When German politician Christian Schmidt took over as High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina in August 2021, a debate began in BiH and countries in the region on the legality and legitimacy of his appointment.
In addition to RS officials and some political analysts, the narrative of Schmidt’s alleged illegitimacy is being promoted by numerous media outlets in BiH and the region.
In dozens of articles published after Schmidt’s appointment, this politician is referred to as an “illegitimate” or “fake” High Representative and/or is claimed to have been “illegally elected”.
SCHMIDT IS STRONGER! Fake High Representative Talks About the Republic of Srpska Army (Alo, November 23, 2021)
Illegally elected High Representative in BiH openly sided with Bosniaks (Online news, November 4, 2021)
A significant number of articles challenging Schmidt’s legitimacy have been written in the form of news (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). In some cases, the phrase “illegitimately elected” is added to the statements of individuals who have not used it in their address.
An article published on the website Glas Srpske on September 14, 2021, shared an “upgraded” statement of the member of the Presidency of BiH Zeljko Komsic on the meeting with Christian Schmidt:
BiH Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic said in Sarajevo today that (illegitimately elected) “High Representative in BiH Christian Schmidt does not yet have a complete picture of the situation in BiH”, and that he may have come up with prejudices that, as he says, do not correspond to reality.
After the meeting with Schmidt, Komsic said that they disagreed on solutions for changes to the Election Law.
What are the facts?
The Office of the High Representative (OHR) is an ad hoc international institution responsible for overseeing the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The High Representative’s role, as stated on the OHR’s website, has been established in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the High Representative is working with the citizens and institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina is developing into a peaceful and sustainable democratic country, on the path to integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The OHR’s website also explains what conditions the BiH authorities need to meet for the OHR to close and what is the 5 + 2 program. Namely, the Political Directors of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), at a meeting in Brussels in 2008, identified five goals and two requirements that BiH authorities need to meet before closing the Office of the High Representative. As explained on the OHR’s website, the Peace Implementation Council consists of 55 countries and organizations that support the peace process in various ways. The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council, chaired by the High Representative, functions as the executive body of the PIC.
The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council appointed Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 27, 2021, after former High Representative Valentin Inzko resigned.
The resignation took effect on August 1, 2021. Schmidt officially took office on the same day, despite protests from the Republic of Srpska officials.
As a reason for not recognizing the new High Representative in BiH, RS officials and some media outlets say the UN Security Council has not confirmed Schmidt’s appointment. They think that makes him illegitimate.
However, this view is not based on facts.
In the analysis published on June 7, 2021, it is stated that it’s true that the UN Security Council did not confirm Schmidt’s appointment, but it was explained that this does not make Schmidt illegitimate or “illegally elected”, as this is not a condition for appointing a high representative of the international community in BiH.
Although it has happened several times that the UN Security Council has decided on the election of the High Representative, it has also happened that the Council does not confirm the appointment of the High Representative:
However, the lack of confirmation from the UN Security Council is unprecedented, as is the case in 2005, when Christian Schwarz-Schilling was elected High Representative. Namely, the outgoing High Representative Paddy Ashdown informed the UN Secretary-General in writing that Schwarz-Schilling would hold this post from 31 January 2006, and that he was informed “that this information should be forwarded to the Security Council for consideration and possible reaching an agreement”.
Moreover, there is no defined procedure for electing the High Representative, and not even the first incumbent, Carl Bildt, has been appointed by the UN Security Council.
Thus, although there have been cases when the Security Council also voted on the election of the High Representative, there is no legal basis for this practice. Therefore the statements of high officials about the lack of legitimacy of Christian Schmidt are questionable.
An analysis of Istinomjer from June last year states that the first High Representative, Carl Bildt, was appointed to this position in 1995 by the conclusion of the 18th Peace Implementation Conference in BiH, after which the UN Security Council agreed with this conclusion. Other high representatives were appointed by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council. The UN was also informed about these decisions.
Therefore, there is no clearly defined procedure for appointing a High Representative. The fact that Schmidt’s appointment was not confirmed by the UN Security Council does not make him “illegitimate” or “illegally elected”.
Given all the facts, we rate the media claims that Schmidt is “illegitimate”, “illegally elected”, or “fake” High Representative of the international community in BiH, as manipulation of facts.