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INFO   :::  Projects > Archives > The Helsinki Charter: Promoting Serbia's Europeanization > HC No. 143-144 > Text




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 integration process.

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.



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