Christian Schmidt replaced Valentin Inzko, an Austrian diplomat, at a ceremony in the capital Sarajevo.
The Office of the High Representative to be headed by Schmidt was established after the 1992-95 Bosnian war to oversee the implementation of peace and promote reconciliation and development.
While backed by the United States and the European Union, the United Nations office has recently faced criticism from Bosnian Serbs and their allies Russia and China, who have demanded its dismantling, reflecting an attempt to Moscow and Beijing to increase their influence in the Balkans.
In a speech, Schmid promised that he will work to help Bosnia achieve stability and economic prosperity almost three decades after the war that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
He also called on the international community to intervene with more determination to help achieve these goals.
“Bosnia-Herzegovina must be put back on the political agenda of the international community and the European Union,” he said. “I am taking office with the firm will to help the people here.”
As the main international body in Bosnia, the OHR has the authority to impose decisions or remove officials that undermine the post-war ethnic balance and reconciliation efforts between the Bosnians, who are mostly Muslim, and the Bosnian Serbs and Croats.
Inzko’s decision earlier this month to impose a ban on the denial of genocide has enraged Bosnian Serbs, who have tried to downplay the scope of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnians, the only genocide in Europe after the Second World War.
Inzko also prohibited the glorification of war criminals. He was horrified that Bosnian Serbs widely honor their wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic as heroes, although both have been convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison by an international court.
In response, Bosnian Serb nationalists have pledged to block Bosnian joint institutions and the assembly of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, has overwhelmingly rejected Inzko’s decision.
Furthermore, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who has campaigned repeatedly for the separation of the Bosnian Serb entity, has also rejected Schmidt’s appointment as “illegal” and announced a boycott of his future actions. .
The dispute illustrates the ongoing tensions in Bosnia long after the war that began after the Bosnian Serbs rebelled against the country’s split from the former Yugoslavia and seized control of large swaths of territory to create a self-styled state of their own. expelling Bosnians and Croats.
The genocide in Srebrenica occurred after Bosnian Serbs seized control of the eastern enclave in July 1995. They executed Bosnian men and boys and dumped their remains in mass graves that were later dug up and buried to cover the crime. The remains of the victims are still being unearthed and identified.
Both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia have declared the Srebrenica massacre genocide.
Schmidt said Bosnia’s goal now must be to strengthen the country and bring it closer to the EU membership it is striving to achieve. He cited German reunification as an example that “miracles are possible.”
“It will be our job to push the limits in people’s minds,” he said.