Destiny of peace agreement for B&H

Preparations for Amendments or Improvement of Dayton?


SUN, 30 JAN 2000

Sarajevo, 26 January, 2000 - With his demand for urgent and profound amendment of the Dayton accords Haris Silajdzic, one of the co-chairman of B&H Council of Ministers, tampered with the "holy writ" of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Until this incident, a silent agreement prevailed among all protagonists on the local political scene that the peace agreement must not be criticised and its revision must not be demanded. When last year the same politician uttered the idea about cantonisation of all of B&H Carlos Westendorp silenced him like a teacher some pupil with a certain amount of angry reproach with the remark: it was one of those days for Silajdzic.

This time there were no reactions from the Office of the High Representative which would mean disqualification of the proposer. "We advocate implementation of the agreement, not its revision" is the essence of the message of high representative Wolgang Petrisch, which at the same time mitigates the former firm stand that the Dayton agreement was the "holy writ". Inflamed reactions from the Republic of Srpska (accusation that Silajdzic wishes for an Islamic republic and the demand for his resignation) should be observed as an episode and illustration of a defensive reflex when the Republic of Srska is concerned, which will reach its full strength only in serious talks about revision of Dayton.

If nothing else, reactions to Silajdzic’s demand for amendment of the peace agreement show that time is coming for the future of B&H to be seriously discussed. Of course, not as alteration of the Dayton peace accords because they already are a matter of the past like numerous other peace agreements in the world, but as a possible new agreement which would move things forward (indeed, is it possible to revise the Versailles peace agreement or anything similar?!). But, it is hardly probable that a discussion about Dayton No. 2 will soon be opened, but obviously the Rubicon has been crossed and at least there is the awareness that this can be a topic of talks. There are a few important factors: internal and external.

In diplomatic circles doubts about success of the peace plan for Bosnia appeared a long time ago, as Petrisch openly stated in his New Year’s message. He said that the conviction that the peace agreement has failed is spreading and that there are radical proposals on withdrawal of the international community. That is the reason why Petrisch marked this year 2000 as the year of the "last chance" for implementation of the Dayton peace accords.

The most radical criticism came last year from the International Crisis Group which stresses in its analysis the serious crisis of the peace agreement. James Lion, director of ICG repeated on several occasions that not a single item of the agreement had been implemented: return of refugees, economic reconstruction and privatisation, rule of law and operation of joint institutions. This time the ICG came out with a few possible scenarios: debacle of the agreement and withdrawal of the international community (the war option), introduction of protectorate or continuation of implementation of the Dayton accords. This analysis which has pointed out to certain essential errors of the agreement (which will be discussed later) caused the politicians to begin to consider the necessity of revision of this document.

Majority of Croatian presidential candidates (Budisa, Mesic, Letica) launched the thesis about necessity of amending the Dayton accords in the direction of full decentralisation of B&H and recognition of constitutiveness of all ethnic groups on the entire territory of the state. Slaven Letica stated the most comprehensive and the most radical platform in this sense.

This is the outline of his view: "The Dayton B&H is an asymmetrical confederation with Unitarian RS and decentralised Federation". Letica believes that RS is the result of genocide recognition of which could end the war, but it is an obstacle to development of peace - should he be the president of Croatia, Letica would advocate recognition of constitutiveness of all three ethnic groups on the whole territory of the state, and B&H would have a two-chamber parliament, in the upper chamber of which ethnic groups would be represented with a broad right to veto. This proposal, in fact, implies dissolution of the Federation and RS.

This is how Croatian presidential candidates made amendments of the Dayton agreement become to say the least a legitimate story. Regardless of who will be elected president, the new authorities in Zagreb have a new concept of resolving the problem of Bosnia. The Zagreb initiatives have political significance. Along with Yugoslavia, Croatia is a guarantor of the Dayton accords and it can be a legitimate initiator of gathering around Dayton 2. This is a significant shift in favour of changes in the desirable direction (complete cantonisation). Having been in favour of division of B&H, Tudjman agreed to creation of the Republic of Srpska. Nowadays there is no more Tudjman, and Milosevic is in international isolation, economically and militarily too weakened to be able to affect the final outcome in B&H.

These are the circumstances that speak in favour of another discussion on the future of B&H. And which are the arguments for it? It is easy to find them: the peace agreement was created at the time when it was necessary to end the war at all costs. This is the reason for its imperfection. Its greatest deficiency is constitutional discrimination of the citizens inside B&H. The Serbs are a minority in the Federation, and the Croats and the Bosniacs are minorities in RS. Besides, Serb politicians consider RS to be a "state of the Serb people". This basic assumption destroys joint institutions - politicians from RS are opposed to strengthening of joint institutions convinced that strong B&H makes the Republic of Srpska weak. On the other hand, the Croats feel deprived - they share the Federation with the Bosniacs, and they would gladly have their own entity.

Although it raised great tumult in the media, Silajdzic claims that his demand for amendments of the Dayton accords was an individual act of a citizen who formulated his aspirations in a Memorandum and sent it to the addresses of all institutions in B&H, and the ultimate address is that of the other citizens of B&H, he says. Although all the political protagonists in the Federation agree that the Dayton accords are not implemented, on the one hand they are reserved in expectation how the international community will react, and on the other they are reconsidering what the essence of Silajdzic’s initiative is. Silajdzic’s Party of Democratic Action (SDA) is restrained ("the time is not right yet"); the Social Democrats claim that the past cannot be mended and that B&H Constitution should be adapted to European conventions on human rights, and Republican Stjepan Kljuic advocates full implementation and only after that revision of the agreement. But declarations which express caution and other specific moves are not co-ordinated. Rejection of draft election law because of discrimination of citizens (initiated by the Social Democratic Party) includes the demand for amending the Constitution which resulted from the peace accords. Croat political leadership which in fact conceals the officials of the Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) in the latest paper which was made public as a paid advertisement in Sarajevo Oslobodjenje daily, advocate "consitutiveness of all peoples on the entire territory of B&H". This is a plea for new relations after Dayton. The heads of the Catholic Church in B&H are even more explicit: consistent decentralisation of B&H, or cantonisation, which implies the end of both RS and B&H Federation.

More ardent support of the initiative for changes was prevented by the reaction of the Bosnian Serbs and fear of radicalisation. Five years had to pass and the Serb Democratic Party had to lose power for the current team in power in RS to be able to utter "state of B&H", and this very rarely and only when they wish to curry favour with diplomats. In this entity, RS is experienced not only as the achievement of the war goal, but the people are convinced that they have got their own state (only recently have they "realised" that RS is part of B&H). Even the law on border service which works in financial favour of this entity was received as an attack against RS. "We will give our lives, but not RS", they sang in unison. Therefore, in RS there is not only a lack of readiness to amend the Dayton accords, but there is not even a wish to implement what was accepted.

However, if it wants to, the international community could control the situation and accomplish progress when Dayton agreement is concerned. But before that it should make preparations in the political sphere, the media, military and intelligence. However, the international community is not ready to make this step. The New York Declaration from November last year preserved the status quo. Besides, this is an election year in America. For the sake of some Dayton 2, the administration does not want the risk of new expenses or sending new troops. The aim is to present to the voters that implementation of the Dayton agreement is making a progress, and evidence of that is reduction of the number of military troops.

Therefore, there will be no radical improvements after Dayton. But this does not mean that this should not be discussed. Especially adapting of the Dayton Constitution of B&H with international conventions on human rights. The ice has been broken after all. Changes in the surroundings (Croatian initiatives), ripening of the idea on necessity of changes inside B&H itself and the time are working in favour of making Bosnia a normal state.