The viability of Dayton Bosnia
by Paddy Ashdown interviewed in Nacional (Zagreb)
Nacional: Your mandate as High Representative will end this year. What kind of Bosnia will you be leaving behind?
Ashdown: During the past nine years Bosnia-Herzegovina has achieved what many people believed was impossible. It has satisfied practically all conditions for signing the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association with the EU. There is also a serious application for Bosnia to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s future lies in its integration into the Euro-Atlantic structure. Membership of NATO will provide this country, which nine years ago was devastated by war, with security, while membership of the EU will bring new investment and other benefits.
Will the two entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, soon be abolished?
I doubt that in fifteen or twenty years’ time these entities will still exist in Bosnia. Changes, however, can be made only by agreement of all the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Will it be necessary to change the Dayton Agreement, or has it already been changed in a way?
The Dayton Agreement was not designed for state building but to end a war. It ought to be changed, perhaps, but that is not the business of the international community. This issue will be decided by the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina because it is their country. The Dayton constitution is their constitution.* Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, is not functional as a state, since 65% [of its budget] is spent on administration and only 35% on the citizens. The people of Bosnia-Herzegovina should reform Dayton to make their political system more efficient. They have already begun this work, since the decision last year to bring the country’s military forces under state control does indeed alter Dayton. This change is the result of internal Bosnian agreement and not an imposition by me. The decision to create a single system of taxation is another alteration of Dayton which has increased the state’s effectiveness. One should mention in this context also the proposal for reform of the police. Changes to this part of the agreement have already begun and are due to speed up.
* It should not be forgotten that the Dayton Agreement (and constitution) was negotiated with Milošević and Tuđman, responsible in the view of the Hague tribunal for aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Extract translated from a longer interview published in Nacional (Zagreb), 18 January 2005.