bosnia report

  Table of contents

  Latest issue



  Support the Institute


New Series no.11/12 August - November 1999
How could Dayton be overcome?

Interview with Zdravko Grebo

Do you agree with your fellow jurist Zoran Pajic, who has said that the B-H `entities have played out, or will very soon have played out, their historic role'?

That's quite a hard question. My initial response is to agree with my colleague Pajic. The Dayton constitution is undoubtedly a Frankenstein's monster. Nowhere in the world does such a state exist. That's the root cause of all the difficulties we've been experiencing since the Accords were signed. We've no control over our external borders, and basically we can't solve anything without the rather shaming protector's role of the international community. At the same time, that statement by Zoran Pajic doesn't commit him to anything very much and I'm afraid corresponds in a way to his present position in B-H. I wish there had never been a Dayton, and that this state was still the same Republic of B-H as in 1992 þ but it's not. When I stood for the B-H parliamentary assembly, my concern was with what's implied by your question. If Dayton has to be changed one day, which it certainly will, the only way is for this to be done by legal means, and the only legal means is for the change to occur in parliament. I'm certain that B-H will one day be a normal state without paraünormal institutions such as the Federation or Republika Srpska.

In that context, will circumstances arise in the near or distant future of this country for a painless alteration of the Dayton Agreement?

I'm afraid the people currently in a position to take all the crucial political decisions are simply not pushing in that direction.

Although it's almost experimentally proved that its principles are leading this country in the wrong direction, the international community will not budge by one millimetre from the Dayton Agreement. Do you have any rational explanation for that? In other words, is the international community's blind adherence to every clause of the Dayton Agreement a matter of tactics or long-term strategic orientation?

Even the way in which you have posed that question raises a few problems. First, I don't know whether you've remarked on the fact that at the time when the Agreement was signed, it was 'our side' that was particularly insistent that it should be signed. However, for the last year and a half our side, especially Mr Silajdziz, has been insistent that Dayton must be changed. On the other hand, Messrs Dodik, Radisic and Bozanic are the most ardent supporters of Dayton today. That's to say, they've realized that RZ is a kind of negation of B-H, in other words a kind of fulfilment of their interests. Well now, why does the international community insist quite so energetically on the Dayton Agreement? Why does it behave with a certain ambivalence towards B-H, maintaining it formally as a state, but doing nothing in reality that would help it actually to function as a single country. Perhaps the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe offers a partial answer to this question. We as a state are unfortunately not important to the international community. The big powers - EU, USA, etc. - no doubt want to settle the whole area as a packet. So if that's true, many of our internal difficulties become comprehensible. And there's one more thing, very acutely pointed out by Muhamed Filipovic in these very pages, which is that the international community has immense powers in B-H, but no responsibility. This is something that should be changed.

You're a legal expert. If Slobodan Milosevic is found guilty at The Hague, will that call into question the validity of the Dayton Agreement?

Yes, of course. I personally, as a human being, found it hard to swallow the fact that Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman were signatories to the Dayton Agreement. Even ignorant people know that they're the leaders of states that carried out aggression against B-H. Let's not waste time now over who did so more and who less, who earlier and who later. Those men, from my personal standpoint, are both war criminals. About that there can be no doubt at all. One day, even if they're not legally punished at The Hague, history will show that they're individuals who inspired and led aggression against a sovereign country. At the same time, the question of the validity of Dayton, even if Milosevic is formally proclaimed guilty at The Hague, is rather more complex. With the fall of Milosevic and, I hope, the speedy fall of TuÔman, the circumstances of the Dayton Agreement change þ but not altogether. We may regard Milosevic's signature on the Dayton Agreement as depersonalized, i.e. as the signature of a head of state, so that his replacement should not influence the content or validity of the agreement. I'd like the validity of the Dayton Agreement to be called into question by the fall of Milosevic; on the other hand, I wouldn't like the guarantees for the international frontiers of B-H þ which our two neighbouring countries gave by the very act of signing the Agreement þ to be called into question as well.

If you were asked what the greatest danger was for the functioning of B-H as a normal state, what would be your immediate response?

I think the greatest danger for B-H is the fact that we've let slip the chance to create a consensus within the country that this is the state of all of us, that we all want to live in this state, and that we have a basic minimum of values which we all share. We've lost that consensus and at present in B-H we don't have any such agreement. Let's be frank, most Croats and most Serbs don't want to live together with Bosniaks in the same state. Bosniaks do want to live together with Serbs and Croats in the same state. I think we must show to all citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina that this state is our common property, that it doesn't belong just to the Bosniaks. That's the only solution. For let's not deceive ourselves, this state will fall apart sooner or later if we don't achieve that consensus. So I think the greatest danger for this country is the fact that at the present moment we don't have that kind of consensus.

Is a change of government a solution of sorts?

It would be easiest to say that a change of government will save Bosnia. But even though I know many of my friends will be angry, I have to say that I don't believe the advent of the opposition will in itself solve things. The only hope I see is in a situation in which people individually realize that their lives depend on their own decisions. I don't think the national parties are evil in themselves. A prosperous future for this country will appear as soon as people cease to be hostages to fear, and say of their own accord as they cast their ballots: 'I want this kind of life and this kind of Bosnia-Herzegovina!' So, until that happens, any changes to the prevailing political structures will solve nothing. Especially since we don't have a proper political spectrum in B-H.

From an interview with Zdravko Grebo of the Faculty of Law at the University of Sarajevo, published in Ljiljan, 18-25 October 1999

home | about us | publications | news | contact | bosnia | search | bosnia report