AMBASSADOR GELBARD: I never thought I'd say it'd be a pleasure to be
here, but it's nice to be back from Bosnia. The situation in Bosnia
and the elections which have just taken place have in fact been, I
think, significantly and clearly cast -- should be significantly and
clearly cast in a different light than I'm sorry to say they have been.
It has been, in fact, rather frustrating to see the angle from which
they have been reported over the course of the last week. In point of
fact, the overall results of these elections -- with the admittedly
significant case of the apparent loss by President Plavsic, although
that in itself has been significantly exaggerated in reporting -- have
been extraordinarily important and positive in terms of moving in the
directions to further the goals of the Dayton Agreement and to promote
further development of democratic pluralism.
First let me say that, on the issue of democratic pluralism, it is
simply wrong -- factually wrong -- to say that there is a trend for
increased margins for the nationalist parties; the facts demonstrate
just the opposite. There is much greater development of democratic
pluralism and in all three ethnic groups, in varying degrees, the
nationalist parties, which dominated during the war and immediately
thereafter, show clear downward trends. For example and most
importantly, the SDS party -- Karadzic's party -- which clearly
dominated in Republika Srpska during and immediately after the war,
held 45 seats in the Republika Srpska National Assembly in 1996. It
appears, although we don't have results exactly on seats yet, that the
trend will show that that margin will have been reduced by more than
half. The November 1997 elections reduced them from that 45 to 24, and
what's crystal clear right now is that the results of these elections
will show a meaningful further decrease from that 24. So from 45 down
to less than half of that, probably around 20. 45 to 20 is
The radical party, Poplasen's party, the man who appears to have been
elected President of the Republika of Srpska, has also dropped. So in
other words, even if he was elected -- and I'll get into that because I
know there is some interest in that -- support for his party has also
dropped. The hard-liners, therefore, have lost in the Assembly quite
significantly. Meanwhile, President Plavsic's coalition, the SLOGO
Coalition has clearly continued to increase its support. They, along
with support in the Republika Srpska Assembly, from the Bosniac -- in
other words, Muslim and Croat parties -- will clearly increase their
majority within the Assembly.
The Croats too, showed a considerable development of a move away from
ultra nationalism and toward democratic pluralism. In 1996 the HDZ
candidate, in other words, the ruling party candidate, got 88.7% of the
vote. It appears that their candidate won, but with only 53.2% of the
vote. In other words, significantly greater development of democratic
opposition, particularly since his new major opponent is part of the
first truly multi-ethnic party; a man named Gradimir Gojer. Kresimir
Zubak, the breakaway Croat, got something over 11%. So in other words,
we see another dramatic trend diminishing the support of the ultra-
national parties. And on the Bosniac or Muslim side, President
Izetbegovic's party -- President Izetbegovic has no real opposition --
but his party dropped from something like 54% 2 years ago to 47 1/2% in
the state parliament, once again at the expense of the Social
Democratic Party which is Gojer's party which is the first truly multi-
Now let me step back and talk about the Serbs again. So that's a first
trend; very important development of democratic pluralism. Second most
important issue for me and for the United States, Momcilo Krajisnik,
Karadzic's right-hand man and partner in every sense of the word, was
defeated by Zivko Radisic, a moderate Serb leader, for the Serb
position and the joint presidency. For those of you who have been
familiar with the Bosnia situation over the last few years, you will
remember that Krajisnik has single-handedly blocked the development of
the state institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina because of the way the
Dayton authority structures have been created.
With Krajisnik as the Serb member of the joint presidency and a large
block of his SDS party in the state parliament, we, and the people of
Bosnia-Herzegovina more importantly, were hampered in developing both
state-wide institutions, consolidating the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
and helping the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina achieve greater economic
prosperity and greater development of the state-wide democratic
institutions. That's now changed apparently, and I consider that to be
an extraordinarily important development because of Krajisnik's
symbolic position first as somebody who is the closest representative
Karadzic, and second, because of the role he has played in blocking
implementation of the Dayton Agreement.
Now finally on Poplasen himself, it needs to be clearly understood that
the actual responsibilities of the President of Republika Srpska are
extremely limited. Instead, the Prime Minister has much greater
responsibilities as usually occurs in that kind of parliamentary
system. I'm not downplaying the two roles that he does have, but the
point is there are only two, and they are first, to be able to nominate
a Prime Minister, and second, he has the ability -- or she has the
ability right now -- to dissolve the parliament.
The president of the Republika Srpska has no other significant
responsibilities. So, therefore, it really is, I think, an
exaggeration to have put so much emphasis on the point of that position
because in particular, as I say, Plavsic's coalition has strengthened
itself, has the support of the Bosniac and Croat votes, and has the
ability -- if they can maintain their plan to stay together -- they
have the ability to defeat any candidates the Poplasen would nominate
and to maintain themselves as the government. The actual constitution
of the Republika Srpska says that the government shall stay in power
unless and until it's defeated. So the point is that Prime Minister
Dodik's government stays in power unless it's overturned or unless
there are defections from his group.
Earlier this week President Plavsic, Prime Minister Dodik and Mr.
Radisic held a press conference on Tuesday to announce their intention
to stay together as a coalition and to work with the federation parties
against Poplasen and the SDS party, and then yesterday morning they
signed an agreement to put that in writing. So we expect that they
will continue to be the government and we will continue to be able to
work with this highly pro-Dayton group who have demonstrated in the 8
short months they have been in power, their willingness through their
actions to implement the Dayton agreement to the best of their
Now Poplasen has talked about being pro-Dayton, but what I've
discovered and I think was quite significant in this campaign, is that
just about every candidate said that he or she were pro-Dayton. And
he is talking publicly; He is sending out signals to us privately of
wanting to work with us and with the rest of the western community, but
given the background of his party, given his background and given the
background of their associate, Mr. Seselj in Yugoslavia, we obviously
have severe doubts about this. But ultimately what interests us are
the results, and if Poplasen even with his extremely limited mandate is
willing and able to demonstrate through his actions, that he is
prepared to implement the Dayton Agreement, then obviously we will be
prepared to work with him.
It should be recalled that a little over 1 1/2 years ago when President
Plavsic was beginning to make her break with Pale and Karadzic and
Krajisnik, there were a lot of people who were concerned about her
past, too, and her activities during the war. But she demonstrated,
too, through both her words and her actions, that she was prepared to
work to implement Dayton and we certainly hope that Poplasen will do
the same. If he doesn't, we obviously have severe concerns and we
think those concerns are already well-founded based on his own past and
his party's past. In particular, we're concerned about his previous
calls for secession and his party's ready use of a call for violence
and, in fact, the use of violence in the past. We hope and expect that
the high representative, if he should call for secession, would give
serious consideration to removing him because we consider that the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina is at
the core of the Dayton Agreement and any effort to undercut it needs to
be responded to quickly and with great seriousness. And I'll stop
QUESTION: Mr. Poplasen has been violent in the past -- does he have a
history of association with those that confronted the NATO troops --
was it the S-4 troops?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: No.
QUESTION: Is there a likelihood of there being another build up of
confrontation and conflict over assets around -- (inaudible) -- ?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Poplasen was a paramilitary commander during the
war. He has not been involved, that I'm aware of, in any kind of
confrontation with I-4 and S-4. However, for example, their leader in
Seselj in Yugoslavia of course has a horrible background of
paramilitary activity -- leading a group, I think, called the "White
Wolves" during the war. But a demonstration of our concern was that
when the OSCE decided not to announce the results -- the preliminary
results -- right after the elections, his party immediately began
calling -- making threats. There is no room in Bosnia for threats and
S-4 is certainly prepared to act if there should be even any hints of
potential violence. As far as Pale goes, Pale is returning to the
rustic, Sylvan charm it used to enjoy as the power of Karadzic and
Krajisnik and all the others are being destroyed. And the fact that
Krajisnik was decisively defeated by the people of Republika Srpska
strikes me as an extraordinary example of their pro-Dayton, anti-
corruption views right now.
I should add one other point and I want to be very open about this.
One issue that comes up is the question of the future of the City of
Brcko. The American arbitrator, Roberts Owen, is expected to make a
decision on the future of this city probably early next year. He will
have to decide whether that city will continue to be part of the
Republika Srpska; second, whether it will be given to the Federation;
third possibility, whether it will become some kind of a federal
district managed by the joint institutions; or fourth, whether he will
make a decision.
He is making these decisions on the basis of performance -- Dayton
implementation overall and implementation regarding Brcko. There's a
lot of concern -- a lot of interest on the part of both entities about
having control of Brcko. If Poplasen in a potential capacity as
President should work against the Dayton Agreement, I would think that
his chances and the Republika Srpska's chances of continuing control of
Brcko will be nil.
QUESTION: Ambassador Gelbard, I take it your point about the limited
powers of the President, but isn't it also true that Mrs. Plavsic made
a big difference, if only by her public statements and her public
support of Dayton?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Mrs. Plavsic made a big difference because of
her symbolic importance, having broken away from the SDS. So she had a
great deal and has a great deal still of moral authority -- and I
should say we certainly hope and expect that she will continue her
leadership of the SLOGA coalition. But normally, the head of the --
the president of the entity is not a powerful figure; for example, we
have an excellent relationship with the President of the Federation,
but you don't know who that is, right?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: It's Ejup Ganic, by the way -- an MIT graduate.
Because the power in the entities is with the Prime Ministers, we don't
expect that Poplasen will have -- unless he changes his ways -- either
moral authority or symbolic importance except maybe in a negative
sense. We do expect that the government under Prime Minister Dodik's
leadership, assuming they stay in power, will continue to show great
powers and possibilities for implementing Dayton.
QUESTION: Did the forcible deportation of refugees from Germany and
Austria -- did it make any difference, do you think, in these results?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Hard to tell so far. My concern and our
Government's concern has always been the long-term implications that
these people are predominantly -- they're predominantly Bosniacs;
predominantly from Republika Srpska and over the long term, if that
country is to return to having two really multiethnic entities, they
have to have the right to be able to return to their homes if they want
QUESTION: What do you make of Plavsic's running so far behind her
allies? Was it because she got too close to you?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: No. I think the proof that that's not the case is
that her colleagues, Dodik and Radasich* who were also very close to
us, in fact, increased their party's representation in the Assembly and
in Radisic's case, he defeated Krajisnik.
What some are saying is that, while Radasic and Dodik and their parties
stuck to the clear message that it's the economy in this case, that
Dayton means economic reconstruction and jobs, that she tended to
vacillate off message. There are some who think that it may have to do
also with the fact that, because Izetbegovic was a candidate, the last
of the wartime leaders, Serb nationalism also played a role here and
there was a feeling among some Serbs to want to have at least some kind
of countervailing symbolic presence because he really is a symbolic
presence in that regard, and they obviously sure wanted to get rid of
Krajisnik. And she didn't campaign a great deal because she's been ill
and I really think that has to be stressed. Mrs. Plavsic is a person I
know very well. She's 68 or so and she has a number of infirmities at
this point so she was not able to get out and campaign nearly as much
as Dodik and Radisic. But as I say, that thesis is totally undermined
by the fact that the SLOGA Coalition as a whole, which have been
carefully and clearly identified with the United States, improved their
QUESTION: You don't believe that there was any backlash of the sort of
clear monetary reward and punishment message that was sent out to them
by the Americans before the election?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Once again, the SLOGA Coalition increased their
QUESTION: Mrs. Plavsic herself --
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: No. Part of the problem turned out to be that
there was lower voter participation in the western part of Republika
Srpska -- that's another point, Norm -- much lower turnout in the west
where the SLOGA Coalition has greater representation than in the east.
Some of it they think was complacency, so there was only about 67%
turnout in the west compared to 85% in the east and that may have
played a factor.
But once again, what we're seeing, for example, Mrs. Plavsic told me
that in the city of Bieljina, where Secretary Albright met with the
three, her party increased its position quite substantially, so I think
that belies that. I really think this had to do with a number of other
QUESTION: The bottom line, though, hadn't you all expected a little
better showing for your candidates -- for lack of a better phrase --
and isn't there a degree of disappointment that elections didn't turn
out a little bit better?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Except for Plavsic, absolutely not. I'll tell
you, except for that one, and I make no bones about that, every one of
the other races, and I would challenge you to give me some other ideas
of any other ones, turned out exactly as we had hoped; of primary
importance was Radisic beating Krajisnik. I cannot emphasize to you
how important that is to us and to the future of the ability to
implement the joint institutions.
I have spent untold hours trying to explain to Krajisnik that you only
get one country code per country for telephones -- sorry; can't have
one for the Republika Srpska. You only get one air traffic control
system per country according to the International Civil Aviation
Authority. He blocked in negotiations that I led; he blocked the
development of the common currency for over a year. I forgot to bring
down a copy of the prototype of one bill he once he gave me that I
rejected, but this man, with his party in the parliament, blocked any
significant progress in the joint institutions, so we consider this to
be of extraordinary importance.
Second, in the R.S. assembly -- and I'm repeating myself, but I think
it's important given your question -- we were hoping for further
improvement in their position. It happened, and it happened within the
bounds of what we expected.
Third, the increased development of democratic pluralism -- it
happened. I didn't expect Izetbegovic was going to be defeated; we
certainly don't have a position there. We have a very constructive
relationship with President Izetbegovic; besides, he had no opposition.
And on the Croat side, we have every hope that we'll be able to work
with Antejelavic, the new member of the presidency and the head of the
HDZ party. But they certainly got -- with a 35-point drop in their
vote. That's extraordinary and it really should be an important
message to them in terms of the need for the fact of further pluralism
among the Croats. So I've got to tell you, one of my real frustrations
has been that the message that's been coming out has been that this has
been a great loss. Not true in the slightest. This has been an
QUESTION: You were fairly downbeat yourself about three or four days
ago in Bosnia, weren't you?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: No.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: I'm saying exactly what I'm saying now. I said
then what I'm saying now.
QUESTION: Well it wasn't picked out.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Well, I've learned a great deal about the media
in the last few years.
QUESTION: Why the sour grapes on this?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Well, you know, it beats me. Yes, we're
disappointed about Plavsic, of course. But once again, what's more
important is the increased margin that SLOGA has in the parliament;
that's where the power is and that's what's so important, and frankly,
Radisic's victory is the most critical victory we could've hoped for
because of the obstructionism which has existed over the last, almost 3
years; the last 34 months since Dayton in terms of developing the joint
institutions and developing the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Some people have accused me, in Bosnia, of ignoring development of the
state at the expense of working more on the entities, and my response
to them has always been I have to work with the entities because we
can't get anything through Krajisnik. Now we see an extraordinarily
positive set of opportunities here to make serious progress on the
future of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. So I'll tell you, George, I
don't know why this is coming out, but I am very, very pleased, but I'm
very frustrated about the way this is being written up.
QUESTION: What is your prognosis on the question of refugee returns?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Well, here's what we're going to do. There will
be a Contact Group meeting next week in Europe to talk about post-
election strategy. I spent a great deal of time with Carlos
Westendorp*, the High Representative, over the course of the last week
and we consider refugee returns and, most importantly, minority refugee
returns to be one of our very highest priority issues, as Secretary
Albright made clear when she was in Bosnia. And we intend, as she
said, to make sure that a great deal of our assistance is linked to
refugee returns in a broad sense.
We are examining all our aid for the future fiscal year. As she said,
aid is not an entitlement; it's a privilege, and we're going to try to
make sure that all of our assistance is geared to results across the
board with every group, with every degree of government. We're also
looking at a range of other issues for the future, but we think that
what exists now in the apparent post-election -- with the apparent
post-election results, gives us the basis for important continued
progress on Dayton implementation.
QUESTION: If Poplasen has the ability to nominate a Prime Minister --
isn't there at least the potential for him to be able to simply hold up
the governmental process in the hope of being able to skew it more in
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Here's the way it works. He has the ability to
nominate a Prime Minister, but if we take the SLOGA Coalition and the
Federation parties -- the Bosniacs and Croats -- they have the ability
to defeat him. Meanwhile, the existing government -- the Dodik
Government -- stays as the government. I cannot emphasize this point
enough. This is a parliamentary system; they stay in power. Think of
it as if Poplasen were in a relatively figurehead position like being
queen. The Queen designates -- this has no ulterior meaning -- the
Queen has the ability -- the Queen nominates the Prime Minister, right?
But here, parliamentarily, there is still a block that is large enough
that it represents a group of people who have formed the opposite
political spectrum. So he has -- so theoretically what can happen is
he would nominate a Prime Minister; SLOGA plus Federation parties
defeat that candidate. And that's what we think might very well
Meanwhile, Dodik and his government stay in office and the Republika
Srpska constitution is unequivocally clear about that. They have the
ability -- they are not a lame duck government; they have the ability
to continue to govern actively. And this is very important for the
future. Now at some point, he may decide to dissolve the Parliament --
that's what some people are already speculating. But remember, the
trend historically over the last few years for the hard-liners in the
Parliament has been increasingly downward. So he would be taking a
very important risk by doing that.
QUESTION: I think that part of the problem is that for the past year,
President Plavsic has been counted as such a crucial part of this whole
change in how Dayton might be implemented and now we're saying -- now
we're learning that her post actually isn't all that important.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: No -- Plavsic has been important for the reasons
that we were just discussing with your question. She has been
important because she made the break with Pale and she is in a position
to make that break. Remember back 18 months ago -- for those of you
who were born then -- what happened was she decided -- she had been
very close to Karadzic during the war and after the war. When Karadzic
was the President of the R.S., he had to leave the post when he was
indicted by the Hague Tribunal. They put her in because they though
she was safe. When she began to make the break, that really opened up
the territory for increasing democratic and pro-Dayton activities. So
in that sense, she has played and will continue to play, I believe, an
extremely important and positive role in her capacity as President of
the SLOGA Coalition. But her key role here is that she really lead the
charge to make -- for the people of the Republika Srpska and the
politicians to make the break with Pale. That was critically
important, and as you know, I was working very closely with her on
I don't down play her role for a second; to the contrary. I just said
to her Wednesday in my last discussion with her, that she has played an
absolutely -- the absolutely most essential role in making the break
with Pale and opening the R.S. to a better life and we fully expect her
to continue to do that.
[End of Document]
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