Curing the Bosnia Blues

by | Nov 18, 2008

In the last couple of weeks there has been more attention heaped on little Bosnia than has been the case for years. First, Paddy Ashdown and Richard Hoolbroke argued in The Guardian that the situation was deteriorating rapidly. Immediately afterwards, William Hague travelled to Sarajevo to see things for himself followed by Foreign Secretary David Milliband.

Now the NATO Deputy Secretary-General is touring Bosnia-Herzegovina while the EU’s two foreign policy supremos -– Enlargement Commissioner Oli Rehn and Javier Solana, the foreign policy “czar” —  have issued a document that underlines the bloc’s determination to “sort out the situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina,“ while double-hatting EU Miroslav Lajčak as head of the European Commission office too.

Though this renwed attention on Bosnia is welcome, a new report (pdf) by the Democratization Policy Council makes clear more will have to be done to put Bosnia back on the right track.

The authors — long-time Bosnia watchers all — make the following recommendations:

To the GAERC and the PIC:

1. Bolster EUFOR’s credibility by securing enough troops and lift to respond to and deter conflict. Also return to regional basing of forces for rapid reaction. Brčko, Banja Luka, and Mostar all require EUFOR forces.
2. Ensure that the over‐the‐horizon forces tasked to back EUFOR in case of emergency are sufficient in number, type, and readiness to react to contingencies, and then articulate publicly what this force constitutes.
3. Develop with NATO a use for Bosnia’s many former military facilities for basing, transit, and regular exercises, both for Bosnia’s NATO vocation and to bolster deterrence. Special attention should be given to Eagle Base in Tuzla.
4. Identify a list of sanctions that could be applied to politicians in the event of violations of the Dayton Accord. This should include asset seizures, visa bans and possible criminal prosecutions.

To EU member states and institutions:

1. Acknowledge that popularly driven – not top‐down – constitutional reform is necessary for Bosnia’s functionality, stability, and democracy. Make this a requirement, along with the standard acquis package, for EU membership.
2. Define specific EU requirements for Bosnian constitutional reform. These should include all human rights provisions demanded by the Council of Europe. The EU’s guidelines should aim at de‐linking citizenship rights from self‐identification with one of the three constituent peoples (including for public office), external guarantees of state sovereignty, and an end to ethnoterritorialism.
3. The post‐OHR EUSR/EC Delegation mission should only be inaugurated once the PIC’s current five objectives and two conditions are met in full. The new mission should have the attainment of constitutional reform as its declared goal. A strategy to achieve this end should be developed this winter, and the mission should be structured accordingly. The clarity of the goal and structure must be ensured in advance of the announcement of OHR’s closure date.

None of these recommendations will be easy to follow, as most EU governments prefer to focus their attention elsewhere than on the Balkans. But it also seems clear that it will take more than a few high-level visits to put Bosnia-Herzegovina  back on the track to self-sustainable statehood.


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