Bosnia collapsing?

October 30, 2008

Last week top level European politicians have awaken to reality concerning the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, namely that this artificial creature made by Dayton agreement is starting to collapse. This in spite of hundreds of millions of euros which e.g. EU has thrown away to build some kind of multi-ethnical ideal.

Dayton Agreement was made 1995 after bloody war (1992-95) had almost finished ethnic cleansings/transfer of populations so that it was possible to draw administrative boundaries according ethnical groups. The agreement split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities – the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation and three ethnic groups – Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks – are trying to lead state together and separately. Entities are unitedby weak central institutions, administration is quite heavy loaded with some 170 ministers and whole system is supervised by international presence. (Note: Dayton Agreement one may find from here.)

Dayton designer and former Bosnia administrator are worried

On 22nd Oct. 2008 the former United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke and former High Representative in Bosnia Paddy Ashdown published an article urging European Union and US leaders to reinforce their engagement in Bosnia and halt a new crisis which threatens to bring the country to collapse.

The two diplomats say that Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has taken advantage of the weakness of constitutional state structures, fatigue and the international community’s saturation, as well as the inability of the EU to meet its own conditions, and over the course of the last two years has succeeded in destroying the majority of the real progress made in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the last 13 years.”

On the other hand the two diplomats add that “Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency Haris Silajdžić has frequently made statement on the need to abolish the two entities that comprise Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the need to create an undivided country not made up of federal units.“ “Poisonous relations and clashes between the two of them are at the heart of the current crisis in Bosnia-Hercegovina,“ which is why “doubts and fears have revived that were the basis for the start of the war in 1992,“ states the text.

…as well EU and Nato

On 27th Oct. 2008 EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels that the EU has warned politicians in Bosnia they are jeopardising the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration with the heated nationalist rhetoric. “We are concerned about the rhetoric which is growing and this rhetoric cannot contribute to the objective of getting Bosnia and Herzegovina more engaged with the European Union and Euro-Atlantic institutions,”.

Solana met NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the regular NATO-EU meeting, while the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the main focus of discussions. The NATO chief expressed his concern about the heated statements by some politicians in the country. “The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is of course secure and stable but the political rhetoric leads to concern,” Scheffer said. “We will have to address and we will address,” he added.

Last week the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, said Bosnia has made “a significant step forward” by signing a key pre-membership deal called the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on June 16. “The EU could initial the Stabilisation and Association Agreement last December and sign it in June because the country’s political leaders pulled together and reached consensus on the main conditions, particularly police reform. This proves that progress can be achieved and crises overcome, when the political will exists,”. “However, this consensus has since collapsed and reforms halted,” … “Nationalist rhetoric ahead of the October local elections was a factor in this deterioration. Yet, the country’s political problems run much deeper.” Rehn said in his speech.

Republica Srpska

A short news popped to my eyes from which describes quite well political trends in Republica Srpska – one of the entities.  I quate (Source) :

The government of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, has hired a US law firm to deal with the Office of the High Representative and upcoming key reforms. Republika Srpska Premier Milorad Dodik said that the firm, Dewey and LeBoeuf, will advise his government on relations with the international community and all other legal matters, including on a list of reforms required for closing the Office of the High Representative, OHR, local media reported on Monday.

The OHR was supposed to end its mandate in Bosnia by 2008, but because of the worsening political deadlock in the country over the past two years, it has set up a list of reforms which – once implemented – will enable its closure and transfer to a stronger European Union mission in the country. So far, the OHR was the ultimate interpreter of the Dayton peace accord and hence the main interpreter of its own mandate. But by hiring a United States law firm specialised in international law, Dodik’s is seen as moving his arguments against the OHR onto legal grounds.

In addition to hiring the US law firm, Dodik has recently confirmed that his government has hired a US lobbying company that was supposed to represent Republika Srpska in Washington and other western countries. Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) officials complained that this, as well as the opening of Republika Srpska offices abroad, showed that Republika Srpska continue taking responsibilities which belong to the state.  Some Bosniak officials also complained that Dodik is strengthening its representation abroad as a part of lobbying that should soften world powers to the idea of Republika Srpska’s eventual declaration of independence.

So one entity is

  • challenging international supervision also with legal grounds,
  • opening own offices abroad to make its own foreign policy, and
  • lobbying potential (separatist) independence declaration

5th November 2008 EU Commission will publish its “Progress report” about the road of western Balkan countries towards European integration/enlargement.  What I have seen in drafts is not very favorable to Bosnia-Herzegovina and actions cited above are not smoothing the road to EU.

My view

The recent past of Bosnia-Herzegovina is violent and there was not only one brutal side – there was three of them. This past has its impact today and real truth behind successful propaganda about events of war 1992-95 is still unclear. (Note: same remarks about this one may find from my previous article “Opening Bosnian X-files”, check my Archives:Blog).

The worries of top politicians have good base. It is not anymore dispute between Serbs and Bosniaks, this year has showed serious dissension between Bosniaks and Croats which may be related to rise of radical Islam in Balkans. (Note: I wrote a couple of articles about this earlier October, check my Archives:Blog).

One may have seen pictures where Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Bosnian Croats have been busy rioting again following the defeat of Croatia by Turkey in the Euro 2008 football match. The Bosniaks supported Turkey, the Croats Croatia. Meanwhile when Serbia plays Bosnia, Bosnian Serbs root for Serbia. This gives quite clear picture about national identity and multi-ethnic ideals – or lack of them. Can any country survive without some minimal mutual self-identification across its citizens as a whole? If the shared non-ethnic Bosnian identity is taking steps backwards does this not mean that this artificial western desk-drawer plan is doomed to fail? I am afraid so but maybe it is loss only for those top level designers not for local population.