Friday, January 26, 2007

Is Dayton disfunctional?

Peace making is in its heart very simple: formulate a compromise solution that both parties and you as a mediator find acceptable. And then religiously stay faithful to those appointments.

Unfortunately even simple recipes are often ignored in practice. Bosnia's war started after president Izetbegovic withdraw his consent from the Lisbon Agreement and the US supported him in that. And the present deadlock in Bosnia started after Silajdzic - who rejects the Dayton Agreement allthough he is one of its architects - torpedoed Bosnia's new constitution. The deadlock became complete when Western diplomats failed to condemn this move allthough they had helped to formulate that constitution.

The mantra that we keep hearing nowadays is that Dayton is "disfunctional" and need to be replaced. I disagree. Sure, there are a lot of overlapping governmental structures in Bosnia and all together they are doing a rather bad job. But Bosnia has a long history of weak government (see for example the Agrokomerc scandal in 1987).

Dayton is a bit complicated. But that can be expected from a compromise. Democracy itself is complicated compared to dictatorship - yet we all believe that it is preferable. Similarly the extra costs of Dayton is a small price to pay for achieving that all population groups feel represented.

However the biggest problem with Dayton is that some people haven't really accepted it. They are holding out for a "better" solution that is more in their favor. And so they are obstructing all the little compromises that have to be made to make an abstract agreenment workable. In the beginning the Serbs were the main obstructors, but nowadays they have become more constructive and it is the Bosniacs from Silajdzic who are the main obstructors. Yet until now the West has failed to confront them.

The Silajdzic Bosniacs and their international supporters like to say that Dayton is outdated and needs to be adapted to meet the demands of the EU. Yet that was exactly what the rejected new constitution did. The problem was that the new constitution tried to do this in the spririt of the Dayton Treaty and that was what they didn't like. They want to replace Dayton with something that is more in their favor.

The Silajdzic Bosniacs like to state that Dayton is the product of ethnic cleansing. They are wrong. Autonomy for the Serbs was discussed already before the war and internationally it was seen as quite a reasonable demand. Ethnic cleansing did change the borders of the ethnic areas, but that worked both ways: the Bosniac areas are now largely "clean" too. The partition doesn't seem particularly unfair in the sense that one group gets more than its share either. The Serbs now have some more autonomy as they could expect before the war. But that should be expected after a war that deteriorated the ethnic relations.

Bosnia's Serbs did quite some warcrimes. But Silajdzic now seems to believe that the war crimes of some people give him the right to treat all Bosnia's Serbs like second rate citizens. His ideal is a Bosnia were Serbs learn at school that the Muslims were first and the Serbs are late immigrants and where they learn that all the war crimes in the 1992-1995 war were committed by Serbs. He knows that when you form the upperclass - like the Muslims do in Bosnia - you don't need violence for ethnic cleansing: subtle discrimination will be enough to convince the Serbs that it is better to leave. This was exactly the attitude that worried Bosnia's Serbs when it became independent.

I believe that if the West does not confront Silajdzic Bosnia has little chance to survive as a state. The problem with radicals like Silajdzic is that they are insatiable. They more you give in to them the more they will demand.

As I said in the beginning: there is only one way to make a peace agreement work: keeping to it.

[in reaction to Seesaw's reaction about the "200 ministers" in the federation I added the part below]
The "200 ministers" rethoric is misleading. It suggests that all decentralisation is inefficient and wrong. To make a valid evaluation of the situation one should not only look at the ministers but also at the number of people who work for them and how good they do their job.

I believe that the inefficiency is mainly a problem of the Federation. The RS is doing quite well in the present structure. This despite their complicated geography and their international isolation.

The Federation is supposed to function similarly as the RS. But it contains Croat cantons who insist on autonomy. And as the Federation refuses to make special rules for the Croats this means that overall the main level of government is pushed down to the level of the cantons. This makes the Federation as a level of government more or less superfluous.

In order for governments to be representive of the population, borders should take into account ethnic realtities. For that reason it has always amazed me that Dayton did not give the Croats a similar structure as the RS.

Anyhow, it is now a matter of making the Federation work. I consider this an internal affair of the Federation. There is no need at all to involve the RS in it.