The High Representative today announced a Decision to suspend the decision
renaming Sarajevo International Airport.
He said that in the coming ten days he will announce a procedure to ensure
that all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s international airports can only be renamed
after broad consultation and approval by competent BiH institutions at the state
At the same time, he sharply condemned as “offensive” a letter released by
Presidency Member Paravac today to the High Representative for Common Foreign
and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the EU Javier Solana.
Following the Decision, the High Representative made the following
“I am announcing today a Decision I have taken after a great deal of
reflection and thought, after close consultation with my colleagues on the Peace
Implementation Council Steering Board.
It is one of the most difficult Decisions I have taken in my time here, for
as everyone knows, and as I said at his funeral in October 2003, I have great
respect for Alija Izetbegovic, whom I regarded as a friend and whom I
acknowledged as the father of his people and recognized as a brave and
resourceful leader of his country.
As you are aware, several key ambassadors have today already expressed their
deep concern about the recent decision to rename Bosnia and Herzegovina’s main
international airport and the airport that serves its capital. I have
discussed this issue with them this afternoon, I have today decided to take the
difficult, but necessary Decision to suspend the renaming of Sarajevo
The decision to rename Sarajevo International Airport, in a multi-ethnic
country like Bosnia and Herzegovina that has been through a tragic war, will not
contribute to the reconciliation process, but rather will undermine it.
It will not add to the respect for Sarajevo as BiH’s capital, it will
diminish it; it will not help in the commercial development of BiH’s premier
airport it will damage it.
If Bosnia and Herzgovina’s international character is to be beyond dispute,
its international airports must be named in a manner that ensures they are
beyond dispute in the country as a whole and have the support of all the
constituent peoples and Others. Our international airports are the international
face of the country, which means that their naming should reflect basic
consensus on which BiH, uniquely, is founded.
If we want to build the multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina that Alija
Izetbegovic always told me was his dream, then we have to recognize that it is
too early for a decision such as this. Some day I hope and believe that the time
will be right for this decision – but that time has not yet
The main airport of a country, in particular when its
serves the capital city has a unique and special significance. Citizens of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of where they reside in Bosnia and
Herzegovina and their ethnicity, have a right to land in their capital, at an
airport which represents a consensus and which makes them feel proud and pleased
to come home.
My original view was that this was a decision best left to the domestic
authorities. But these domestic authorities have completely ignored advice given
at the highest level to reconsider what was potentially an unwise decision and I
now fear that the consequences could undermine the smooth running of BiH
For these reasons, I have today decided to suspend the decision on renaming
the Sarajevo International Airport.
In the next ten days I will be announcing a new procedure to ensure that all
of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s international airports can only be renamed in a
transparent manner, with genuine consultation and with the approval of a
competent BiH institution at state level that includes representatives from all
constituent peoples across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I cannot finish this statement without condemning in the strongest terms the
letter released this afternoon from President Paravac to the High Representative
and Secretary General, Dr Solana. This letter is offensive, contentious and
highly inappropriate to send to Dr Solana. I hope that President Paravac will
reconsider and withdraw his letter.
As I said of Alija Izetbegovic at his funeral on October 22, 2003, “It
is not given to many to achieve such things in a single lifetime. And it is
given to none who are ordinary.”
My opinion of Alija Izetbegovic has not changed one iota since then. However,
I am obliged to take care of the interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole,
including those institutions that define its international character, when the
political establishment of this country has so clearly failed to do so.
I am aware that this Decision will be very unpopular to some and very
unwelcome to many. But I do this in interests of all the citizens of this
country and in the clear belief that this is the right thing to