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BIPR | 50 years in Diplomacy, 20 years in the Balkans, Lessons Learned
50 years in Diplomacy, 20 years in the Balkans, Lessons Learned

February 23, 2023 - 11:30

Ambassador Valentin Inzko, Former High Representative and EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria

Event Recap

Ambassador Valentin Inzko began his position in the Office of the High Representative in 2009 and remained until 2021. In his presentation he provides a series of lessons learned during his diplomatic career and several recommendations for improving the political situation in the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in particular.

Ambassador Inzko uses his wealth of experience in diplomacy to identify important skills, traits, and lessons which students interested in diplomacy should prioritize. First, Ambassador Inzko advises that diplomats never leave a mission before it is completed, and not to be ashamed of staying for a long period. Using the example of American withdrawal from Afghanistan, he compares early termination of a mission to taking away crutches from a person not yet healed enough to walk: they will collapse.

Second, Ambassador Inzko reminds students that frozen conflicts do not remain frozen forever. A good diplomat works on the conflict even while its frozen, even if it is more comfortable to take a less active role. Additionally, it is critical to stay ahead of developments. A good diplomat will not discover a trend, because by the time it is discovered it is already over. Next, confrontation is inevitable, and it is important to prepare for disagreement. The Ambassador recommends relying on facts and history, acting without too much emotion, and standing strong by one's perspective when confrontation does occur. Ambassador Inzko also emphasizes having a "fleet" to support negotiations. Force and strength are essential to successful negotiations.

Next, the Ambassador emphasizes offering solutions to problems as well as analysis. Producing good ideas and being imaginative leads to success. Additionally, diplomats should not hesitate to speak the truth about their opinions, even if it means pushing back against superiors. Many offices have internal pathways to express dissent, and diplomats should not hesitate to use them. Finally, Ambassador Inzko encourages students to accept hard posts, engage in cultural work, and get to know posting sites outside of embassy walls. This will earn respect and build a diplomat's understanding of the situation on the ground.

Ambassador Inzko finishes with a focus on BiH and the Balkans. He introduces a few ideas that he believes could improve the situation there. First, strict implementation of rule of law: many laws in BiH and the region are adopted but not implemented, which is a major obstacle to stability and lasting peace. Second, he recommends mimicking the Franco-German reconciliation policy that brought two enemies of Europe into strong friendship. Third, immediately implementing a Eurozone in the Balkans, without EU accession. Bosnian currency is already strictly pegged to the Euro, and the region's economies are too small to have any major impact on the rest of the Eurozone.

Ambassador Inzko places large responsibility for the bad luck of the Balkans on the shoulders of its leaders but believes that with production and implementation of good ideas, better leadership, and a strong civil society, luck could turn in favor of the region.

Full Audio:

50 years in Diplomacy, 20 years in the Balkans, Lessons Learned

hosted by Professor Justin O. Frosini

Ambassador Valentin Inzko
Former High Representative and EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria

Ambassador Valentin Inzko is an Austrian diplomat. From 2009 to 2021 he served as UN High Representative in Bosnia Herzegovina and simultaneously as EU Special Representative. Inzko has been involved in Southeast European diplomacy since 1981, when he joined the Austrian Foreign Ministry and began working for the department responsible for relations with the region. He was assigned to the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade from 1982 to 1986 and in 1992 headed the OSCE Mission in Sandzak. From 1996 to 1999 Inzko served as the first resident Austrian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in this capacity was responsible for establishing the Austrian embassy in Sarajevo. Based in Vienna from 1999 to 2005, Inzko headed the Austrian Foreign Ministry department responsible for Central, Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus. From 2005 to 2009 he was the Austrian Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia.

Before joining the Foreign Ministry, Inzko held senior positions with UN Development Programme missions in Mongolia and Sri Lanka. His other diplomatic postings have included serving at the Austrian Mission to the United Nations, and as Deputy Chairman of the UN Disarmament Commission in New York.

He is a Member of the Board of the "Vienna Economic Forum", a Member of the Board of the Vienna based "Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe", and the Head of the Council of Carinthian Slovenians. He studied Law and Languages at Graz University, and at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
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