Euromediterranea Euromediterranea 2005: Langer/Srebrenica scuola estiva 2005

2003: peace/guerra Frieden 2004: Europa 25-es.Polonia 2005: Langer/Srebrenica
scuola estiva 2005
2006: Anak Indonesia 2007: Aids - Sudafrica 2008: Ayuub - Somalia 2009: equal rights Iran 2010: memoria attiva 2011 haiti alive 2012 - Arabellion - Tunisia 2013 - L'arte del prendersi cura 2014 - Borderlands 2015 - Da Langer a Srebrenica 2016 Euromediterranea 2017 - Andare oltre 2018 - Una terra in dialogo 2019 - Pro Europa 2022 - Legami Beziehungen 2023: Olga Karatch
(14) 2005 10 Jahre mit Alex (15) 2005 Ein "brindisi" für Alex (7) 2005 Erinnerungen (5) 2005 Europa und Sarajevo (6) 2006 Children of Memory (13) 2006 euromed - Ibu Robin award (14) 2012 Arabellion! Frauen im Umbruch (0) euromed 2009 - Iran (58) euromed 2013-donatori musica (46) Euromed 2015-alex/Bosnia (40) EUROMEDITERRANEA 2014 BORDERLANDS (2) EUROMEDITERRANEA 2016 (21) Euromediterranea 2022 - Legami Beziehungen (2) Grenzland am Brenner (11) Hallo Ibrahim Austellung (2) Jugend Treffen (6) Landtagspräsidium (5) Musik und Wörter (19) Ökologische Konversion (12) Potocari-Begrebniss (17) Potocari-Srebrenica (14) Reise nach Bosnien (17) Srebrenica 2005 (18) Tuzla-Sommer Schule (18) tuzlanska amica (19) Zusammenleben (12)

Stefano Recchia: Bosnia Ten Years after Dayton: The Challenges of Domestic, Empowerment and Multi-ethnic Integration

17.7.2005, Sarajevo, 10.7.2005
Presented at the international conference “Ten years after Srebrenica: Lessons and Perspectives
for Bosnia and Herzegovina”, organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Sarajevo, 10 July 2005

The topic of our panel today is “The Dayton Agreement and European Perspectives.”
Taking the Dayton agreement as a starting point, we should first of all remind ourselves how the
negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, produced something that is quite far from a “perfect” peace
settlement. Dayton ended the war - this is incontestable – but the emerging constitutional
arrangement was a transitional one at best. Dayton did, as a matter of fact, not lay the
foundations for a viable, self-sustaining state. The result was, as one American political scientist
cogently put it, one of the “toughest of tough cases” of post-war international statebuilding.1
These tough challenges are what I would like to focus upon today, and the first obvious question
I would like to ask is: how far have we gone since 1995? How much progress has been made?
Being slightly – but only slightly - provocative, I would argue that today we are basically
still stuck with the same transitional arrangement, and especially with the same transitional
constitutional structure. To better understand why progress has been so terribly slow, I would
like to briefly reflect on two issues: first, the relationship that exists between Bosnia’s constitutional
structure, on the one hand, and the ongoing primacy of polarized ethno-national identities on the
other. Ethnicity is, as we know, deeply entrenched in Bosnia’s constitutional and broader
institutional structure. Second, I would like to briefly analyze the role of international actors in this
1 Elizabeth Cousens. 2002. “From Missed Opportunities to Overcompensation: Implementing the Dayton
Agreement on Bosnia.” In Stephen John Stedman et. al, Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace
Agreements. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, p. 560.
There is no doubt that significant progress has been made in many different sectors, since
Dayton ended the war. Today, any resumption of hostilities on a larger scale appears extremely
unlikely; 2 and opinion polls suggest a steady decline in support for secessionist tendencies.3 The
institutions of the central state have been strengthened significantly, also crucially thanks to
international pressure.4 State-level command over the armed forces has finally been achieved, and
there has been progress towards a state-wide system of value-added taxation. All this means that
slowly, something resembling a viable state-structure is indeed taking shape in Sarajevo.
This is all true. But nonetheless, questions need to be raised as to whether the entire
system is really self-sustaining to-date. The Bosnian political environment in fact continues to be
dominated by the same old ethnic parties, which rely on nationalism and clientelism to retain their
power. These parties still show very little intention to cooperate and to compromise on some of
the most fundamental reform issues. But if these nationalistic players continue to survive and to
thrive today, one main reason has to be found exactly in the constitutional setup of the Dayton
state. The Dayton constitution basically ratified the internal partition, and indeed the ethnic
segmentation, that resulted from the war. Still today, this fosters political opposition along ethnic
lines, and the most militant and cohesive ethnic parties are clearly rewarded.
Let us step back for a moment and try to look at things from a certain distance: After a
protracted ethnic war such as the one waged in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is virtually inevitable that
the parties – and indeed the citizens - will initially perceive politics as a zero-sum game: if my
group gains something, then you lose, and if you gain, then I lose. This utterly pessimistic
perception results from the continuation of a war mentality even after the war has ended. The
design of political institutions after ethnic war needs to take this reality into account, in order to
guarantee a minimum of political stability. In other words, each main ethnic group needs to be
provided with its separate sphere of influence. Divide et impera, divide and rule – this can be a
2 One could debate whether this is primarily due to the successful implementation of the peace agreement, or
whether it has more to do with the change of political regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb
3 Freedom House. 2005. “Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Nations in Transit Report.
4 Following Dayton, the central state government had only three ministries (foreign affairs, foreign trade, and
civil affairs and communication); today there are 10 functioning state ministries.
viable emergency measure dictated by political realism. It is clearly the fundamental logic that
underlies the Dayton settlement.
However separation is not sufficient to build mutual confidence and to re-establish a
viable multiethnic state. Quite on the contrary, institutional separation inhibits multicultural
integration and the build-up of mutual trust, of confidence, of social capital. This is why postconflict
institutions, if designed properly, should also provide local parties with incentives to cooperate
at the centre and to compromise across ethnic lines. The standard procedure to regulate
ethnic conflict consists, in fact, in a delicate mix of such institutional separation and institutional
integration.5 The agreement reached at Dayton constitutes an anomaly in this regard. The Dayton
constitution established an intricate system of divide and rule along ethnic lines; but the integrationist
element is almost entirely absent. Even today, although the central institutions of the state have
recently been strengthened, real power-sharing remains little more than a nominal feature of the
Bosnian institutional setup.6
Today, further integration of Bosnia as a society is made extremely difficult by what
several analysts have called the “over-institutionalization” of ethnicity that is characteristic of the
Bosnian state.7 There are inherent dangers in the excessive institutionalization of ethnicity: In
Bosnia today, virtually every political dispute is transposed into an ethnic dispute, and the very
institutional setup ensures that confrontation between the main ethnic groups remains “frozen”
into the indefinite future. Representation in the upper House of Parliament, in the government,
the presidency, the constitutional court; …they are all based on the principle of ethnic equality
between the three “constitutent peoples.” Moreover, thanks to a far-reaching system of ethnic
veto powers, at the state level, in principle any group can veto any decision, claiming that it
5 The separatist elements usually consist in the establishment of special autonomy arrangements, ethnic quotas
in the public sector, and veto rights for ethnic communities. Integrationist dynamics can be fostered through
several measures, such as executive power-sharing and the accurate design of electoral systems. See Donald
Horowitz. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
6 See Marcus Cox. 2003. “Building Democracy from the Outside: The Dayton Agreement in Bosnia and
Herzegovina.” In Sunil Bastian and Robin Luckham, eds., Can Democracy Be Designed? The Politics of
Institutional Choice in Conflict-Torn Societies. London: Zed Books.
7 See e.g. Florian Bieber. 2004.“Institutionalizing Ethnicity in the Western Balkans: Managing Change in Deeply
Divided Societies.” ECMI Working Paper #19. Flensburg, Germany: European Centre for Minority Issues.
threatens its “vital interests.”8 This results in a very burdensome institutional setup, with frequent
instances of complete political deadlock. Several different levels of government further make the
institutional structure of the Dayton-state extremely complex. One consequence is that citizens
often simply do not know what level of government is to be held accountable for specific
The question to be asked at this point is: “What needs to be done?” There is a virtual
consensus today on the need for a thorough process of constitutional reform. Bosnia needs a
transition from a political system where decision-making is almost entirely based on ethnic
principles to a more civic and more integrated political framework. Bosnia’s future institutional
setup should be based on the effective protection of human rights - including specific minority
rights - but less on explicitly ethnic political representation.
Constitutional reform would actually not require anything like a Dayton II agreement; the
Bosnian parliament itself can amend the state constitution with adequate majorities in both
chambers of parliament.9 Concerning the specifics of constitutional reform, it is probably not for
internationals to decide on the future structure of the Bosnian state. International think tanks,
such as the European Stability Initiative (ESI), have recently put forward rather detailed
proposals for constitutional reform.10 The focus is mainly on whether the entities, - this very
peculiar “invention” of the Dayton agreement - should continue to exist in their present form.
The answer suggested by ESI and others is that both entities should be gradually abolished, with
reform of the Bosniac-Croat federation being particularly urgent. Similar inputs for discussion are
certainly welcome in principle. However, what seems ultimately necessary is a genuine dialogue and
broad-based discussion among the Bosnian people themselves.
8 There is no definition at the Bosnian state level concerning the exact meaning of a group’s “vital interest.”
Another example of ethnic “over institutionalization” is that of parliamentary representation on the basis of
ethnic quotas in the upper house of parliament.
9 A two-thirds majority is required in the House of Representatives, while a simple majority is sufficient in the
House of Peoples.
10 See e.g. European Stability Initiative (ESI). 2004. “Making Federalism Work – A Radical Proposal for
Practical Reform.” Berlin/Sarajevo, 8 January. Available at:
What outsiders can do and should do are essentially two things: first, to help raise
awareness and start a broader dialogue about the need for institutional reform, including at the
grassroots level. There are astonishingly few systematic, internationally sponsored attempts at
conflict transformation and confidence-building from the “bottom up” in Bosnia today. Second,
internationals should of course provide the necessary incentives for political reform. But without
a thorough domestic dialogue in the first place, there will be no consensus on the most
fundamental issues.
Unfortunately, and somewhat paradoxically, it seems that one reason why there has been
so little real constitutional debate in recent years is the widespread belief among Bosnians that in
the end, foreigners will decide anyway on the future shape of the country. This is a deeply
worrisome phenomenon; it may be called the dependency syndrome, or the “protectorate
syndrome”, but in any case we have a real dilemma here. This leads me to a few concluding
reflections on the role of international actors in Bosnia today.
Over the two- to three years, there has been a very animated debate about the so-called
“Bonn powers” of the international High Representative.11 These powers, established in 1997,
include some quite extraordinary legislative and executive powers, including the power to
suspend local public officials. One needs to be precise here: I do not want to argue that the Bonn
powers have entirely lost their raison d’être, their ultimate justification. But I would certainly like to
highlight some attendant dilemmas; some quite serious dilemmas, I believe.
The main point I would like to make here is that heavy interference and indeed
international control over the domestic political process of a state can be legitimate - in both moral
and strategic terms - during the earliest phases of post-war reconstruction. This is simply because
after violent ethnic conflict, the local parties cannot be relied upon to re-establish basic
conditions of security, as well as law and order, on their own. In other words, a minimally viable
state may have to be rebuilt under heavy international tutelage.
11 See in particular Gerald Knaus and Felix Martin. 2003. “Travails of the European Raj.” Journal of Democracy
14 (3): 60-74. For a partial defense of the OHR, see Florian Bieber. 2003. “Far from Raj.” Transitions Online,
August 2003.
In Bosnia today, basic security has long been re-established, and the central state has been
strengthened quite a bit. This has also happened, undoubtedly, thanks to systematic international
oversight and the targeted use of international pressure. But the result is that today, the
extraordinary powers of the international High Representative are used mainly to push through
administrative and market-related reforms; in other words, to enforce good governance and the
rule of law. We thus have a protectorate-like structure to fulfil technical requirements for
European integration. This is quite unprecedented in the recent history of international
statebuilding. And while state-building, technically speaking, is advancing steadily, the parallel rebuilding
of an integrated Bosnian nation, nation-building in other words, is being hindered by this
intrusive international approach.
The likelihood, and indeed the expectation, that difficult decisions will be pushed through
by the High Representative ultimately seems to benefit the least reform-minded among local
parties; in other words, the nationalists. This is because the Bonn powers relieve local politicians
from the responsibility to negotiate and to find an agreement on the most difficult issues. Even
political parties that are in government can often behave as if they were in the opposition,
exploiting citizens’ fears and their insecurities. In other words, the intrusive role of the
international community today, although undeniably beneficial in several regards, may also hinder
the development of a moderate and responsible local political leadership in Bosnia.
To conclude, let me re-state what I believe are two main challenges facing Bosnia-
Herzegovina today: first, the challenge of domestic constitutional reform; second, the challenge
of real domestic empowerment. How will progress be possible? What sequencing strategy should be
adopted? Some experts have recently claimed that the international community should now focus
all its energies on constitutional reform, and once this is achieved, eliminate the Bonn powers
altogether. So in a way, constitutional reform would be the final big challenge for the
international High Representative.12 It seems to me that this reasoning is only partially
12 See e.g. Manfred Novak. 2004. “Has Dayton Failed?” In Christophe Solioz and Tobias K. Vogel, eds., Dayton
and Beyond: Perspectives on the Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
convincing. If constitutional reform is really to be locally driven, then to some extent domestic
empowerment seems to be a necessary precondition. The Bosnian citizens, in other words, have
to know that their elected political leaders are ultimately responsible, and this can only happen if
these leaders are fully empowered in the first place.
We need a more daring approach to peacebuilding in Bosnia; it would be
counterproductive to continue treating Bosnia as a child that cannot walk on its own. A shift is
therefore necessary from an international protectorate strategy in Bosnia to a strategy of
“European member-state building.” This is also the language used in the latest report by the
International Commission on the Balkans.13 We know very well that only the realistic prospect of
eventual, full European integration can provide Bosnians with sufficienty powerful incentives to
accept often painful reforms and to take their future into their own hands. Bosnia’s way to
Europe is probably still very much uphill. But international peace-builders need to think much
harder about how to make their assistance more effective and more sustainable in the long term.
13 International Commission on the Balkans. 2005. The Balkans in Europe’s Future. Final report. Available at:
pro dialog