The Europeans deluded themselves that the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1992 would calm down the ultranationalists, bring about an acceptable compromise and, more importantly, prevent large-scale violence. Their decision, accompanied by various statements and declarations, called for an immediate ceasefire. For example, only a few days after the recognition, they ‘call[ed] upon Serbian and Croatian Governments to exercise all their undoubted influence to end the interference in the affairs of an independent republic and to condemn publicly and unreservedly the use of force in Bosnia and Herzegovina’, warning them that ‘[p]arties responsible for such actions will be internationally held accountable for their acts’.
The proposed and negotiated attempts - the 1992 Carrington-Cutileiro peace plan, the 1993 Vance-Owen and Owen-Stoltenberg plans and the 1994 Contact Group plan - failed to bring the warring parties to a resolution and prevent the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the worst genocidal atrocity in post-Second World War Europe, which left the image of the Serbs as aggressors and the Muslims as victims. It was later in December that the US-brokered Dayton Peace Accords put an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina by dividing the country into two semi-independent entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina inhabited primarily by Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (Serb Republic).
The situation in post-Dayton Bosnia has dominated numerous debates. Current opinions tend to agree that the accords, although successful in providing an immediate solution to the crisis, somehow ignored the possible consequences: Post-Dayton BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is a post-modernist witticism from the geopolitical genie that burst out of the bottle in Dayton, a tentative, stop-gap state in the guise of a sovereign, self-sustaining state. What this means is that the greater part of the Dayton Peace Agreement is not a new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the creation of the Agreement’s architects, but rather a creative interpretation of the work (BiH) and its potential, in the quantitative sense, far in excess of the rendition itself; it is this, at the end of the day, that has given rise to the crisis of the work, the crisis of BiH, for no interpretation can substitute for something that does not really exist.
The Dayton Agreement did not establish an executive authority responsible for policy making and problem solving, but rather it contributed to the already deep divisions within Bosnian society. Still, the establishment of the Office of the High Representative, an ad hoc international body supervising implementation of civilian aspects of the agreement, and awareness of the overall complexity of the Bosnian case, made the EU think about a more systematic approach focused on political stability and economic recovery. In 1997, following the establishment of political and economic conditions to be fulfilled by the countries of South Eastern Europe, the EU’s report on the compliance of Bosnia and Herzegovina observed that since the Dayton Agreement, ‘it has not proved easy to persuade the leaders of any of the three communities to commit themselves wholeheartedly to democratic co-existence with the others’ (European Commission 1997). Lack of such a commitment affected the implementation of legislation regarding human rights, rule of law and refugee return: ‘International organisations report numerous cases of discrimination against existing members of ethnic minorities by public authorities and employers. These include discrimination between the two ethnic groups within the Federation … Moves by the RS authorities to insist on use of the Cyrillic alphabet constitute a further handicap for non-Serbs’ (European Commission 1997).
The EU launched the Stabilisation and Association Process with Bosnia and Herzegovina in late 2000 and thus gave the local authorities the opportunity to strengthen the central level of government in order to come closer to the EU. Since then, the situation and potential of the country have been greatly discussed. As some authors put it, although the country has managed to overcome its most difficult peace-building challenges, ‘the international mission in BiH has developed into a quasi-protectorate, with extensive international powers and some strikingly illiberal tendencies’ leaving the country ‘isolated from the European integration processes taking place around it. The external involvement created a state without its own strong political leadership and functioning institutions, leaving an impression that the country will continue to stagnate and is unlikely to become an effective state. Even the 2003 Stabilisation and Association Report acknowledged the EU’s exaggerated presence: ‘EU political leaders figure prominently in Bosnian public life (along with other international actors). Admittedly, however, the multiplicities of European or EU related structures … probably lead to confusion in the minds of both general public and the elite’ (European Commission 2003). Still, both this and the following report presented the EU’s large-scale presence as necessary and beneficial. This went so far as to claim that, even though there were no relevant opinion polls on EU issues conducted, ‘the public perception of the EU is generally positive’ and that ‘[r]eforms have also highlighted the EU role in the public mind’ (European Commission 2004).
Later, the Europeans made an assessment that Bosnia and Herzegovina was managing to make only limited progress towards meeting European standards. For example, apart from ‘mak[ing] no progress towards creating more functional and affordable State structures which support the process of European integration’, the country’s state-level government structures were ‘unable to overcome internal conflicts - often based on ethnic or Entity allegiance - and to avoid deadlocks’ (European Commission 2007). On the other hand, other, non-EU-drafted analyses criticized the EU’s involvement for having ‘pragmatically appealed to the common sense of domestic political leaders, trying to make them see the virtues of undertaking the reforms themselves rather than presenting the reforms as a sacrifice they have to accept in order to be admitted to the club’. Also, with regard to the democratization and Europeanization processes, there should have been much more emphasis on the people and their everyday concerns: ‘In order for democracy to become “the only show in town” it is inevitable that the principles of democracy find their way directly into the people’s attitudes towards their governments and that they are carried by pro-democracy actions and deeds of elites and ordinary citizens alike’.
The EU signed the SAA with Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2008. As summarized by the Council, the agreement was aimed at democracy and the rule of law, political, economic and institutional stability, political dialogue between the two parties, international cooperation in the country, regional cooperation, and so on (EU Council 2008). However, the complex institutional and political climate in the country continued to cause delays. This was also due to the corruption that was present in numerous areas, ‘especially within government and other State and Entity structures, linked to public procurement, business licensing, in the health, energy, transportation infrastructure and education sectors’ (European Commission 2009). That the progress was slow could be concluded by reading later reports: in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although considered ‘a potential candidate for EU membership’, ‘[t]he overall pace of reforms has been very limited’ and ‘[t]he political representatives lack a shared vision on the direction to be taken by the country’ (European Commission 2011).
As discussed in the literature, the Europeanization approach, assuming that the Bosnian authorities would fully commit themselves to the necessary transformation, inspired by potential membership of the EU, has failed to materialize. According to one study, we can talk about three main challenges that clearly confirm the failure of the EU’s approach towards Bosnia and Herzegovina. First, the Europeans have overlooked the difficulties surrounding the Europeanization process of an ethnically-divided state in which all three ethnic communities, although supportive of the country’s EU path, are not ready to make compromises that could potentially affect their own position – a situation that is further complicated by the impression that the Brussels administration has been biased towards the Bosnian Muslims and very critical of the Bosnian Serbs. The second challenge relates to the credibility of the accession conditionality as ‘[t]he Bosnians do not believe that they have a credible short-term membership perspective; the EU has repeatedly failed to stand behind a single uncontested position; and, more worryingly, Brussels has demonstrated that it is ready to reward even partial or limited compliance’.
Thus, the EU’s lack of a clear standpoint has empowered the Bosnian authorities to select the areas in which they want to comply and the degree of compliance. Finally, although present through various missions in the country, the EU has failed to deliver clear messages on how to meet EU standards. As noted, ‘[t]he EU seems to have acted under the assumption that Bosnia’s socialisation is a self generated unproblematic process. However, this has not been the case and the EU shares some responsibility for the fact that the Bosnians have learnt “how not to comply” (rather than “how to comply”) with EU rules’.
In contrast to other post-Yugoslav EU-aspiring states, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have faced ‘a “triple transition” (from war to peace, from humanitarian aid to sustainable development and from a socialist political systems and centrally planned economies to democracy, civil society and a free market economy), which makes it extraordinary difficult for both international and local actors to efficiently address the multiplicity of interrelated and complex challenges’. With this in mind, it is possible to argue that Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to invest much more effort in its journey to EU membership than some other post-Yugoslav states. As for EU I involvement in the country, as noted in the 2011 Progress Report, ‘the Foreign Affairs Council underlined the fact that the EU Police Mission (EUPM) and EUFOR Althea are important elements of the EU overall strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina’ (European Commission 2011). While it is clear that European presence provides training and helps the fight against organized crime and corruption, and thus supports the local passivity, it is difficult to predict what the consequences of the abolishment of such an arrangement would look like.
The enlargement relationship between the European Union and Western Balkan countries is defined by a carrot-and-stick approach. Although broadly similar for every country, there are specific differences in the process for each of the countries that emerged after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina is of special interest in this regard in view of its troubled recent history, including the 1992-1995 war, its specific past, worried present, and questionable future. However, in order to better understand today’s complex relations in the region and within Bosnia we need to review the main historical events that led to the current situation. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is going through numerous transformations, reforms, consolidation and integration processes, with the EU playing a significant role in all of them. The government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens decided long ago that they see their future within the EU as the only foreseeable solution for multiple reasons: political stabilization, financial assistance, security and hope for a better tomorrow. This paper provides a historical introduction and analysis of the events that led to today’s relationships in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as to the post-war involvement of the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its balancing of potential reward (i.e. EU financial assistance and potential membership seen as l’aboutissement du rêve [the dream come true/solution for all problems]) with the threat of punishment (i.e. being left behind in the Western Balkans EU integration process as the only (unprotected) isolated land) to induce behaviour. Furthermore, the EU’s presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is far more obvious and specific than in other ex-Yugoslav republics. Bosnia and Herzegovina is practically a semi-protectorate, with the presence of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and EU Special Representative (EUSR), along with police and military missions (EUPM and EUFOR) and strong direct political influence on the political elites. Even so, the process of EU-led democratic consolidation and institutional (capacity) building has been slow and painful. Why? For some, the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came as a total surprise, while for others it was seen as inevitability with (un)foreseeable elements and forms of dissolution. The armed conflict that took place in various forms (from a small conflict (Slovenia) to genocide (in Bosnia and Herzegovina)) has set back the democratic transition processes that have just started. In the post-Cold War era, former Yugoslav republics tried to overcome the overwhelming challenges they faced. In our case, we will look at Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was confronted by probably the most challenging tasks. These included multiple transition processes, post-war reconciliation and reconstruction on various levels, including infrastructure, political and social institution building, and so on. In addition, there were the issues of the international community’s semi-protectorate and the European Union’s pragmatic and sometimes cynical approach to integration.
The current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be presented through several key moments, starting with the shaping events - the war (1992-1995), initiated by the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation and ended with the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia in Herzegovina, known as the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), under the patronage of the international community. The DPA acknowledged the current status quo – front lines became entity borders and conflicting sides became the actors in political reality, with the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex IV of DPA) as the minimum requirement for state existence and the maximum that parties to the Peace Agreement could accept.
The general idea of this plan (DPA) was to stop the war at separation lines between two territorial units established during the war: Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as unit established by the Washington Peace Treaty and Republic of Srpska (as the result of ethnic cleansing of non-Serb population) with respective territorial parts of 51 per cent and 49 per cent. Such solution has favoured ethnic criteria trough ethnic division and ethnic territory allocation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, ethnic criterion has become the dominant element of internal constitutional framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
To understand the current challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), it is essential to offer an overview of the historical context that has largely determined and shaped current relations. Modern ethno-political elites in BiH and elsewhere in the region are prone to refashioning the complex history of the region in terms of the fear of others in order to build a strong electoral base. Many authors have made their contribution to preserving the picturesque history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and offer it to a wider audience. Malcome’s (2011) retrospective of Bosnia’s history offers an overview with analysis of recent events. Furthermore, Kent (1999) has also summarized the very complex history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, explaining that, although it is smaller than West Virginia or Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina has long been a meeting ground and crossroads for people of different cultures and different empires. How did it start? We will not go into the detailed history, but a few remarks are needed to understand better what is happening today in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the analysis made later in the paper.
The Slavic ancestors of today’s inhabitants moved south into the Balkan Peninsula in the sixth and seventh centuries AD. They intermixed with the people who already lived in this borderland between the Roman and the Byzantine empires. Both Rome and Constantinople sent Christian missionaries to the region. Some Bosnians chose Roman Catholicism as a religion, and others chose Eastern Orthodoxy. Over time, the Roman Catholics came to see themselves as Croats. They wrote in the Latin alphabet and identified with Croatian culture. The Eastern Orthodox, however, came to see themselves as Serbs. They wrote in the Cyrillic alphabet and identified with Serbian culture. Thus, for the first centuries of the Christian era, Bosnia was part of the Roman Empire. In the ninth century, the kingdoms of Serbia and Croatia shared control of Bosnia. This was followed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries by rule of the region by the kingdom of Hungary. The medieval kingdom of Bosnia gained its independence around 1200 and Bosnia remained independent until 1463, when the Ottoman Turks conquered the region. During Ottoman rule, many Bosnians converted from Christianity to Islam (some of them were later seen as Muslims (nationality)/Bosniaks). Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when the Congress of Berlin transferred administrative control to Austria–Hungary and annexed Bosnia in 1908.
While those living in Bosnia came under the rule of the Austro–Hungarian Empire, South Slavs in Serbia and elsewhere were calling for a South Slav state. The trigger for the First World War was when Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. After the War, Bosnia became part of the South Slav state of Yugoslavia, only to be given to the Nazipuppet state, the Independent State of Croatia in the Second World War (WWII).
During this period, many atrocities were committed against Jews, Serbs, and others who resisted the occupation. During and after WWII, under Josip Broz Tito, the state of South Slaves was created: the Socialist (Communist) Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with Bosnia re-established as a republic with its medieval borders within the Yugoslav federation.
For the purpose of strengthening their position of power in the region, throughout the last 200 years Bosnia was under heavy influence and interference from Croatia and Serbia, which were slowly but surely homogenizing people along religious/ethnic lines (Croatia - all Catholics in the region should be of Croat national identity with Croatia as their home state and seat of political power, and similarly with Serbia and the Orthodox in the region). However, throughout history and under various empires and periods of independence, Bosnia (and Herzegovina) has managed to preserve its multinational and multireligious character, as well as the stable elements of statehood.
Nevertheless, this Bosnian character ‘united in diversity’, which was built up throughout history, was quickly turned into ‘deeply divided society’ by the ethno political elites and the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the beginning of the 1990s, in which some (or most) Bosnian Croats and Serbs feel as if they have a second/original/alternative/mother state, that is the Republic of Croatia and Republic of Serbia, respectively. This had (and still does have) a significant influence on events in the 1990s and on the current political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The US Department of State in its Background Note on Bosnia and Herzegovina (2012) addresses recent events that have shaped the contemporary Western Balkans: Yugoslavia’s unravelling was hastened by Slobodan Milošević’s rise to power in 1986. Milošević’s embrace of Serb nationalism led to intrastate ethnic strife. Slovenia and Croatia both declared independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991. By late September 1991, Bosnian Serb Radovan Karadžić’s SDS had declared four self-proclaimed “Serb Autonomous Regions (SAO)” in Bosnia. In October 1991, the Bosnian Serbs announced the formation within Bosnia of a “Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina” that would have its own constitution and parliamentary assembly. In January 1992, Radovan Karadžić publicly proclaimed a fully independent “Republic of the Serbian People in Bosnia-Herzegovina”. On March 1, 1992, the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a referendum on independence from SFR Yugoslavia. Bosnia’s Parliament declared the Republic’s independence on April 5, 1992. However, this move was opposed by Serb representatives, who had voted in their own referendum in November 1991 in favour of remaining in Yugoslavia.
Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighbouring Serbia and the Yugoslav National Army, responded with armed force in an effort to partition the Republic along ethnic lines to create a ‘greater Serbia’. Full recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence by the United States and most European countries occurred in April 1992, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on 22 May 1992.
Radical elements in Croatia led by President Franjo Tudjman saw the opportunity to take part of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well, opening a new front in Herzegovina. Hoare (1997) argues that Croatian policy in Bosnia was governed by the ebb and flow of the events of 1991-1993, above all because, unlike its Serbian counterpart, the Croatian project to partition Bosnia had little ideological basis to pre-determine the form of its implementation. It was viewed by its proponents as a possible, not as a necessary option, to be realized if events required and demanded. Croatian national ideologues traditionally viewed the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a Croatian land and Bosnia’s Muslims as ‘Croats of the Islamic faith’. Tudjman himself subscribed to this tradition and, together with Milošević, instigated an ‘agreed war’ intended to strengthen two nationally homogeneous countries - Croatia and Serbia.
By March 1994 (the Washington Agreement), Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats signed an agreement creating the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This narrowed the field of warring parties to two. The conflict continued through most of 1995, and many atrocities were committed, including acts of genocide committed by the Army of Republika Srpska in and around Srebrenica between 12 and 22 July 1995, where approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed (European Parliament 2009).
In order to bring justice and ensure that such events would not be repeated anywhere else, on 25 May 1993 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 827 establishing the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 (ICTY). Despite its uneven performance, since 1993, the ICTY has irreversibly changed the landscape of international humanitarian law and provided victims with a voice. In its precedent-setting decisions on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Tribunal has shown that an individual’s senior position can no longer protect them from prosecution. Unfortunately, ICTY has done little to bring truth and reconciliation to the region, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular. The role of post-war reconciliation and state building has been the responsibility of the international community (predominantly the USA and the EU). In what follows, we will review how the international community, and especially the EU, have applied a carrot-and-stick approach and to what extent it was successful. The carrot paradigm refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce positive behaviour, thus the use of promises of reward and threats of punishment to make somebody work harder and meet necessary conditions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was not the same before and after the Dayton Peace Agreement and this point is often used to determine the beginning of a new epoch with apparent peace (actually more an absence of armed conflict) and painstaking reconstruction (infrastructure, society, democracy, economy, hearts and minds). The USA-led peace negotiations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, mediated by the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, resulted in a peace agreement, ending the war on 21 November 1995.
Bosnia and Herzegovina today consists of two Entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a majority of Bosniaks and Croats, and the Republika Srpska, which is primarily Serb. This is the result of the international community’s acceptance of the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines and the war-generated administrative boundaries and ethnic cleansing (massive scale internal forced migrations aimed towards ethnically ‘clean’ territories) along with a post-war policy of preserving such a demographic situation.
The organizational units in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the following: at State level there are Institutions of the State, with a bicameral Parliament Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (House of Representatives and House of Peoples), directly elected Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (rotating presidency with three presidents (Bosniak, Croat and Serb) and Council of Ministers headed by a Chairman, along with a Constitutional Court and Central Bank. State institutions have limited powers since more jurisdictions are preserved by the Entities (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (divided into ten cantons) and the Republic of Srpska). As Article III (3a) of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution reads: ‘All governmental functions and powers not expressly assigned in this Constitution to the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be those of the Entities.’ The following matters are the responsibility of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (according to the DPA): (a) foreign policy; (b) foreign trade policy; (c) customs policy; (d) monetary policy as provided in Article VII; (e) finances of the institutions and for the international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina; (f) immigration, refugee, and asylum policy and regulation; (g) international and inter-Entity criminal law enforcement, including relations with Interpol; (h) establishment and operation of common and international communications facilities; (i) regulation of inter-Entity transportation; and (j) air traffic control.
Furthermore, one of the success stories is the reform of the defence sector and single armed forces. Entities have their own constitutions as well as legislative, executive and judicial institutions and often act as states within the State. The City of Brčko was left by the DPA to be determined by international arbitration and was later proclaimed the District of Brčko, independent from the other two Entities. There are three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats (or the ‘Constitutive Peoples’ as indicated in the Constitution), and languages in use are Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian (all formerly known as ‘Serbo-Croatian’). The ethno-political elites in Bosnia and Herzegovina are trying to affirm Ethnic groups as National groups, with emphasis on differences and strengthening elements of national identity (common territory, history, culture, economy and often common language – as minimum requirements - plus the common enemy - all others). Definition of nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina depends on subjective and psychological variables as opposed to objective ones. To be Bosniak/Croat/Serb is more a ‘feeling’ than an objective reality. However, these ethno-political elites have now been in place for almost 20 years deepening differences, and the international community has done little to change this.
In truth, all three languages constitute a single, mutually comprehensible, language. However, from one language diasystem, three separate national standard languages were developed and ‘reserved’ for their respective Constitutive Peoples, based more on political decisions and less upon linguistic needs.
The Nationalities/Constitutive Peoples are Bosniak (Muslim), Bosnian Serb, and Bosnian Croat, each respectively identified religiously with Islam, Serb Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.(1) Even though many other ethnic groups have shaped the country’s history, they were not recognized in the Dayton Constitution. The Preamble of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution reads: ‘Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, as constituent peoples (along with Others), and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina hereby determine that the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.’ It is not clear what or who are the ‘Others’ and ‘citizens’ (separately stated) and what is meant by Bosnians and Herzegovinians. Often, ‘Others’ is interpreted as national minorities. The 2003 Law on the Protection of Rights of Members of National Minorities states that BiH will protect the status, equality and rights of the 17 national minorities present in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Albanians, Montenegrins, Czechs, Italians, Jews, Hungarians, Macedonians, Germans, Poles, Roma, Romanians, Russians, Ruthenians, Slovaks, Slovenians, Turks and Ukrainians. However, the ethno-political elites present continuous obstructions in order to persuade these minorities to choose a Bosnian-Herzegovinian national identity.
In July 2000, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina reached a decision whereby Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs would be recognized as constituent people throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This constituted systematic discrimination in the country. In March 2002, this decision was formally recognized and agreed by the major political parties in both Entities. Nonetheless, the main challenge for Bosnia and Herzegovina is its constitutional organization: is it a Federation, Confederation, something in between or neither?
Ibrahimagić views the problem not as one of constitutional disagreement but rather as a consequence of imperialism of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s neighbours and local ethno nationalism: Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia have started aggressive war against Bosnia and Herzegovina with intention of territorial expansion on account of state territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognized by international law. They have instructed their fellows - Serbs, Croats and Montenegrins which are living in Bosnia and Herzegovina for sake of implementation of their greater state policies by providing arms and turning them against their homeland – Bosnia and Herzegovina, by creating parastatal national entities, some of which are legitimised by international law – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Washington Treaty (18 March 1994) and Republic of Srpska by Dayton Agreement (21 November 1995) signed on 14 December 1995.
In order to ensure stability in the region, even 20 years after its independence and the beginning of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the international community maintains an extraordinary civilian and military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina stemming from the Dayton Peace Accords (now EUFOR and EUPM). However, it is to be seen whether this presence has well-balanced quantitative and qualitative engagements. How effective has this engagement been?
It is often said that Bosnia and Herzegovina is undergoing difficult transitional reform processes and it is therefore logical to expect obstacles in their implementation. More specifically, it is enduring a (at least) quadruple transition: from single-party system to multi-party democracy, from self-management to a market economy, from war to peace and reconciliation, and from an ethnically divided and segregated country as a result of war policy and ethnic cleansing to a more integrated and functioning state. In addition to this, or as the symbolic endpoint of this transitional process, the country is expected to become a member state of the European Union in the foreseeable future. This has been characterized as the ‘Dayton to Brussels’ transition by some observers.
The Dayton Peace Agreement created the Office of the High Representative, an international institution to oversee implementation of the civilian aspects of the agreement, with powers to impose laws and revoke elected officials acting against Dayton. Thereby the form of semi-protectorate (or full-scale protectorate, as some argue) is enforced along with the introduction of democratic mechanisms in Bosnian society. However, the society and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina were unprepared for such a difficult and sudden transition without a previously built democratic culture and values and disturbed by three-and-a-half years of bloody war.
The international community has, metaphorically speaking, sought to have Bosnia and Herzegovina society learn how to swim in democratic water through a learning-by-doing method: enter the water and eventually you will learn to swim (or to put it more colloquially: democracy is imposed – deal with it!). One of the problems was that the DPA and its Annex IV – the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina – left Bosnia and Herzegovina society ‘tied hand and foot’ and it was pushed into the unpredictable harsh ‘democratic sea’ to learn how to swim, while there are still others in the water that would not mind seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina drown. Bosnia got very tired struggling to swim forward (still tied hand and foot) while the trainer (the EU) offered ‘carrots’ (which are difficult to consume while stressed to keep one’s head above water) and threatened with the ‘stick’, and in fact did not provide any usable coaching advice other than: If you want to win, you should not lose.
Some questions will be easier to answer by looking at the administrative and political organization of Bosnia and Herzegovina today. Institutional organization goes beyond a regular federal or confederated state and looks more like an ‘asymmetric confederation’. Some mechanisms of consociated democracy are integrated in the DPA and Constitution, but instead of providing solutions and protection measures, they are more often mechanisms of obstruction and further weakening of the state. The so-called ‘entity vote’ or ‘entity veto’ mechanism in Parliament is intended to protect group interests (of constitutive peoples); instead it is often misused. Since the post-war political reality in Bosnia and Herzegovina has not given room for too much optimism, hope was placed in the international community and integration processes that were under way on the European continent.
The transition from former socialist regimes and post-conflict reconstruction, along with democratic consolidation, have turned the Western Balkan countries towards EU integration as the logical regional response to globalization – specially the ex-Yugoslav republics, which need a strong stimulant to go from arms to ‘carrots’, and thereby ensure the stability and prosperity of the region. Since the birth of the idea, the European Union has grown from six to 28 Member States as a result of a series of enlargements. It was the fifth enlargement in two successive waves, in 2004 and 2007, to include 12 new Member States that defined the contours of the enlargement policy. This now covers the countries applying for EU membership (under the enlargement process) and the potential candidates of the Western Balkans (under the Stabilisation and Association Process). The main framework for enlargement is set out in Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union and the Copenhagen criteria. Official EU reasoning is that (a) the objective of the enlargement process is to prepare the applicant countries so that they can assume their obligations as Member States on accession, and (b) the Stabilisation and Association Process aims gradually to bring the potential candidate countries closer to the EU. These processes are based on strict conditions, with due regard for the specific needs and merits of each country, and are supported by bilateral and financial instruments devised for this purpose.
EU conditionality is a strategy of reinforcement by reward with set criteria and conditions with visions of a better future, prosperity, security and cooperation in the region. With substantial funds introduced through different instruments and programmes, along with decentralized project management and enabling and empowering domestic institutions to carry out the process of transition and European integration, the EU is slowly but surely achieving its goal of regional stabilization and security, ensuring that its future outer borders are safe and boosting the EU economy, thereby satisfying all criteria (political, economic and legal) - preserving its values of democracy and human rights along with strengthening its position in the global environment as a rising leader, primarily regionally but also on the world stage. But can the same methodology be applied in all cases? Bosnia and Herzegovina is definitely not an ‘ordinary’ state. For example, on one hand, there is Croatia, a prospective member which faces no major difficulties in meeting the political requirements for membership, and Serbia, as a geopolitically interesting candidate for the EU, and on the other hand, there is Bosnia and Herzegovina as a potential candidate that has tried to make considerable progress in order to secure candidate status, but its complex constitutional structures and nationalism often lead to blockages and inefficiency in decision making.
The European Commission regularly reaffirms that each country will advance towards this goal on its own merits, depending on its progress in meeting the requirements. However, these requirements are not always clear and firm. The countries are at different stages along their path towards the EU, but all will be able to realize their European perspective by following the road map - at least this is the official line. To assist them in this journey, the EU has provided throughout the years different financial instruments with significant budgets to support reform processes and to induce stimulation for the accession process.
As a very attractive carrot, from 2000 to 2013, the EU allocated to Bosnia and Herzegovina a total of 1.1 billion Euros. What value the beneficiary countries and institutions realistically received and how effectively the funds were used by beneficiary countries cannot be discussed here, though both are questions worthy of further research. However, the question remains whether the different incentives granted to Croatia or Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina resulted in different levels of development and strengths of institutions and have contributed to the current different status in their EU integration. It appears that EU carrots were more efficient and sweet and that Western Balkan countries cannot get enough, regardless of the size and shape of the stick.
Regarding sticks, the conditionality approach of the EU to Bosnia and Herzegovina, among other requirements, first and foremost is constitutional reform with the goal of ensuring a functional democracy and equality and nondiscrimination for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just as a reminder, the current Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in Annex IV of the Dayton Peace Agreement – a peace treaty document intended to stop the war (and not a long-term solution). The Dayton Peace Agreement is widely criticized for its content and implementation methods. Mujkić states (2008) that Dayton’s Bosnia and Herzegovina has proven to be an inefficient creation which relies on generating crises from which the power is used by ethno-nationalist elites, which fundamentally relies on discrimination of citizens. What has the EU done with its ‘stick’, and how and why is it involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina? What is the difference in approach of the EU between Croatia and Serbia on one side, and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other?