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Strengthening of the role of European Union and Germany in Bosnia and Herzegovina – continuity of the reforms in wrong direction or U-turn in accordance with the European Parliament Resolution?

Strengthening of the role of European Union and Germany in Bosnia and Herzegovina – continuity of the reforms in wrong direction or U-turn in accordance with the European Parliament Resolution?

Strengthening of the role of European Union and Germany in Bosnia and Herzegovina – continuity of the reforms in wrong direction or U-turn in accordance with the European Parliament Resolution?
August 27
12:54 2014

IDPI Expert Team

Rise of the EU and German interest for the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina got confirmed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal initiative on appointing the Balkans leaders’ meeting on 28th of August in Berlin. The meeting should be seen in the context of regional cooperation increase and strengthened European integration. Certain indicators, which are frequent in the last time, however, suggest that the meeting apparently represents part of the process of a specific diplomatic “turn”[1]of United States of America towards the region and B&H which would free room for active participation of the European Union that had achieved remarkable progress over recent years in consolidating internal institutional structure and foreign and security politics.

Along with prime minister of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia, invitation was expanded to ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of economy of mentioned Balkan states. In the capacity of observers the meeting will also be attended by representatives of Netherlands, Austria and France. Topics aligned under agenda relate to neighbourhood relations, European integrations, economic cooperation and relations of the region towards Ukrainian crisis and cooperation with Russia.

Despite the fact that meeting is not focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina due to its regional character and prevalent attention given to economic issues, different indices imply that the same could be used for “terrain examination” so that Germany, as one of the leading countries of the European Union, could develop its own position with regard to reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina since “Berlin still does not know how to deal with Bosnia [and Herzegovina] and that process of consideration has just started.”[2]

Such a meeting also dispatches message that the Balkans is still in the focus of interest of the EU and Germany itself, although some other topics such as Ukrainian crisis and relations to Russia impose as much more relevant both for the EU and Germany. Ukrainian crisis itself, as well as the expansion of Russian influence and numerous clear indicators that Russia seeks for important political role in the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, force the European Union and Germany to intensify their engagement in the region. At the same time, another strategic circumstance motivates Germany for diplomatic-political initiative and intervention. This is the increased interest of Erdogan’s Turkey for the Balkans, especially for Bosnia and Herzegovina. That interest is manifested in recent years trough strong underlining of cultural and historical proximity of the Bosniacs, and even some other Balkan’s nations with Turks, which is theoretically formulated within the doctrine of neo-Osmanism. Turkish interest for B&H reached its publicly most exposed forms in the planning of non-appropriate visit of the Turkish warships to Neumu[3] and in the passionate participation of the member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Bakir Izetbegović in the final phase of the campaign for Turkish presidential elections[4].

There is also another reason for German decision to intensify their engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which should not be underestimated. Its causes are in the recent past, in the February 2014, when the violent protests occurred in B&H, more precisely in its entity Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those protests carried extraordinary risk of their possible forced expansion to the areas and communities where they could take the form of interethnic clashes with huge and tragic consequences.[5]

Risks of opening and escalation of new crisis point on the South-Eastern edge of Europe are sharply opposed to the interests of European Union, so Germany already undertook concrete steps for providing responses to the challenges imposed by the situation in the entire Balkans, including B&H. German Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised the workshop 28th July 2014 in Berlin, with the topic focused on new political approach to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Media and wider public are left uninformed on this meeting, and its participants obliged themselves to keep details off the record, what was admitted by one of participants, former High Representative in B&H Wolfgang Petritsch[6]. It is known that the workshop also gathered the current High Representative Valentin Inzko, Special Representative of EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina Peter Sørensen, General Director of the European Commission for Enlargement Christian Danielsson, and founder and expert of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) Gerald Knaus.

 

WHICH LESSONS COULD BE LEARNED FROM PREVIOUS, FAILED REFORM INITIATIVES?

Petritsch and Knaus delivered a presentation with the topic: “Which instruments do we have at hand? What lessons can we learn from previous, failed reform initiatives?” Since the meeting is covered by secrecy, it remains unclear what exactly Petritsch and Knaus presented. Which “failed reform initiatives” were launched with failure to provide expected results? Which results those initiatives were intended to provide, i.e. what was the purpose of those initiatives and which and whose political agenda stayed behind them?

If “the setting of the meeting was removing of taboos in entirely open discussion on all the issues”[7] it should be expected that Petritsch used the 12 years of time-distance to talk about catastrophic outcomes of the decisions he made and initiatives he conducted during his mandate of the High Representative in B&H. The most significant among his decisions is imposing the amendments on the Constitution of the Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002[8], which factually de-constituted Croats in the Federation B&H[9]

If it is naive to expect that Wolfgang Petritsch publicly and openly admits his mistakes, it should not be naive to expect that he would at least become aware of them and stop to repeat them. In the interview he gave to the “Daily Avaz” newspapers – where it could be recognised that W. Petritsch is positioning himself as specific spokesperson of the “expert group” gathered by German Government – he indirectly said what he was talking about in the Berlin workshop and demonstrated not only that he did not admit his mistakes and biases, but also that he is willing to continue in the wrong direction determined during his High Representative mandate. Analysis of his statements to “Daily Avaz” provides the conclusion that in the mentioned workshop he released several wrong judgements and assessments regarding the situation in B&H and numerous superficial political phrases and commonplaces, which are more efficient in confusing than in explaining the main political problems in B&H, involving the additional misunderstanding in search for scientifically legitimate and politically feasible solutions of Bosnian-Herzegovinian crisis.

”In that sense I expressed my views. B&H is in serious setback in its European way. The social dimension of the problem should not be underestimated. In February the demonstrations surprised us. We should not allow ourselves the same surprise if the protests repeat soon. Now we have the good opportunity to make the plan. New leadership of the EU is in the process of election, and B&H will conduct the elections in October. We will see what your voters will decide, but we, the West, should be ready. It is absolutely necessary to renew the efforts and to enhance the situation in B&H. It cannot be done by “Bonn Powers” any more, but by going forward. Citizens and civil society of B&H have the crucial role, but also the responsibility, to ensure faster and more efficient progress towards EU. Nobody questions that B&H place is in the EU, but that goal is far, far away”[10]

Petritsch is trying to put the focus on social problems and to imply that they are the basic source of all the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the mentioned protests indicated that it is impossible to efficiently address the economic-social issues without solving the issues of justifiable sharing of political and institutional power, i.e. without materialising the constitutional principle of ethnic constitutionality, which should be manifested by legitimate political representation. Even more clear – without solving the issue of efficient political and institutional equality of Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs as the constitutive peoples. It is the fact that the mentioned protests did not spread in the Republic of Srpska, but also in the areas of the Federation where the Croats are majority or at least significant part of the population. Despite the living conditions are almost same as in the areas hit by violent protests, their spread from the areas with Bosniac majority to the areas with Croat majority or in Republic of Srpska siply did not occur. This indicates that Bosnia and Herzegovina is visibly heterogeneous society, with different segments which differently react on social-economic challenges.

Regarding mentioned protests, it is important to stress that the dimension of social dissatisfaction was present at the beginning, but also that the variety of latent variables indicate that the expression of justified civic, social and labour discontent was recognised and abused (maybe even prepared in advance, prior to eruption) by certain political and interest-based groups as a tool for redefining of entire political system and imposing new institutional and constitutional models. Behind the mask of fighting against incapable and corrupted elites, there was the intention to impose civic-centralistic model, which would significantly diminish, maybe even completely abolish, the constitutional rights of constitutive peoples.

Those attempts of violent changes of B&H constitutional structure should be labelled as unconstitutional activities, consequently – directed against the state itself, but the attention should also be paid to another important fact that uncovers the hidden nature of those protests: regarding the changes of B&H constitutional-territorial-institutional structure, there is significantly high level of accordance between requests and models proposed and advocated by protestors, and requests and models proposed and advocated by all the relevant Bosniac political parties, including the Social Democratic Party. All of that lead to the conclusion that all the mentioned stakeholders share the same centralistic and assimilation-directed political agenda. Political agenda more or less openly supported and advocated by all the High Representatives in B&H, especially Petritsch and Ashdown. So Petritsch’s announcing and calling of new protests should be understood as the serious warning that centralistic agenda still has its advocates in certain circles of international community, and that those circles did not give up even the violent methods of B&H constitutional change.

If Petritsch’s statements are understood as programmatic and futuristic, it could be concluded that he and the West represented by him are preparing the new wave of protest, which would again have the social dimension, but also, this time more openly expressed, political-activist dimension. At the same time, he is, intentionally or unconsciously, but for sure wrongly interpreting the role and goals of two key stakeholders which are at the basements of his new-old approach – “citizens” and “civil society”. It seems that he believes that in B&H really exist the citizens who are completely indifferent towards ethnic-national issues and who are, in the other hand, in the full sense opened only for the “living” issues, i.e. social, economic and universal humanistic issues. This way, he entirely fits in the long-time raised fantasy about non-national/non-ethnic citizenship as the agent of desirable radical social-political change in B&H. Those “citizens”, by Petritsch, constitute the “civil society” – massive dimension which should be the representative of social conditions and relations, and consequently the main actor of the desired changes. He failed to notice that in B&H exist three civil societies instead of one. Since there are three constitutive peoples and three political communities, there are also three “civil societies” which have significantly different models of “desired changes”. As the centralistic Bosniac-Bosnian policies want to show themselves as non-ethnic, whole-state-related and patriotic, its “civil society” also wants to show itself as the advocate and carrier of universal humanistic principles that should be equally acceptable to all the citizens. In both cases it is about Bosniac-Bosnian crypto-nationalism, which is trying to impose to other political actors its own particular (national) interests as the universalistic ones, so morally, ideologically and politically superior over the interests of those political actors.

 

POSITIVE FORCES AS AN EUFEMISM FOR SOME NEW „ALLIANCES“ AND „PLATFORMS“

Petritsch further suggested “assisting positive forces in the politics, civil society and among intellectuals in order to enable them to produce a model of successful, functional and cheaper state. By respecting fact that B&H represents a specific case, which should not dominate the politics, as it was misused over the last twenty years for various blockages.”[11]

Having in mind Petritsch’s earlier actions, the questions emerges which forces in BHs politics he considers to be positive? During his mandate of High Representative he actively participated in party-political engineering and “modelling” of the political scene by supporting formation of the “Alliance for changes”, coalition dominated by SDP which did not included parties joining majority support of the one of the constitutive peoples – Croats. He also exercised illegitimate pressure over judges of the Constitutional Court B&H in 2000 during enactment of the Decision on constitutive peoples [12], which got subsequently publicly presented as basis for enactment of “Petritsch’s amendments” two years later, though those necessarily logically nor legally emerged neither from the letter or spirit of the Decision. Nevertheless it remains fact that mentioned Decision was voted for by the judges’ members of the Bosniac constitutive people and foreigners, whereas judges from Croat and Serb people voted against.

Through his amendments and political engagement as High Representative, he prepared and enticed continuation of counter-constitutional activities which resulted in two-turn election of Željko Komšić for Croatian member of BH’s Presidency and establishment of the illegitimate and illegal “Platform” Government in Federation B&H. The question arises if Petritsch supports formation of third such coalition after forthcoming general elections, which could prolong and deepen now already chronically crisis with potentially catastrophic consequences for the stability and existence of the Country?

 

ACCEPTATION OF SOCIAL REALITY AND POLITICAL FACTS

Acceptation of social reality and political facts represents the only correct path towards resolution of accumulated problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fact is that there are three constitutive nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs. If they wouldn’t consider it important and constitutive for B&H, Constitution makers wouldn’t mention them in BH’s Constitution. Item 9. of the Preamble of the Constitution provides:

“By reminding to founding principles agreed in Geneva on September 8th 1995 and in the New York on September 26th 1995 Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs as constitutive peoples, (in community with others), and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina hereby ascertain Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”[13]

The following fact is that over 95 % [14] of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina self-determine themselves in national sense and self-declares as members of one of the three constitutive peoples.That fact was, as we already mentioned, recognised and built in the BH’s Constitution, and also clearly visible in the results of all elections held after independence of B&H.

Over last 20 years above mentioned facts were marginalised in order to allow, if necessary through political and institutional violence, to redefine political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina and alter its legal-constitutional order, however in the way advocated by the elites of the majority people. Even recently thorough and vehement advocates of civisation of BiH lately began to disclose earlier unimaginable level of realism, and now as entirely legitimate they consider options for transformation of B&H in a “normal territorial federation” or institutionalisation of “political communities” in line with the Belgian model, whereby each of those would correspond to one of the constitutive people (International Crisis Group – ICG). It is even more interesting that among key causes of current problems in BiH they recognise deficiencies of the Constitution caused by “several alterations imposed by courts and international representatives”, and the fact that “European Union (EU) places before B&H tasks she cannot fulfil”, which was by now kind of critics practically deemed hostile towards State’s integrity.

If it is to be judged according to the last report and recommendations of ICG titled “Future of Bosnia”, this very influential and close to American administration think-tank organisation, which accepted fact about ethnic [15] heterogeneity of B&H and incapability to find workable solution in case of further denial of that fact.

“No constitutional project can succeed if it does not treat citizens as they are, and they are strongly divided into three communities.”[16]

The biggest relevance of ICG report represents exactly that alteration of 20 year old paradigm in relation to B&H.

“After 20 years of operation in B&H and in the Balkans and several hundreds of reports the ICG, finally, started to accept elementary social facts and political reality of B&H. By now desirable, ideologically projected reality was imposed to all political actors in B&H regardless of their expressed and represented legitimate interests which did not fit superfluous ICG’s perception of ‘Bosnia’ and ‘Bosnians’.”[17]
One even more relevant characteristic of ICG’s report represents the fact that it was the last ICG’s analysis dedicated to Bosnia and Herzegovina. American (partly and European) diplomats in Bosnia and Herzegovina have highly appreciated advices of this “brain trust”. It was not rear that they’ve made decision and formulate positions in line with ICG findings. Meta-message has been conveyed that this is the last what they had to say about Bosnia and Herzegovina, following thesis delivered in the beginning of this text about weakening of the American interest for the area of Southeast Europe, and that leadership of the consolidation process of Bosnia and Herzegovina is now handed over to Europeans.

If it is to judge according to Resolution of European Parliament on Bosnia and Herzegovina [18], adopted on February 6th this year, European Union absorbed importance of acceptation of elementary social facts and BHs political reality. The resolution stated necessity for stronger involvement of institutions of the Union in implementation of the reform processes and stabilisation of situation in B&H, with respect to “principles of federalism and legitimate representation in order to assure integration of B&H into EU”, while in the same time condemning unitarism/centralism as main threats to stabilisation and survival of B&H.

 

INSTEAD OF CONCLUSION

While considering various solutions which would lead to normalisation and relaxation of political relations it is necessary, thus, to consider mentioned social-political and constitutional-legal facts,instead insisting upon vague concept of civic state based on strict application of the principle “one man – one vote”, as it was the case over the last 20 years. The main problem of civic social arrangement in multinational states lays in the fact that it leads to majorisation which in fact enables hegemony of majority nation over other. More concretely the experience of ex-Yugoslavia reveals all bad sides of such an experiment. What was left of that Country was only – Ex. Unfortunately, the price of such development was way too high.

It is of utmost importance, as well, to allow for public engagement of actors which by now realistically and constructively approached resolution of BH problems, as is the case with the European Stability Initiative (ESI). Their thesis that BH’s political system, based on the concept of constitutive people, in the comparative European perspective in any way cannot be qualified as undemocratic or illegitimate[19], and that its dismissal cannot be an indispensable precondition for integration of the country to EU, seemed heretical up until recently, but in the light of alteration of relations among key actors towards B&H, gradually but certainly it became a part of an official discourse.

Instead of social-political engineering and camouflaged interventionism via carefully selected agents of change among organisations of civil society, it is indispensable to affirm constitutionalism in BiH with thorough interpretation and normative application of basic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution of B&H, in parallel followed by consensual democracy and imperative of political cooperation in line with basic European values and experiences. It implies need for Transfer of knowledge and European political culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s setting, which is a demanding, long term, but also inevitable process if one wishes to transform B&H into stabile, functional and state desirable and acceptable to all its peoples and citizens. Thereby the respect for constitutionality and legality is of essential relevance for maintenance of the legitimacy of the system in whole, as an imperative of respect for the will of constitutive peoples as sovereign political communities in B&H.

Months and years to come will show whether European Union and Germany, in line with Petritsch’s estimates and recommendations, would continue to support unitary-centralistic agenda or it shall bring about a true political turn in relation to B&H, in line with the resolution of European Parliament and latest report of ICG.

 

 

 

[1] Hopefully this time it is not the already seen strategy implemented by USA in previous cases, when they “pushed” EU so it would diplomatically compromise itself and appear as incapable for the challenges of B&H and region stabilisation (more at http://www.idpi.ba/pehar/).

[2] German analyst Bodo Weber in statement for Dnevni avaz 6th August 2014

[3] More athttp://www.idpi.ba/diplomacija-topovnjaca-u-neumskom-zaljevu/

[4] http://www.jutarnji.hr/bakir-izetbegovic—erdogan-nosi-zastavu-koju-je-nosio-pokojni-alija-izetbegovicu-krvavom-bih-ratu-/1212351/

[5] More at http://www.idpi.ba/prosvjedi-u-federaciji-bih-gradanski-socijalni-ili-nesto-trece/

[6] Berlin prepares the plan for B&H?, Dnevni avaz, 11th August 2014, http://www.avaz.ba/vijesti/intervju/berlin-sprema-plan-za-bih

[7] Ibid.

[8] Amendments 27 – 54 on the Constitution of the Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina were imposed by the High Representative for B&H Wolfgang Petritsch to implement the Decision of the Constitutional Court of B&H on the Constitutionality of the Peoples, No. 5/98 from 30th June and 1st July 2000. Those amendments are published in “Official Gazette of the Federation B&H”, No. 16/02.

[9] “Petritsch’s Amendments” almost entirely diminished the role and importance of the House of Peoples by clause that election of the President and Government of the Federation B&H requires one third of the votes in each of the ethnically defined parliamentary groups in the House of Peoples, instead of previously required half in each of the groups. Mentioned amendments and changes of the Electoral Law not only diminished the role of the House of Peoples, but made it senseless, at first by decreasing the number of members of the ethnically defined groups from 30 to 17, and then by the fact that Bosniacs can, without any Croatian vote, to implement the “electoral engineering” and to elect 6 out of 17 members of the Croatian Group in the House of Peoples of the Federation, and to consequently control its one third, which is required for election of the Federal President and Government. Except election and control over one third of the Croatian Group, Bosniacs are also allowed to entirely elect and control the groups of the Serbs and Others in the House of Peoples of the Federal Parliament. Except this, changes in the composition of the Federal Government (abolishing of the positions of deputy ministers and introduction of the fix quota 8 Bosniacs + 5 Croats + 3 Serbs) and its decision-making procedures (abolishing of the “consensus” and any possibility for influence of the constitutional peoples on the Government’s decisions, i.e. introducing the simple majority vote in the conditions where the majority is always consisted by Bosniacs: 8 ministers + Prime Minister = 9 votes out of 17) Federation B&H, which was primarily (by Washington and Dayton Agreements) projected as Bosniac-Croat Federation, is now transformed into “Bosniac Entity”.

[10] Berlin prepares the plan for B&H?, Dnevni avaz, 11th August 2014

[11] Ibid.

[12] http://www.ohr.int/ohr-dept/legal/const/pdf/Djelomicna-odluka-3.pdf

[13] Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina

http://www.ccbh.ba/public/down/USTAV_BOSNE_I_HERCEGOVINE_hrv.pdf (retrieved 6th August 2014)

[14] According to the preliminary, nonofficial results of the B&H population census 2013, 48.4 % of citizens are Bosniacs, 32.7 % Serbs and 14.6 % Croats, which means that 95.7% citizens of B&H express their national affiliation in sense of belonging to one of constitutional peoples. Data by the articles from Dnevni avaza and Večernji list, http://www.avaz.ba/vijesti/teme/u-bih-ima-484-posto-bosnjaka-327-posto-srba-i-14-6-posto-hrvatahttp://www.vecernji.hr/hrvatska/nesluzbeni-rezultati-popisa-u-bih-ima-553-tisuce-hrvata-914468 (retrieved 6th August 2014)

[15] Vitality of the ethnic factor in Western societies is verified in sociological studies as early as in 1960-s, what is slightly slower followed by political sciences, so any approach which ignore or try to exclude the ethnical influences on entirety of social-political processes is surprising and worrying.

[16] ICG, Bosnia’s Future, page. 41, http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/europe/balkans/bosnia-herzegovina/232-bosnia-s-future.pdf (retrieved 6th August 2014)

[17] Expert Team IDPI, Three Federal Units for Three Political Communities – Exit Strategy of the International Crisis Group (ICG) from Bosnia and Herzegovinahttp://www.idpi.ba/icg (retrieved 6th August 2014)

[18] http://www.idpi.ba/rezolucija-europskog-parlamenta/

[19] http://www.esiweb.org/index.php?lang=en&id=156&document_ID=143

 

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IDPI Expert Team

IDPI Expert Team

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