The Dayton Agreement, signed on 14 December 1995 put an end to the three year war in Bosnia. In the past 21 years Bosnia and Herzegovina has gone through a constitutional evolution based on this agreement. Despite its achievements and the let downs of the Dayton it is important to talk about the future of Bosnia Herzegovina. What kind of steps can be made and what are the factors that need to be taken into consideration when making a plan for the future? The assessment of the ongoing mission and the regional context needs to be viewed before any recommendation can be made.
After the outbreak of the war, the EU failed to answer to the direct security concerns and humanitarian disasters on its very own border, therefore NATO and the UN had to take action. After the peace the NATO led missions of IFOR and SFOR were the military deployments enforcing the Agreement before the EUFOR Althea and EUPM took it over, ceding the field to the EU within the framework of the Berlin Plus agreement. The EU’s military and policing activity with the aforementioned missions lasted until 2012 with the aim of supporting the local governances fighting organised crime and ensuring the security of returnees and the creation and consolidation of institutional structures for policing. Since then the EU representation under the leadership of EU Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark the goal has been to support Bosna Herzegovina’s smooth and not-too-far-in-the-future accession to the EU.
The EU’s cooperation between the international and the local actors has a positive track record. The UN welcomed the EU’s takeover of operations and continued to support it, while the EU, heavily present on many levels as a donor and investor, has established networks in the country and the region. This can also be credited to the EU’s commitment towards the comprehensive approach of international operations especially if it comes to peace and state building. Another example for this could be the other regional mission in Kosovo, EULEX. This leads us to the regional context of Bosnia. Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia the West-Balkans has been a region that the EU has given special focus. The past two decades brought slow but steady stabilization in the troubled region with different degree of results case by case. Croatia has become a full-fledged EU member since 2013, while Kosovo since declaring its independence in 2008 is still very heavily depends on international presence to provide governmental functions. This is why in general, with different degrees, but one describes the situation in the West-Balkans, as deficit of democratic reforms, democratization, trained bureaucrats and civil society, but still concerning crime and corruption with international dependence, while the institutional reforms has been slowly set on course. Still for Bosnia and Herzegovina other than the EU the two most important regional players are Croatia and Serbia. The relations are pacified but inherently still the same as 21 years ago: Belgrade trying to undermine BiH by feeding Republika Srpska’s politician’s secessionist rhetoric while Zagreb is supporting the Bosnian EU applications in a reserved manner, while openly obstructed the Serbian applications. Seemingly the conflict is still ongoing, but instead on a political level.
The steps forward to secure Bosnia Herzegovina should be following the path that we are already committed ourselves into: managing the Dayton Agreement set-up with the active involvement of the EU. The Agreement is not the best; there can be still improvements made, like the ECHR order to include other ethnic groups like Jewish and Roma, which can gradually transform into a more functional state with better governance. The plan has to be a long term, with minimum 10-15 years benchmarks. The prospect of EU membership is a very important pulling force in the region; see how e.g. Slovenia and Croatia benefited in terms of economics, governance and civil society. With the ongoing and enhanced EU partnership programmes Bosnia Herzegovina’s political and social environment can further be pacified: youth, education and cultural exchange programmes to set up the next generation for a more open minded approach, cooperation and exchange programmes for national, regional and local parliamentarians to learn from each other’s experiences and even might implement some ideas, support and financing of the civil society based on universal issues like environment, human rights, citizenship which connects everybody and further investment into the economic capabilities to bolster trade and exchange of goods to whiten the potential black or grey markets. With clear goals and dedicated leadership the way forward can be an encouraging one. This year’s Global Strategy, the leadership skills of High Representative Federica Mogherini and the potential outcome of the meetings on the reforms on the CFSP and especially CSDP also underlines that.
Laszlo Bugyi (25) a member of the Graduates of Democracy from Hungary, currently studying and working in Denmark at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Odense. This post has been created in collaboration with SDU’s SISLO – War & Welfare blog.
 Weller, M. & S. Wolff (2006) ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina ten years after Dayton: Lessons for internationalized state building’ Ethnopolitics – page 7.
 Weller & Wolff – page 9.
 Weller & Wolf – page 11.
 Borger, Julian (2015) ‘Bosnia’s bitter, flawed peace deal,20 years on’, The Guardian, 2015.11.10.
Featured Image: The US Department of State Archive (2001-2009.state.gov)