Friday, February 26, 2010

Answers to Jakob Finci

Jakob Finci is the head of the small (500 people) Jewish community in Bosnia. As a neutral ethnic group he would be positioned nicely for a mediating position and indeed he used that position during the war to evacuate some 300 people from Sarajevo. However, in practice he has adopted the Bosniak position. Of course it is not unwise for a small community to attach itself to the largest and most powerful ethnic group. But that makes him less suitable as a mediator - as is visible in his initiatives:

- one of his initiatives is a truth commission. However, he fails to mention that unlike the situation in for example South Africa the political situation in Bosnia is not resolved. Without such an agreement the commission will have the same problem as the ICTY in The Hague: each party is sorry for the war crimes that have been committed by their side, but they consider them as "collateral damage" in a justified war.

- a more recent initiative by Finci was his complaint at the European Court of Human Rights about the fact that the Bosnian constitution by reserving some state positions for members of the three main ethnic groups is discriminating against Roma and Jews. I found this initiative rather phony: even if the constitution allowed the highest positions to those groups it is very unlikely that they would actually get them anytime soon.

But Finci has a point that the ethnic restrictions shouldn't be forever. During the war you couldn't be neutral and many people who did feel neutral - often because of mixed marriages - ended up as refugees in the West. Dayton reflected that situation. But this is not a desirable solution for peace time. But what Dayton wants to achieve with those ethnic rights is securing minority rights and that is very much a valid principle in peace time too. The obvious solution would be to connect the political minority rights to territorial entities. In order to achieve this the Federation would have to be split into a Bosniak and a Croat part. When that was done all the veto and representational rights of the ethnic groups could be converted in rights for the three entities.

Bosnia now has a law that it needs to repair in order to satisfy European requirements. My suggestion would be to keep the requirement for a Croat and to replace the requirements for a Muslim and a Serb by requirements that one president will be appointed by the parliament of the Federation and another by the parliament of the RS.

No comments: