In an interview with Balkans Post, Mladen Dragojlović said Bosnia and Herzegovina have the problem with the illegal weapons, which is in the arms of citizens.
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
BP: How do you see Saudi Arabia donation to BiH after the war to reconstruct infrastructures and make Bosnia as an arms warehouse to keep his surplus weapons? Now Bosnia has 17,000 tons of surplus weapons kept in 12 warehouses across the country. Do you see this kind of dealing may destabilize the country or the whole Balkan region?
Saudi Arabia is just one of many countries that donated the significant amount to BiH in order to maintain warehouses for weapons and ammunition surplus. The fact that we have 17 000 tons in 12 warehouses is not surprising since BiH had much more after the war. The biggest part of that weapon will be destroyed in the future as it was the case with tons of the weapon before. Those weapons are not the problem because it is under control, institutions know where it is, how much is there, in which conditions it is stored and everything is transparent.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have the problem with the illegal weapons, which is in the arms of citizens. Many ex-soldiers after the war, in a situation of complete chaos, took their gun to the house and hid it for the eventual next war. Some of them took several AK-s and hundreds of pieces of the ammunition. State institutions and international community undertake several actions to convince these citizens that they can handover the guns without punishment. Many of them did it but a certain amount of weapons is still hidden through the country. That weapon is a real threat for peace and stability in Bosnia and the entire region.
BP: Bosnia is struggling to cope with the arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees. More than a million migrants came to Europe in 2015. The so-called Balkan route into Western Europe via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia was shut in 2016 when Turkey agreed to stop the flow in return for EU aid. What's your take on this issue?
A year ago the problem of migrants, for BiH politicians, police and security agencies was something they have just to observe. Nobody at the time did even think that the “Bosnian route” can be open and that the state will have the problem with citizens from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. After all other routes over Balkan were closed, the most logical thing was to realize that migrants will try to reach EU countries over Bosnia. Again, politicians, police and security agencies did nothing to prepare for their arrival. When first migrants illegally crossed the border and entered the country, their number shocked many of those responsible to deal with them. It is clear that migrants, over 90% of them, do not want to stay in Bosnia and are trying to continue the trip to the “bright future on the West”. The incompetence of Bosnian institutions is visible through the fact that Border police, Foreign Citizens Service and Ministry of Security have different data about the number of migrants at this moment in BiH. How many of more than 13 thousand, who entered BiH since the beginning of the year, are still in the country and how many of them illegally crossed Croatian border – nobody knows.
My personal opinion is that BiH must do anything to help them to be secure, with medical help, food and the roof over the head as long as they are in the state.
BP: Recently Bosnia and Iran vow joint struggle against extremists. How would the commitment look like?
Two years ago, during the official visit of the BiH presidency member, Bakir Izetbegović, to Iran, one of the topics was the joint battle against terrorism and extremism. In some recent statements, the countries also expressed the will to fight terrorism and extremism. But, it seems that everything is just declarative cooperation, that there are much more fields to cooperate and that this fight was left to wait better days. Iran and BiH intelligence cooperation have the turbulent history because Vevak (The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran), along with Bosniak institutions, established the training camp deep in the Bosnian forest. International forces broke in the camp „Podgorica“ in 1996, and discovered that the trainers were Iranian intelligence officers and trainees were Bosniak officers. The discussion on the question was that terrorist or counter-terrorist training, are still ongoing.
Definition of extremism is well known but it is necessary to define who extremists are and whom BiH and Iran will fight. Do not forget that for one group the extremists are somebody who must be “deradicalized” but, at the same time, for other groups are heroes and freedom fighters.
BP: Bosnian Serb leader has accused US embassy in Sarajevo for meddling in the upcoming election and countering Russian influence in the region. What is your opinion about foreign campaigns which may affect the election?
Republika Srpska president, Milorad Dodik, accused US Embassy in Sarajevo for everything, not just for meddling in the election process. A long time ago, on his career beginning, he was “US man in Bosnia” and US politicians called him the “new wind on Balkan”. But, in just a few years he became the “Russian man in Bosnia” and many US politicians consider him a real threat to peace in BiH. Bosnia and Herzegovina, because of the geostrategic position, is interesting for many countries and they are trying to bring their “trusted politicians” on power. The full price for these games is paying citizens who are stuck between bad and worse government.
BP: Has the US foreign policy toward Bosnia been changed since Trump took office?
US foreign policy is something defined in many documents and the US President is not here to change it than to implement it. After Donald Trump took the office in White House, many in BiH waited for big changes, Dodik, for instance, expected US Ambassador, Maureen Cormack, fast departure and that the new administration will lift the sanctions against him, imposed by former president Barrack Obama government. That has not happened and, moreover, his party vice-president Nikola Špirić joined Dodik on the “blacklist”.
It is clear that BiH will be again important for US administration but not before they evaluate all US interests in this part of the world. So, I do not expect big changes.
BP: How do you evaluate NATO enlargement in the Balkans and also the future of Bosnia in NATO?
I do not think that NATO is something very bad for BiH since it can impose the rules and system in one part of the society. NATO is now far away from the former Alliance. I see it as a cooperation organization but without the obligations in mutual defense of the members. Why is it possible to expect that US soldiers will come to help Montenegro in its conflict with, for example, Croatia? I think that NATO is now more interest organization and that membership can be good for BiH. On the other side, NATO during wars in exYu countries bombed Republika Srpska and later Serbia without the permission of the UN Security Council. This is something that Serbs will never forget. But, if the benefit of the membership over cross filings of the Serbs, the NATO will be welcome in entire BiH.
Mladen Dragojlović is an Independent Balkan News Agency (IBNA) correspondent to Bosnia and Herzegovina.