Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 21:27:36 -0600 (CST)
From: Greek Helsinki Monitor <email@example.com>
Subject: [balkanhr] AIM: Bosnia Four Years After Dayton
Past weekend in Dayton, the fourth anniversary of signing of the Dayton peace accords on Bosnia & Herzegovina were observed “busily and solemnly”. Busily because there was plenty to say about (un)successfulness of the Bosnian experiment and it was necessary to say for the first time in public that amendments of the Dayton Constitution of B&H were inevitable and that there are strategic errors in this document. Solemnly because representatives of the three ethnic oligarchies in B&H, although they had arrived separately and had no mutual contacts, testified that in the past four years there had been no killing or blood spilling like in the years before Dayton.
But four years after Dayton, this is what Bosnia & Herzegovina looks like: almost none of the institutions of legislative and executive power in either entity operate; “Large” privatisation has not even begun, and privatisation of small companies is proceeding with the advantage given to single-ethnic and party management of companies which had taken over control during the war; The market is completely controlled by ethnic oligarchies, economic programs for revival of the economy do not exist, and exchange of goods is taking place just for the sake of increasing the funds controlled by a small group of persons; Human rights and safety are at a low level and they are still experienced as an exception and not a rule; Instead of a reform of the monetary system and banking, cases are revealed of manipulation, corruption and uninstitutional flows of money; Return of refugees takes place mostly in the interior of the country where it is the matter of return of private property, while in the cities the return is constantly obstructed because the leaders and their cronies have usurped the housing units of the refugees and do not wish to give them up; Reform of the judiciary has not even started because of powerful control of the judiciary by the parties in power aimed at preservation of the system; Proclaimed reform of the media in such conditions has led most of the independent media to a dilemma whether to replace the increasingly unrealistic demand of the international community for self-preservation in the market with alternative sources of financing (various lobby groups, powerful individuals, political parties) which will reflect on their independence.
To the repeated question why this is so, or rather why no progress has been made in B&H as planned four years ago in Dayton, the answer could be found in three great delusions which are petrifying the status quo in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The country which was given peace in Dayton imposed on it and which is not making major moves towards development of sustainable peace, economy and democratisation, will hardly be able to break away from the vicious circle as long as Bosnia & Herzegovina fails to solve three great delusions;
Four years after signing of the peace accords, the groups in power whose political concepts had led to the war conflict are still expected to voluntarily give up on their successful projections of privately owned totalitarian statelets. In the name of the forced signature on the peace document in Dayton, B&H authorities are expected to start working against their narrow interests and begin acting in accordance with the Dayton principles which do not guarantee their surbival in power. This delusion also implies unrealistic expectations that the beginning of economic reconstruction of the country and development of a market would be sufficient to establish a system of new values instead of the former one based on loyalty to a single centre of power.
However, uninstitutional operation of ethnic oligarchies is not the result of the war but a reflection of their actual operation—the aim of the war: only through preservation of the state of hopelessness, by prevention of the rule of law and absence of order and system in any segment, the authorities in B&H can achieve their narrow party objectives and make personal profit. That is the reason why exceptionally high corruptness has seized all levels and all segments of the society in B&H. The remark of Chris Bennet (former president of the International Crisis Group in B&H) is interesting (and unfortunately true) in which he established that even if by some miracle the regime was changed in the elections, the new authorities would not be able to rule this country: they would be helpless and just like puppets on a string because parallel institutions of power have been established in B&H ranging from decision-making centres to secret police and parallel funds which would continue to be controlled by the present authorities.
And the population of B&H which is frustrated by the war, limited by nationalism, intimidated by the totalitarian regime and all kinds of violence is expected to be rational and highly moral in its consideration who should it put its trust in to rule the country. Something like that is questionable even in countries with by far longer election tradition, least of all here where population with toadyish attitude to the authorities was promoted and favoured for decades, who did not recognise the responsibilities and the rights of the individual. Generations and generations were brought up on single-party values and collective (partisan, ethnic) responsibilities. Perhaps the best example for the slavish attitude to the authorities even when their responsibility for the situation in the country is obvious was manifested by protesters at the gatherings of pensioners and workers held last month in Sarajevo. They started their rallies of discontent by speeches in which they expressed gratitude to the police and the authorities for having allowed them to publicly state that they were discontented?! Not ready to address their discontent to those responsible in the authorities, the protesters acted as if their hard living was the result of a natural disaster and not of the situation in the country caused by the behavior of the current leadership.
There is a deep-rooted opinion especially among the Bosnians and the Herzegovinians that the international community is obliged to invest money and become involved in making B&H a country according to European standards and values. Therefore, it would not be surprising if, for instance, the discontent of the workers and future social riots which might be numerous in this coming winter will be addressed to and take place in front of the buildings of the Office of High Representative, OSCE or other international institutions in B&H instead of in front of responsible ministries or institutions of domestic authorities. That is why the Dayton peace agreement was modified by broadening of the authorisation of the High Representative and later by some other decisions (on Brcko, for instance). This, however, does not mean that the western states are united in their stand towards accelerated changes and transition in B&H. Indeed, the conflict between the so-called American and the European concept of B&H is increasingly evident, for example concerning implementation of values of the European Conventions on Human Rights in the supreme B&H laws. Not rarely private interests of foreign diplomats are put above objectives of their mission (insisting of ambassador R. Barry on adopting his election law which was described by a part of the domestic and the foreign public as a document which gives advantage to the ethnic and segregational concept of power), and the disproportion between the rights and authority of international representatives on the one hand and absence of their responsibility on the other, leave enough space for constant postponement of the proclaimed objectives from the peace documents.
This very possibility of constant postponement of real changes in B&H endangers numerous projects initiated by Western countries for the sake of democratisation and transition of the country. In fact, Bosnian political crossroads is nowadays the crossroads for the international community as well: should it get just partially involved in the processes of changes in the country, ad hoc, with limited but uncertain results or should it get openly engaged in global changes of the system of rule in B&H which would require accepting part of the responsibility for the success of the proclaimed objectives from the peace accords. This question would require adapting of B&H legislature with the international convention on human rights and preventing of the current protagonists of power, in other words constant opportunists of the Dayton accords, the possibility of a new election victory. But the current ruling oligarchy will not do anything of the kind, of course, and judging by the new election law it has prepared, the international community has no intention to open a real conflict with the local “magnates”.
Indeed, to admit the mistakes made in the past four years would automatically mean having to explain to its own public what it has been doing in Bosnia and what it has spent billions of dollars on? It is easier this way: dogs are barking, and caravans are passing along.