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Official launching of Brcko District

By Sgt. William Wilczewski
First published in

SFOR Informer #83, March 15, 2000

Brcko - The official launching of the Brcko District to a united Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) took place March 8 at the municipal building in downtown Brcko.

The highly-contested area of Brcko was the only territorial issue left unresolved in the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement and was subject to a lengthy process of arbitration.

Presiding over the ceremony was Robert Farrand, special supervisor of Brcko, who began by quoting OHR's first High Representative Carl Bilt as saying Brcko was the "mother of all difficulties." Farrand proudly went on to say that "now we can call Brcko the mother of all hope."

Brcko's deciding arbitrator, Robert Owen, was also on hand, and was congratulated for all of his efforts in bringing closure to the district's predicament. Joining him was Ambassador Wolfgang Pietritsch, OHR's current High Representative; Chris Patton, European Union Commissioner for External Relations; Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State; Head of the Tri-Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic; and other Tri-Presidency members, Zivko Radasic and Ante Jelavic.

On this happy occasion Pietritsch urged all leaders to realise that "economic growth must be self-sustaining with an investment driven economy." He also expressed his confidence that Brcko would "realise its great economic potential."

Patton described the day's events as "a new chapter," which provides new challenges and opportunity. "Brcko is a symbol for the rest of the country," he said, adding that some people may question if peace is possible in the area. He replied, "Why not? Sure there are obstacles and history, but what about the potential? The eyes of the world are on you." He also added that the local community would not be alone. "The European Union will be shoulder to shoulder with you," he said.

Albright echoed the sentiment and called the launching a milestone and a sign that "we are heading away from bitterness and towards co-operation." This day is proof that irreconcilable problems can be overcome, said Albright. "Failure is not an option."

At approximately 2:59 p.m. Farrand declared the launching official and passed the stage to Izetbegovic who promised to do his utmost to maintain the peace and stability in the district of Brcko.

Prior to this historical occasion, over 2,500 pieces of various armaments were destroyed as part of the Entity Armed Forces (EAF) compliance with SFOR directives to demilitarise Brcko. Disbandment and relocation of select units had also occurred, fulfilling all three components of the arbitration rulings.