The Hon. Ana Trišić-Babić (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina)

07.11.2009 - Interview conducted by Max Marioni & Izelle Wagner

Ana Trišić-Babić, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina has had a long and distinguished political career, including serving as President of the Republic for Republika Srpska, an autonomous component of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She now believes such autonomy should be set aside, in favour of a new integrated vision. At the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy’s World Without Walls event, Babic presented a speech entitled, Euro-Atlantic perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which she touched upon the history and the break-up of Yugoslavia, the future and prospective EU membership. Afterwards, she kindly granted the ICD news team an interview in which she discussed the ongoing issues in former-Yugoslav countries, and the importance of cultural diplomacy in the region.

You clearly have come as a representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina rather than the Republika Srpska. In fact you mentioned the Republika Srpska once, does this mean you see further integration as the keys to Bosnia’s future rather than continuing with the same federal structure that exists at the moment, or even separation to two different states?

I am from the Republika Srpska, that is my hometown, but for eight years I have been working for the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is my state, our state. The Dayton agreement, which brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina created the Republika Srpska. It is still not defined as a federal unit, but let’s say it is pretty much one of the federal units in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today it is often said that the Republika Srpska want to lead Bosnia and Herzegovina, this is not true. But the Republika Srpska citizens who are living there are in a Republika Srpska which was created and named by outsiders. It was the way to stop the war. The citizens who are living in Republika Srpska want to participate fully in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they want to share Bosnia and Herzegovina with other citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also want to be appreciated like equal citizens because that is what they are. Everyone is equal in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A comparison comes to mind with Kosovo, although the situation was slightly different. What is your opinion about the declaration of independence? Do you think there were other viable options?

The best option would have been if Belgrade and Pristina had come to an agreement together. Bosnia and Herzegovina do not recognise Kosovo, and we will not talk about the recognition of Kosovo. We still hope that they will find an agreement. Personally I am very sorry the international community did not wait a little bit and let the new government in Belgrade find a compromise with Pristina and try to solve the problem. The international community wasted a lot of time waiting to see if the problem of Kosovo would be solved. When a new young democratic generation came into power in Serbia, for example President Tadic they should have given more time to Serbia and Belgrade to find a solution in Kosovo. Kosovo will now be the obstacle in the region for long time. To me as a lawyer who understands international law, this is not really an explanation and could set a dangerous precedent.

How important do you think the promotion of culture is and more specifically cultural diplomacy in the region?

This is the most important thing. I would always put cultural diplomacy first. If you have good political relations you need to have cultural understanding. I strongly believe this, because the lack of knowledge and understanding of other cultural regions is a source of conflict, conflict, which could be reduced through greater cultural understanding. Through cultural diplomacy I think conflicts, and even war, will become a lot easier to solve. I would put culture in first place in this respect, but if you have culture as the number one thing then we need to be rich, because you need to pay for culture. But we should find soft power solutions and cultural exchanges. I think it is important first of all for children to understand different cultures and religions, and I think this is an area we should focus on.

Thank you very much.