Challenges and pressures

The Dayton Agreement established a rotating presidency elected by the country's Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. While the Accords created a power-sharing agreement among ethnic groups it is also an unstable structure with a new president every eight months. Critics of the arrangement have said that it was never meant to be permanent, but thus far any attempt for constitutional reform has ended in disagreement. Discussions have been ongoing since 2005, concerning a unified presidency, reduction of bureaucracy, and other critical points that are conditions for EU membership.

The Chairman of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and the UK’s Minister of Foreign Affairs set a June 2012 deadline for the BiH to comply with a 2009 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Sejdic-Finci vs. BiH. The ECHR found the Bosnian Constitution in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, because the presidency and the upper chamber of parliament – the House of the People – were only open to Serbs from the Republika Srpska and Bosniaks and Croats from the Federation, thus excluding minorities (such as Roma or Jews) and members of the dominant nation from the ‘wrong’ entity. BiH had to adjust its constitution so that no individual is barred from standing for political office on the basis of national or ethnic origin. Although the Bosnian parliament appointed a commission in 2011 with a mandate to amend the constitution, the commission’s mandate ran out in March 2012 without any action being taken.  Until Bosnia's three main ethnic groups are able to agree on a way to implement the ECHR ruling, there will be no way BiH will be able to apply to become a member of the EU.

BiH's need for Bosniaks and Serbs to work together not only impacts on the longer range goal of EU membership, but also Bosnia's short term interests.  Once Croatia joins the EU in July 2013,for example, BiH will need to have an agreed authority to certify that its producers meet EU health and veterinary standards in order to continue to export to its EU neighbors.  Bosniaks insist that the BiH state to do the job, while Serbs insist that authorities in the two entities have the responsibility.  Unless they can find a solution, Bosnian farmers will soon lose this export market.

Sarajevo experienced its largest demonstration in years as protestors blockaded parliament on June 6, 2013 over the government's inability to amend laws needed to continue issuing identification numbers.  For months, newborns had been unable to get the ID numbers necessary to receive health care, passports or other government services.  Police finally cleared the area the next day and enabled those inside parliament to leave.  Some Bosnian Serb leaders interpreted the blockade as aimed at them and warned they would have to reconsider participation in Sarajevo-based institutions (i.e., in a city which is overwhelmingly Bosniak).

Protests lead to civil unrest in 2014
Protests in Zenica on 10 February 2014 (Wilkipedia Commons)

Protests in Zenica on 10 February 2014 (Wilkipedia Commons)

Civil unrest stemming from factory closures, corrupt privatization and unemployment in Tuzla broke out in February 2014, spreading to over 20 cities and towns in the Federation.  Protests emphasized the failure of the political system and its elites to respond to the needs of citizens.  Government buildings were burned in Sarajevo (including the Presidency building) and elsewhere, and hundreds were injured in clashes between police and protestors.  As a result, the governments of several cantons resigned and citizens' assemblies were formed in Sarajevo, Tuzla and Mostar.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Fule met with Bosnian leaders and a delegation of protestors, and urged Bosnian leaders to address the need for constitutional reform.  Many of the protestors had focused on the need to change the  complex, multi-layered system established by the Dayton Peace Agreement.

Violent crime and illicit business

Crime and illicit business continue to threaten institution building. Smuggling networks created during the war continue to function, and their leaders and members are prepared to use extreme means to defend their livelihoods. One example was the car bomb assassination of HDZ member and Federation deputy minister Jozo Leutar in Sarajevo in March 1999. Six Bosnian Croats were acquitted of Leutar’s murder in 2002 due to lack of evidence.

Politician profiteering, cronyism, and graft

There remains a profound lack of trust, not only between people of different ethnic backgrounds, but between people and political elites. Politicians are widely believed to have amassed personal fortunes from profiteering, cronyism, and graft.

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Dodik and several other high-ranking RS officials were charged with fraud in 2009. In 2011, the RS special prosecutor's office of dropped all corruption charges against them.

In 2012 Srdjan Ljubojevic, general manager of the public enterprise Republika Srpska Forests, was arrested for corruption. He was charged with taking a 5,000-euro bribe to ensure payment to an audit company for a 60,000-euro debt that his company owed. Police supplied marked bills for the bribe, which were found in Ljubojevic's office.

Zivko Budimir

Zivko Budimir (YouTube)

In April 2013, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina President Zivko Budimir was arrested on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for granting pardons.

In May 2013, 57 persons were charged with involvement in organized crime and election fraud.  Media reported that these charges involved 2010 vote-buying for the People's Party Working for Betterment.  The most senior person charged was Jerko Ivanovic-Lijanovic, Federation vice president and entity minister of agriculture.


Refugee return and reintegration

In 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that over a million refugees and internally displaced persons had returned to BiH, and of this number 466,000 minority refugees and internally displaced persons had returned to their places of origin.

International presence a source of income and resentment

The ongoing international presence in the country is both a source of income and resentment. The High Representative has the responsibility to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and peace in BiH.  His “Bonn powers," giving him the authority to interfere in the political process, on which laws are implemented and whether to remove elected officials from office if their views and policies contravene international expectations, are perceived by some as subverting the democratic process, and unintentionally giving local politicians the freedom to engage in irresponsible rhetoric. Conversely, those politicians that cooperate with the international community find themselves vulnerable to charges of treason or subjection.

From 30th August 2013, soldiers from the European Reserve Forces of Slovakia and Austria will be arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct integration training with the EUFOR Multi-national battalion and also practice Peace Support Operations with the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

From 30th August 2013, soldiers from the European Reserve Forces of Slovakia and Austria will be arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct integration training with the EUFOR Multi-national battalion and also practice Peace Support Operations with the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR)

The Office of the High Representative was to have been phased out in 2007, replaced with a less powerful EU Special Representative. But tensions in BiH and in the region led the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board to delay closing the OHR indefinitely until a set of positive benchmarks has been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, current EUFOR Althea military forces based in BiH total about 600.

Challenging role for High Representative

Slovakian diplomat Miroslav Lajcak resigned as High Representative and EU Special Representative in 2009, unhappy at the lack of U.S. and EU support for the use of the High Representative’s powers to intervene in the running of the country.

High Representative Valentin Inzko (OHR)

High Representative Valentin Inzko (OHR)

Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko was appointed High Representative in March 2009. He has had considerable experience working in the Balkans, including as Austrian Ambassador to Bosnia after the 1992-95 War.