Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 122 - (26/07/07)
New International High Representative in Sarajevo
For the first time Bosnia is to have an International High Representative from a
former communist country. After top diplomats and politicians from Sweden, the
UK and Austria it is to be Slovakia's turn to provide a viceroy for the troubled
country. Actually an ombudsman might be a better description. He will have to be
scrupulous and fair.
The time has come for Bosnia-Herzegovina to move beyond the rigid 1995 Dayton
peace treaty and strive for "political normalisation" with a reformed
constitution, says the country's new international overseer who took charge in
Miroslav Lajcak, the Slovakian diplomat stepping into the dual role of European
Union envoy and internationally appointed high representative, has promised a
"new approach" to break the political deadlock that has heightened
ethnic tensions and derailed European integration within the past year and a
half. "We need to move from post-war arrangements to the most normal
possible constitution given the circumstances," Mr Lajcak told the
Financial Times. "Political normalcy is the pre-condition for sound
economic development... and foreign direct investment."
Since the failure of the US-brokered "April package" of moderate
constitutional reforms to win parliamentary approval last year, politicians from
the three main ethnic groups have returned to defending the "partial
interests of peoples and entities". The Dayton treaty ended the bloodiest
war in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia but left Bosnia-Herzegovina divided
between two "entities"-- a semi-autonomous Serb-dominated republic and
a federation of Muslim and Croat cantons.
Mr Lajcak, who oversaw the peaceful transition to independence from Serbia last
year, says he has "strong views on the region based on personal
experience". His prescriptions could put him at odds with Milorad Dodik,
prime minister of the Serb republic that aims to preserve its separate identity,
fiscal powers and control over its own police force.
However, Mr Lajcak rules out unilateral moves to revise the peace treaty, as
demanded by Bosniak-Muslim leaders who wish to eliminate the entity system and
ethnic-based presidential voting. "You cannot impose (normalisation)
because it won't work," he said.
His arrival follows the forced exit of the previous high representative,
Christian Schwartz -Schilling, whose failure to use of executive intervention
powers against Mr Dodik attracted scorn from western diplomats and Bosniak
Mr Dodik has repeatedly linked Bosnian Serbs' widely held wish for independence
to the future of Kosovo, neighbouring Serbia's breakaway province where the
ethnic Albanian majority hopes for independence through a western-backed United
Nations resolution. Washington had expressed reservations about Mr Lajcak's
appointment until Slovakia - a current UN Security Council member - set aside
its pro-Serb objections to independence.
While he does not share his government's views on Kosovo, he says Slovakia's
uphill reform battle before entering the EU in May 2004 give him valuable
insights on what Bosnia-Herzegovina could achieve. Mr Lajcak is the first high
representative in Sarajevo to come from a "new" EU member state.
The rogue state manque
The Bosnian Serbs are not going to comply with international demands for
them to cooperate on such a vital matter as security. They have not handed over
the key war criminals, Karadzik and Mladic, responsible for the Sebrenica
massacre in 1995.
Nor are they agreeable to set up joint police forces with their Croatian and
Muslim compatriots any time soon. They are in effect a rogue statelet within a
state they detest, craving to be in a rogue state on its own.
Dodik ducks out of police reform
Bosnian Serb Entity of Republika Srpska president of government, Milorad
Dodik, the new key man, is withdrawing from active participation in negotiations
on Constitutional reform of police in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo media report
on July 16th.
He forwarded a letter in mid-July, in which the most powerful politician at the
moment from the lines of BH Serbs has explained such an intention to presidents
of seven influential political parties in BH as well as the Office of the Hugh
Secretary General of Dodik`s Party of Independent Social-Democrats (SNSD) Rajko
Vasic told the Sarajevo-based Oslobodjenje daily that this decision followed
after a thorough analysis of the negotiations situation on the implementation of
reforms in BH. "We have decided that the smartest thing is… for Dodik to
withdraw from these negotiations for some time," Vasic said.
According to the decision of SNSD top, this party will be represented by BH
Presidency member Nebojsa Radmanovic in the future negotiations on
Constitutional reform, while RS president Milan Jeric will be their
representative in police reform discussions.
Vasic decidedly said that the reason for Dodik`s withdrawal was not his medical
condition but "a need to rest from non-productive talks" and to
"seriously focus on the economic development of RS" because this is,
allegedly, much more important for this entity. He added that they believe in RS
that pressures will ease off with this move because everyone is now
concentrating on Dodik and Silajdzic being responsible for agreement on reforms
not being achieved.
Silajdzic himself confirmed for journalists that he has received Dodik`s letter
but he did not wish to comment on it. He only said that there are no indications
at the moment for political negotiations on reforms in BH to be continued.
High representative for BH, Miroslav Lajcak, who discussed the situation in BH
with Javier Solana on July 15th in Brussels, said that it was high time for
politicians in BH to show readiness for compromise and reaching agreements
because this country is now facing danger of falling into a serious crisis due
to lack of necessary reforms.
The following is an insider's view of the problem - Can Bosnia leave its bloody
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Reaching A Breaking Point Over Srebrenica By T.K. Vogel
It may be Srebrenica's special misfortune that to the people interested in
it, it has been far more than just a small town in eastern Bosnia. Its fall in
July 1995 was a great military triumph for the Bosnian Serbs, but the systematic
killing of thousands of Muslim males that followed forever tainted the Serbian
project of creating a separate ethnic homeland by breaking up Croatia and
Srebrenica's fall signalled the end of the United Nations' ill-fated
humanitarian mission in Bosnia. It also prompted the United States to come up
with a strategy for a military and diplomatic endgame in Bosnia, which a few
months later produced the Dayton peace accords. The Dayton accords gave the
Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, far-reaching autonomy and confirmed
its hold over Srebrenica.
Today, many Bosnians -- though not, on the whole, the country's Serbs -- share
the growing concern among international policymakers that the constitution that
came as part of Dayton has outlived its usefulness. Its complex ethnic quotas
and veto points have greatly complicated the country's recovery and continue to
prevent closer ties with the European Union.
The demands of long-term development militate against Bosnia's division into
ethnic self-rule areas -- the Republika Srpska and the 10 cantons that make up
the country's other half (the confusingly named "Federation").
Bosnia's Serbian politicians, however, are unanimous in their rejection of
further integration. Sensing that their project of abolishing the entity system
is doomed to failure, some Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) leaders have now seized on
Srebrenica as a tool to force change. Once again, Srebrenica is far more than
just a small town in eastern Bosnia.
The most recent campaign to scrap the entities was prompted by a judgment in
February, in which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) confirmed that the
1995 killings at Srebrenica did in fact constitute genocide.
The Bosniak representative on Bosnia's three-member Presidency, Haris Silajdzic,
promptly seized on that judgment to lend weight to his efforts to force Bosnia's
international overseers to intervene in the ongoing struggle over Bosnia's
domestic set-up. He supported, and some observers say inspired, calls by
Srebrenica's Bosniak returnees that Srebrenica be removed from Republika Srpska
jurisdiction, knowing full well that this was a non-starter. The only concession
the movement could extract from the Bosnian Serb leadership was a pledge to turn
Srebrenica into a special economic development zone, which is unlikely to have a
tangible impact anytime soon.
Silajdzic is unlikely to succeed in breaking up the Republika Srpska. Persuading
the international community to impose a solution is the last hope of those who,
like Silajdzic, reject incremental change and instead want a completely new,
non-ethnic system. In April 2006, Silajdzic had already engineered the defeat of
constitutional amendments drafted with U.S. assistance.
To most Serbs, constitutional reform is simply code for removing protections for
their community, above all territorial self-rule, and thus exposing them to
domination by the Bosniaks (a plurality, though not a majority in the country).
This sentiment is skilfully exploited, and fanned, by Republika Srpska Prime
Minister Milorad Dodik. Dodik has openly said that he would rather give up
closer ties with the EU than the Bosnian Serbs' police. (Police reform remains
the main obstacle to the conclusion of a pre-accession deal with Brussels.)
Together, Dodik and Silajdzic have led Bosnia into complete paralysis.
All of this, of course, has very little to do with Srebrenica, the small town in
eastern Bosnia. Emir Suljagic, a Vienna-based journalist and analyst of Bosnian
affairs, wrote in an e-mail message, "I don't think that to Silajdzic and
others it matters whether it is Srebrenica or not, they would do the same thing
with Brcko or Prijedor if [these towns] had what they thought they need to
further their agenda." Brcko and Prijedor were also the scene of
"ethnic cleansing" on a mass scale during the war, though not at the
same level as Srebrenica.
Finding A Way Out
One good thing that might still emerge from the bickering is a renewed
attempt to get rid of officials, especially in the police, who might have been
involved in war crimes, a key grievance of the dozens of Srebrenicans currently
camping out in Sarajevo in protest over their living conditions.
The international community is sympathetic to some of the protesters' demands.
After its meeting in Sarajevo on June 18-19, the Peace Implementation Council --
a consortium of international governments and organizations that oversees peace
efforts in Bosnia -- called on Bosnia's leadership to undertake a concerted
effort to improve the situation in Srebrenica. It welcomed commitments by the
authorities to deal with officials whose names appear on a list of people
suspected of involvement in war crimes. "Survivors should not have to
encounter perpetrators of war crimes in government positions," the council
said in a statement, with reassuring common sense.
But the statement drew a line in the sand by explicitly rejecting Silajdzic's
argument that the ICJ ruling somehow implied an obligation to abolish the
Republika Srpska. It even pointed out, none too subtly, that the international
community "retains the necessary instruments to counter destructive
tendencies." (The international high representative has the authority to
dismiss elected officials.) Indeed, there is almost no prospect of any part of
Silajdzic's agenda, with which many Bosniaks sympathize, becoming reality.
Given Dodik's power over his constituents, the intensity of Serbian sentiment,
and the reluctance of the international community to reopen issues that have
been settled at Dayton, there is little chance that Silajdzic will achieve his
Ending The Politics Of Parochialism
Silajdzic will no doubt continue to make symbolic use of the Srebrenica
issue. He has every right to express his view that the Bosnian Serb entity ought
to go, or that it should at the very least relinquish Srebrenica, views that are
most probably shared by a majority of Bosniaks and many Croats.
As one of three co-presidents of Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, he is not simply a
Bosniak representative, but also bears a constitutional responsibility for the
future of the entire country and all its citizens. That future is not served by
his continued insistence on something that is clearly unattainable through
Srebrenica will stay part of the Republika Srpska, and the Republika Srpska will
stay part of Bosnia, and Bosnia will continue to be divided. This is the basic
point of departure for any realistic attempt to improve conditions in the
country. It is also a reflection of social and political reality in the country.
The main question is what specific form this division will take. Whereas the
current constitution encourages it, new mechanisms should be found to dampen the
politics of parochialism.
Reforming Bosnia's Constitution has always been fraught with difficulties and
dilemmas. Should the charter be revised now, in which case it would have to
acknowledge the continued existence of the Republika Srpska, or would it be
better to wait longer in the hope that divisive agendas may lose their popular
appeal? Almost 12 years after the end of the war, the answer seems clear,
despite any philosophical misgivings one might reasonably entertain with regard
to the country's ethnicized set-up.
In the end, what truly matters is that the Dayton constitution has outlived its
usefulness: the built-in incentives for parochialism hinder progress on the way
to Europe, the only real perspective for long-term development. Dodik and
Silajdzic owe it to their constituents to recognize this.
Srebrenica, meanwhile, has to come to terms with the traumatic events of 1995.
In addition, however, it is also just a small town in eastern Bosnia whose
depressed living conditions need urgent and tangible improvement.