Can the European Union Save the Dayton Accords?
Looking towards the future, much will depend on the speedy formation of government at all levels, and the commitment to implement reforms and meet the requirements of the EU integration process.
However, at the November 2 UNSC meeting, Russia’s rhetoric paled in comparison to the scathing speech delivered by BiH’s United Nations ambassador, who attacked Croatia and the HR by accusing Schmidt of “deceiving” voters. The United States expressed its unreserved support for HR Schmidt again, emphasizing that using the Bonn powers to impose legislation was “necessary to unblock the functioning of the Federation” and “maintain stability.” The recent UNSC showdown confirmed that the containment of pro-Russia Serbs will not be America’s only worry regarding BiH. Perhaps a bigger challenge lies in holding back Sarajevo’s ambition to ditch the Dayton power-sharing format and bring BiH under its control. And yet, the premise of the Dayton peace has been that Serbs and Croats accept one BiH state in exchange for Sarajevo agreeing to an autonomous entity for Serbs and power-sharing with Croats.
As the tortuous experience of negotiating electoral reform over the years has proven, the BiH parties are deeply divided over the Dayton peace. The current outcry against Schmidt demonstrates Sarajevo’s discontent with those who stepped in, as the HR and the United States did, to prevent a slide towards Bosniak majoritarian rule and uphold the tripartite division of power under Dayton. HR Schmidt did not cancel the electoral will of the BiH citizens, as his critics charge, but intervened to ensure that the main parties keep their place around the negotiating table to make their own decisions.
Obviously, BiH is a fragile state buffeted by competing demands of its constituent peoples and their clashing visions regarding its internal organization. That the HR had to intervene to counter the unconstitutional situation does not bode well for the future of BiH as a viable single state free of international supervision. However, looking towards the future, much will depend on the speedy formation of government at all levels, and the commitment to implement reforms and meet the requirements of the EU integration process. Hopefully, BiH leaders will step up to this challenge and agree to a more functional and representative framework than the current one. Should they not rise to the occasion, the future of BiH is a bleak one.
Dr. Marta Vrbetic is a Global Fellow with the Global Europe Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. The views expressed by its scholars do not necessarily reflect the position of the non-partisan Wilson Center. Dr. Vrbetic tweets at @martavrbetic.