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INFO   :::  Region > Bosnia - PAGE 1 > Reform without institutional change


Reform without institutional change

Daniel Serwer

November 18, 2015



The Center for Transatlantic Relations conference on Twenty Years after Dayton: Prospects for Progress in Reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina wrapped up yesterday. Here are ten of my main takeaways:


1.The Reform Agenda the Europeans, the IMF and the World Bank are pursuing contains lots of good initiatives that Bosnian politicians of all stripes warmly welcome, hoping they will generate the prosperity so sorely lacking since the financial crisis of 2007/8 (or at least a large flow of IFI and EU funding).

2.Focus on the Reform Agenda has driven political and institutional reform, without which it is hard to picture much improvement in the functionality of government in Bosnia, off the agenda, at least for the moment.

3.The leadership of the two Bosnian sub-state entities, Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation, are happy with this, as it blocks any effort to strengthen the state and empowers them to collaborate in fulfilling the demands for policy reform from the EU and the international financial institutions in ways that don’t endanger the powers that be.

4.Policy collaboration between the entities is frequent and substantial but unlikely to bring about any serious institutional change.

5.Republika Srpska continues to try to use the threat of holding a vague and tendentious referendum on the High Representative and the state judiciary to extract concessions from the Europeans in the “structured dialogue” on the judiciary.

6.Serbs (even within the RS) are however not united in supporting the referendum, though I imagine it will pass overwhelmingly if held (since many of those opposed won’t vote).

7.The lure of eventual EU membership is unlikely to be strong enough to prevent the referendum from being held; RS President Dodik is aiming to neuter the Bosnian state judiciary, not to enter the EU.

8.If the referendum passes, the Americans would want to respond with some vigor, but it is not clear the EU would join in.

9.Referendum or not, the RS is progressing towards its goal of accumulating all the sovereign power it thinks itself entitled to under the Dayton constitution.

10.The state government could end up lacking the authority required to negotiate and implement the acquis communitaire, making the EU accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina highly unlikely unless there is a serious effort at institutional reform and strengthening state competences, including the authority of its judiciary throughout the country.

Oh, how I wish I am wrong. But that’s how I see the situation.



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