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Lord Ashdown on Bosnia protests: I have to blame the EU

February 12th, 2014
02:54 PM ET

Could it be the Ukraine effect?

After months of protesters clashing in the streets of Kiev, Bosnia and Herzegovina is seeing some of its worst violence and unrest since the war two decades ago.

Across the country, including its capital Sarajevo, demonstrators have taken to the streets, setting fire to government buildings, trashing libraries and torching vehicles; all this in protest of high unemployment, unpaid wages and government corruption and incompetence.

Few people know Bosnia better than Lord Paddy Ashdown, who served as High Representative and Europe’s Special Envoy to the country from May 2002 until January 2006.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Lord Ashdown says the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is “highly fragile” and that the European Union needs to do more to help build Bosnians build a functional state that can serve its citizens.

Speaking of the Dayton Accord that ended the war, he says it was an ideal solution to bring about peace, but that it is the “wrong basis to build a sustainable state”.

The good news, Ashdown told Amanpour, is that the protests are “non-ethnic” and that protesters are “turning against a political clique who have governed the country”, who are “deep in corruption”.

But there is bad news too: “At the moment its citizens are complaining about poverty and lack of movement and dysfunctionality of the state and corruptions amongst politicians”, but he says it “could move to something far worse very quickly”.

“The international community has to act now. If they don’t act now, I greatly fear that a situation where secessionism will take hold could easily become unstoppable as we approach elections…”

Click above to watch Amanpour’s full interview with Lord Paddy Ashdown.


Filed under:  Bosnia • Latest Episode
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. e.harland-hazebroek

    The period our soldiers were left alone and help was denied.
    How many citizens and soldiers will forget that time.
    A terrible mistake.

    February 12, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  2. jonblackwood

    Some points here-

    1. no "library has been trashed" in the recent protests. The Archive of BiH suffered some damage, how much exactly is hard to determine. The very same politicians who starved it of funds for years and who have been quite happy to see a National Museum, which stayed open in two world wars and the worst siege in modern memory, shut down under their watch, are now crying crocodile tears over the damage the archive suffered, because it suits them.

    2. The protests in Bosnia have *absolutely nothing* to do with the protests in the Ukraine.

    3. At the moment, in cities and municipalities across BiH, citizens' plenums and forums are debating and discussing what sort of state they would like and how to move from the awful mess BiH is in currently, towards some sort of better future. These are the ordinary Bosnian people who have suffered so much because of the cynical, expedient and deeply ill-informed decision making made by the "international community" in this part of the world since 1992. Paddy Asdown can't wash his hands of that. Him blaming the EU for the disastrous mess that obtains currently in the Bosnian economy, and society, is rather like a fox blaming fellow foxes for cleaning out a chicken coup. It's breathtaking chutzpah.

    4. The only people deserving of any support in the current crisis is the ordinary Bosnian citizen. they see that BiH polit8icans could not care less about their concerns. they despair of the international community ever making a right call here. they despair of the EU pouring billions of European taxpayers money into a political and moral black hole, as though somehow paying money makes everything go away, magically.

    The only people capable of fixing this in a sustainable and proper way are the people who live here. If the international community actually wants to help, it should butt out. No one wants to see the sorry history of disastrous, cynical "help" from the UN, EU and associated organisations extended any further.

    It's time to let Bosnia and Herzegovina's citizens fashion a country in their own image, Calls for an extension of the calamitous role of the international community here, and from-the-sidelines pious moralising from failed politicians who once spent a bit of time here, are nothing more than really unhelpful white noise.

    February 13, 2014 at 11:34 am | Reply
    • Bosnian girl

      And the best thing to do serve the bosnian people is:
      a) to stop categorizing us with words: Bosnian serb, Bosnian croat and bosnian muslim... what are the others who do not believe in god or believe in different god(s)? The whole world should stop doing that and instead start calling us with ONE and EQUAL word: BOSNIAN- yes that word really exists and does not divide people nor the BiH.
      b) RS and FBiH + Brcko etc should not exist! Deyton was a really just a diper- and no one wants to wear it for the rest of their lives... They are just symbolizing the war, all killed and evicted people, burned photo albums and destroyed homes... Bosnians want ONE BiH!

      February 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Reply
      • mil

        I agree 100%! I believe people in Bosnia are finally united though, as they fight the corruption, I don't believe they are paying attention to who's serbian, croation, or bosnian.

        February 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
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