Breach of the Dayton Agreement calls into question peace in BiH

Author: Haris Silajdžić

In a comprehensive analysis of the Atlantic path of BiH, Dr. Silajdzic writes about the non-implementation of the Dayton Agreement, which directly affects BiH's European integration; ideas on the exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia, which are in circulation in diplomatic circles, which introduce a precedent for changing international borders in a very sensitive area, which threatens peace, not only in BiH but also in Europe; the causes and consequences of what has happened in BiH and the reasons why it is being sidelined; messages from the European Union that the path to BiH membership can take decades; and points out that "democratic values cannot be spatially restricted or exclusive, because they lose the character of universality, especially in a relatively small area."

By making known the EU's (EU) enlargement policy, it has become clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is very far removed from membership in this project of historical significance, not at the will of most of its citizens. This brought to the fore some circumstances unfavorable to BiH. This text points to some aspects of the current situation, the consequences of the non-implementation of the Dayton Agreement, the relation of the international factor to it, the importance of the historical context, and the steps that can be taken to initiate a deadlock.  Finally, an insight into the role and importance of BiH's progress towards NATO membership is offered, which the author sees as crucial to peace and stability in the Western Balkans. This range by itself implies slightly longer text.

Non-implementation of Annex 7

This is primarily due to the fact that BiH cannot implement the reforms necessary to continue the path towards EU membership, including because Dayton has not been implemented. This fact is the cause of various setbacks or blockages that stand in the way of BiH's progress in all spheres.  An illustrative example is a key Annex 7 that was not implemented in the entity Republika Srpska (RS) due to systematic and systematic obstructions by the entity's authorities.

This annex deals with the return of refugees, that is, the consequences of ethnic cleansing carried out to create ethnically clean territory as part of a Greater Serbian expansionist project. By insisting on a separate annex, Dayton emphasizes the unacceptability of the practice of ethnic cleansing and prescribes a return to its former state. Annex 7, however, was not implemented which resulted in only one nation having a monopoly on entity voting in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly (PSBiH) of the RS entity, in this case Serbs.

Annex 4 (BiH Constitution) established two separate protection mechanisms in the BiH PA, one ethnic and the other territorial. The first is realized through the institute of vital national interest and the second through entity voting, which is a legitimate mechanism of the entity as a territorial unit with the participation of all citizens in order to protect themselves from domination. Failure to implement Annex 7 led to a blend of ethnic and territorial protection.

The European Court of Human Rights in the Pilav case pointed to the inadmissibility of a combination of ethnic and territorial criteria, and accepted the argument that the privilege of representing the interests of the entities could not belong exclusively to one people, nor could it exclude others from such representation. Due to the impeded return, Bosniaks and Croats could not be sufficiently elected to the BiH PSB, and thus the entity vote was transformed into a monopoly of one people, which is contrary to Dayton.  Such entity voting is therefore illegitimate.

In practice, this means that about 23 percent of Parliament makes decisions no matter what the minority. This unprecedented anomaly in the history of decision-making in parliamentary democracy is known to both domestic and foreign actors. In addition to the aforementioned judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on this issue, a resolution was passed in the US Congress, and the Venice Commission issued its opinion;  all points to the need to reform such an entity vote, as it violates the basic principles of parliamentary democracy, especially as it concerns those whose rights are severely violated. This situation, however, remains unchanged.

Illegal ethnic veto

In other words, the authorities in the RS were not only not punished for Dayton's breach of the most important Annex, but were also "rewarded" with the opportunity to turn the consequences of that breach into dominance in the decision-making process. It should be recalled that the international community represented by the great powers guarantees the implementation of Dayton.

The basic reason why the famous April package was not accepted in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina is precisely that;  the new, reformed Constitution left some 23 percent free to decide, through an illegitimate ethnic veto (after three rounds of voting), whether the state institutions, primarily the Presidency and the Council of Ministers, would be elected, that is, whether BiH would be a state or a temporary alliance of the two  entities. Moreover, this veto has been reinforced by this draft as a result of the change in the number of Members of Parliament.

It should be emphasized that almost all of the High Representative's interventions in BiH were caused by the consequences of entity voting. The current situation still creates the need for interventions, but they are completely lacking. Insisting on further work on reforms, without sanctioning serious Dayton violations, is conducive to the Greater Serbian project, not to the European perspective of BiH. This approach seriously questions peace in BiH. The open and increasing calls for secession of the Bosnian entity of RS are proof of this claim.

BiH is therefore precluded from further development, which means that it can, with the assistance of the international community, maintain its current situation or decline, which seems more variant. The status quo is in line with the interests of politics based on the Greater Serbian expansionist ideology, which views BiH territory as cleansed by non-Serb populations as spoils of war. The passage of time gives this state the right of citizenship.

In addition, at a time of extremely rapid change around the world, this scenario means a complete loss of any perspective, which, it should be reiterated, is not held responsible by most BiH citizens, as is the responsibility for the genocidal aggression that has hit them. This fact, that they cannot express their will and that they cannot influence the development of their country after 25 years of establishing peace by signing Dayton, is a source of frustration and distance from the whole process, which is viewed as an accident to be endured.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's model of coexistence

EU news that the path to BiH membership can take decades is received with resignation, as BiH citizens see in the EU a social and economic system that ensures peace and prosperity for hundreds of millions of Europeans, and preserves democratic values, therefore, whatever they want  and for myself. Especially before they are convinced that the total human and other resources available to BiH are not far behind those in the environment.

Furthermore, some cultural and historical aspects, especially the long tradition of coexistence (which is a kind of authentic Bosnian-Herzegovinian paradigm of integration coexistence) should have been a welcome recommendation for community membership based on identical values.

Relatedly, another unfavorable circumstance for BiH is the rise of EU policies based on primordial identities in Europe. Multiculturalism is less and less a value to be nurtured; Some right-wing political party leaders see a threat to the survival of "pure" indigenous communities, and seek to reduce the number and social visibility of "Geert Wilders" elements. As parties with serious influence in European parliamentary life, it is difficult to expect an understanding of the BiH model of coexistence, while its ideological opposition is articulated in the high forums of European democracy. It is logical that apologists and deniers of genocide against non-Serb civilians in BiH see an ally in these trends.

Time will tell how right they are.

Geopolitical node

The issue of Kosovo and the moment of trying to resolve it is another unfavorable circumstance.  The intent of Greater Serbian policy is to exploit the tension created in this geopolitical hub between the US, EU and the Russian Federation, and with the support of Moscow, try to extort some compensation to the detriment of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the "loss" of Kosovo.

During the aggression, the President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, justified the ethnic cleansing of the civilian population by the need to prevent the creation of a "Muslim state" in BiH, and current leaders of the Greater Serbia project expect the international community to understand and reward for their efforts.

Franjo Tuđman, the former president of Croatia, who opportunistically joined Milosevic in a deal to divide BiH, often portrayed Croatia as the "seat of Christianity" in the same context.

These insinuations, which are still current today, were mainly addressed to the Western audience for weakening BiH's position and portraying its own politics as "pre-eminent" in the face of "Islamic danger". Similar attempts are being made to deny and even condemn official circles, especially when they imply justification for atrocities against Bosniaks of Islamic religion. After all, the ICTY's judgments unequivocally label policies that pose a threat to neighbors and policies that need to be defended, not only European but also of universal values.

Contrary to this is the fact that Muslim Bosniaks have never sought anything else to enable them to live in a modern, democratic, civil, secular state of free and equal citizens. They did this before the aggression began, during the aggression period, before and after Dayton, through the media, NGOs, political and religious representatives, publicly, urbi et orbi in every forum. The European values proclaimed are values that Muslim Muslims have inherited for hundreds of years; they are at the core of their civilizational ethos and this was evident to any objective observer from their conduct in war and peace.

The culprits for today's situation should be sought among those who literally killed those values, in the face of the world.

The ideas of exchanging territories between Kosovo and Serbia, which are in circulation in diplomatic circles, are introducing a precedent for changing international borders in a very sensitive area, which threatens peace, not only in BiH but also in Europe. In addition, one such move would imply an amnesty of all crimes against hundreds of thousands of former Yugoslavia's residents, as it would favor the completion of the largest criminal project in Europe after World War II in the name of unprincipled realpolitical settlements.

Historical and cultural context

The reasons for such partial approaches should be sought not only in the absence of a historical and cultural context from the focus of consideration and action, but also in the context of the current state of affairs and of Dayton itself, and in particular that part of it which requires the protection of fundamental human rights. The causes and consequences of what happened in BiH are inexorably under the burden of time and other events. For this reason, the reminder of each of these aspects is imposed as necessary for a fuller understanding of this lengthy and complex issue, and therefore for more expedient action.

Assuming that aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina was the exception, moving away from normal, the long wait for a return to normalcy makes that anomaly obtain the right of citizenship and spill over the borders of this country as not quite a desirable but still acceptable norm. This makes the code of values on which NATO and the EU are based unnaturally spatially restricted.

Democratic values cannot be limited in space or exclusive, as they lose the character of universality, especially in a relatively small area. The message sent from BiH is toxic and detrimental to the social and political order of Europe; it almost announces a radical paradigm shift as it announces the possibility of adopting the results of genocide as if it were an inevitability, an act of force majeure rather than a criminal project.

(Dr. Silajdzic was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, co-chair of the Council of Ministers of BiH and a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina)

In the following: Tendencies of horizontal conquering expansion



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