18 March 2004, Volume
COULD DAYTON BOSNIA JOIN THE EU?
A program by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service with Dusan Stojcic, spokesman of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), the strongest political party in the Republika Srpska, and Sejfudin Tokic, vice president of the Social Democratic Union, an opposition party from the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Two international initiatives to modify the 1995 Dayton peace agreement have provoked strong disputes between the entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003).
In one initiative, a group of influential European parliamentarians and politicians called last December for revising the Dayton peace agreement -- which also serves as Bosnia's constitution -- saying that it obstructs economic and political development. In the second proposal, an NGO recently urged changing the constitutional and administrative structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina to emphasize the role of the cantons.
Mr. Tokic, both you and your party back those initiatives. Why?
What we want is to bring the legal system of Bosnia-Herzegovina into line with European standards. In order to become a functioning state and a member of the EU, NATO, and first of all the Partnership for Peace program, Bosnia-Herzegovina needs some legal and constitutional changes.
Almost all the parties in the Republika Srpska are strongly opposed to those initiatives. Mr. Stojcic, what are your party's main objections?
Indeed, there is a political consensus in the Republika Srpska concerning the revision of the Dayton agreement, which really amounts to radical changes in the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Annex IV of the Dayton peace agreement.
The Serbian Democratic Party, as the strongest political party in the Republika Srpska, believes that raising these issues is opening a Pandora's box.
We accept the need to build joint defense, fiscal, and other systems, but that cannot be interpreted as agreeing to any radical changes to Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina. That state is defined by its constitution as consisting of two entities and three constitutional peoples.
We encounter new revisionist initiatives every single day. Frankly, all those initiatives, including the two already mentioned, were launched by very well-paid lobbying groups that seem to reflect what political, intellectual, and media circles in Sarajevo say and write every day. They all have the same goal: to make Bosnia-Herzegovina as centralized as possible and to abolish the entities as units of authority.
Mr. Stojcic obviously fears that opening a discussion about the Dayton agreement might mean the end of the entities. Mr. Tokic, what do you say?
People in the Republika Srpska once resisted the ideas of a joint passport and a joint military, but eventually they accepted both. More change is sure to come.
If some people are obsessed with an idea of maintaining the Republika Srpska as an exclusive territory of the Serbs, it is simply untenable. The entities have already begun to lose importance, and this trend will continue.
Mr. Stojcic, what would be your response to the claim that the Republika Srpska is an exclusively Serbian territory?
This is the view of the political, intellectual, and media circles of Sarajevo and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but it does not correspond to the facts.
I do not see what makes the situation regarding human rights and liberties in the Republika Srpska worse than in the other entity. The situation regarding human rights and liberties in some cantons of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina is very bad.
But let us go back to the revisionist initiatives. They amount to a new regional division of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in which the Republika Srpska would become one of several regions, like the Brcko district. This seems to violate the right to territorial continuity that was guaranteed to the Republika Srpska even before the signing of the Dayton peace accords, first in Geneva and later in New York.
If constitutional revision takes place, then the present form of the Republika Srpska need not necessarily remain sacrosanct. The issue now is to make the state more efficient and less costly.
As far as human rights in the Republika Srpska are concerned, the fact that the Republika Srpska has never arrested a single war crimes suspect or even taken part in any such arrests tells you a lot.
I do not want to be in the dock and allow Mr. Tokic to keep accusing the Republika Srpska of very serious crimes, while I am left to defend it. He raises such issues time and again. The Republika Srpska is not on trial in The Hague.
The Republika Srpska has a law on cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal and tries to satisfy its demands.
You talk about the Republika Srpska but avoid talking about the Sarajevo canton or some other cantons in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where there is little respect for human and national rights.
Probably fewer than 1 percent of Sarajevo canton's administrative, police, and other government employees are Serbs, which is far from reflecting the ethnic balance in the 1991 census, as the amendments to the constitution of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina specify.
The process of implementing the decision of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina regarding the [equal] status of all the three peoples on the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina has never really started.
How many people have really and how many only formally returned to the Sarajevo canton? Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where all the joint institutions are based. It is supposed to lead the way in implementing the law.
I have been listening to the gentleman from the SDS very carefully, but I did not hear him respond to my arguments. I have only repeated what the high representative, Mr. [Paddy] Ashdown, said in Banja Luka a couple of days ago, except that his words were much harsher.
Let me also remind you of the words of the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mr. [Clifford] Bond, who said that the Interior Ministry of the Republika Srpska has not taken part in a single arrest of those indicted for war crimes, and that the judicial system of the Republika Srpska has never concluded a single trial for crimes committed during the war.
The fact that no war crimes suspect has been arrested in the Republika Srpska is one of the biggest obstacles on Bosnia-Herzegovina's way to European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
There are similar problems in Sarajevo, too, but nothing that so strongly affects European and Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as membership in the Partnership for Peace program.