Paddy Ashdown: 'My objective is to put the country on course to statehood'

From a speech by the High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, given at a conference on its future, held in Geneva
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The Independent Online

My objective, as I told parliament on the day I arrived in BiH, was to put the country irreversibly on course to effective statehood, and on to the path that leads to the EU and to Nato, so that in due course we could begin terminating the role of the Office of the High Representative [OHR]. Now, with the launch of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, the deepening of BiH's relationship with Nato and the scaling back of the role of the OHR, we are moving decisively into a new era.

The watchword is no longer "stabilisation" but "transition". The task is to transform the Dayton state into a Brussels state. We have established the institutions - now we must make them properly functional. Where necessary, through dialogue and consensus, constitutional changes need to be made.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has perhaps come as far as it can under its present constitutional apparatus; it must make changes that will allow it to continue on the path towards full sovereignty and stability, and above all which will channel funds away from government and directly to citizens. No state can win the loyalty of its citizens when it spends 70 per cent of their taxes on government and only 30 per cent on services to the people themselves.

One caveat: we must be careful not to place all our faith in constitutional change. Changing the constitution will not change Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will simply remove the constraints to change. We must ensure that positive change is facilitated, while negative change is prevented. And change can only come through consensus among the peoples. It cannot be imposed; it cannot be done by outsiders.