Ustav ćemo vam

In the Guardian, Ian Traynor is reporting that "the Americans have written a new constitution transforming Bosnia into a centrally governed parliamentary democracy." The report indicates that some Bosnian politicians were consulted as well, but none are quoted in the report until the next to last paragraph, and this one does not seem too hot on the plan. While the new draft seeks to address one of the complaints about the Dayton agreement, that it imposed an unmanageable degree of decentralization, it does not address a more widely shared complaint, that it was imposed from outside.


T K Vogel said...

I must say this is yet another piece of Guardian sensationalism. This "revelation" has been pretty public knowledge for a number of months, and Nick Burns announced that these plans enjoyed USG backing during his trip to the region a few weeks ago. The scoop is that the Guardian managed to get a hold of the draft, but there's not too much they're revealing that wasn't known before.

In any case, I support this initiative in many ways though I'd agree with Eric that this is yet another attempt to impose from outside, except that I'm cool with that. I just honestly don't think it's going to fly, not with the present crowd in power. Even Don Hays, the principal architect of the project (funded by the U.S. Institute of Peace), is quoted in the article as saying, "Until the Brussels meeting [this weekend], we don't know what [the Bosnian politicians] are willing to achieve."

Eric Gordy said...

Hey, you're posting with your full name! Is it time to reveal that the mysterious Teekay is the fiendish T K?

T K Vogel said...

I guess that time has come -- and it's all your fault! I realized in the little tussle on East Ethnia that there really was no reason to be too discreet any longer.

T K Vogel said...

Actually, I realized East Ethnia was my only chance of ever becoming famous, and you can't be famous under an alias.

Eric Gordy said...

I was just about ready to suggest that you change it to Teeto.

Yakima_Gulag said...

Hahaha you guys! Thanks to you all I'm famous worldwide! A lifelong goal! to have people all over the world listen to me even if they thought I was nuts!
Seriously the only way to get a united Bosnia is to have it imposed, I hope it works. I just wish it was the Bosnians themselves who came up with it.
Today's Klingon Word:svcpgm A Klingon attempt to pronounce the word 'cevapi'

Alihodza said...

Imposing something better than Dayton is the only way to achieve it, as there is no realistic mechanism in Dayton for consensual constitutional reform.

The worst thing Dayton did was to recognise RS, and that is a mistake that the current revision will not deal with. For as long as Serb nationalists get to cling to their pathetic, poor little ethnic statelet, there is no hope of meaningful engagement with the creation of a modern Bosnian state.

RS will go at some point, one way or the other, but the drafters of the current revision have seriously missed a trick by not taking the opportunity of the 10-year point to de-legitimise RS and put reintegration back on track.

This is one case where the symbolism may actually be just as important as the substance. The point is not to strip RS of powers; the point should be to tell people living there that genocide does not pay and they need to get on with trying to live with their neighbours.

Hello Yakima - fancy meeting you here?!

Anonymous said...

Realistically, the imposition of a centralized parliamentary democracy by external "partners" will just return Bosnia to state tha caused war. Most Serbs do want to have to constantly defend themselves against people like "alihodza", who cross the line from justified criticism, to Serbophobia.

T K Vogel said...

Alihodza, there is a mechanism for consensual constitutional change in Dayton but there's no consensus, as the post by anonymous points out. The problem with imposing is that it will allow politicians for years (or decades!) to claim their group was shortchanged or that x y and z institutions are illegitimate. And who would do the imposing, and on the basis of what legitimacy? In a way it's surprising that the U.S. would stand even behind a relatively modest reform plan like the one that's now on the table -- getting the State Department's attention on any issue these days is no mean feat.

I do agree with you, though, that RS needs to go because its continued existence is a slap in the face of anyone who's not a Serb nationalist. I just can't see how this could be done, and on the basis of what authority.

My fear is that this new constitution would reflect again the balance of power on the ground at the time of drafting (as did Dayton) rather than a longer-term perspective, and thereby freeze the current stalemate in place for years to come. In that sense, I think anything that's purely cosmetic is in fact a step back by preventing further change in the near future (i.e., after next year's election). I do think, however, that Don Hays and the other folks behind this USIP-funded initiative are smart enough: my guess would be, without having seen the actual draft, that they launched a debate on the cosmetic elements in order to slip in a few much more wideranging changes without anyone paying attention. Constitutional change by stealth, if you will.

alihodza said...

Anonymouse: How does opposition to the existence of RS constitute Serbophobia? RS is against the long-term interests of Serbs in Bosnia just as much as other Bosnians. I called RS a "poor" (as in crappy GDP per capita), "pathetic" (as in miserable Prijedor without its old town, main mosque and most of its Bosniak population) and "little" (as in not very large, nor shapely ;-). You may disagree - that's fine - but I do not know of any reasonable argument for maintaining RS as an entity of any kind.

Tobias: You are right of course that there is a theoretical possibility of consensual change under Dayton, but as you know the reality is that Dayton created two entities with their hands round each other's throat, which means RS see their entity status as a sacred cow.

Dayton was imposed, and with no realistic chance of reform from below, that means the only way to move on is perhaps to impose a revision from above as well. Without that, Bosnia is locked into a stalemate that will prevent development for everybody.

I personally hope that the SAA process will not allow Bosnia in whilst it carries the ethnically-based baggage of Dayton, but I suspect this will be fudged and removing RS will not be a pre-condition.

I agree with you that no change is better than cosmetic change, but from what I understand, the maintainance of the entities was always presumed by the Hays process.

There is simply no way that RS will continue over the long term. The sooner we get over that one the sooner we can talk about protecting the legitimate national interests of all Bosnians, rather than the interests of the national parties.