European in Bosnia and Herzegovina
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, a wave of political changes came also to the Balkans. As a legacy of almost 50 years of communism in the region, people were more susceptible to continuing to cherish the cult of the leader, even in multiparty systems. Some of those leaders brought independence and ‘democratic’ mechanisms to their countries but remained as key political figures who suppressed development of a democratic culture. Since the wartime leaders have been replaced by more democratic politicians, the Balkan states have attempted to build more democratic governments and societies. However, the main dilemmas relate to security and unresolved statehood. This has dominated political life and influences how the European Union interacts with the region. Fears of a chain reaction in the Balkans’ ‘powder keg’ (i.e. the re-instigation of movements to create ‘greater’ nations in order to enlarge the boundaries of the state beyond historical boundaries, beyond those areas where the national ethnic group was in the majority or to adopt ethnic cleansing as a political doctrine), and that this could spread to the rest of Europe, continue to define the EU’s engagement policy and the ways in which the accession and preaccession agenda is articulated.
As a result, the stability interests of the region are sometimes prioritized over other considerations, including the consolidation of democracy. According to Balfour and Stratulat, ‘[t]his approach undervalues a crucial lesson learned from European integration and enlargement: democracies are the most suitable polities to solve security and state-building problems, but not a perfect solution. At the heart of the problem is the state: its weakness is a major challenge for carrying out the necessary reforms for integration into the EU and for the resolution of internal and neighbourhood problems’.
Following a period of confusion in EU foreign policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina (e.g. its second-row seat (behind the USA) in mediation, security stabilization and post-war reconstruction and consolidation), with the beginning of the 2000s the EU took up more of a presence, politically and financially in the country. As a result of the increased political and (decreased) military and police presence, financial assistance grew progressively as well. Both ‘sticks’ and ‘carrots’ were increasingly introduced. Although scaling down the US engagement in the Balkans after 11 September 2001 is consistent with the process of European integration, now seen as ‘the only game in town’, the EU should encourage that engagement to continue, especially in view of the fact that the United States enjoys strong credibility in the region (particularly in Kosovo and Bosnia) and that its professed primary goal, precisely, is to assist the region’s accession to the EU, or in short: European integration strengthened by an Atlantic insurance policy.
The first post-war period in Bosnia and Herzegovina (from 1996 to the 2000 elections) was characterized by regrouping, determining parallel truths in public discourse and infrastructure reconstruction with the assistance of the international community. After the war, the EU started to become more involved in the region and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It started slowly, first in 1998 when the EU/Bosnia and Herzegovina Consultative Task Force was established. In 1999 the EU proposed the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) for five countries of South Eastern Europe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. In June 2000 the Feira European Council stated that all the SAP countries were potential candidates for EU membership. In November 2000, the Zagreb Summit launched the SAP for those five countries. At that time, EU officials were still talking about a ‘regional approach’, hoping that the former Yugoslav republics might all be approaching the EU at the same pace. The ‘regional approach’ is to be understood here as the intention by the EU to integrate several countries of the region at the same time.
In adopting the ‘regional approach’ towards the Western Balkan countries, the EU’s aim was to reconcile and rehabilitate relations between countries by introducing European values and standards, such as democracy and the rule of law, in order to foster their transition to a peaceful, stable and prosperous region. This aim was strengthened for the purpose primarily of securing and stabilizing the region by offering incentives that would draw the countries closer to the EU politically and economically. Although the initial aim of the EU regional approach was to deal with the countries as a ‘group’ or in a ‘package’, the particularities of each country were taken into account so that the assessment of their performances was based on their individual merits. Soon it was clear that state-building and multi-stage transitional processes were going at different speeds, therefore this regional approach in terms of timing was soon abandoned.
According to Misita, ‘in mid-2007 Bosnia and Herzegovina was characterized by two phenomenons: national-political outsmarting by political establishment in two entities from one side and insufficiently determined “arm twisting” by so called international actors, from the other side”. Some ‘arm-twisting’, or the use of the stick, as we call it, should obviously have been used with more determination, since both the opportunity and the need existed. However, as a consequence of these initial processes of EU integration in the region, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a potential candidate for EU accession since the Thessaloniki European Council in June 2003 and has made use of the EU autonomous trade measures since 2000. It has been seen that the enlargement process was considered to be the best catalyst for political and democratic (unstoppable) transformation in the region as a whole. Furthermore, the EU used more coercive means to ensure stability through the presence of protectorate structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUSR/OHR) and the interim administration in Kosovo (EULEX), which have been functioning with more or less success.
On the financial aspect, since 1991, the European Union has dedicated, through various assistance programmes, 6.8 billion Euros to the Western Balkans. In 2000, aid to the region was provided through a new programme called Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation (CARDS). Through the programme 4.6 billion Euros has been provided to this region in the period 2000 to 2006 for investment, institution building, and other measures to achieve four main objectives: (a) reconstruction, democratic stabilization, reconciliation and the return of refugees; (b) institutional and legislative development, including harmonization with European Union norms and approaches, to underpin democracy and the rule of law, human rights, civil society and the media, and the operation of a free market economy; (c) sustainable economic and social development, including structural reform; and (d) promotion of closer relations and regional cooperation among countries and between them, the EU and the candidate countries of central Europe (EU Council 2000).
In so doing, the European Union wanted to introduce reform processes in countries of the region to bring them closer to EU values, market and political environment, and to (re)build sustainable democratic systems which would in turn provide security and stability in the region, since the Western Balkan countries have been seen not only as strategic partners and eventually full Member States of the EU, but also as potential danger to the stability in Europe (and for the EU).
Nevertheless, the carrot-and-stick approach of EU conditionality towards Bosnia and Herzegovina is relatively well envisaged, a few major flaws have been detected, while rigid EU bureaucracy and lack of a single voice is not helping. Why is a relatively good approach to EU enlargement that proved acceptable in other cases not working well in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
In order to discuss the EU’s approach towards Bosnia and Herzegovina in the wider Western Balkan context, we will use the overview of key elements of this process. Their principal observation was that [t]he political conditionality of the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina had to respond to issues of challenged statehood and the dysfunctionality of state structures, challenges that had not been the subject of EU conditionality in earlier enlargement rounds. Although the state structure in itself has not been considered an obstacle to the EU membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it has been recognized that the limited functionality of Bosnia’s central government is an obstacle to further progress towards accession … Consequently, EU conditionality is involved in issues of state building and building up “Bosnian stateness”. (2)
As previously mentioned, the semi-protectorate structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina is headed by the Office of the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main task of the OHR since the Dayton Peace Agreement has been to ensure its implementation and interpret its provisions. The end of mandate of the High Representative (HR) and possible closure of the OHR are not very clear. The general understanding was that it would be closed down once the country was on an ‘irreversible’ road to the EU and NATO. But with the chances of ‘irreversibility’ getting slimmer after 2006, the international community started to run out of arguments for closing it down.
For some time now, the international community has been talking about the fazing-out and hands-off approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some sort of fatigue is apparent; understandable, but also very dangerous. Like a single parent trying to discipline their child with empty threats (the stick) and overindulgence (undeserved carrot), without any other guiding authority to help develop social values, the child is most likely to become a spoiled brat, and exhibit behavioural problems, and become a problem for the community. This is exactly how ethno nationalistic political elites in Bosnia and Herzegovina are beginning to behave. The OHR is no longer the motor driving Bosnia forward, and it is too late for it to resume that role in any open-ended way (ICG 2009). The Peace Implementation Council (PIC) announced in 2006 that it wanted to close the OHR and rely henceforth on the EU. At that time, the period of progressive reforms was diminishing and Bosnia and Herzegovina was entering the ‘magic circle of permanent crises’. The PIC comprises 55 countries and agencies that support the peace process by assisting financially, providing troops for EUFOR, or directly running operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are also a fluctuating number of observers. The PIC has a Steering Board which provides the High Representative with political guidance. In Sarajevo, the High Representative chairs weekly meetings between the Ambassadors to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Steering Board members. In addition, the Steering Board meets at the level of political directors three times a year. The Steering Board members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, the Presidency of the European Union, the European Commission, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which is represented by Turkey. As observed elsewhere, ‘[t]he PIC hoped this would spur Bosnia to qualify faster for EU membership, but the opposite has happened: left largely to themselves, Bosnian leaders have become locked in a standstill, and some reforms have begun to unravel. Some argue that the shock therapy of an end to the OHR would have a salutary effect on politicians who have grown accustomed to being protected against the worst effects of their irresponsible behaviour’ (ICG 2009).
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with newly introduced democratic mechanisms which have not come about as the result of internal democratic processes and people are not sufficiently prepared to be able to bear the sovereignty as should happen in a democratic society. Furthermore, dealing only with political elites (as often the international community and the EU have done) only suppresses democratization further. After Dayton, the international community and, more recently, the EU have headed political guidance, intended to raise awareness among people, democratic responsibility among political elites and the overall democratic culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina society. Well, it seems they are giving up - The operation was successful but the patient died – we tried reanimating with the Carrot and Stick, but it did not work!
Paddy Ashdown was the first HR to announce that he would be the last, right at the start of his mandate in 2002. His successor, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, conveyed the same message throughout his one-year mandate, while the next two High Representatives, Miroslav Lajčák and Valentin Inzko, were tasked with planning the transition from the OHR to the EU Special Representative (EUSR). The Head of the EC Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Peter Sorensen, presented his credentials to the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 September 2011. Ambassador Sorensen was ‘double hatted’ as EUSR and Head of the EC Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina. No major improvement to the role of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina was made with Sorensen. Maybe the worst political crisis since the end of the war has been going on since the general election in 2010, and a long period is needed to make a coalition at state level and form a Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. (3)
Belgium earned the award for longest period without government for 541 days of negotiations after the 2010 election, which beat war-torn Iraq (249 days without government) for the dubious world record. Well, even here, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the best (as one joke goes: You are so incompetent that in the competition for the ‘most incompetent one’ you would finish in second place - you cannot be first even there!) but is in a strong second place with 480 days without government! Considering that Bosnia and Herzegovina is actually a (semi)protectorate, this story could be a strong candidate for a ‘Believe it or Not’ section. So far, the international community and the European Union have mainly negotiated reform processes and offered carrots and sticks to the political party leaders believed to have the most power to represent the respective constitutive peoples. We will later review the example of constitutional reform processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the role of the EU.
Even though it sometimes seems that the EU is not committed full time to Bosnia and Herzegovina, at least through regular Progress Reports the European Commission is showing quality analysis of the situation. Among the first conclusions of the 2011 Progress Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina was that overall, ‘little progress was made by Bosnia and Herzegovina in improving the functionality and efficiency of all levels of government. One year after the general elections, a State-level Council of Ministers remains to be appointed. The political representatives lack a shared vision on the direction to be taken by the country. An effective coordination mechanism between the State, the Entities and Brčko District remains to be established as a matter of urgency regarding EU matters and the harmonisation of EU related legislation’ (EC 2011). The NGO Centre of Civil Initiatives’ (CCI) interpretation of the 2011 EC Progress Report includes the following statements: ‘Failure to reach political agreement and form the government at the state level hinders the country’s progress on key reforms required for achieving further progress in EU integrations. The accession to EU requires functional institutions on all levels and effective mechanism for coordination of EU related issues’ (CCI 2011). This demonstrates that the EU is aware that state institutions are weak and that they need them as strong partner for the enlargement process; however, it does not fully explain their approach in emphasizing negotiation and partnership with political party leaders and entities.
As a result of its specific historical, constitutional and evidence-based situation, collective rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be protected and taken into account. However, talks should not involve the political party leaders, but rather the democratically elected representatives in the legislative and executive branches, such as members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency (Bosniak, Croat, Serb - directly elected by the people) or delegates to the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly (House of Peoples and/or House or Representatives).
Firstly, people elect their representatives to protect their interests. Political party leaders are elected by their members (most political parties are run in totalitarian style with strong leader cults). On the other hand, even with lot of flaws, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution does provide for some democratic mechanisms and institutions. For example, the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina has 15 delegates, two-thirds of whom are from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (five Bosniak and five Croat delegates) and one-third comes from Republika Srpska (five Serb delegates). The nominated Bosniak and Croat delegates from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are elected by Bosniak and Croat delegates respectively in the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the delegates from the Republika Srpska are elected by the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska. Even being discriminatory this provides a platform to discuss collective rights and not to accept political party leaders as representatives of peoples.
But any such ‘democratic mechanisms’ become just a form. In practice, political party leaders of several of the strongest parties are placed above democratically-elected institutions and elected representatives since, by default, all elected representatives have to do whatever their party leader decides in the country. This situation is very much supported, and even encouraged, by the EU identifying these political party leaders as their partners in the reform process negotiation. Therefore, state institutions are continuously weakened and power is shifted to few ethno-nationalistic party leaders, suffocating democracy both in the political arena and within political parties.
This is how the European Commission assessed the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the road to a European future and their success with the carrot and stick: Bosnia and Herzegovina has made limited progress in addressing the political criteria. In the areas of democracy and the rule of law, one year after the general elections held on 3 October 2010, the process of establishing executive and legislative authorities remains to be completed with the establishment of a State-level Government … The lack of a credible process for the harmonization of the Constitution with the European Convention on Human Rights remains an issue of serious concern … The administrative capacity of the Parliament improved but lack of coordination between the State and Entity parliaments and political discord between the Entities has continued to hamper the work of the Parliamentary Assembly … Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved very limited progress in tackling corruption … [P]olitical representatives in Republika Srpska frequently challenged the territorial integrity of the country … As regards the economic criteria, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made little further progress towards a functioning market economy. (European Commission 2011)
Even after the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina was finally formed at the beginning of 2012, the parties in coalition are still not making any progress in political, economic or social reforms. Furthermore, current coalitions are falling apart because they have not been formed on the basis of a programme platform but rather on division of power and increase of their influence on public companies, agencies and institutions, including the Public Broadcasting System. The ethno-political elites have discovered that the EU is no longer going to use the ‘stick’, while the ‘carrot’ alone is not working. The only form of punishment that the EU is exercising is to stall the progress of EU integration, thereby only punishing the people and further empowering the politicians to continue to keep their voters in vicious circle of fear that is just strengthening position of ethno nationalistic political leaders. As seen, even with the ‘carrot’ there is an issue between the State and Entities on whether to accept it and how to use it.
Another serious issue, and probably the root problem, is corruption. Transparency International (2015) placed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 76st place on the corruption chart, with a score of 3.8. The lack of political will and inadequate anti-corruption efforts are hindering Bosnia’s fight against corruption, says a joint report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) from Sarajevo and the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) from Sofia, a project funded by the EU.
According to the report, levels of corruption in Bosnia started rising after 2000. New anti-corruption legislation and strategies were introduced at this time, and courts began investigating cases of corruption. However, convictions on charges of corruption are still rare, and high-level politicians and organized crime figures are notably absent from courtrooms. Even when measures are taken against such individuals, reversals of court decisions and release from custody are not unusual.
As observed, ‘the fight against corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of largely uncoordinated activities backed by no explicit local political will’. Hence, it is very difficult to expect political elites to remove themselves from office and go to jail, since fighting corruption would apparently end up like that. This is another important argument to have in mind in understanding the current political landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it reveals how staying in power is more important than a future in the European Union for some political leaders.
Nevertheless, there were periods when everybody was thinking that better days were ahead, but, as always, something went wrong. Bassuener contends that at some point (2005-2006) the international community saw that Bosnia was moving irreversibly toward becoming a functioning state, and toward EU and NATO membership: It might move slower than we’d like to see, but it was only a matter of time until it got there. The international community could afford to continue dismantling the safety net that it had created for Bosnia. 2006 should have made clear this was not the case, but the international - especially EU - approach has remained on bureaucratic autopilot ever since, despite the deteriorating political situation. This has generated increasing uncertainty in Bosnia, as all the rules that previously applied after Dayton have been violated without consequences. The return of organized violence was unthinkable in early 2006. Four years later, it is no longer. There is a sense that the international community has no strategy for Bosnia, and is fixated on reducing its own responsibility. This projection of weakness has emboldened all those political leaders who espouse unfulfilled agendas to cross previously sacrosanct red lines.
Constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the most challenging task for both local politicians and the international community. The international community understood that it was partly responsible for the very difficult constitutional framework which should have been a provisional transitional solution and not permanent tool for nationalists to keep people in fear and maintain the status quo. Furthermore, the EU saw at the beginning that it would be very difficult to have such a disorganized state as a Member State and requested this to be one of the conditions, but later it softened its position. A new constitution remains desperately needed to ensure equal human rights, freedoms, equality, rule of law and social and economic prosperity along with processes of truth and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to make acceptable consociation agreements and a functional State, and not be the ultimate playground and experiment for the international community.
In April 2010, the latest (serious) attempt by the EU and USA to help overcome the political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina failed, with key Bosnian political players rejecting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos’ efforts, during a visit to Sarajevo, to convince them to sign up to constitutional reforms and a reform agenda after the 2010 general election. Previously, the hasty and ill-prepared EU-US initiative at the Butmir NATO base next to Sarajevo airport in autumn 2009 contributed to creating the sense of crisis rather than alleviating it. International mediators had hoped to kick-start constitutional changes and secure a deal on the remaining criteria necessary for the Ofﬁce of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be closed. While driven by desirable goals, the process was mishandled by the US and the EU. The initiative was designed to put pressure on the political parties to agree to major concessions, but most walked away from the talks and rejected the internationally proposed reforms when they realized that neither Sticks nor Carrots were on the table, just a show of engagement.
Following the aborted talks and a few further rounds of technical discussions, the so-called Butmir Process is dead. It was one in a line of significant failures of previous reform efforts, from the ‘April Package’ (of 2006, which was rejected in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliament) to the ‘Prud Agreement’ (a vague platform for constitutional reforms drafted in a small Bosnian village in 2008). Despite several failed attempts to lead constitutional reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the international community has even increased its pressure on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political elites after the Decision by European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in the case of Sejdić and Finci vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2002 and was therefore party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Furthermore, the Dayton Peace Accords incorporated rights and freedoms from the European Convention (along with 15 other international instruments on human rights) directly into the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution ensures direct applicability of the European Convention and has priority over other legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The case of Sejdić and Finci vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application No. 27996/06 and 34836/06) has increased pressure by the international community on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political elites to make the necessary constitutional reforms. In order to understand better the complexity of constitutional framework some explanation is needed. Both Dervo Sejdić (Roma national minority) and Jakob Finci (Jewish national minority) are citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex IV of Dayton Peace Accords), in its Preamble, makes a distinction between two categories of citizens: the so-called ‘constituent peoples’ (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) and ‘Others’ (Jews, Roma and other national minorities, together with those who do not declare affiliation with any ethnic group, including those who declare themselves as just Bosnians (and Herzegovinians)). The House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly (the second chamber) and the Presidency are composed only of persons belonging to the three constituent peoples. Mr Jakob Finci enquired with the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina about his intentions to stand for election to the Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly. On 3 January 2007 he received written confirmation from the Central Election Commission that he was ineligible to stand for such elections because of his Jewish origin.
In December 2009 the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights was published. The Court found that the applicants’ ineligibility to stand for election to the House of Peoples violated Article 14 of the ECHR (ban of discrimination in the field of Convention rights) taken in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (free elections), and that their ineligibility to stand for election to the Presidency violated Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 (general ban of discrimination). However, even two and a half years after the Decision of the Court, there have been no serious efforts by leading political parties to make the necessary constitutional reform and the international community is getting tired of offering carrots and showing sticks, since neither is really working any more. Why?
We have seen that the EU (alone or/and in partnership with others) is struggling to find a way (fast)forward for Bosnia and Herzegovina and to find the best use of the carrot and stick. Among other issues, international credibility took a big hit in 2007 when the EU signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina - a major step in the accession process - even though specific police legislation that the EU strenuously insisted on as a precondition had not been adopted. Furthermore, the High Representative was engaged in a related confrontation with the leader of the Republika Srpska. The closing of the OHR while two objectives (resolving the status of the Brčko District and dealing with state property) and one condition (full compliance with the Dayton agreement), identified by the PIC in 2008 as requirements, remain unmet would risk crippling the EU’s ability to apply firm policies toward Bosnia long after the protectorate itself has ended. It would also weaken EU credibility throughout the region, notably in Kosovo (ICG 2009).
The latest efforts with the ‘Butmir Process’ failed for three reasons: the EU and US were ill prepared, suggesting ‘quick ﬁx’ solutions to the parties. Second, international mediators had little to offer in exchange for reform - just the ‘carrot’ on the paper - especially to those parties that would have lost out as a result. Third, by creating a sense of emergency in Butmir’s army barracks, the mediators suggested that extra-institutional and quasi-coercive means might be used to change Bosnia’s political structure. The EU and the US lacked the means and determination to back up such a high-risk strategy. While the nationalist and uncooperative rhetoric of an ethno-nationalist political leader is not helping the process, the international community must take a large share of the responsibility. The EU, in particular, has taken a contradictory line.
The criteria and conditions for further progress in the Stabilisation and Association Process have changed and remain unclear. The EU has been particularly ambivalent about constitutional reform, supporting (although not whole-heartedly) the ﬁrst US-led efforts that failed in April 2006 and then subsequently stating that constitutional changes are not a requirement, but are necessary. Even if this might be right, it has spread damaging confusion.
Since citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina see potential membership as l’aboutissement du rêve (the dream come true/solution for all problems) and are largely supportive of the process (VPI 2012), political elites often use EU accession in public discourse to please the voters. There can be no doubt that, although political elites declare their support of EU accession, no major political actor is willing to agree to yield powers for the sake of this alone, at least not without a serious carrot-and-stick game plan.
Furthermore, decisions on which level of government negotiates with the EU, and where standards are set and implemented, are not technical but profoundly political, and the EU continues to make the mistake of avoiding official institutions of the state. This is even more puzzling since the negotiations and partnerships with all other former Yugoslav republics were conducted only with state officials/institutions and not political party leaders or lower administrative units of the country. There are, of course, different constitutional frameworks in all countries, with the conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina being very specific (historically, politically and constitutionally), but the principles are (or should be) the same for all on the road to the EU.
The EU’s record of engagement so far has not been good: the failed police reform demonstrates that when the locus of power becomes more important than the substance of reform and when the requirements lack credibility, the EU is bound to fail. Consequently, effective EU engagement needs to focus not on one particular institutional set-up, but rather on clearly identifying what different institutional set-ups can (and cannot) engage with the EU during the accession process and once Bosnia becomes a Member State. Ever since the ﬁrst elections after the war in 1996, there have been hopes that more moderate and cooperative parties would come to power, but more often than not, the opposite has been true - or, as was the case in the 2006 and 2010 elections, the ‘moderates’ turned out to be more uncompromising than the established nationalist parties.
It is crucial to emphasize that the effectiveness of the EU’s conditionality approach depends on three factors: (a) the EU’s readiness and level of dependability in pursuing conditionality principles; (b) the structural context of the State where conditionality is being applied (functionality of the state and its administrative capacities); and (c) the willingness and engagement of political elites consequently to undertake their obligations within the EU integration process. All these levels are being seriously challenged in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
To end on a more optimistic tone, the EU and the international community have done a great job in some segments, including stopping the war, providing security and stability in the regions, supporting the country’s reconstruction and facilitating several successful state-building projects (such as regulation of the communications sector by establishing and supporting the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and defence reform), providing substantial financial assistance in reconstruction and reforms and given hope to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina that a better future is possible with(in) the EU.
Civil society is being supported and education for democracy has been promoted. One successful example of the use of the carrot and stick is the Schengen zone visa liberalization process in which a set of reforms has been successfully implemented. This has demonstrated that when the goal is clear, relevant partners are identified along with who is leading the process and what the ultimate prize is - it all goes much easier. With the liberalization of the visa regime for the Schengen zone, young people have been given a sense of freedom and the ability to travel freely to study and learn. By exposing more citizens to other European countries Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to have a better future with new educated generations and to adopt best practices and knowledge in various fields. Even though the process of brain-drain is still a concern, more cases of brain-gain are being reported. With the Dayton Peace Accords the international community has taken responsibility for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU needs to stimulate the government and ethno-nationalist political elite to be more responsible and efficient by better use of the very powerful tool - the carrot and stick. The European Union does have both, it just has to find the best model of employment. The EU’s approach towards Bosnia and Herzegovina should be simultaneously democratization, Europeanization and state building.
Nevertheless, I offer here a few principles. First, constitutional amendments should only be introduced through the formal institutional process, not pushed through ad hoc meetings, to reduce the risk of spoiling tactics if only party leaders are included. Second, the EU should steer the process by providing advice and guidance, offering a clear menu of options to prepare Bosnia’s institutional structure not only for accession negotiations but also for membership; it will not produce immediate results and Bosnia will continue to require EU patience and long-term engagement. However, the main power remains in the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina who have managed to overcome great historical obstacles with a smile and good spirit still preserved. Slowly but surely, they are understanding political reality and the need to hold elected officials responsible for their promises and actions. After all, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have had only 20 years to play with democracy in very difficult circumstances. However, the European Union is the logical and natural partner for the present and future, and hopefully will stay fully committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.