By Vladimir Gligorov
Sustainability of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina depends on political
developments in Croatia and Serbia. The whys are obvious. Say, if Serbia really takes up
integration into the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina will follow the same course.
Hence, its sustainability as a state will either not be questioned any longer or will be
discussed in a different manner. The Croatia case proves the thesis: the process of
Croatia's integration into EU influenced its policy for Bosnia-Herzegovina and, as such,
considerably contributed to Bosnia's stability and sustainability. Of course, the
functionality and even rationality of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its
sustainability are still under debate in Croatia. But this debate totally differs from the
one between the Federation entity and Republika Srpska. The difference itself stems from
the fact that Croatia will soon become an EU member-state and that its policy for
Bosnia-Herzegovina will have to correspond that of the European Union.
Presently, that's not the case when it comes to Serbia and Republika
Srpska. But, as it seems, things have been changing since the International Court of
Justice pronounced its advisory opinion on Kosovo. Till that moment the leadership of
Republika Srpska was advocating Serbia's insistence on Kosovo's partition and assimilation
of Republika Srpska. This implied that Serbia renounces integration into the European
Union. Serbia's shift towards speedier integration implies, among other things,
renouncement of partition policies for Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serbia will be
duty-bound to give up such policies the moment its application for EU candidacy it taken
into consideration, let alone at the startup of the process of negotiations and
institutional and political harmonization. Serbia's policy of integration into EU makes
Bosnia-Herzegovina politically sustainable.
Why should that be so? First and foremost, Bosnia-Herzegovina will also
have to opt for integration into European Union. In that case, it will have to be
capacitated for the association process and for effective functioning as a member-state.
And these two premises necessitate a new constitution, a constitution reflecting the
state's multiethnic character but also establishing Bosnia-Herzegovina as a political
entity accountable to its citizens and accountable to the European Union and its
member-state. A state can opt for a constitutional system that suits it the best but must
be accountable to its citizens and other states. In other words, Bosnia-Herzegovina will
have to become a sovereign state.
Of course, Serbia needs not remain committed to the course towards
European Union. Anyway, not long ago members of the Serbian cabinet - the Foreign Minister
and the Minister for European Integrations in the first place - were publicly referring to
Serbia's uncertain EU prospects. And leaders of Republika Srpska were echoing these
prognoses. After all, why Serbia should engage in a dialogue with Kosovo representatives
or representatives of other peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to speed up its
integration into European Union when the Union itself is not ready yet to admit new
member-states, they wondered. In the meantime, Belgrade made a U-turn both in its rhetoric
and policy. And now that the authorities in Belgrade are facing resistance to their new
pro-European policy it remains to be seen how consequent this policy will be.
Should that policy be consequent, one should expect a reaction from
Republika Srpska. Recent elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina showed that voters in Republika
Srpska were less prepared to anticipate political changes in the region and in EU than the
voters in the Federation. It is hard to tell, therefore, how the general public in
Republika Srpska will adjust to the new realities. This means not that some political
parties other than those in Republika Srpska and ethnic groups will be spared from the
necessity to make adjustments.
Commitment to Euro-Atlantic integrations is the biggest challenge of
all. Unlike Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina acknowledged the need of the membership of NATO
despite all the skepticism about integration into EU. This reflects the situation of
Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO is a warrant of security anyway - so the membership of NATO is
the way to strengthen sovereignty in the security domain. On the other hand, movement
towards European Union implies many challenges and, above all, requires a change in the
means for coming to power and influencing the governance and politics in general. It
implies replacement of mono-ethnic policy by a multiethnic one. By casting a ballot at the
recent elections Bosniaks and Croats anticipated this change. Serbs did not - and this
will be generating problems to them but to everyone else as well.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has to make three fundamental changes. The first one
is the biggest and the hardest to make. To be capable to negotiate with the European Union
Bosnia-Herzegovina has to amend its constitution in a way that will make closing down of
the Office of High Representative possible. This is not about centralization or investment
of entities with more competences. This is about constitutional protection of individual
rights and establishment of a multiethnic state on these grounds. Last but not least, this
is about building the rule of law and establishment of representative and executive
powers. The extent of decentralization or federalization can be bigger or smaller.
And this extent depends on the answer to another major question: how to
secure the state's democratization? The recent elections indicated divergent tendencies in
the entities. Republika Srpska is obviously after the presidential system and, as they
used to say in Putin's Russia, a sovereign democracy. The outcome of the elections cannot
be measured by figures only given that the numbers of invalid votes has to be understood
properly. It is uncertain, therefore, whether the electorate supported the ambitions of
the president elect. In any case, such political development does not play into the hands
of democratization of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Republika Srpska.
The great majority of Bosniaks and Croats voted for parties and
representatives capable of mutual communication and of communication with Serb
representatives. Hence, they are more capacitated for communication with EU
representatives and other international factors, including representatives of neighboring
countries. The above-mentioned divergent tendencies put Serbia's policy at test. In the
process of its integration into Europe Serbia will have to actively support European
integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina - as Croatia has been doing for some time now and will
probably be even more active once it becomes a full-fledged member.
Therefore, democratization of Bosnia-Herzegovina will entail
democratization of Republika Srpska unless Serbia shifts again but this time away from the
policy of EU integration. In Bosnia-Herzegovina democratization entails the capability for
pursuing the policy of coalition-making and competitiveness at the state level. And that's
the third challenge facing this country. The balance of power would considerably change
should this multiethnic country undergo genuine democratization. In that case numbers of
votes would need to be mobilized to make coalitions representing the majority of the
electorate. This would result in complex representation of individual and ethnic
interests. As long as political parties look upon either Belgrade or Zagreb, and Bosniaks
upon the international community the competition for political power and influence will be
ethnocentric. Should that change - for Belgrade and Zagreb will be under the pressure from
Brussels - political mobilization and representation would change as well. That would be a
challenge not only for Serbs and Croats but also for Bosniaks because competition will be
growing. And all this should benefit citizens - politically, socially and economically.
The idea behind the establishment of the Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina was
different. The constitution drawn in Dayton posited that economic interests would
democratize political institutions mostly based on mono-ethnic principle.
Constitution-makers hoped that privatization and free trade would bring about a
multiethnic society and state. As it turned out, they were wrong though their idea was
greatly undermined by Serbia's and Croatia's hesitancy in abandoning nationalistic
policies and slow movement towards European integration. These circumstances have changed
now and economic relations have been liberalized. Therefore, what Bosnia-Herzegovina badly
needs are democratization and a constitutional reform, based on modern constitutionalism,
the reform that prioritizes individual rights and freedoms and corresponds to the EU
And all this entails thorough redistribution of political power and
governance, the process underway in Serbia and advanced in Croatia. No one can guarantee
its success: the more so since Serbia and Republika Srpska had set for a different course
and have to make a U-turn now. After twenty-year-long course it is too early to say that
the end is in sight.