bosnia report
New Series No:49-50 December - March 2006
Eleven theses on the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina*
by ┼Żarko Papic

1. Bosnia is often described and analysed , but what is necessary is to change it.

Ten years have passed since the Dayton agreement. Despite enormous international economic, political, etc. help, Bosnia is not in any way close to the position it enjoyed in 1991, the last year before the war. Its dependence on foreign support and direct political influence are overwhelming. Changes in Bosnia-Herzegovina demand changes in the international policy of support and instruments of influence, which should be based on the responsibility of Bosnian citizens and institutions. This is the key to the problem.

2. Reform of the constitution has to be an internal Bosnian affair, conducted in a democratic and constitutional procedure.

Any idea of a ‘new Dayton’ or a similar international conference would take the country back several years, and undermine the already weak responsibilities of the Bosnian institutions. It is impossible to create a democratic constitution - one that would fully express domestic responsibility and the country’s viability - by an undemocratic path, paved though it might be with the best intentions. The experience of Bosnia-Herzegovina is living proof of this. The democratic path to reform of the constitution in the B-H case will be more arduous, but also better. After all, democracy is the least awful form of government. History shows that the aim, however positive it may be, does not justify any given means.

3. It is necessary to reform urgently the role and mandate of the OHR.

The ten years of the peace process, of implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, have shown that wrong premises have made the Bosnian constitution dysfunctional, leading to a drastic change in the nature and powers of the OHR’s mandate and practice. This forms a vicious circle, one aspect stimulating the other. The constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina is that of a cease-fire agreement, not of a democratic state. It is an attempt to provide the internal framework for an administrative and territorial division of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as to create an institutional structure based on ethnicity. Based on ethnic representation, its internal logic favours political parties based on the same ethnic principles. These parties, forming the government on the basis of coalitions, are unable to motivate the institutions to be more effective. The ineffectiveness of the institutions is in fact their natural way of functioning. The problem with the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina is thus not simply a matter of its ineffectiveness, which is a consequence of the wrong structuring of the constitution itself. This situation has led to a newly strengthened role for the OHR, as well as for other international bodies. A further real problem lies in the fact that such a mandate as is enjoyed by the OHR (making laws, dismissal of officials, etc. ) creates the impression that the system is functioning, and in this way de facto perpetuates it It is important to understand that the expansion of the High Representative’s mandate, and the perfectly clear negative consequences of this, are caused by internal reasons:, i.e. the bad concept of the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the ethnic nature of the dominant political parties. The present B-H constitution objectively favours ethnic political representation, and requires such a mandate for the High Representative. The described structural weakness of the constitution, the ethnically based political parties, and the ‘protectorate’ powers of the OHR, form a Bermuda triangle within which Bosnia-Herzegovina is sinking. Its functioning as a state and its democratisation will be possible only if the constitution is revised and the role of the High Representative transformed. We are speaking of two inter-related processes.

4. It is necessary to quicken the process of transition by turning economic assistance into self-sustaining development.

For a country to be economically and socially sustainable, it is necessary to normalise its relationship with the outside world, and in particular to include it into the system of developmental aid. For example, in 1996 Bosnia-Herzegovina was offered cooperation with the OECD. Given the institutional chaos of that time, this offer was forgotten. It is necessary to renew that idea, because the OECD is an important part of developmental aid in regard to technical help, monitoring and evaluation.

5. The basis of international influence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which unfortunately is still needed, should be the process of stabilisation and association with the EU.

It would be right to argue that the process of stabilisation and association with the EU , with its criteria and standards that Bosnia-Herzegovina should fulfill, should replace the present role of the OHR. The imposition of conditions would then become rational, the criteria and standards mutually complementary, serving to stimulate a thoroughgoing reform. Conditionality would in this way become transformed into domestic responsibility.

6. EU structural funds should be made available to B-H after the year 2007, i.e. during the period of the EU’s new budget.

The start of negotiations with the EU on stabilisation and association creates at a later stage the possibility for accessing structural funds. It would be odd if this possibility were not included in the EU budget for 2007-2013. One assumes that, despite its internal problems, the EU’s budget will be rationally planned.

7. The basis of reform of the B-H constitution should be the citizen, and the totality of the human-rights corpus.

The right to national equality is very important in a multinational country like B-H. It derives from human rights and does not contradict the principle of a civil society, It is useful to remember that the nation as a historical social form is a product of civil society. It is only through full freedom of the citizen, and realisation of his or her individual identity, that it is possible to realise fully also their national identity. Concretely speaking, the existing B-H constitution clearly states that it includes all basic international mechanisms from the sphere of human rights. This provides a basis for this aspect of reform of the constitution.

8: The basic direction of institutional reform should be the strengthening of public institutions as a service for citizens.

Whether a state is weak or strong depends on whether it serves its citizens, whether the citizens do or do not have responsibility for their state and institutions and participate in their functioning. We are talking here about civil society. The impression that a state which rules by repression and through political and media manipulation is strong tends to be quickly dispelled when dissatisfied citizens take to the streets. A strong B-H state is possible only as the state of a civil society.

9. The basis of any foreseeable institutional reorganisation of B-H should be a growing role of local self-government based on municipalities.

Decentralisation on a civic foundation means strengthening local self-government, its institutional and financial positions. All B-H municipalities would quickly unite, regardless of party-political differences, around this concept, thus opening the space for a more rational institutional division of roles and responsibilities.

10. It is necessary to strengthen institutions at the level of the state, in order to secure the processes of harmonisation and integration.

We are dealing here not only with EU standards or conditions, but also with the actual needs of B-H citizens. To be sure, state organs too must serve citizens, local self-government and other levels of institutional organisation. What is involved here are non-etatistic, non-unitarist forms of institutional articulation of B-H as a community above all of its citizens.

11: B-H should channel its accelerated economic and social development through a ‘national development plan’ of the EU type in the period after 2007.

B-H has its ‘Short-term developmental strategy 2004-7', which represents a good step towards being able to leave the circle of countries that rely on a ‘poverty reduction’ strategy. The country’s development plan could act as a stimulus for its integration into the EU, and as a motor for the development and internal integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina..

*The title and structure of this text, delivered as a contribution to an international conference held in Geneva to mark the tenth anniversary of the Dayton Accords, echo a celebrated text of the nineteenth century [Karl Marx’s ‘Theses on Feuerbach’], while some sentences paraphrase key formulations that have become familiar historical metaphors. The only difference is that the 11th thesis of the earlier text has become the 1st thesis here. For time is not on the side of either B-H or Europe. Words must be turned into deeds.

Žarko Papić is director of the Sarajevo-based Independent Bureau for Humanitarian Issues. The present text has been translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 18 November 2005.



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