It has been a year since the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), but the republic of former Yugoslavia is still living without a government. This has to do with the inability of the three communities in the country - the Muslims, Serbs and Croats - to agree.
The organization called "civil government" announced its presence on the backdrop of the ongoing government crisis in Sarajevo. Its activists tried to break into a government building, but were pushed back by the police. The protesters demanded to form a government as soon as possible and implement reforms necessary for the entry of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the EU. Lithuania that is currently presiding in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) made a similar statement.
However, so far the leaders of the three communities in the country have not been able to agree. Theoretically, this situation may continue until the fall of 2014, when Bosnia will hold the next parliamentary elections. The local constitution does not contain any provisions as to how to get out of this crisis. If this happens, the former republic of Yugoslavia will set the absolute world record for anarchy. So far, Belgium holds this record with nearly 500 days. However, on October 11 Belgians are to receive a long-awaited government.
The anarchy in both Bosnia and Belgium is rooted in one thing: ethnic differences. However, the Belgian Flemings and Walloons have never been at war with each other, and their standards of living are admirable. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the situation is quite different. In 1992-1995 there was the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Second World War. Nearly 200 thousand people fell victims to this war. Despite all efforts, the wounds of that war have not healed yet.
Modern Bosnia and Herzegovina is the successor of a republic with the same name in Socialist Yugoslavia. When the country began to disintegrate, there were barely any chances to avoid a conflict. Muslims (43 percent of the population) wanted to establish their own state within the borders of the republic. Serbs and Croats wanted to join their national states. Since there were no ethnically pure areas in Bosnia, the war that broke out in 1992 quickly spread throughout its entire territory.
The main villain in the eyes of the West are the Bosnian Serbs, whose leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are now at the Hague Tribunal. NATO aircraft have repeatedly bombed their positions. Croats were forced into an alliance with the Muslims, although until 1994 they were fiercely fighting with each other. The war was ended by the Dayton Agreement signed in late 1995. The republic nearly completely destroyed by the war forcibly retained its integrity.
However, the attempts to create a solid entity in its place have failed. Bosnia is a confederation of two entities: the Muslim-Croat Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska. Each of them has its own president, parliament and government. Formally, the main nation-wide body is the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina that includes one representative from each of the three communities. Muslims, Serbs and Croats take turns to serve as interim presidents of the country. Nearly all parties in Bosnia are formed along ethnic lines.
However, this picture is not complete. In fact, the real power belongs to the international high commissioner (now - the representative of Austria, Valentin Inzko) appointed with the consent of the UN. He has the authority to resolve disputes between the communities and oversee the elections. He constantly has to intervene. In addition, Brcko District of Bosnia with mixed population located in the north is openly under international control.
By and large, this state of affairs did not suit anyone. Muslims who account for nearly half of the population of Bosnia insist on maximum centralization of the country. Time is working for them - the birth rate among Muslims is higher than that among the Serbs and Croats and they do not have another ethnic homeland but Bosnia. The West, unwilling to split Bosnia, is also helping them. Under its pressure the Serb Republic has repeatedly shared the power with the center and Muslims and Croats became its vice-presidents. There has not been a separate Croatian unit in the post-war Bosnia.
As for the Bosnian Serbs, they do their best to not strengthen the central power. The president of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik spoke strongly against the decision of the international administration to create a single court and prosecutor's office in Bosnia and is even determined to hold a referendum on this subject. He also demanded that the Muslim-Croat Federation of BiH returns 53 million marks obtained in the form of taxes.
Dodik openly speaks about the reluctance of his people to live in such a state. Back in 2008 he condemned the decision of the West to recognize the independence of Kosovo and argued in favor of a referendum on secession of Republika Srpska. Later he openly said that Bosnia was "falling apart" and he considered it "irrevocably divided country" that was impossible to unite. However, due to the international pressure, a referendum on independence of Republika Srpska has not been held. Yet, the desire of the Bosnian Serbs is obvious.
This year has shown that the Croats who make up 14 percent of BiH and twenty percent of the Muslim-Croat federation are unhappy with the situation in Bosnia. Their party gathered last spring at the Croatian National Assembly and adopted a declaration where it refused to enter into a coalition with the Muslim parties and asked to create their separate Croatian national unit within Bosnia. It is the unwillingness of the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) that impedes the creation of the centralized Bosnian government.
The position of the Croats is understandable as they were united with Muslims against their will. Staying within the amorphous BiH is hardly more attractive than the entry into Croatia that will become an EU member on July 1, 2013. Incidentally, the requests for a separate Croat unit were supported by the president of Croatia Ivo Josipovic, who also expressed the need for a reform of BiH.
A messy situation in the domestic affairs is reflected in foreign policy as well. Bosnia became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, but has not been able to make a decision on the recognition of Palestine. Muslims are pro recognition, the Serbs are against it, and as a result there is no unified decision. The inability of the representatives of the three communities to agree among themselves is a serious obstacle to their membership in the EU and NATO. Membership in each of these organizations requires internal unity, but it is not anywhere near. On the contrary, there is a drift of a new conflict in the air.
"Bosnia and Herzegovina could have been more robust, but the West has built it in a wrong way. The U.S. and the EU should have provided support and attention to all three communities, but they were biased towards Muslims. Republika Srpska's autonomy has been constantly slashed while it made 78 concessions with regard to all-Bosnia authorities.
Today, the Bosnian Serbs are not willing to give in and request a number of their powers back. As is evident from the current story, the formation is no longer agreeable to Croatia either. The Croats have not received their own unit, and therefore they consider themselves offended," Elena Guskova, head of the Center for the Study of Modern Balkan crisis of the Institute of Slavic Studies, RAS, commented on the situation for Pravda.ru.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has all the prerequisites to break the world record of anarchy. The state in its present form does not suit anyone, and it can legitimately be considered the "sick man of Europe". Is it time to begin its "controlled euthanasia"?