The Institute of Democracy and Cooperation recently visited Bosnia, and has posted a report on what it learned. Below are some excerpts:
What future for Dayton?- - - - - - - - -
The Institute of Democracy and Cooperation has undertaken a mission to Bosnia, visiting the country on 26 and 27 June 2009 as guests of the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies. They travelled to Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Bratunac and Srebrenica and they interviewed the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik.
The visit occurred shortly after a decision taken by the international High Representative to annul a key resolution enacted by the National Assembly of the Serb Republic in Bosnia (Republika Srpska). The resolution had sought to repatriate powers centralised at the federal level by earlier Decisions of the High Representative.
This decision is only the last in a long series of decisions, taken over a period of many years, in which successive High Representatives have overturned the decisions of elected bodies and sacked elected bodies. These measures highlight the often controversial role of the Office of High Representative, an international official who enjoys the status of a Governor over what is effectively a protectorate, and who uses seemingly undemocratic means to prepare Bosnia-Herzegovina for EU membership.
The latest decision comes against the background of what appears to be a concerted push by the new Obama administration in Washington to deal with “unfinished business” in the Balkans, i.e. to put an end to the provisional Dayton agreement by centralising Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Dayton and its aftermath
Following the end of the Bosnian civil war in 1995, a peace was famously negotiated at the US air base in Dayton, Ohio. The peace treaty took the form of an agreement, the General Framework Agreement which contains the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and provides for the military occupation of the country and for the Office of High Representative. These two elements have inevitably turned out to be more important than the constitution itself for, as we shall see, they (especially the High Representative) override it. This is because of Article 5 of Annex 10 of Dayton, which provides that “The High Representative is the final authority in theatre regarding interpretation of this Agreement on the civilian implementation of the peace settlement.” In other words, the High Representative is sovereign in Bosnia-Herzegovina if by “sovereign” we understand the right to make final unimpeachable decisions.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is sometimes referred to as “a protectorate” and it certainly resembles one in various respects. Formally, however, it is not a protectorate but a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations. The powers of the High Representative are laid out in the Dayton agreement which contains the constitution of the country and which was signed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Of course the Americans and to a lesser extent the Europeans had been the godfathers of the agreement — their heads of state and government stood behind the signatories as they signed the agreement and they signed it as witnesses. But formally Dayton is a treaty between the regional powers representing the three sides in the Bosnian conflict.
It is also often erroneously stated that Bosnia-Herzegovina is governed by the United Nations but this is not so either. Very often the High Representative is referred to as UN High Representative but he does not represent the United Nations and nor does his office work for it. In fact, it is not clear whom he represents at all. However, it is true that the Security Council retroactively approves the appointment of the High Representative once he has been chosen by the Steering Committee of the Peace Implementation Council.
The constitution provides for the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into two entities, the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The initial idea was that the federal government would have power only over Bosnia-Herzegovina’s international representation but, as we shall also see, this key provision will inevitably undermine the autonomy of the two entities since EU accession demands the centralisation of power in the hands of the federal government, the subjection of the state to the terms of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, and of course the transfer of power to Brussels.
Read the rest at IDC-Europe.
Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic.