Edward Ferguson

Edward Ferguson

British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Part of UK in Bosnia and Herzegovina

18th August 2015


During my first year here, I have been struck by just how much political energy in the RS is spent on worrying about imagined threats to its continued existence. Political speeches have little to say about the really serious problems facing ordinary people in Republika Srpska, and across BiH, with a struggling economy, high unemployment and rampant corruption. Instead, a picture is painted of an RS beset by enemies, domestic or foreign. This is the politics of insecurity, not of hope. But this insecurity is at least excessive and, in my view, needless.

The reality is that there is no threat to the continued existence of the RS.  Yes, there are occasional calls by Bosniaks, Croats or others for its abolition. But these are just as unacceptable as Serb attempts to undermine the State judicial institutions or to promote secession.  Under Dayton, BiH is a country of two Entities and, with the UK and our partners as guarantors of the Peace Agreement, that’s how it will stay.

Ok, so it’s true that, in the past, we have seen the transfer of some competences from the Entities to the State, with the support of the international community. There were, and there remain, good reasons for that, which is why these changes were endorsed at the time by the BiH Parliament, and the Serb representatives in it.  Objectively speaking, there are still strong arguments in favour of more centralisation in certain areas. Done well, it would strengthen coherence, raise standards and improve efficiency. It would reduce the focus on ethnicity, and increase the focus on effective service delivery.

But – and this is the important bit – we, together with our EU and US partners, have said very clearly that we are not going to impose a centralising agenda. We are prepared to work with the system as it is, not as we might like it to be.

If you don’t believe me, look at our actions. Through the UK/German initiative, now the EU strategy, we have been absolutely consistent and clear that reforms should be implemented by the appropriate levels of government, in line with their constitutional competences. And the lion’s share of the work falls to the Entities, not to the State. I was there when the British and German Foreign Ministers gave this assurance very clearly to leading politicians on all sides. And it’s there, repeatedly, in the Written Commitment – signed by political leaders, and endorsed by Parliament.

It’s also quite clear from the Reform Agenda itself, which was finally agreed by the RS Government on 24 July. The State and Federation Governments had been ready and waiting since June, and the Federation Government was quick to respond, successfully passing the long-awaited new labour law. We hope and expect that the RS Government will now follow suit as quickly as possible, which will open the door to over a billion euros of financial support to BiH from the EU and the IMF.

It is fantastic that we now have an ambitious and positive reform agenda on the table. They won’t be easy or pain-free, but these reforms are desperately needed to stabilise the economy, to create new jobs, particularly for young people, and to strengthen the justice system.

Implementing the reforms will take leadership, courage and focus.  That’s good, because hopefully there will be less time and energy for the political rivalries that have held this country back, while its neighbours have moved ahead towards the EU and NATO.

The reform agenda holds out the prospect of a new, more cooperative and constructive politics in BiH. Its successful implementation will need everyone to realise that the only secure, prosperous and European future for the citizens of the RS lies within a secure, prosperous and European BiH. And, by the same token, that the only way that BiH can succeed is if all its citizens are working together, for the benefit of everyone – whether they live in the Federation or in the RS.

Let’s be clear. Accepting the entity structure in BiH doesn’t mean that nothing will change. Costs must be cut because the public sector is unaffordable. And if BiH is to join the EU, as we all hope it will, then change is inevitable. At some point, that will include constitutional change, just as it has done for other recent EU members like Croatia. Dayton was never designed to be set in stone.  But the point is that these changes can only be made by constitutional means. Which means that the RS has not just a vote, but a veto – albeit one that I hope will in future be used more sparingly and responsibly. In other words, the RS will endure unless it decides to vote itself out of existence. I for one can’t see that happening in the foreseeable future, so perhaps everyone can afford to relax a bit.

RS President Dodik said recently that the international community should accept reality. That we should stop denying the RS. And that in return the RS will not deny BiH.  Fine.  We accept reality. We support the right of the RS to exist, as we have said many times before. More than that, we want it to succeed and to thrive, together with the rest of BiH, and we’re ready to help it to do so.  So I sincerely hope that the RS will now drop this unnecessary and unconstitutional referendum. And that we can get on and work constructively together on the reforms, including in the justice sector, which we all agree are so urgently needed.


  1. This article is a classical propaganda and I didn’t except anything else from the embassy. You are doing a great (propaganda) job.

    @Lord Sarajevo
    Did you made up that by yourself or someone helped you?
    Actually you must be working for the embassy or something because it fits to the views of the embassy and Muslim-Croatian views of Republika Srpska. In your comment you really showed that you hate Serbs from the bottom of the heart and that you are very passioned about spreading the anti-serbian propaganda.

    No metter how hard you assaulted all the Serbian people with your comment I still don’t hate you or people who support your views and share the propaganda. I guess that’s the only difference between us, no metter what you do to us we can’t hate.

    Have a nice day and stop spreading the propaganda but solving a real word’s problem, that would be better for all of us.

  2. @ Bosnian Serb from Banja Luka

    For 20 years – majority of Bosnian population has accepted Serbian entity in BuH and there was no significant political or military movement against it. We were never asked if we wanted it in 1995 by referendum as in Northern Ireland and in their peace process was the case. No amount of political appeasement has done us any good by now and it never will, since minority Serbian population in BuH wants to be part of Serbia, and wants to join Russian military CSTO Treaty. They can do that, but in Serbia – their national state, and not in Bosnia where they share land with others as minority.
    In democracy – majority population and its will decide, and minorities do not get to rule whole countries like South African white minority ruled over black majority and now RS rules over Bosnia and forces us away from our USA, NATO and EU allies.

    End result of 20 years of forced acceptance of RS is referendum about judicial branch of the government, and soon referendum on independence of Serb entity, covertly supported by Serbia and openly supported by Russian Imperial bear. Feed the wolf, and it will eat you in the end.

    Forged in genocidal war, only way for Serb entity to survive in a long term is war. I sincerely hope that there will be no new war in Bosnia, but we both know that majority Bosnian population will not accept independence of RS. Our goal never was and never will be small European Palestine broken in two enclaves (Sarajevo and Bihac pocket) with Islamic rule, but modern democratic state of equal opportunities and chances for all people regardless of origin and creed, part of NATO and EU.

    Who will win ? Serbs do not have upper hand any more, and it is not very likely that force is solution to problems in Bosnia. One thing is sure. So long majority of Bosnian population (60 % at least) is supporting idea of Bosnian state – it will not fail. We are too numerous and powerful to be defeated. You have tasted our fierce battle morale once, and have every reason to fear it now that there is balance of power.

    It is your very cheap tactics to portray Bosnians as “Muslims”. It is even severely racist and anti-democratic. You talk like some sort of Serb-Russian orthodox christian extremist version of ISIS.
    A lot of us are NOT Muslims. I am for instance atheist as Richard Dawkins is, and I am ardent supporter of USA and UK like not many in the world. Majority of our population is either atheist or very traditionally Muslim without even a trace of Islamic Extremism, besides some Christians and Jews too. After all persecutions – out of people of two millions – only several hundred have succumbed to lies of Islamic extremist and joined them, and few thousand live in their illusions.
    Intelligence community of western countries knows this better than I do.
    Every major west European city has more Islamic extremists living there than whole of Bosnia.

    In 400 years of Ottoman “Muslim” rule, Orthodox Christians have thrived here and were even for some time majority of population in Bosnia. In less than 4 years all non-Serbs were expelled or killed in RS (including Catholic and other Christian).
    Where is you mercy for Christian population of BuH ?
    Our 400 years of compassion and mercy, and your 4 years of genocide.

    Bosnian state is actively fighting Islamic terrorism, our troops support Afghanistan and Iraq allied war effort, our emigrants the most integrated in the West, a lot of us invest a lot of time and effort in daily fight against lies of Islamic extremist and we will indeed see which side will USA and others take !

    For your information – Serbia was no ally of British Empire in 2nd World War, but collaborator state like Vichy France led by collaborator general Milan Nedic. General Nedic was proud to inform Adolf Hitler that Serbia has in December 1941 become first “Jew free state” in Europe, after genocide committed on Serbian Jews by Serbian police apparatus by mobile gas chambers. Until Red Army came to Serbia 1944 – Germans were safe in Serbia, but not in Bosnia.

    Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 1st Baronet of British Empire has uncovered the truth about Serbian collaboration and has moved Sir Winston Churchill into supporting Tito and communist partisans (coming from all nations of ex-Yugoslavia) and not Serbia and Chetniks.

  3. Dear Ambassador,

    no need to say anything else, except, please read the comments bellow this very blog post.

    Your basic assumption here is that Serb live in an imaginary world and fear from something that doesn’t exist at all – the continuous attempts from Sarajevo to abolish RS. Therefore you address your massage at Republika Srpska, by saying “It’s there to stay.”

    Wrong address, Mr Ferguson. The message is good, but you are speaking to the wrong people. Please, try to speak to Bosnian politicians, academics and people. They are the ones in need to be convinced in this message. Hatred against Republika Srpska is not just a main political agenda in Sarajevo, it has become a main national myth and identity in the Bosnian population.

    Try to convince them to accept RS and everything will change.

    But I doubt you’ll manage to do so, even if you try. This country is going to fail. And you’ll see it with your own eyes, most probably. It’s only questions who is going to win – us or them.

    And don’t be so sure that the population of the UK, or your Government, or many other European governments, are going to support the Bosnian side when it comes to the final dissolution of BiH. Serbs were the allies of the UK in both Great wars, for God’s sake, and Muslims are committing terrorist attracts in Paris, London, Madrid and elsewhere in EU. Popular opinion about Muslims in general is turning around. I doubt Bosnians are enjoining the same level of understanding as in ’90.

    And finally, if Scotland has a right to vote about its stay in the UK, or if UK itself has a right on referendum about EU, why shouldn’t Republika Srpska have the same right to vote to leave Bosnia?

    As a true representative of an oldest democracy in the world, and an official of a Serbian Ally from two Great wars, I hope you’re going to support it, when the time comes.

    Best regards!

  4. No – we can not move on. Entity based system has utterly and totally failed to be a basis for a long term future and political stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That was expected and has proven that democracy had no political alternative in BuH. Every minority rule system is flawed and will fail sooner or later. We should all rejoice in that since failure of “entities” announces new era and new political solutions in our country.

    There is nothing you or anybody can do to endear Bosnian state to radicalised Bosnian Serb political elite as well as delusional RS population empowered by Russian support and 200 years long Serbian agenda to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    Serbian preparations for referendum about judicial branch of the government go as they go, and soon after that independence referendum will be set in motion.

    If you think that majority of Bosnian population will accept independence of Russian-Serbian puppet paramilitary-state RS you live in a land of dreams.

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