The Dayton Agreement ended the war. But it did not create good conditions for a future for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
When a volcanic eruption destroys a country, all life is wiped out. But after a while, plants use the cracks in the rock and break through the ashes. New life arises. Perhaps after all the fire that nationalists from Serbia and later Croatia brought over Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are now at a turning point after 25 years. At least some strong new plants showed up in the elections last weekend.
The old life before the war, the grown tradition of people of all ethnic groups living together, will not be able to return anytime soon. In every extended family, Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox and Jews used to celebrate the respective festivals together. Anyone who was able to experience this society before the war was touched. It wasn’t multicultural, it was a historically tolerant society.
Bosnian society was the antithesis of Serbian and Croatian nationalism and therefore had to be destroyed. The two presidents of Serbia and Croatia agreed on this even before the war. At a meeting in Karadjordjevo in March 1991, Tudjman and Milošević agreed on the territorial division of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The ethnic cleansing in the 1992–95 war was not the result of the war, but its aim. There was no place for the Muslim population group and all opponents, especially anti-fascists, social democrats, all who continued to stand up for tolerance and human rights. Genocide was the result. If tens of thousands are systematically murdered, desecrated and tens of thousands more killed by bombs, snipers and grenades, if 2 out of 4.5 million people are driven from their homes, then no society will remain undamaged. The nationalistically motivated madness aimed at creating ethnically pure societies is a crime all over the world. But in Bosnia he was “successful”. The populations were torn into war, fear of survival, painful experiences on all sides led to a break. The old society was in ruins in 1995.
Few politicians in Europe, the US and the rest of the world have understood this. The war of aggression in Serbia and later also in Croatia on Bosnia and Herzegovina was defined internationally as a “civil war” as early as 1993 and thus relieved the masterminds, especially in Belgrade. Instead of taking a clear stand against extremism, it was hoped that the war would end after the country had “bled out” – according to British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd in 1993. This cynicism has not been forgotten to this day. The internationals only negotiated with the nationalists. The result is the Dayton Agreement, which ended the war on November 21, 1995.
Yes, it ended the war, it also created a formally democratic structure with parliaments at all state levels, in which the three “constituent nations” were to find a compromise for the state as a whole. But it did not change the fundamentals. With the military presence at your back, the warring parties could be disarmed, but the warring nationalist elites were allowed to remain in power. The elections, which were held far too early, even legitimized them. The question of war crimes and their atonement was not even mentioned. The rights of minorities like those of the Roma and Jews or anyone who did not want to define themselves nationally also fell through the grid. The various veto rights of the parties from the “constitutive nations” created many opportunities for blocking. The nationalist parties benefit from the status quo.
Many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina no longer want ethnic divisions; they want a normal state
They dominate the labor market in their areas of rule. In the areas that were still mixed, they implemented the ethno-national principle down to the smallest detail. The schools with two exits are just one example. There are now, fueled by the respective religions, three ideologies, three cultures of remembrance, three media worlds. If you don’t sprint, you fly. If you don’t join them, you won’t get a job. Anyone who does not participate will be persecuted as a traitor.
In the context of this constitution, it is therefore not possible to meet the economic and legal requirements for the country’s integration into the EU. The judgment of the European Court of Justice in the case Sejdić / Finci 2009, which demands full civil rights for the minorities, is not implemented. Integration into the EU cannot succeed in this way. Brussels is content with the lip service of the country’s leaders for embarking on the European path, but in reality they are doing the opposite.
But last Sunday in the local elections, voters in Sarajevo and the other major cities set their standards. Many no longer want ethnic divisions; they want a normal state. In the big cities they voted out the corrupt leaderships or confirmed the reformers.
In the Sarajevo-Center constituency, Muslim voters chose a Serb who defended the city against Serbian attackers during the war. Sarajevo’s mayor is set to become a Serb. That will also make an impression on the other ethnic groups. In Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian state, an oppositionist has prevailed against the party of Trump and Putin supporter Milorad Dodik.
A little tradition is back. The people in Sarajevo cannot expect much support from Europe, but they hope for Joe Biden, an expert on the Balkans. You have not forgotten that in 1993 he advocated military action by NATO against the besiegers of Sarajevo.