Last-chance exit

In June last year, the consortium of interested parties overseeing the international peace mission in Bosnia, the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), decided that the Office of the High Representative should close in June 2007. It was entirely clear back then that the OHR under Christian Schwarz-Schilling would spend most of the remaining time dealing with its own phase-out rather than with the pressing issues confronting Bosnia (including police and public broadcasting reform, constitutional amendments, and the blocked process of inching closer to the EU).

Now, even the PIC seems to have recognized that its decision was premature; when its Steering Board meets in Brussels at the end of February, it is very likely to extend the OHR's mandate. (The decision had always been subject to review in February.) Another piece of news: according to today's Dnevni avaz, Schwarz-Schilling will be replaced, presumably by someone who's actually interested in using his office to achieve concrete results. For this situation, however, the PIC deserves as much blame as Schwarz-Schilling, whose views on the extensive powers of the OHR were after all well-known even before his appointment. (Avaz is not known for meticulous fact-checking, but I've now heard the same from more credible sources.)

Rumor has it that Schwarz-Schilling is about to make a statement to the effect that he would not serve beyond June.

The whole episode is embarrassing because it suggests that the PIC hadn't done its homework before appointing Schwarz-Schilling, or before taking the decision to phase out in June. It is also a blow to the idea, already rather thin intellectually, that the pull of European integration would on its own be strong enough for Bosnia's elites to bring their irreconcilable visions for the future closer together. Thanks to the PIC, Schwarz-Schilling's term in office has been a complete waste of time.


blahblahblah said...

The OHR is a massive disincentive for the Bosniak politicians to sit down and negotiate with the Serbs and Croats. After all, why engage in give and take if the OHR will just force through everything you want?

Moreover, does a democratic state in 2007 need a colonial governor? If the answer is yes, then that is an admission that BiH in its current form is an unviable failure. And what kind of national "unity" and "tolerance" is built on one group (arguably two) being the country's whipping boys?

The removal of the OHR is the only thing that will force BiH's "elites" to the negotiating table. Maybe that wouldn't lead to the outcomes some people would like, but jebiga - comprise is a vital part of democracy.

Anonymous said...

OHR costs too much money, and the effects....???
After 12 years Bosnian politicians should be able to rule this country, or the country should not exist. (Although being 65 I do not know where I would go should there be no Bosnia!!!)

Eric Gordy said...

Here's another point of view, you might find it interesting:


Anonymous said...

12 years after the war the three major ethnic groups still have widely differing views of the desirable state organization and future for Bosnia-Hercegovina, and it is unlikely that their views will converge in the foreseeable future.

I assume TK Vogel believes that these three points of view can somehow be reconciled or, which is more likely, that a state organization he finds just can simply be imposed on close to 40% (or more) of non-Bosniak population in the country.

The presence of OHR and advocacy for Bonn powers obviously prefers the imposed solution approach instead of the agreement based on compromise that was tried in the failed constitutional reform project. Basically if the Bosniak side is aware that it simply needs to wait for "its" solution to be imposed there is no need to compromise.

It would be interesting to hear TK's opinion regarding the sustainability of the imposed solution. Secondly, if the imposed solution is preferable, why waste time on "negotiations" and "reform process" - why not simply rewrite the constitution and have it imposed by the OHR?

T K Vogel said...

@Anonymous: nowhere did I say that the HR should impose constitutional changes; he hasn't, and he won't, and he shouldn't, and nobody I'm aware of is suggesting he should. But the last year has made it abundantly clear that the incentive to reach compromise can only be sustained with a robust international presence. Regarding sustainability of "imposed solutions:" remember how the Bosnian Serbs cried foul when Dayton was imposed on them by Milosevic? And who are the most ardent proponents of the literal truth of Dayton today?

Anonymous said...

But the last year has made it abundantly clear that the incentive to reach compromise can only be sustained with a robust international presence.

Regarding the constitutional reform, I would argue that it failed precisely because of the international presence. It is clear that Silajdzic's motivation to scuttle the agreed reform was precisely his hope that by keeping the issue (of unsustainable Dayton Constitution) open he could hope to have Bosnian Serbs forced to accept conditions more to his liking (for starters no entity voting). That's more or less his explanation of why the reform had to be rejected. Do you think HR should have forced Silajdzic to accept the reform? If not, what other approach would have worked?

So if nothing is to be imposed, how will the "robust international presence" manage the constitutional reform process? And how is the HR to use his Bonn prerogatives? So far those have been used mainly to a) intimidate politicians who refused to accept imposed solutions or to dismiss them and b) to impose solutions.

Now, moving onto sustainability of imposed solutions and expanding on your comment, your thinking seems to be that:
1) these are possible provided they are backed up by a meaningful military threat (as in Dayton, following VRS defeat).
2) the party on which the solution is imposed will go along given perception that without the imposed solution they are likely to get an even worse deal (which is why Bosnian Serbs are now defending Dayton).

So regarding 2 Bosnian-Serbs must be kept under constant pressure in order to accept imposed solutions they disagree with and regarding 1 NATO must remain perpetually militarily involved or we give Bosniaks control of military and police and make sure Serbs do not have control of either (police and military). Hardly a picture of stability.

Is that the thinking behind the push for military and police reform?

Bg anon said...

On Bosnia it all boils down to this as far as I'm concerned - you can bring a horse to water but cant force it to drink.

The West should provide all the incentives for a peaceful and productive atmosphere between the communities but in the end it is the communities themselves that must make the big decisions.

But I dont think OHR should pull out in the immediate future. The fact is that the Bosnian political climate remains too unripe (to use a Serbian word incorrectly rather than the condascending word 'immature') to be left to its own devices just yet.