Situation at the Crossroads in Bosnia and Herzegovina
On February 25, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted Dr. Raffi Gregorian, the Acting High Representative of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), to discuss the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Dr. Gregorian, who has been at the center of international governance in BiH for the past two years, gave a detailed analysis of the conditions leading up to today's current challenges, as well as his estimation of the direction the country is moving. Ambassador Douglas Davidson, GMF Distinguished Visiting Fellow, moderated the discussion. Ambassador Davidson was the Head of the OSCE mission in BiH from September 2004 to September 2008. With his lengthy experience and personal understanding of the political landscape in BiH, Ambassador Davidson led the discussion through an array of complex issues and helped to highlight the most critical challenges facing BiH today.
One of the primary issues facing BiH is the looming decision to close down OHR and leave the EU responsible for the assistance of instituting the civilian aspect of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Another part of this decision making process is to select a candidate to be the next European Union Special Representative (EUSR). This nomination will then get forwarded to the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in the OHR as a desired candidate to become the next High Representative. At the end of March, the PIC will meet to decide the fate of the OHR, either closing it or to further postpone this long-expected decision. Unfortunately, as the international community's role is likely to change in the short to medium term, the political arena in BiH continues to be tenuous.
Dr. Gregorian took the attendees through a detailed analysis of key events, leading up to the current challenges facing the country. Dr. Gregorian began his remarks by focusing on 2006. This watershed year was preceded by 4-5 years of broad ranging reforms, including judicial, fiscal, intelligence, security, and defense reforms. However, when Milorad Dodik of the Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) swept the elections in October of 2006, making him Prime Minister of Republika Srpska,the political status quo was drastically shaken. Dr. Gregorian noted that the Dayton Accords had never planned for any candidate to dominate in the way that Dodik had. There have clearly been negative consequences resulting from this oversight. Prime Minister Dodik has done much to destabilize the situation in BiH over the past three years, including shattering the integrity of rule of law by implicating himself in serious corruption charges, publically insisting that Republika Srpska and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot live together, and sharpening his rhetoric calling for succession. This inflammatory behavior, the increased pressure created by the global economic crisis, and the inevitable reduction of an international presence leaves Dr. Gregorian with a cynical outlook for BiH's immediate and long-term future.
In addition to giving his analysis of the overall situation in BiH, Dr. Gregorian both in his opening remarks and during the discussion period spoke about some more specific challenges on the agenda for BiH. Dr. Gregorian is clearly not convinced that the EU's commitment to BiH will be sufficient to help it move in the right direction. He pointed out that Russia is quietly dictating the choice of the next EUSR and that the EU seems unwilling to stand up to Russia on this issue. Dr. Gregorian highlighted the fact that the office of the EUSR will not have inherent political power, but rather that the authority of the office will be based on who fills the seat. Regarding the capacity of the EU to help manage the situation, Dr. Gregorian pointed out that the EU simply doesn't have the man power; OHR has 250 staff, while the EU only has 50 working in BiH.
Dr. Gregorian provided a comprehensive overview of the current political situation both within the borders of BiH and on the international level. While much of the discussed focused on a few particular personalities, Dr. Gregorian also remarked that finding blame for today's problems is much like "finding the murderer on the Orient Express." Dr. Gregorian is far from sanguine about the status of BiH today. However, one encouraging detail that can be gleaned from this event is that there is real interest and commitment to a stable outcome in BiH within the policy community in Washington.