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Petty politicizing and manipulation instead of arguments and dialogue: DPC’s reaction to the IST’s analysis

Petty politicizing and manipulation instead of arguments and dialogue: DPC’s reaction to the IST’s analysis

Petty politicizing and manipulation instead of arguments and dialogue: DPC’s reaction to the IST’s analysis
November 19
10:57 2017

After US-based Institute for Stabilization and Transition (IST) published analysis titled “Bosnia and Herzegovina: Failed State in the Heart of Europe”on October 17, 2017, instead of substantiated public and academic discussion of IST’s analysis on the currents state of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and policy recommendations, what followed was inappropriately fierce reactions and attacks on the analysis, the institute and its members. Moreover, political commentators and a part of the academic community used unsubstantiated and often ad hominem attacks with the goal of diminishing the findings and the value of the analysis.

 

BiH – “Failing State”

One of the key concepts of the IST’s analysis is the concept of failed state, which the authors applied to the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The concept of “failed state” is not new or fabricated, but rather has existed ever since the theorists defined the concept of state itself. In modern political science and international relations literature, the concept of failed state is widely used, often synonymously with the concepts of fragile and collapsed state. For example, LSE’s Crisis States Research Centre defines“failed state” as “a condition of state collapse – e.g., a state that can no longer perform its basic security, and development functions and that has no effective control over its territory and borders. A failed state is one that can no longer reproduce the conditions for its own existence.”

Furthermore, other than poverty, weak institutions, non-functioning social apparatus and long-term instability, in definitions given by researchers from Georgetown University we can find that “failed states have been recognized as breeding grounds for extremism and staging points for organized terrorist groups.” Moreover, constant presence of the international community which engages in “fostering diverse political parties, strengthening constitutional and legal norms relating to good governance, building an independent and effective judiciary (…)” also fits the definition of failed state.

The researchers have developed quantitative indices which they use to classify failed states. For example, one of such indices is Fragile States Index. Other indices include reports submitted by the renowned Freedom House Index, Human Development Index and others. If we take into consideration the results of mentioned indices, BiH since 2013 has been a part of the OECD’s list of most fragile states. According to the Fragile States IndexBiH has the worst score among all European countries. It is placed on the 79th place on the list of the worst functioning countries in the world, between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan and behind Ukraine (84) and Moldova (96). Furthermore, renown Freedom House Index confirms that BiH is a “failed state.”

Therefore, petty politicizing and similar reactions to the title of IST’s report and to their thesis of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a failed state are inappropriate. Looking at the definitions of failed states and indices it becomes obvious that BiH has been one of the worst performing European countries for some time and that it fulfills the criteria of failed state. That is also confirmed in IST’s analysis which supported its thesis by proving that: 1) BiH failed in building permanent peace and stability, which leads the country towards “slow death” due to endless ethnic and political hostilities and crises, 2) that long reform attempt has failed, 3) that there is a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism.

BiH is a “failing state” according to the abovementioned parameters. If there is no change in the direction of main civil and political processes, it is just a matter of time when BiH will further decay and turn from a “failing state” into a fully-fledged “failed state.”

 

Bias and manipulation of the DPC

Other than reactions by politicians and some analysts, Berlin-based Democratization Policy Council (DPC) is the only organization that directly replied to the IST’s analysis with a blog post “Beware of unknown experts peddling solutions for BiH” published on October 27. As they state in their blog post, the purpose of their reaction is to demystify IST’s analysis which is based on “two stale assertions, and one innovative yet fatally flawed claim.”

DPC states that IST members have no knowledge whatsoever on the Balkans and that the Institute was created with the aim of “seeking government contracts.” However, this statement is false. Some of the IST members did not only base their academic careers on the Balkans, but they also have field experience in the Balkans through work in different institutions of international community, US government and non-governmental organizations. With a bit of effort “investigative journalists” and DPC could have discovered this information which is on the IST’s website, but because of unprofessionalism and obvious political and ideological bias they did not do so.

Furthermore, DPC states that the analysis promotes third entity to protect “Croat rights” even though IST did not use the term “Croat rights” in their analysis. DPC also states that the analysis is selective and that it promotes a “transparent HDZ agenda.” We, however, think that DPC’s blog post is the one that has a selective approach and that it promotes unitarist agenda by, among other things, portraying all the proposals for the reform of BiH which would ensure constitutionally guaranteed rights of Croats as Constituent People as “HDZ’s agenda.”

Even though focus of IST’s report are policy proposals which would help BiH overall and not (only) Croats, according to the DPC two stale assertions which are a basis for IST’s analysis are: 1) the only way Croats can ensure rights is through a third entity; and 2) that a third entity will lead to good governance and strong economic performance across the newly federalized state.

DPC claims that the first assertion is impossible, as it would lead to a violent or nonviolent migration of people. Still, DPC does not give any argument or reference which would support that claim. It is clear that DPC wanted to falsely accuse IST that their recommendations require or call for violent migrations, while at the same time not mentioning that IST in their analysis explicitly condemns ethnic cleansing and genocide against Bosniaks in Republika Srpska. Furthermore, internal migration of people in BiH has been happening when certain groups and their group and individual rights are not protected. For example, the migration of Bosniaks from Republika Srpska to Sarajevo and the migration of Serbs from Sarajevo to Republika Srpska were stimulated by nonexistent mechanisms of protection of their collective rights and, therefore, their individual rights. Because of that it is necessary to build institutional and territorial design which will protect both individual and collective rights of all citizens no matter where they live. In that case, there would be no need for “migrations” because all citizens would live in a complex multinational community in which their rights are protected no matter in which administrative and territorial part of BiH they live in. That is impossible to achieve with centralist-unitarist structure as it denies the Constituent Peoples rights and it also denies their equality by allowing the most numerous people to dominate and use majoritarian rule over less numerous people. If all members of all Constituent Peoples are constituent and equal on the whole territory of BiH, then there is no need for migration of their members to some other part of the country. Such institutional design is possible to build by combining consociational principles and federalist models, or in other words, with a combination of models of territorial and nonterritorial (institutional and personal) autonomy. More can be found on these models in IDPI’s book “BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – FEDERALISM, EQUALITY, SUSTAINABILITY: A study of BiH redesign to secure institutional equality of Constituent Peoples.”

DPC tries to dispute the other point by saying that monoethnic entities are not rich, but that they tend to be poor and dysfunctional, which is what, accoriding to the DPC, is happening to Republika Srpska in contrast to the “pluralistic” Federation of BiH. It is unbelievable that DPC (which enjoys a status of moral authority and exclusive judge on BiH in certain media outlets) talks about subjectivity of the IST, while at the same time not mentioning or even considering, for example, the rule of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina from July 6, 2017, which deemed parts of the electoral law unconstitutional. The parts of the electoral law which have been in power since 2000 discriminated against the rights of Constituent Peoples, especially in the Federation of BiH, where the political system stopped being “pluralistic” a long time ago, as confirmed in the Constitutional Court ruling.

Furthermore, talking about the poverty and dysfunctionality in RS, DPC is decontextualizing the issue which it is considering. RS is a part of BiH, and as such, it has a two-way cause-and-effect relationship with BiH. If BiH as a state is unstable and dysfunctional, then integral parts of that country cannot be functional and successful. BiH needs to transform into a stable and sustainable country. Considering that at the last population census in 2013 96.3% of people freely identified themselves as members of one of the three Constituent Peoples, which are defined by the Constitution, the sustainability and stability of BiH is only possible within the internal organization which affirms constituent rights and secures equality of all three Constituent Peoples, and all other citizens, according to the highest democratic standards and international resolutions on human rights and citizens’ rights, and which also gives maximum possible protection of citizens’ individual and collective rights. Without strong commitment to build such a system and reform BiH, with time, the country will finally confirm the status of a “failed state.”

 

“Over-stated threat of jihadist extremism”

The relevancy of the DPC’s response is shown through its authors trying to take advantage of base passions by claiming that “a Bosniak West Bank and Gaza Strip are hardly a recipe for stability,” alluding to the three entities organization of BiH. DPC also states that IST “over-stated threat of jihadist extremism.” From these statements we can conclude that DPC directly links proposals for federalist models, which are constituent with the Constitution of BiH, and the appearance of political extremism, including the Islamist and jihadist extremism. From this, we can conclude that DPC thinks that establishing a three entity BiH with territorially discontinued federal units would increase jihadist threat. Considering that unitary state supporters in BiH are the biggest opponents of “building a state based on federalist principles,” does this mean that political interests and goals of Bosnian-Herzegovinian unitarists and jihadists are overlapping? It would appear that unitarists and jihadists see the “third entity” as the biggest threat to their political goals and interests, or in other words, they see a threat in “building the state based on federalist and consociational principles.” The unitarist send a perfidious and dangerous threat to their political opponents with this attitude – if you do not cave in to our unitarist requests, you will face jihadist threat. By doing so they are not only threatening Constituent Peoples in BiH, but they are also suggesting that Islamism and jihadism are one of the strong common denomenators of the unitarist policy, or at least, its active and useful protagonist.

Additionally, in the blog post DPC compares the threat of jihadist fighters in BiH with Serb mercenaries in Eastern Ukraine and their return, as well as with the territorial clericalization of all three faiths. This argument is very stretched and unsubstantiated because the practice has shown that radicalized fighters returning to BiH from the Middle East are not only a threat for BiH, but also for the whole Europe, as some of them took part in planning and execution of terrorist attacks, while we do not have similar indications for fighters going to Ukraine. It would appear that DPC continues the battle started by some media outlets and commentators against certain high-ranking European political leaders which have on multiple occasions warned against the danger of Islamist and jihadist radicalization in BiH. To sum it up, DPC claims that currently there is no jihadist or Islamist threat in BiH, but that such threat would appear if the country transforms into a federation made up of three discontinued federal units.

It is incredible with what ease DPC negates their past research. In 2011, DPC members published research “Assessing the potential for renewed ethnic violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A security risk analysis” in which they echoed a statement by then head of the Intelligence and Security Agency of BiH (OSA) Almir Džuvo that there is “3,000 potential terrorists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Incoherence and inconsistency of DPC is even greater if we take into consideration that in the same report from 2011 DPC wrote about the presence of Islamist threat among Bosniak diaspora, giving example of Mirsad Bektašević who planned an assassination in Sarajevo. In their analysis from 2011 DPC stated that “we can draw with some degree of certainty a profile of persons prone to joining mostly homegrown, militant Islamist groups and engaging in acts of violence. In the years following the Dayton Peace Accords, terrorist acts were most commonly perpetrated by foreign mujahedeen, of whom many already had a history of similar engagement elsewhere. More recently, individuals involved in or associated with terrorism-related activities have overwhelmingly been Bosnian nationals.”

DPC trivializing the rise of the Islamist threat in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not only counterproductive, because it draws attention away from a tough but important current issue, but also because it is factually incorrect and it even goes against past research done by the DPC which was based on data provided by international and European organizations in BiH, such as the EUPM.

 

Intentional distraction from the Constitutional Court of BiH ruling and the necessity of the electoral law reform

It appears that DPC, in this highly sensitive time for the future of BiH, intentionally distracts from crucial questions, such as the implementation of the Constitutional Court ruling on unconstitutional election law for the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Except imposing a dangerous correlation between the “third entity” and the rise of Islamist extremism, all attempts by the Croats to secure equality with the other two Constituent Peoples have been connected in a very negative context with the goal of establishing “third entity.” By doing so, DPC tries to publicly discredits all such requests and people supporting them even before there has been a political and public discussion, regardless of the content of those proposals and requests. The most recent example of such practice is the reaction to the electoral law reform proposal which has been introduced to the parliament by the delegates of HNS BiH. Such reactions are very dangerous because they lead to dediscoursification of public and political space. Instead of dialogue, facts and affinity for compromise in public and political discourse, this leads to ideological, political and media violence against non-supporters.

 

The necessity to design the country based on the consociational-federalist principles

Under the disguise of being “analytical,” DPC’s activates have been directed towards relativization and negation of Constitutional Court ruling on constituent status of peoples in BiH and towards supporting and executing unitarist agenda. In the blog post DPC states that “the formal partition of BiH into three separate ethno-national religious enclaves would eliminate the notion that BiH for centuries has been a heterogeneous polity.” They also add that IST has failed to mention “citizens who do consider themselves to be Bosnian (or Herzegovinian) (…) which further normalize and mainstream extremist politics and policies.” DPC’s reactions, however, left out three extremely important facts:

  1. According to the 2013 census, 96.3% of citizens have autonomously and freely declared themselves as members of one of three Constituent Peoples. Moreover, there are citizens which belong to the “Others” category (96,539, or 2.7%), those who did not declare their ethnicity (0.8%) and those who did not answer the question (0.2%). It is important to note that amongst “Others” there are citizens who consider themselves members of other nations, identifying themselves as Jews, Roma, Montenegrins, Albanians and other nationalities. Therefore, there is only around 1% of “citizens who do consider themselves to be Bosnian (or Herzegovinian)” according to the census data. More precisely, there is 37,110 citizens who consider themselves “Bosnian,” 11,406 citizens who consider themselves “Bosnians and Herzegovinians,” and 498 citizens who consider themselves “Herzegovinian.” This forces a question what is DPC basing their assertion that politics based on rights and interests of Constituent Peoples are “extremist politics” and that it favors “ethnic parties?” Should mainstream politics in BiH be organized based on the rights and interests of 99% of its citizens who did not identify themselves as “Bosnians (or Herzegovinians),” or should the politics be primarily based on the interests of those 1% of citizens who did so? Can we consider “extremist politics and policies” those policies which are based on the basic principles of the Constitution of BiH such as Constituent Peoples and belonging to those peoples? Sadly, it would appear that some commentators would want to give mainstream status to political options and actors which are supporting interests of only 1% of BiH population, which is certainly not a road towards solving complex relations within BiH.
  2. DPC states that the only way to truly protect BiH from all kind of threats and extremism is “secular and civic society, while protecting collective ethnic rights through a truly institutionalized approach instead of having them safeguarded by ethnic parties.” DPC fails to explain what they mean by civic society. If they mean unitarism and sudden repeal of federalist and institutional principles of Constituent Peoples, then that is very dangerous interpretation. Indeed, the experience teaches us that such interpretation of civil society does not give space for solving important national and ethnic questions in BiH. Contrary, the support of “non-ethnic” parties for many years has strengthened anti-secular movements and ethno-national discourse. Civic idea must not ignore and refuse to engage in dialogue with constitutionally and institutionally protected Constituent Peoples. Moreover, such dialogue must be guided with consideration for equality of all Constituent Peoples, especially when it comes to the electoral mechanisms which must ensure that all groups have equal access to fair decision-making and legitimate representation in all public offices and government posts indented for collective representation. We want to remind everyone that all of that is possible to achieve only by applying consociational and federalist principles and models of administration and government. Therefore, supporting and executing civil-unitarist paradigm and agenda is not only a road towards new conflicts and deepening existing inter-ethnic hostilities, but it is also an activity which goes against the Constitution of BiH and legal order which is based on it.
  3. Thanks to the “historic heterogeneity of BiH,” rather than despite it, political and social life in the country has been based on confessional and national identities for centuries, which does not put secular character of modern BiH into question. Heterogeneity of identities is only possible within the boundaries of “peaceful coexisting” of elements which make that heterogeneity, and definitely not by domination of only one such element or denial of specificity of any of the elements of the heterogeneity. The most important element of heterogeneity of Bosnian-Herzegovinian society and state are its Constituent Peoples which are defined by the Constitution. Considering that unitaristi-civil model abolishes current constitutional and identity heterogeneity and tries to impose uniformity, it is unclear how DPC can at the same time praise historic heterogeneity and call for unitarist principles. The complexity and heterogeneity of BiH, especially its multinational character is possible to preserve only with consociational principles of power sharing and the combination of federalist principles of shared-rule and self-rule, as well as rights to co-determination and self-determination. It is important to note that such mechanisms and principles in BiH do not need to be invented, a part of them have already been built in the current Constitution. The problem originated when, instead of upgrading these mechanisms and principle to establish legal and political order coherent with those principles, the political process went in the opposite way with amendments which relativize and negate those principles and mechanisms.

 

Conclusion

BiH must be reformed into a sustainable and stable country. Given that 96.3% of its citizens have freely declared themselves as member of the three Constituent Peoples on 2013 census, the sustainability and stability of BiH is only possible within the framework of internal organization which respects constituent status and ensures equality of all three Constituent Peoples, as well as gives all other citizens the highest citizen and human rights and offers protection of their individual and collective rights. Without strong commitment to building such a system BiH will, with time, become even more unstable, dysfunctional and unsuccessful country, both at the state level and at all other levels of its internal organization. Election law reform in accordance with the decisions of the Constitutional Court of BiH (1. decision of unconstitutionality of certain parts of the electoral law, 2. the decision to erase those unconstitutional parts from the electoral law, 3. and the decision that the electoral law reform proposal by the HNS BiH does not threaten the vital national interest of Bosniaks) are a step towards building fairer, more stable and more functional system in BiH, and not necessary a step towards “third entity.” The more Croats are, as a constituent and equal people through “power-sharing” and mechanisms of shared-rule, included in current institutional and territorial arrangement, there will be less need and less requests for bigger self-rule in the form of a “third entity.”

The crucial step in the direction of trust, sustainability, stability and functionality of the system is electoral law reform in accordance with the ruling of the Constitutional Court of BiH in case U-23/14 which was brought in front of the court by Božo Ljubić. Everyone who tries to relativize and negate the necessity of said decision, or anyone who is obstructing its implementation, is threatening the purpose of the 2018 general election. Without the electoral law reforms, the elections cannot be implemented and there will be no government at the state and the Federation of BiH level. Instead of engaging with that part of IST’s analysis and giving constructive contribution to the understanding of that issue and offering solutions, DPC is, through petty politicizing, trying to put the focus of the story on the “third entity.” DPC is using manipulations to discredit not only the IST and its analysis, but also to delegitimize all requests and proposals which are calling for principles of Constituent Peoples and equality of those peoples, despite the fact that the Constitutional Court of BiH in 2000 declared Constituent Peoples and constituent rights as the overarching principle of the Constitution of BiH.

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