By Clifford Bond
Former US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina
I was asked to say a few words about the future of Dayton,
but I would like to begin by recounting a little recent history.
And let me start by making it clear that these are my personal
views. They are not presented by someone who has a brief to
defend Dayton, but by a diplomatic practitioner who has worked
within its framework for three years.
The Dayton Accords brought peace to Bosnia and separated the
warring parties, as well as provided a road map for everything
from post-war property restitution, the return of refugees
and the preservation of cultural monuments, and more. Annex
IV in the Accords also gave the State of Bosnia its basic
constitution with the division of powers and authorities between
the state and its two entities.
Implementation of the various Dayton annexes has been uneven.
The UNHCR trumpeted this year the return of more than a million
out of a total of 2.2 million refugees and displaced persons
to their homes. About half of this number is minority returns,
i.e., people returning to areas, which were ethnically cleansed.
Some people take issue with the demographics of these returns,
but the number is remarkable. I think it’s fair to say
the principal obstacle to returns today is economics, i.e.,
a lack of jobs, not security concerns. The improved security
situation in Bosnia is permitting the NATO-led SFOR to transition
to an EU Force later this year. This is a significant achievement.
Refugees are returning to all parts of the country, though
the numbers of returns are declining, in part because of a
sharp fall in international assistance.
You frequently hear in Bosnia that dissatisfaction with Dayton
Accords appeared before the ink on the document was dry. It
is always easier to criticize with 20-20 hindsight, but one
thing is clear: the constitution Dayton gave Bosnia created
a very weak central government and confirmed an overly costly,
multi-layered government structures. These factors severely
limit Bosnia’s future, in particular its ability to
meet the conditions of membership in European institutions,
but also its economic future.
Entering Europe was not on the mind of Dayton’s framers.
If they thought of it at all, it was a remote prospect. Peace
was paramount. Times have changed, though, and the war has
receded from peoples’ minds in Bosnia. Increasingly
Bosnia’s citizens are focused on the future, particularly
a future in Europe, and they see more clearly than ever before
the limitations of Dayton.
How could Bosnia think of qualifying for PfP, or eventually
NATO, with multiple armies on its territory?
How could Bosnia enter the WTO with multiple customs regimes?
How could Bosnia ever be a credible candidate for EU membership
without a single economic space, without a tax system that
provided a secure source of revenue to the central government
and that conformed to EU standards, particularly for a unified
VAT and indirect tax system.
For a long period after the war these sorts of questions were
very theoretical for most Bosnians. In fact, the “Alliance”
coalition government, which campaigned in 2002 as the best
political alternative to bring BiH into Europe, was voted
out of power in fall of that year. There were many reasons
for the outcome of these elections, but the prospect of Bosnia’s
entry into Europe seemed unrealistic to most voters in that
campaign. People were focused on more existential questions.
At some point, however, over the past two years, a significant
shift in the public mindset occurred. I don’t want to
get into an analysis of all the factors for this change. I’ll
mention just a few.
A new High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, made entry into
Europe a central feature of his “Jobs and Justice Program”
and this program was strongly endorsed by the Peace Implementation
Council, the nations supporting Dayton implementation.
NATO Sec Gen Lord Robertson set out in a public letter in
December of 2002 clear and specific conditions that Bosnia
needed to meet to qualify for PfP, implying strong NATO support
for Bosnia’s potential membership.
The USG moved from a bilateral military training program (Train
and Equip) directed narrowly at the Federation (i.e., Bosnian-Croat
entity) to a broader program engaging both entities and the
State in an effort to develop central defense institutions
and meet PfP qualifications.
The European Commission in Brussels became much more positive
in its message on Bosnia’s prospects for negotiation
of an SAA.
Perhaps most importantly, the political leaderships in Zagreb
and Belgrade increasingly took a much more constructive approach
to Bosnia and were focused themselves on their own and regional
integration into Europe. There was a prospect of Croatia,
Albania, Macedonia and even Serbia joining Europe without
There was also a growing acceptance by all the people of Bosnia
that the international community, which along with the Alliance
government had in 2001 faced down a Bosnian-Croatian nationalist
“Third Entity Movement,” was committed to BiH,
and this state was going to last. This was reflected in several
public opinion surveys in 2003, which showed that, while some
might prefer another political arrangement, the expectation
of a majority of all ethnic groups was that Bosnia and Herzegovina
This recognition, coupled with a desire not to be left out
of Europe, particularly a Europe in which Croatia and Serbia
might be members, prepared the population for some of the
dramatic reforms of the past 2 years. In other words, Bosnians
wanted to be in Europe, particularly if Croatia and Serbia
were in, and they understood that the only way of getting
there was by making Bosnia work.
Here are some the significant changes that have been adopted
in the wake of that recognition, and while still being implemented,
have significantly changed the Dayton landscape:
A State Ministry of Defense has been setup with a joint command
and all military units in the country are now under state-level
command and control.
Tax reform has been enacted to create a state-administered
VAT and unify entity customs services. The State now as a
secure source of revenue to provide essential services and
fund the new state-level institutions required to meet both
PfP/NATO conditions and negotiation of the SAA with the EU.
New criminal code and criminal procedure codes have been enacted
at the State-level, new State courts and prosecutors are operating
and a state-level domestic chamber is being established to
try war criminals
New law enforcement structures at the state level have been
created, including a State Border Service and a State Information
and Protection Agency, an FBI-like organization to coordinate
the fight against organized crime and terrorism. Most recently,
a Police Reform Commission has been set to recommend restructuring
the police at all levels of government.
All of these initiatives have a few things in common. They
were carried out on the basis of international and local (state
and entity) cooperation; they were aimed at overcoming limitations
that Dayton placed on the country’s ability to meet
EU and international standards; and they required a redistribution
of authority from the entities to the State. In the case of
defense and tax reform, these initiatives required amendment
of the constitution by state and entity parliaments. These
reforms were also carried out on the basis of an unspoken
understanding that they were not designed as steps toward
elimination of the entities, specifically the Republika Srpska.
It may well be possible through what I call this “functional”
approach of reform to qualify Bosnia for membership in PfP
and possibly the EU, though the RS’ failure to fully
cooperate in the apprehension and prosecution of senior war
criminals remains a political obstacle to Bosnia’s entry
into both institutions. This functional approach leaves the
Dayton structures of government intact, though substantially
In my view this functional approach to reforming Dayton has
probably exhausted itself and is not helping provide Bosnia
with a more rational and efficient government. By World Bank
measures Bosnia’s governmental structures: state, entity,
cantonal and municipal, as well as the separate Brcko District,
consume something in the order of 60 percent of GDP. That
is clearly an unsustainable burden for an economy in transition.
The addition of new state institutions, without a commensurate
downsizing at other levels of government, will only add to
Several of Bosnia’s more courageous and visionary politicians
are already calling for a public discussion to rationalize
the structures of government. The terms of that debate are
also becoming clearer. Most Bosnians accept that the state
needs to be strengthened to meet the country’s international
obligations and to qualify for institutions that will guarantee
its long-term security, prosperity and integration into Europe.
Most also agree that municipal governments, which provide
basic services and just conducted their first direct election
of mayors, need to strengthened and provided with a securer
source of funding.
The problem with governmental structures is what some refer
to as the “muddle in the middle,” that is what
to do with the cantons and the entities. These have overlapping
responsibilities with the state and other levels of government,
consume the vast majority of resources and provide little
in return, and need to be downsized.
I would suggest a few additional guidelines for this debate,
which is long overdue. First, these are decisions that Bosnians
should take for themselves. The international community is
not going to reopen Dayton. It should be supportive and facilitate
a dialogue, but in the end changes to Dayton must be agreed
and implemented locally.
The tone and substance of this discussion must be pragmatic.
Discussion of the future of the entities, particularly the
RS, and the cantons is the third rail of Bosnian politics.
These structures are in place because people view them as
the ultimate protection of ethnic community interests. Until
a higher level of confidence is established among all communities
in Bosnia, it will not be possible to completely eliminate
these structures. Bosnia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic
institutions, particularly entry into PfP and the onset of
SAA negotiations, will be important in this regard. It can
help create a climate of trust and confidence in which this
discussion can take place more rationally and less passionately.
This is why the functional approach is valuable, but insufficient.
Parallel to this domestic debate, the international community
must begin to decide what we will do with the exceptional
and intrusive foreign presence in Bosnia. As I said, SFOR
is transitioning into an EU force. I expect EUFOR to rapidly
morph into something resembling a policing operation. The
heavy military presence is no longer necessary. As the EU
carries out this mission, it must also consider how it applies
the special military authorities provided in Annex IA. Bosnia
is far along on the path of normalization since 1996. These
authorities must be applied in a way that acknowledges BiH’s
sovereignty, respects local institutions and their capacity
to provide for security. A NATO office is also being stood
up to support the apprehension of war criminals.
Neither the international community nor local politicians
have been able to think beyond the current civilian Dayton
arrangements, specifically the winding down of the Office
of the High Representative. No one disputes the importance
and even the necessity of the High Representative and his
exceptional pro-consular powers in the post war period and
in pushing through the most recent reforms.
The existence of OHR is becoming increasingly counter-productive,
however. It does not allow for local ownership of the reform
process. In fact, OHR and the international community are
filling the political space that should be occupied by local,
non-nationalist reformers. As long as OHR exists, locals can
confidently vote for nationalist politicians to protect their
narrow ethnic interests, knowing full well that OHR and the
IC will move Bosnia forward on the path toward Europe.
With completion of the current round of reforms, hopefully
in 2005, and Bosnia’s entrt into PfP and the start of
the SAA process, we will need a strategy to shut OHR down.
This decision needs to be taken well before the 2006 elections,
even if not completed by then. Before tho0se elections Bosnian
voters should understand that they are electing officials
that will be fully responsible for carrying through on the
reforms that will take Bosnia into the EU and NATO. Moreover
a failure to agree of OHR’s future before this target
date may well lead to it and the exceptional IC presence in
Bosnia becoming an issue in the elections. My advice is that
OHR leave before being asked to do so by the locals. As part
of this OHR transition, the IC should continue to turn over
the authorities of Dayton’s Annexes to the local government,
as it already has done with Annex VII on refugee returns.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a special place. It is not your
average European state. In today’s Europe the nation
state is an anachronism. Europe is moving toward deeper integration
and unity – with the entry of ten new members from eastern
Europe earlier this year. Bosnia does not need a centralized
nation state to qualify for Europe. What matters is a state
with the ability to provide justice and essential services
to its citizens and to meet the conditions that will qualify
a government for admission to those key institutions, PfP,
NATO and the EU. Membership in these bodies will provide for
Bosnia’s long-term security and prosperity. Bosnians
are moving, perhaps not as fast as some foreign observers
might like, to create such a state. We need to show our support
and patience for their efforts, but I am confident they will