On May 27, 2021, the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) appointed Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Republic of Srpska (RS), as well as many of its officials, have since tried to dispute his legitimacy and legality, refusing to recognize him as High Representative.
The day after Schmidt’s appointment, on May 28, officials from the Republic of Srpska spoke out and expressed their dissatisfaction, arguing that the manner in which the appointment was made was unacceptable because, according to RS’ President Zeljka Cvijanovic, it was inconsistent with the Dayton Peace Accords. BiH Presidency Member and SNSD President Milorad Dodik said that the Republic of Srpska does not accept the appointment of a new High Representative in this way, and announced that his decisions will not be respected in the Republic of Srpska, according to an article by Deutsche Welle from May 28, 2021.
Deutsche Welle’s article also states that Russia, which is part of the PIC, has disagreed with the appointment of Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative in BiH. Russia, together with China, previously created a resolution calling for the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and according to an article by the Radio Free Europe, published in July 22, 2021, the UN Security Council rejected the resolution.
Apart from Russia, China is another country that supports the positions of the Republic of Srpska and its officials regarding the non-recognition of Christian Schmidt as the High Representative.
Despite protests from the Republic of Srpska, Russia and China, Schmidt officially took over as High Representative in BiH on August 1, 2021. However, the Republic of Srpska and its officials, as well as Russia and China, still do not accept it.
The argument used by senior officials, as well as political analysts and the media, to dispute the legality and legitimacy of Schimdt’s position is that Schmidt’s appointment was not confirmed by the UN Security Council. However, the refutation of Schmidt’s legitimacy as a High Representative in BiH is unfounded.
A fact-checking website Istinomjer, analyzing the statements of high officials, such as Milorad Dodik and Milan Tegeltija, wrote on several occasions (1, 2, 3) about the appointment of Christian Schmidt as a High Representative.
An analysis by Istinomjer, published in June this year, states that it is true that this appointment was not confirmed by the UN Security Council, but it is not true that it makes Schmidt illegitimate, as it is not a condition for appointing a High Representative. The Security Council did decide on the election of the High Representative in several cases, but it also happened that the Council did not confirm the appointment of the High Representative:
However, the lack of confirmation from the UN Security Council is not a precedent, as is the case in 2005, when Christian Schwarz-Schilling was elected as a High Representative. Namely, the outgoing High Representative Paddy Ashdown informed the UN Secretary-General in writing that Schwarz-Schilling would hold this position 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, and therefore the statements of high officials about the lack of legitimacy of Christian Schmidt are questionable.
In the analysis, it is explained that on May 27, former High Representative Valentin Inzko resigned from the position, and that on the same day in Sarajevo, PIC Steering Board ambassadors officially appointed Christian Schmidt as the next High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after being nominated for the position by Germany.
Given the fact that the Russian Federation and the Republic of China have been trying to dispute Schmidt’s legitimacy as a High Representative for months, we investigated how Sputnik, a Russian state media outlet that publishes content in Serbian, reported on the issue.
Sputnik is a media that publishes its content on a website, broadcasts news and has its own radio program. Sputnik is headquartered in Moscow and has several offices worldwide, including Belgrade.
Immediately after taking office, Schmidt’s legitimacy was not questioned on the website of Sputnik. In 14 articles, published from August 2, 2021, to September 9, 2021, Schmidt is called “the new high representative”, although several articles stressed that he was not recognized by Russia, China and the Republic of Srpska (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).
However, since mid-September, in articles published on the website of Sputnik, the epithet “so-called” has been frequently added to the new High Representative, and his legitimacy and legality have been disputed in other ways. On Sputnik, since September, Schmidt has been called a “so-called high representative”, “a tourist”, “a private citizen”, “illegitimate” and similar things.
Schmidt was described as “the so-called High Representative” in 22 articles published on the website of Sputnik, from September 9, 2021, to December 23, 2021. Most articles are published in the form of news. Some of the articles refer to the transmission of statements of various officials, but also analysts, while some present the media claims of Sputnik’s journalists themselves.
So, for example, an article published in November 11, 2021, which shares the statement of the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, states the following:
In an interview with the Sarajevo website Klix, Maas said that he would consider individual measures against those who question the country’s territorial integrity.
“In this regard, we are very closely in agreement with our partners, within the EU, but also with the Americans and the British”, Maas said.
The head of German diplomacy says that the so-called High Representative Christian Schmidt plays a key role, that he should strengthen state institutions at all levels and supervise the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
In the article on the Klix website, from which this news was taken, Christian Schmidt was called the High Representative in BiH, and the epithet “so-called” was later added in Sputnik’s article.
In addition to the claims made by the website, it is possible to find a number of articles on Sputnik that quote statements from officials from the Republic of Srpska and Russia, as well as political analysts who hold the same position. In these articles, interlocutors call Schmidt “a tourist”, “a citizen”, “illegitimate”, and similar things, while Sputnik puts such constructions of the interlocutor in the foreground and often singles them out in the title.
The fact that many interlocutors in Sputnik’s articles take the same position on this issue also speaks of reporting bias. They do not invite interlocutors whose position deviates from the one promoted by the Republic of Srpska and Russia.
Statements by officials who do not dispute Schmidt’s legitimacy are rarely published on this website. When such statements are found on the website, Sputnik in such articles also adds epithets such as “so-called” when mentioning the function of High Representative, although this is a position not represented by the actors of the articles (link, link), who do not use these constructions in their statements.
Based on the articles about the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina available in the Serbian language and published by Sputnik, it is clear that this media represents the views of the Republic of Srpska, supported by Russia and China, completely ignoring certain facts and all other opinions.