As BiH protests continue, attention turns to Dayton accord

27/02/2014

Officials and citizens debate a re-organisation of BiH's intricate political landscape.

By Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Tuzla -- 27/02/14

photo

According to the European Parliament, any changes to the Dayton agreement must be a result of mutual agreement between local politicians. [AFP]

In the aftermath of protests about the country's stagnant economy and high unemployment that have led to promises of reform, the complex political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is increasingly being questioned by citizens and officials, some of whom are calling for re-organisation.

The internationally sponsored Dayton Peace Accord, which was signed in 1995 to stop ethnic conflict in the country, defined a power structure for BiH. But experts say that without dramatic changes the government has little chance of creating an efficient state with a positive investment climate.

"The Dayton Peace Accord created a disabled country where entities could act as a country within a country, which was definitely was not the original intention of the authors," said former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic.

The agreement split BiH into two entities. Republika Srpska (RS) is home to the Serb population, and the Federation of BiH (FBiH) has a majority Bosniak and Croat population. FBiH is split into 10 cantons, each with its own government. RS is divided into 80 municipalities, which also have their own local governments. The country also has a large administrative system with ministers and deputies at 14 levels of authority.

The country spends more than 4 billion euros on administration costs annually.

According to the European Parliament, a new accord is necessary, but it needs to be a result of mutual agreement between local politicians.

"A consensus of the citizens of BiH and the local politicians is the only way to create long-term, sustainable reforms. The stimulus cannot come from the outside. Local politicians must reach an agreement and create the reforms," said Doris Pack, a member of the European Parliament from Germany.

Tonino Picula, the Croatian representative at the European Parliament Committee for Foreign Affairs, said a re-organisation would benefit the country as a whole.

"The reconstruction of the Dayton organisation of BiH is inevitable, and it needs to start immediately. Not only for the sake of the European future of BiH, but also for the normalisation of the situation in the country, and for the wellbeing of it citizens," Picula said.

Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia's foreign minister and former High Representative in BiH, agreed.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina, with this Dayton constitution, cannot become a member of the European Union. It will have to be changed because it just does not meet the European standards. The Dayton Accord is good for a country that does not want to move anywhere," Lajcak told SETimes.

However, Igor Radojicic, chairman of the RS House of Peoples, said that a so-called "Dayton II" is not a viable option right now.

"A new Dayton would open Pandora's Box and take us back to our old positions from 1991. In that case, everything that was before the war becomes a current issue, from secession and dissolution of the country to the issue of full centralisation," Radojicic told SETimes.

Citizens are also divided on the idea.

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"For some people, this hopeless situation suits perfectly as they live in luxury, but for the ordinary people it is a life full of misery and this situation cannot continue," said Marijana Sisic from Zenica, advocating the idea of re-organisation.

But others, like Jovica Simic, a farmer in Bijeljina in RS, disagree.

"Let the Federation of BiH care about their own problems on the organisation of their part of the country. We do not have cantons, and do not want in any case for Republic Srpska to stop existing."

How successful will the peaceful protests in BiH be in bringing about lasting reform? Tell us your thoughts below in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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