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Profile: Christian Schwarz-Schilling

Christian Schwarz-Schilling, new High Representative in Bosnia-Hercegovina
Schwarz-Schilling is an experienced politician and knows Bosnia well
"Probably no-one in Europe knows Bosnia-Hercegovina better," Paddy Ashdown has said of his replacement as high representative of the international community there, Christian Schwarz-Schilling.

The German politician, who takes the helm on Tuesday, has long been associated with the region, carving out for himself a role as mediator during and after the 1992-95 war.

Mr Schwarz-Schilling, 75, was nominated by the Bosnian and Serbian presidents and his appointment is backed by many from the three main ethnic groups.

He has cast his role as that of "adviser" to the country - in contrast to Mr Ashdown, who attracted criticism particularly from Bosnian Serbs for relying too heavily on his powers to force through legislation and sack elected officials.

But commentators caution that Mr Schwarz-Schilling may find it difficult to use persuasion alone to complete Bosnia-Hercegovina's transition from wartime anarchy to stable EU member.

Political rise

Christian Schwarz-Schilling was born in November 1930 in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1956 he completed his studies, taking a degree in East Asian culture and languages in Munich and a PhD in Banking in Hamburg.

From 1957 until 1982 he ran a battery factory in Budingen, in the state of Hessen.

Meanwhile, he began to form an interest in politics, joining the conservative Christian Democratic Union in 1960, becoming a member of the Hessen regional parliament in 1966 and subsequently general secretary of the CDU in Hessen in 1967.

In 1976, he was elected to the Bundestag, the national parliament, and was then appointed post and telecommunications minister when CDU leader Helmut Kohl became chancellor in 1982.

But Mr Schwarz-Schilling was never part of Chancellor Kohl's inner circle, and he seems to have been an unremarkable minister.

'Ashamed'

His "most notable act in office was leaving it", the Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung later reported.

Mr Schwarz-Schilling resigned his post in 1992 in anger at Germany's inaction over atrocities in the then Yugoslavia - rebuffing Chancellor Kohl's protestations that Germany's post-war constitution barred it from stepping in.

He told the chancellor he was "ashamed" to belong to such a government, saying he had entered politics in the first place to ensure that atrocities like those perpetrated by the Nazis "never happen again".

As Yugoslavia lurched into chaos, Mr Schwarz-Schilling rolled up his sleeves and began to try to mediate between the factions - a role later formalised in the Washington agreement of 1994, and which he held until 2004 when it was phased out.

During and after the war, Mr Schwarz-Schilling travelled tirelessly around the country, trying to resolve disputes and later overseeing the return of some of the 2.2 million refugees - half the population - created by the conflict.

On 14 December 2005, he was confirmed as the man to replace Mr Ashdown, both as high representative - a post created by the 1995 Dayton peace accords - and as the EU's special representative in Bosnia.

Economy 'priority'

Mr Schwarz-Schilling takes the helm at a critical juncture in Bosnia-Hercegovina's recovery. General elections are scheduled for October 2006, and the country is looking to conclude a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, paving the way to EU membership.

His tenure is unlimited, though he hopes to see the Office of the High Representative dissolved by 2007.

Former High Representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown
Schwarz-Schilling is replacing Paddy Ashdown
He says his first priority will be the country's sluggish economy. GDP languishes at only 60% of its pre-war level.

"If the people have nothing to eat, if some people are still living in tents, there's something wrong. Then no democracy can be convincing," he says.

But there are other huge challenges. They include streamlining the country's hugely complex (and expensive) bureaucratic structure; reworking the country's ethnically weighted constitution; strengthening central government and national institutions; implementing reforms in fields like defence and education.

Doing all this without resorting to his big stick - the so-called Bonn powers vested in the post to force through changes - is a huge task, say commentators.

But asked why he had taken up such an immense new challenge at 75, Mr Schwarz-Schilling - who is married with two children - told AFP news agency his "idealistic beliefs" were as strong as ever.

"Should I sit at home and tend to my roses?" he asked.

SEE ALSO
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
29 Jan 06 |  Country profiles
Ashdown urges Bosnian 'justice'
24 Dec 05 |  Europe

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