Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko Thursday assumed the office of the High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the seventh appointed by the international community since 1996.
Inzko, who also acts as the European Union (EU) Special Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, said he would be a friend to Bosnia, but would not hesitate to use his extensive powers if necessary.
"I believe in partnership and I see myself as your partner, but I won't hesitate to use my powers if it proves to be necessary. That will not be my first choice, but rather the ultimate means which I won't hesitate to use," Inzko said in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
The 59-year-old Inzko, who is the second Austrian to hold that post, took over from Miroslav Lajcak, who is now Slovak foreign minister.
Speaking to the press in Sarajevo, Inzko said his priorities would be the same as those set previously by the international community, which request Bosnian authorities to speed up reforms necessary for integration with the EU.
He said a possible decision to close down the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and transform it into the office of the EU Special Representative would depend on those reforms.
Inzko said the region was making progress on the road to EU membership and in such a situation the lack of reforms would not mean stagnation but a step backward.
He promised to work closely with Bosnian politicians to help them solve existing problems, warning of the ever growing impact of the global crisis and stressing the need to respond to it with the right measures.
"The best way to do it is to ensure faster integration with the EU," he said.
Before the ceremony at which Inzko took office, the Steering Committee of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) confirmed at a session in Sarajevo that the OHR would continue operating with full capacity and called on the country's political leaders to continue talking and looking for compromise solutions as the only way to solve problems in the country.
PIC, which was established in December 1995, is an international body charged with implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Inzko was appointed Austrian ambassador to Sarajevo. Before his latest appointment on March 13, he was Austrian ambassador to Ljubljana.