[Updated version with links]
Last week I edited the draft of a report in which the author had written of "deteriorating political trends" in Bosnia. The donor wanted to have this changed to "worrying political trends." Whichever it is, it's for real. Until recently, for example, I'd have been inclined to dismiss calls for a referendum on independence for RS -- the miserable statelet ("entity") the Serbs carved out of Bosnia by killing, raping, looting, and shelling -- as mere campaigning. (Bosnians will vote for central and entity parliaments on 1 October.) The SNSD, a nominally moderate party with good links to the RS business community and a history of antagonism towards the RS' "natural" government party, the SDS of Dr. Radovan Karadzic, wanted to prop up its nationalist credentials, on this reading, and that's certainly part of the story -- but not all of it. RS prime minister and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik is very close to certain circles in Belgrade -- the very same circles that pay a lot of money to Washington lobbying firms to place well-written and superficially reasonable op-ed pieces in U.S. papers, pieces that nonetheless are full of threats if one reads between the lines -- and it's obvious to assume that he's not doing this for purely opportunistic, or indeed domestic, reasons (unless one has a rather big house). Indeed, after spending years denying that what happens in Kosovo would resonate in Bosnia, Western diplomats are getting *really* worried at the precedents they're setting in Kosovo.
But it's not just the Kosovo repercussions. Police reform -- a key prerequisite to conclude the first association steps with the EU -- is stalled, with the Serbs very openly obstructing talks. The international proconsul has announced he'd close shop by end of June 2007, so all they need to do is sit him out. The Serbs are now also second-guessing the distribution key for fiscal revenue and are being difficult on a number of other fronts.
Perhaps there's really no point in trying to keep them inside Bosnia if they really don't want to be there, as folks like David Chandler and Robert Hayden have long argued? Aren't they just a millstone around the necks of those who want to build a *real* state in Bosnia, and not just a conglomerate of self-ruling ethnic territories?