imposed a word on energetic community, which would define certain rules regardless our wishes. So, that is the reason I said some important strategic decisions should be made. In the reference to employment, profit and safety, energy is most certainly something that represents strategically important capacity for Republika Srpska and we approach this matter very carefully. Decisions should not be made in a rush and this is the reason it is not easy to make power plant, but, in any way, it should be in the function of development of Republika Srpska. The Republika Srpska, that has no investment capacities, has to rely on foreign investments or finances coming out of loans and this is world-known fact. The key issue is which one we would choose and this government made that decision. So, energy that Republika Srpska needs has to be controlled by Republika Srpska in future, too. There will be no privatization there and the that energy will stay within the public sector. Energy produced aside from it is on disposal for commercial services.
More than a billion of BAM from the ESCROW account, which has been loaded by the Agreement on the Succession of the former SFRY and privatization in Republika Srpska, has been spent since the SNSD Party holds the power. A part of it was invested in development and part of it was used for ‘patching’ the Budget. Could that money have been used better?
No. There are attempts to create a stereotype. All in all, it is as if it should have stayed somewhere there and wait for, let’s say, a hundred of years, right? Of course, it is called special account only because the finances were provided in special way and these resulted from privatization.
And that money was meant for development…
These finances were allocated in accordance with government’s decisions in the way the program was decided upon and in the way the National Assembly adopted this program. Hence, the least amount of money was spent, as you put it, on ‘patching’ the Budget. It was spent on developing program of all municipalities in Republika Srpska, on schools, roads and many other issues, and half of these assets were sent to Investment-Development Bank, where it was reinvested in economy through business banks. This was completely preserved, stabilized and never lost. In any case, there is believing that someone stole it and did what he wanted with it. That, of course, is not correct. There are all data, all the projects, you can see the way of its investing. Capital projects performed, starting the renown story on Čemerno, which cost seventy million from those assets, up to hospital in Bijeljina, construction of municipal infrastructure, or thermal water pipeline, here in Banjaluka, which was crucial for heating the town, and many other projects and many do not want to see this or get insight in what was spent. So, it was spent, in accordance adopted by the National Assembly and this National Assembly has reports on this, the way anyone sees it. Even, in a certain phase of evaluation by the World Bank, there was a statement that this had been one of the best regional programs of spending money gained this way.
Crime and corruption stories were brought to the dead level of abstraction. You repeated several times you were not satisfied with judiciary. Do you see any change?
Penalty policy of courts, which looked for facilitating circumstances for various acts rather than to be directed towards behavior in future, stays the key issue in fight against criminal and corruption. I still absolutely stick to the claim that social role prosecutor’s office and courts should accomplish has not been accomplished yet and that they have no social responsibility. Due to stereotype or the way people think here, all of this is turned over to executive authority, and, essentially, if you do not have appropriate penalty policy for sanctioning negative behaviors, of course you will not be able to fight this battle.
Implementation of the Decision of the European Court of Human Rights in case ‘Sejdić and Finci against BiH’ is the topic the European Union insists the most on. Is this agreement realistic?
At the end of day, this decision should not have happened. I have to say that protocols on adoption of (European) Convention on Human Rights (and basic freedoms), based on which the judgment to Bosnia and Herzegovina was made, had not been adopted by twenty out of twenty eight countries of the European Union. It is the very same European Union where these twenty countries are member countries, the Union that pressures us to implement this decision. This is about some other issues, but in any case, we met and are being responsible in the reference to this. We stated our standpoint of this issue. We made concept policy and proposed this policy several years ago. Here, it is about the fact that any story in Europe is used to reform entire system. We are focused on implementing this decision made by the Court in Strasbourg and we said we would do it.
When you think of leaders in BiH, meetings you attend, do you feel it will be solved?
I believe, as for them, it is something they must do something about now. I do not know if they will make it.
You mentioned you were to abolish Republika Srpska Council of Peoples due to blockades of the legislative power. Obviously, the public forgot about this. Did you?
All this is a serious, and serious things should not be said if they were to be forgotten. Of course, there is a procedure for everything and time for everything as well as god moment. So, we have problems there. I have to remind you that the Constitution of Republika Srpska earlier got evaluation by the Venetian Commission for being in line with the Dayton Peace Agreement, and Council of Peoples was not its constituent part. Council of Peoples was imposed by the High Representatives. Of course, our National Assembly accepted this but the fact is this was performed under enormous pressure and influence, threats, penalties etc. And yes, we should discuss this – it can exist, but does not have to. They are ways for it not to exist.
So, you are not giving it up?
Of course. There are constitutional reforms to be performed and this is one of the serious subjects.
Judging from your statements, one could say you strongly believe that international presence in BiH should end. Do you think it would really be better in Republika Srpska and BiH if the world turned their back and let national leaders do the work they believe should be done?
The world has not turned its back on, for example, Croatia where there is no High Representative, but the world is very present there. This kind of normal presence also exists in Serbia and many other states, not to mention Far East etc. This presence means cooperation rather than management. Presence of the International Community in the form of the High Representative is counterproductive. It diminishes possibility and capacity of Bosnia to survive and this is proved in this period when it is clear that many decisions made by the High Representative were counterproductive for living here. They blocked some things. On the other hand, there is a huge disappointment in objectivity of international factor and this is something one cannot fix. People in Republika Srpska believe they were not just, they were partial. They accept dialogue due to some fear but they are not accepted as partners at any time. Due to this, the International Community is counterproductive here ad it should go away.
You spoke about referendum a lot and this idea is used up pretty much. Do you and in what way do you plan to return this vision of enlarging Republika Srpska autonomy?
Why do you think it is used up?
Do you plan to return vision of enlarging Republika Srpska autonomy to the agenda, to crash this taboo… Do you talk about that?
On bringing autonomy to higher level?
This happens every day. It just happens, whether we talk about that or not. Referendum is a very serious talk. At the beginning of this idea, there was no right to referendum in Republika Srpska.
Then you adopted the law and this right is existing now…
You say it is used up idea. Let me explain to you it is not used up.
So, the Law was adopted along with large resistance of the international factor present here and a large doubt what will happen. We did only one thing in the stage we thought would be important – we created legal frame for referendum which was adopted in the National Assembly. And, decision on referendum of this kind or another, on any possible issue, are made by competent institutions of Republika Srpska. When and if the decision will be made on referendum and status, that is an evaluation practice. We state that we still do not have realistic, international circumstances, national circumstances. But, one day, when Bosnia and Herzegovina happens to be in its full democratic state, when the right to referendum becomes the right of normal democratic life and when the world realizes that referendum is something we have institutionally arranged… Referendum on status is performed only one and never again. This talk about referendum could apply to any other issue, since referendum is our, very important democratic capacity for…
There is another way to get larger autonomy for Republika Srpska. Do you have political capacity, will, strength and, at the end, courage to unpack Dayton at certain moment and say, together with leaders of the Bosnia and Herzegovina: let’s make a better solution for BiH?
What is a better solution for BiH?
For Republika Srpska?
As for us, the Dayton Peace Agreement and its basis were good solution that needed more…
But is it the best?
It was supposed to be analyzed in the way the BiH becomes more decentralized and not get stronger. Due to this, we are not interested in that platitude on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are in BiH because we have to be there and not because we want to be there.
This is the reason I am asking you this.
Things we said in the past – that is our foundation politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We do not change our politics, it is for sure.
At some point you mentioned that ten million dollars were invested in your abolition through various organizations.. Are you in position to prove it?
That is your caricature again. I stated there were people here. Well, of course they exist. You do not know about that? You are claiming you are not in touch with some of these processes? You have centers that pay, for example, media to publish all the non-governmental sector affairs. Afterwards, the media are paid, so that media…you know it perfectly well. As well as some programs you take part in, I do not know that. Anyway, this situation is well-known. And, once you calculate these investments, which happen through so-called non-governmental sector, affected by international governments…
Having that in mind, do you think you would lose power as a result of pressure of some interest groups, people’s will or your own will?
I do not defend authority for my sake at all. I defend the authority through the position I perform, politics I promote and implement. If, one day, this people here, the voters, decide it is not enough, I would respect it.
So, you believe you will leave by people’s will?
Of course, people’s will is what brought me here. On the first day I came here, I did not think of myself as of the king who would be here for life.
You do not think someone will pressure you?
Pressure is always present. I do not have to explain it every day. I might have been pressured this morning. You do not know that.
Once it happens, do you see brave people in Republika Srpska who have vision to run the Republic?
Republika Srpska is owned by all the people here and I see that young people have huge energy preserve even more than we could suppose and that previous generation used to have.
You still have a year left for this mandate. Before pre-election promises, can you promise now what you will do in the final year of this mandate?
See you next year.