The American-American Games with Bosnia

Lesson from Washington: Dayton, to the end


THU, 22 JUN 2000

SARAJEVO, June 16, 2000 The testimony given before members of the American Congress concerning "The Future of B&H According to Dayton Peace Accords" has definitely annulled all possibilities for the revision of Peace Accords. The gathering concluded that instead of the change of Dayton Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a change of political scene. This meant the defeat of Silajdzic's initiative for the modification of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

A Missed Opportunity

Haris Silajdzic confused the international representatives when, at a January gathering held in Bulgaria on the destiny of the Balkans, he demanded the revision of the Dayton Peace Accords. His main thesis, which he persistently insisted on during past six months, was that although the Hague Tribunal was prosecuting war criminals, their programmes were being implemented in Bosnia. Silajdzic explained that the Peace Agreement included the policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide, i.e. that greater-state projects of Serbia and Croatia were the integral part of the Dayton Accords.

He repeated that thesis last Tuesday (June 13) before the American Congressmen, but in a somewhat changed form, because the political scene in Croatia has radically changed after the elections, and the new Zagreb authorities have stated their support for the integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main argument Silajdzic was left with was Milosevic: "Nevertheless, those who represented those regimes in Dayton (the division of B&H, note of the author) still advocate the same ideas. And all this time B&H has suffered because of the irony that one of the signatories of the Accords - Milosevic - has been charged with war crimes. With the implementation of Agreement they are implementing his programme in Bosnia. That has to be annulled", demanded Silajdzic.

Naturally, Silajdzic did not mention the fact that he was one of the authors and main negotiators in Dayton and that it was thanks to Milosevic's help that he got Sarajevo and the Gorazde corridor, which in his Memoirs he calls the "Whiskey Road" because of the huge amounts of whiskey that were drunk during that part of negotiations. But, that is not the main problem. Everyone agrees that the Peace Agreement leaves much to be desired; that it is a product of a war draw and, as such, an expression of a "rotten" compromise. The most important thing at that time, in autumn 1995, was to stop the war and preserve the state-legal frameworks of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

All the rest was a matter of processes and contents of political relations both between local protagonists, as well as peace sponsors. But, if five years ago the dilemma was whether Dayton would survive or whether Bosnia would disintegrate in the end, this latter, worse option was eliminated. Giving greater authority to the High Representative, both America and Europe have made it known that Bosnia as an integral state would continue to exist, while it was up to local politicians and the electorate whether it would become a prosperous or remain a poor state. In the last two years, B&H was integrated to a greater extent (freedom of the movement, joint currency, registration plates, the return of refugees, as well as the general atmosphere, etc.) than anyone in Sarajevo, Banja Luka or Mostar dared hope.

These are the processes, which were opened after the change of power in Croatia, isolation of Milosevic and results of the local elections in B&H, which the first man of OSCE in B&H, Ambassador Robert Barry, used to oppose Haris Silajdzic. Form Barry's reply it could be concluded that the international community was encouraged by voters' loss of confidence in the nationalistic party (all in all, SDP won more votes than SDA and coalition of SDA and Party for B&H together; in Herzegovina HDZ secured only 35 percent of the electorate's support; SDS won half of votes it had won two years ago, etc.). HDZ is announcing a turnabout in its approach to B&H as its political and interest sphere. Dodik and Ivanic are growing stronger in the Republic of Srpska, while extreme nationalistic options are rapidly losing support.

These processes have enabled the international community to adjust its new strategy in Bosnia: to change the political scene by means of elections. The aim is for B&H to get new leaders who will integrate the country and lead her into European integrations. It is quite certain that with the existing war leaders, B&H will never be admitted to the Council of Europe. The list of unfulfilled obligations - from economic reforms to human rights and common institutions - is too long for the authorities to receive passing grades for their work. Admission to European integrations would then be a reward for the current ruling team. In addition, the world which measures the volume and quality of changes with its democratic standards, no longer wants only moderate politicians who verbally support the Dayton Accords. In these times, the criterion is also which politician is acceptable not only for its nation, but for the other two as well. As if caught by surprise, Haris Silajdzic was unprepared for them.

No one had a chance to become a man of the Bosnian synthesis like Haris Silajdzic. When in summer of 1995, he broke up with the Bosniac SDA party against which he seriously accused for its political failures, he earned enormous sympathies of the public. His popularity grew at a great rate not only among the Bosniacs, but among other nations too. It is, therefore, not surprising that the idea on integral B&H and equality of all nations and citizens under his party's umbrella - Party for B&H - gave him the initial chance to create a modern multi-ethnic party. At that time Haris enjoyed the world's support.

During his visit to Sarajevo (in February 1996), the then US State Secretary, Christopher asked to meet with the "citizen Silajdzic" thus openly expressing the American support. But, only a month after he formed the party, Silajdzic concluded a pact with Izetbegovic and established a Coalition for the Integral and Democratic B&H, which now exists in two mixed cantons (Mostar and Travnik), but actually in the majority of the Federation's communes. With this move, Silajdzic has actually slowed down the process of disintegration of SDA and prolonged its political life to his own detriment, but for the sake of a small share of power. In this way Silajdzic has re-surfaced as the exclusively "Bosniac" politician. With his pleadings for the change instead implementation of Dayton, he has definitely distanced himself from the role of the man of B&H alternative.

According to some opinions with his statements against Dayton, he has contributed to the homogenisation of the Serbian electorate. On the other hand, he has become unacceptable for the Serbs and has probably lost all his previous popularity among the Croats.

The American Republican circles have long ago demanded the giving up of B&H as a bad job with the explanation that it was impossible to implement Dayton, because the local people did not want it. In that way Bosnia has become a trump card of the opponents of Clinton's policy, while Silajdzic's statements as "a politician with high rating in the public" also served as an argument in favour of that claim! One doesn't dare imagine the scenario of the American withdrawal from Bosnia. That would mean its division into three entities to be quite logically followed by the renewal of the war. That is why in Washington Barry said: "The international community cannot be an accomplice in this kind of deadly games".

Original article