A Note to Hill and Knowlton and the Government of RS

A few days ago I received an email from a representative of “Hill and Knowlton” one of the largest international lobbying and PR companies to discuss how  “key people in the UK perceive Bosnia and Republika Srpska”. By the formulation it quickly dawned on me who was curious to find out my opinion, namely the government of the RS. Thanks, Hills and Knowlton for the offer of such an anonymous conversation (original email is below, I just removed the name and contacts of the person who wrote to me). Instead, I’d rather like to reply publicly about my views of the government of the Serb Republic:

First, it seems frivolous to spend RS taxpayer money on a big international lobbying firm.  Among the clients of the Brussels branch of H&K is not a single government of a state or a region. Instead, the company represents big business such as Unilever, Yahoo and HP. Interestingly, H&K also represents Delta Holding. In the UK, the register of the Association of Professional Political Consultants lists Hill and Knowlton and only mentions that RS was a paying client to the company in the period from 1 September to 1 November 2009. Between 1 March 2009 and the most recent reports up to the end of August of this year, Singapore and the RS are the only two governments represented by the company.

Second, if the government wants to improve the image of the RS it should fully and unequivocally stand by the report on Srebrenica issued in 2004 by the RS government of the time.  If the newly elected president of the RS continuous to downplay the number of victims, he undermines the credibility of the RS more than anybody challenging the RS from within Bosnia or outside.

Third, suggesting that the RS is a permanent category, while Bosnia and Herzegovina might not be, is undermining the legitimacy of the government of the RS. The Dayton Peace Agreement which the only basis on which the RS exist as part of Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly links the two. While Bosnia and Herzegovina can only exist with the RS, the RS can only exist within Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no right for the RS to leave Bosnia, there is no international support for such an adventure and the RS is not Montenegro (i.e. to copy the mechanism chosen by Montenegro to leave the joint state with Serbia).

Fourth, if critical NGOs and media are repeatedly attacked and marginalized by the government, it cannot earn my respect.

Fifth, I keep hearing officials from the RS stating at public occasions that the existence of the RS is under threat and they have to defend the RS. This is of course absurd: No significant international actors is suggesting to abolish the RS. However, the government of the RS itself has over the last years significantly undermined the legitimacy of the RS.  By suggesting a referendum on independence, by undermining the state, it has gambled away a lot of international credibility.

If the government is concerned with its image, I recommend against hiring Hill and Knowlton or any PR firm and rather reconsidering its policy. No PR campaign can achieve what a different policy could.



From: K.M. …@hillandknowlton.com]

Subject: Consultation Request for Perceptions of Bosnia and Republika Srpska

Dear Dr Bieber,

I am writing to see if you would be willing to participate in a consultation we are undertaking on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in particular, on the government of Republika Srpska.

The aim of this exercise is to ascertain how key people in the UK perceive Bosnia and Republika Srpska, as well as their opinion on the key issues facing the country including: the progress towards EU membership, the impact of recent parliamentary elections, the future of the OHR, etc.

The research will be conducted by Hill & Knowlton on behalf of the Government of Republika Srpska and, for your information, we are also carrying out a similar exercise in Brussels and several other EU member states. In the UK we will be speaking to stakeholders from government, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliament, think tanks and the media.

The format would be an informal interview lasting around 20 minutes and all discussions will be completely confidential and anonymous.

We do not have a ‘standard’ quantative questionnaire, but prefer to conduct an informal discussion with some questions to steer the conversation. The final consultation report will not only be totally confidential, but any quotes included will not be linked to any particular person and instead be referenced to the broader institution (eg. ‘media’, ‘UK decision-maker’ etc).

The reason why we are doing this consultation is to help the Government of Republika Srpska canvass opinions and views on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also the upcoming challenges the country will be facing.

I realise that your diary is extremely busy, but hope that you will be able to spare 20 minutes for this exercise. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Best regards,


8 Responses to A Note to Hill and Knowlton and the Government of RS

  1. Anton says:

    i really don’t thing that’s the way to improve the things in region..instead of spending money on this they could just say sorry like president Tadic did in Vukovar..
    Republic of Srpska is major factor (maybe only really big) factor of instability in region for future that’s coming.
    But it’s not fair to just say that RS is only problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian party SDP totally minorized influence of croatian political body what persued croatian politicians to make deals with Milorad Dodik..All in all..one big mess..

  2. Nizar says:

    I think it would have been better for the RS to have hired lawyers, who would have told them that the Brcko District is a part of BiH(not the Federation) and as such cannot leave BiH not even if everyone agrees to give independence to RS. And in that way RS would end up cut in two. Parallels that officials of RS make between themselves and Montenegro and Kosovo are ,to say the least, absurd, because they are comparing two historical entities with something that was literally made in Dayton in 1996. To make it even more absurd, they are the ones working to dissolve the Dayton agreement, even though it s the only document that gives them any kind of basis to claim any kind of independence.
    What most of people outside of Bosnia fail to notice are the huge criminal investigations for financial crimes of the leadership of RS. Dissolving of the state court is their only chance to get away with their (financial) crimes in the long run, and that s, in my opinion, the main reason for the behavior of Milorad Dodik

  3. mjesecina says:

    Dear dr Bieber
    I congratulate you on your ethics and power to defend fair and impartial scientific truth.
    The science is an ethical category.
    Best regards from Sarajevo

  4. visegrad92 says:

    Thanks for bringing this up. The RS government also hires lobby groups in the US to improve its image.

  5. Nikolas says:

    It is interesting reading about something which any government does including US or British or Banana republic like B&H.
    Now the problem with Dodik lies in his ability to play by your western rules and that skill piss you off.Your “expert” comments are music to the ears to those who believe that they make unified country where majority ( we don’t know that yet unless Bosnian Muslim party agree to do census )
    Now the question who is paying your service from the budget.
    I don’t remember you pointed that economic grow in RS is bigger than in Federal Part ( Bosnian and Croats happy life)
    In Federal part according to the parliament report is missing 7.7 billion dollars while RS has received only 2% of that donation.
    and on the end ,,instead trying to find mode for common life in war torn country western expert are still planting the seed of the hate so they can become experts on the Balkans.
    Thanks to you experts 1/3 of population of B&H is out of the country,You have screw up in Lisbon, in Iraq, Afghanistan and you will keep doing good job with impunity.

  6. Zoran says:

    Dear Mr Bieber,

    While I often criticise ruling Government of the RS for their various wrongdoings, Srebrenica war crimes included, there is one part of your analysis that is being insincere. And we all know that not telling the whole truth is same as lying.

    You seem to be too well informed not to know that Serbian politicians, from Bosnia or Serbia, never compare Republic of Srpska with Montenegro, but with Kosovo.
    Kosovo was a part of a UN-recognized state, but due to Milosevic’s crimes against civilians and Albanian drug-money funds, it gained independence through terrorist activities, NATO-sponsored war and ethnic cleansing of Serbian minority. If we only talk about the EU countries, unlike in Serbia, crimes against civilians were never sufficient reason for the Basque Country or Northern Ireland to become independent states, despite the terror and ethnic cleansing Irish and Basque suffered in the 20th century.

    Like many times before, NATO-backed so-called International community applied its double standards and the new independent state of Kosovo was born.
    Same was attempted in Georgia, at the same time when the world was watching the opening of the Olympics in China (Saakashvili and his NATO-mentors wanted the war and ethnic cleansing to pass unnoticed), but the Russians had more fire-power then Serbia in 1999, so the “international community” had to back down.

    To conclude this lengthy post, I would say that Mr Dodik had made a smart move when he brought up possibilities of referendum and independence of Republica Srpska, regardless of how impossible it is, because it was only then that the “International community” stopped degrading jurisdictions of the RS and ceased attempts to force RS into agreeing on the common Bosnian police forces.
    Also, Mr Dodik managed to partially degrade the role and power of the maharajah of Bosnia (like Mr Paddy Ashdown was) in the last five years. There is a question if he was to be credited for that, but it did happened during his mandate.

  7. BiH says:

    Dear Mr. Biber,

    I would like to commend you for making the invitation public; it is rare for ordinary readers to first-handedly see a copy of lobbying attempts. It is of vital importance that people understand the fundamental difference between “entity” lobbying and “national” lobbying! In this case RS lobbying is not equivalent to Britain’s or any other country’s lobbying; it is an attempt to undermine Bosnia, keep the nationalist rhetoric alive and instill fear of a possible conflict.

    It is unfortunate that facts are overshadowed and blurred when it comes to Bosnia. It was the break-up of Yugoslavia and Milosevic’s regime that not only led to ethnic-cleansing and genocide; it destabilized the whole region. Furthermore, let us focus explicitly on Bosnia for once. Bosnia was and still is a tolerant multi-ethnic country and it is unfortunate that nationalistic sentiment is prevailing and that certain people are still supporting it blindly. The situation will not improve until the nationalists are criticized and held accountable for their actions – undermining the country one is living in will not resolve anything! Imagine if every person who was contacted by a lobbyist firm responded publicly? I think we would have an honest and insightful picture of not just the RS but the situation in Bosnia as a whole!

    RS attempts to undermine and divide Bosnia will only lead to self-destruction, a prime example of this is Milosevic and his regime!

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