2005-06-01

What part of "no" don't you understand?

On Monday, the grandiosely named "National Assembly" of Republika Srpska, the parliament of the Bosnian-Serb statelet in Bosnia, rejected police reform proposals that were a precondition for the opening of talks on association with the EU.

High representative Paddy Ashdown commented in a press conference Tuesday, "The RS... has finally, it seems, turned its back on the future – and turned its back on Bosnia's future, too." Without giving details, he all but announced sanctions against the RS government and its ruling party, the SDS, over the next few days: "some consequences will follow quickly."

Police reform -- agreed to earlier in principle -- is one of the conditions for the EU to consider signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Bosnia, which is now off the table -- for the time being.

Ashdown said, "The road to Europe will remain closed for the country until, as must happen in the end, the Government of Republika Srpska is prepared to adhere to European standards."

He added, "I cannot break this logjam. The European Commission has, quite rightly, said that getting to Europe means BiH politicians doing it, not the High Representative. Bosnia -- and the RS, their politicians themselves -- have to meet those standards. But until they do, the rest of Europe won’t wait. This region will not move towards Europe at the pace of the slowest ship in the convoy."

Ashdown had hoped to announce at the press conference concrete steps to transform his office (OHR) from overseer to facilitator, from "high representative" to "EU special representative," and to transfer competences to the national authorities. The RS, with its customary, impeccable sense of timing fully intact, smashed these plans one day after the French voters said non to the EU constitution, a rejection that also constituted in part a rejection of enlargement.

But, as Ashdown pointed out, it will be the people of Bosnia who will have to live with the consequences.

Will that be enough to sway the RS? Are Ashdown's words still designed to force the RS into line, or already a recognition that the situation is hopeless? Will OHR take this opportunity, thrown to it by the RS, to sweep politicians out of office one last time, before the "Bonn powers" disappear?

6 comments:

R Byrne said...

Great post, Teekay... There is no "Cyprus solution" to this problem, however... It just wouldn't work geographically...

T K Vogel said...

Well, I don't believe in "Cyprus solutions" in general -- in fact, I'm writing a book together with a colleague in which we strongly argue against population transfers and territorial partitions as a peacemaking strategy -- but in this particular case, the temptation is rather strong to tell the Bosnian Serbs to fuck off and leave everyone else alone. They could pay off everyone they expelled, become a fully independent state, and see what happens -- that way at least they wouldn't be a burden for the rest of the country. At a more serious level, what gives us the moral justification to insist that Bosnia should be preserved as one country if it's so evident that a sizeable minority (and quite possibly a majority) of its citizens doesn't care for it? I'm not saying this lightly -- I feel the idea of secession rather abhorrent in practice since it would amount to the complete disenfranchising of all non-Serbs in today's RS, large parts of which (such as the Drina valley, to name but one region) used to be majority-Muslim.

Is that what you mean by "Cyprus solution?"

R Byrne said...

Not precisely... I mean pushing the Croat/Bosniak portion ahead into EU accession talks as a spur to getting a general solution to problems of joint govt/restitution etcetera. I hust don't think that would work without the isolating element present in Cyprus...RS is much too contiguous with the rest of the region (as is Kosovo) and attempts to split it off might cause more problems than it solves...

T K Vogel said...

You're right that this wouldn't work -- not least for constitutional reasons. The Greek-Cypriot government, as much as we may think they're a bunch of idiots, technically represents the entire, undivided country and is not just a constituent unit of it, while the Federation and RS don't have any meaningful international personality. (They can enter into obligations vis-a-vis other states but not on behalf of Bosnia as a whole, and they also can't secede.)

Anonymous said...

If RS were peeled off, it would probably want to join Serbia. Wackiness, as they say, would ensue.

More and more, I'm tempted by the idea of a Congress of Berlin II. In the case of Bosnia/FY, this would involve snipping off a bit of Hezegovina (the craziest hyperCatholic Croat bit) and giving it to Croatia; giving most of RS (but not quite all) to Serbia); and turning Kosovo loose.

Croatia gets some more territory. It's worthless rock -- good only for raising snakes, stones and Ustashes, as they used to say in the FY -- but hey: Medjugorje. Serbia gets territorial compensation for Kosovo. In both cases, dickhead nationalism gets a (hopefully temporary) shot in the arm. Meanwhile RS is smaller, but now has a Muslim majority.

Eh, it's a fantasy. Not going to happen, and upon mature consideration I'm not sure it would really be an improvement.


Doug M.

Anonymous said...

Nobody is willing to present one and only reason why RS assembly rejected the plan -- teritorial organization of the future police force is intended to disregard interentity boundary. Why Paddy insists on this territorial organization? Many federal countries have police organized along the lines of country units -- for example, US police unit boundaries strictly follow political boundaries between states, counties nad cities. Why it cannot happen in BiH? Usually when mutiple parties are talking about some problem, you would expect that everyone make concessions -- here it seems that only party required to make concession is Serb Republic.