The vesting of so much power in an unelected outsider became controversial over time, and consequently, the High Representative ceased to use his powers from mid-2011 until July 2021. Political passivity ended when outgoing High Representative Valentin Inzko introduced a law providing for criminal sanctions against genocide deniers. The legislation touched on the Srebrenica massacre, which many Serbs do not consider to be an act of genocide. Inzko’s legislative initiative thus reignited national divisions and strengthened secessionist aspirations in the ranks of the Serb minority.
Inzko was replaced in the office of the High Representative by Christian Schmidt. Schmidt took office in August 2021, despite his legitimacy being questioned by Russia and China, which refused to support his appointment. Due to this, Schmidt has been perceived as a polarizing figure since the beginning of his tenure, which was only reinforced later by his relatively frequent use of the Bonn powers. The first time he decided to use his external powers occurred in April 2022, when he suspended the Law on Immovable Property of the Republika Srpska. This move was Schmidt’s response to the activities of the Bosnian Serb majority, which had conceded the right to administer immovable property on its territory. In practice, Schmidt arranged that only the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina could possess the power to regulate state property. His initiative was immediately criticized by Republika Srpska’s political leaders, especially the leader of the Serb entity, Milorad Dodik. However, Schmidt argued that a law adopted by the Republika Srpska authorities would undermine investment stability and reduce the investment potential of BiH.
In June 2022, Schmidt used his Bonn powers for the second time to fund October’s election. He did so after the political parties could not agree on how to fund the elections, even though BiH has a law that requires state institutions to provide funds within 15 days of the announcement of the elections. This legal deadline expired on May 19, and thus Schmidt took care of the allocation of sufficient funds and ensured that the sum of 12.5 million Bosnian marks (approximately 6.5 million EUR) was allocated from the state reserves.
For the third time, Schmidt used his Bonn powers in October 2022 to resolve a dispute between Bosnians and Croats in one of the two main entities and also to suppress Serb secessionists. On election night, Christian Schmidt announced the so-called “functionality package,” which modifies the Bosnian political system on several levels. It adjusts the overrepresentation of some ethnic groups and inclines others; it sets a deadline for the formation of a government after the elections and implements measures to ensure the functionality of the Federation of BiH. However, this package, which was initiated to conciliate the growing tensions in the country, has achieved the exact opposite. Back in the summer, when Schmidt announced his intervention in the political system, protests broke out outside the seat of the High Representative. More than 7,000 citizens expressed their disapproval of Schmidt’s planned actions, but even this did not stop him. The controversy was compounded by the timing that Schmidt chose. Schmidt announced the legislative modifications at a moment when it was no longer possible to reverse an election that might have turned out differently if the citizens had known the effect of Schmidt’s changes.