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The Silajdzic Bosniacs and their international supporters like to say that Dayton is outdated and needs to be adapted to meet the demands of the EU.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.


Seesaw said...

I do agree with most of the things you wrote. But should there not be some change in Dayton agreement Bosnia can not survive. In Federation there are 10 cantons, 10 governments, 200 ministers, plust federal government. How do you think one can finance that??? (Yes, Silajdžić is the biggest obstacle nowdays, but during the war he was America's favourite!!!)

Wim Roffel said...

Switzerland has 7 million inhabitants and 26 cantons. So their ratio of Cantons to inhabitants is not that much different from Bosnia. Yet it has not prevented Switzerland from becoming rich. So - allthough Bosnia has one level extra - I don't see much of a problem here for Bosnia.

I think the biggest problem with Bosnia's administration is not that it is too big, but that it doesn't do a decent job. This is partly caused by incompetence and corruption and partly by conflicts about comptenence between the different levels.

In many cases Dayton is clear which level should handle certain things, yet that doesn't stop other levels from setting up their own agencies. The central government is probably the biggest sinner. Part of this is political: not accepting how things are arranged. In other cases discussion is needed to decide which level should handle things.

I am an organisational minimalist who believes that one should be economical with reorganisations. Reorganisations have always a high price in creating internal tensions and chaos yet the profits are often more facade than real. So I believe it is better to get the present situation to work and to concentrate on small improvements instead of some "pie in the sky" vision.

In my opinion the present fascination with the size of government is harmful. It gives politicians an excuse - both for their own failures and for their own lack of effort to get the present structure working.

Anonymous said...

I just wonder why you have link to Malic. His texts are full of racism against Serbia`s neighbours.

Wim Roffel said...

My link to Nebosja Malic has been a point of discussion on my blog before.

He is usually well-informed and
is bringing valid arguments and facts (documented with links) that few other people bring.

On the negative side he is a bit of a misanthrope. He is not only negative about the other nations of former Yugoslavia, but also about the Serb politicians and his present homeland the USA ("the empire").

I see it as just a part of his rethorics. You can feel insulted by it, but I don't believe that he is out to insult people.

Anonymous said...

I must disagree with you. If you read his text then you see that he do not see Albanians as human beings. He is also a revisionist that denies Srebrenica, Racak and other massacres Serbs committed.

Wim Roffel said...

In a special section Malic has some writings about Srebrenica. But the last time I looked they were very outdated with arguments like "where are the bodies?".

I guess he is feeling that it is becoming hard to deny. I hope one day he will find that it is better to remove his Srebrenica remarks as they only serve to discredit the remainder of his writings.

Yes, he is in denial about what the Serbs have done. But I don't think that is a reason to ignore him. At least there are some Serbs nowadays who speak about what their people have done wrong in the recent wars. Specially among the Bosniacs and Albanians I don't know anybody who speaks openly about what their side has done wrong.