Bosnia - Herzegovina

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Introduction / Definiton: 

Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) is one of six states in the Western Balkans born of the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) in 1991-1992 (the others are Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and since 2006, Montenegro. The status of a seventh, Kosovo, is disputed.) The state’s name recognizes two historical regions, each of which has sub-regions: ‘Bosnia,’ roughly the northern two-thirds of the country, and ‘Herzegovina,’ the southern one-third. When Yugoslavia disintegrated and its federal units, barring Montenegro, emerged as sovereign states, BiH had by far the most multinational population of those federal units. According to the last Yugoslav census of 1991, BiH’s population of 4.4 million was about 45 percent Bosnian Muslim (a group also known as Bosniaks), 35 percent Bosnian Serb, and 18 percent Bosnian Croat. BiH was thus a microcosm of the multinational federal state that unraveled in 1991-1992.

The Yugoslav federation effectively ceased to exist after the governments of Slovenia and Croatia issued declarations of secession in June 1991. The disintegration of Yugoslavia opened up the question of BiH’s future status, and sparked deep disagreement on that question between BiH’s three ethno-national communities. By late 1991 the most popular Bosniak political party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), decided to push for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, which implied the final dissolution of the Yugoslav state. The Bosnian Serbs, by contrast, overwhelmingly favored the continuation of BiH as a unit of a reduced Yugoslav federation, and this preference was strongly expressed by their most popular party, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). The Bosnian Croats were influenced by the renewal of Croat nationalism in neighboring Croatia, and by the civil war between the Croatian government and a part of Croatia’s Serb minority of 12 percent that broke out across one-third of Croatia following Croatia’s declaration of secession from Yugoslavia. Their most popular party, the Croatian Democratic Union—Bosnia-Herzegovina (HDZ-BiH)—the sister-party of the ruling party of Croatia, the HDZ—also supported BiH’s sovereignty. But unlike the Bosniaks and the SDA, the HDZ-BiH’s goal was not the consolidation of an independent Bosnian state, but the separation of Bosnia-Herzegovina from its eastern neighbors Serbia and Montenegro.

These opposed preferences were the result of a combustible mix of memories of past conflict and contemporary calculations and fears. The Bosniak SDA leadership probably calculated that the Bosniaks’ plurality share of the population would give them political dominance in an independent BiH, and end the Bosniaks’ relative subordination throughout the twentieth century to the more numerous and powerful Serb and Croat peoples of the south Slav space (‘Yugoslavia’ literally means ‘land of the southern Slavs’). Most Bosnian Serbs—at about 1.5 million the largest Serb community outside Serbia—rejected being separated from ethnic kin in Serbia and Montenegro and being reduced to a minority group in a sovereign BiH, where they feared their political status and rights would be imperiled by a Bosniak-dominated polity or worse, an expedient Bosniak-Bosnian Croat alliance. Bosnian Serb fears were stoked by memories of mass killings during World War II, when several hundred thousand Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia were murdered by Nazi-sponsored Croat fascists who were assisted by some Bosnian Muslims.

The international community, led by the United States, recognized BiH’s independence and sovereignty in April 1992 after a controversial referendum held at the suggestion of a commission, appointed by the European Union, to advise the EU on the policy response to Yugoslavia’s terminal crisis. This referendum, largely boycotted by Bosnian Serbs—who organized counter-referenda in areas of BiH with majority or plurality Serb populations that affirmed their desire to remain citizens of a reduced Yugoslav federation excluding Slovenia and Croatia, internationally recognized as sovereign states in January 1992—produced a 63 percent turnout, of whom 98 percent supported BiH’s emergence as a sovereign state.

BiH descended into large-scale violence in April-May 1992. The fighting, easily Europe’s most severe armed conflict since 1945, went on for 43 months, until it was terminated in November 1995 by a peace treaty brokered by the US Administration in negotiations at Dayton, Ohio. During the first half of 1993, the tenuous Bosniak-Bosnian Croat alliance that had produced majority support for independence in early 1992 dissolved in bitter fighting in Herzegovina and central Bosnia, areas with large populations of both groups. The Bosnian war was thus a triangular conflict for most of its duration.

The agenda driving the violence was the creation of mono-ethnic zones from which members of other ethno-national groups had been entirely or very largely expelled. Of the belligerents, this agenda was pursued most systematically by Bosnian Serbs, but Bosnian Croats proved equally ruthless, on a lesser scale, in applying the strategy that gained infamy as ‘ethnic cleansing.’ As the war progressed BiH’s multinational mosaic—only about 20 percent of BiH’s 110 municipal districts were ethnically homogeneous when the war began—was replaced by three zones of military control largely emptied of members of the other two ethno-national communities.

The Dayton agreement preserved BiH as a single state, but it recognized the tectonic demographic changes on the ground and sought to accommodate the clashing claims of self-determination by structuring BiH as a highly decentralized state—effectively a confederation including a radically autonomous “Republika Srpska” or Serb Republic (RS) across 49 percent of the country, and self-governing Croat-dominant cantons across a substantial part of the other half of its territory. Under this arrangement, the competencies of the central government were severely limited and its operation subject to consensus between the representatives of the three ethno-national groups. The Dayton framework sought to balance polarized stances hardened by the war: In 1997, an opinion survey found that while 98 percent of Bosnian Muslims supported a united Bosnian state, 91 percent of Bosnian Serbs and 84 percent of Bosnian Croats were opposed.

Historical Evolution: 

Bosnia-Herzegovina was a possession of the Ottoman Turkish Empire for about four hundred years until 1878, when it became a protectorate of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The main legacy of four centuries of Ottoman rule was Europe’s largest indigenous Muslim community, as a substantial fraction of BiH’s Slav population converted to Islam during the first half of the Ottoman period. The main legacy of four decades of Austro-Hungarian rule was rapid socio-economic and political modernization. The Austro-Hungarians were imbued with a ‘civilizing mission’ syndrome, and along with developing cities and transport infrastructure they tolerated rudimentary political expression and pluralism. BiH’s first political parties formed during the first decade of the twentieth century—as entirely segmental Serb, Croat and Muslim organizations. By the early twentieth century the independent Serbian state had become a consolidated entity and many Bosnian Serbs looked forward to union with Serbia (Serbs were the single largest ethno-national group in BiH from the early 1880s until the early 1960s, after which they were surpassed by the Bosnian Muslims). Croat nationalist consciousness was also advanced by that time.

Modern collective identities developed in BiH almost totally on the basis of ethno-national communities; Austro-Hungarian attempts to promote an overarching ‘Bosnian’ identity were spectacularly unsuccessful. The segmentation of competitive politics (the party system) on ethno-national fault-lines—a typical trait of ‘deeply divided societies’—re-emerged in the early 1990s after the collapse of forty-five years of single-party communist rule.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was incorporated into the first state of Yugoslavia, which lasted from 1918 until its invasion and dismemberment by Nazi Germany and its allies in 1941. Inter-war BiH was largely relegated to a provincial backwater in a centralized Yugoslav state dominated by the Serbian elite in Belgrade. During the Axis occupation of 1941-1945, however, BiH was plunged into a maelstrom of violence, primarily inter-ethnic but also intra-ethnic, as various movements—which included multi-ethnic Communist Partisans, Serbian monarchists, and Croatian fascists—vied for supremacy. One wartime observer, the British intelligence officer Fitzroy Maclean, wrote that BiH “had been fought over repeatedly by Turks, Austrians, and Serbs, and most of the [south Slav] national trends and tendencies were represented there, all at their most violent.”

After the national liberation movement led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia triumphed in 1945, this deeply scarred society became the showpiece of the new regime’s credo of bratstvo i jedinstvo (‘brotherhood and unity’), as the historically and ethnically most complex unit of the second Yugoslavia (1945-1991). In reality, the glib slogans and selective repression of the communist era merely marginalized latent animosities for several decades.

The main achievement of communism was to transform Yugoslavia from a largely rural, agrarian and illiterate country into a developed state with substantial levels of education, urbanization, and industrialization. Bosnia-Herzegovina was a prime beneficiary of communist modernization. In the 1950s poverty was widespread in BiH and particularly acute in rural areas; by the 1970s, that had become history.

However, the communist regime failed to realize its ambition of solving the ‘national question’ in Yugoslavia, a fact graphically exposed in the early 1990s. This failure was largely the unintended consequence of the regime’s own policies. During the 1970s and 1980s Yugoslavia became a very loose federation of six republics, and the regime built its institutional structure and indeed the identity of the state on the basis of the ethno-national identities of the federation’s constituent peoples. ‘Yugoslavism’ was defined not as an overarching nationalism but as a spirit of co-existence and solidarity among Yugoslavia’s six ‘constituent nations’ (Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians, and Montenegrins) and less significant national minorities (Albanians, Hungarians). Even during the peak of Yugoslav patriotism after the death in 1980 of the founder-leader, Josip Broz Tito, just 8 percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s residents chose the supra-national category of ‘Yugoslav’ as their primary identity in the census of 1981; the vast majority opted for the national categories of ‘Serb,’ ‘Croat’ and ‘Muslim.’

In the 1980s serious economic decline gripped the Yugoslav industrial economy, built on a vast network of ‘self-managing’ socialist enterprises. During Titoism’s last decade, the regime’s emphasis on and relative permissiveness towards ethno-national identities, the emergence of the federal republics as proto-states, and the growing paralysis of an anemic federal government operated on the basis of consensus between the representatives of the six republics (plus the two ‘autonomous provinces’ of the Serbian republic, Vojvodina and Kosovo) gradually but inexorably moved Yugoslavia towards disintegration.

The countdown to the Bosnian war began in November-December 1990, when the three ethno-nationalist parties—the SDA, the SDS, and the HDZ-BiH—triumphed in BiH’s first multi-party elections, winning three-quarters of the popular vote between them. The scale of the ethno-nationalist triumph owed much to the fact that by late 1990 Yugoslavia was in an advanced stage of disintegration, torn apart by the rise of demagogic nationalisms in Serbia and Croatia. In a development fatal to prospects of Yugoslav unity, the communist party disintegrated into republic-based factions in early 1990. Supra-national political forces espousing alternatives to ethno-nationalist sectarianism might well have stood a chance even in the Yugoslavia of 1990 had all-Yugoslavia elections been held—but instead, competitive elections were held separately and one by one through 1990 in the federal republics. The winners of these elections were either traditional ethno-nationalists or communists reinvented as ethno-nationalists.

The newly formed ethno-nationalist parties of BiH also benefited from widespread public disaffection with communist authoritarianism. A shaky power-sharing arrangement between the three ethno-nationalist parties broke down by late 1991, destabilized by the civil war in Croatia and the poisonous climate of feuding ethno-nationalisms in the twilight of Yugoslavia. By early 1992 the Bosnian Serb party, the SDS, had withdrawn entirely from the government and was busy setting up its own institutions in areas with majority or plurality Serb populations.

The frequently cited figure of 200,000 killed in the Bosnian war is almost certainly an inflated estimate. The total number of fatalities—civilians and combatants—is most probably approximately 100,000. According to the meticulously researched and widely accepted figures published by the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, 97,214 persons were definitely killed in the course of the Bosnian war, and another 4,000 persons remain missing. Nearly 60 percent—57,529—of the confirmed fatalities were combatants, and 39,685 were civilians. Bosniaks are 66 percent of the total fatalities, and a staggering 83 percent of the civilian fatalities; the Bosnian Serb army also suffered heavily, losing 20,649 killed in action. But even this figure of about 100,000 dead is a catastrophic toll in a population of 4.4 million.

The agenda driving the Bosnian war is revealed by the fact that over half of this population—2.3 million people of all three communities—were driven from their homes between 1992 and 1995. Of these, 1.3 million became refugees outside the country (including in Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia), and another million were internally displaced within BiH.

The Bosnian war was characterized by extensive involvement on the part of the neighboring states of Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia. The emerging Bosnian Serb army inherited enormous quantities of heavy weaponry in April-May 1992 from the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), once the multinational army of Titoist Yugoslavia but by then a force dominated by Serb and Montenegrin officers. Large numbers of these Serb officers were Bosnian Serbs, and they formed the nucleus of the Bosnian Serb army. The Bosnian Croat military effort was likewise heavily supported—with weapons, funds, personnel, and professional expertise—by the nationalist government of Croatia and its army.

But the vast majority of those who fought, killed, died, and perpetrated atrocities in the Bosnian war were Bosnians. BiH’s internal equilibrium was critically dependent on the stability of a wider, sheltering Yugoslav framework. Once that framework imploded, Bosnia-Herzegovina reverted to being the worst killing field of the Western Balkans.

The Bosnian war confounded European Union-led attempts at mediation and termination between 1993 and 1995. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s descent into war coincided with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the EU’s ‘Common Foreign and Security Policy,’ and initially the Bosnian war seemed to present a major opportunity to put the EU’s bulked-up capabilities into practice. But this was not to be, and a series of European peace proposals foundered. The conflict dragged on into the autumn of 1995, although the bulk of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the combat casualties happened in 1992 and 1993.

The war was ended by purposeful American diplomacy, backed by the threat as well as the actual use of force, in the second half of 1995. The countdown to the Dayton agreement began with serious Bosnian Serb military reverses and loss of territory—for the first time in the war—in September 1995. This was in turn partly due to a two-week US-led NATO aerial bombing campaign, directed at Bosnian Serb command-and-control facilities and other military targets, that began in late August.

After two weeks of ‘proximity talks’ on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, agreement was reached on 21 November 1995. The agreement was formally signed in the Versailles palace, near Paris, on 14 December 1995. Underscoring the regional roots of the Bosnian conflict, the signatories were Slobodan Milosevic, the strongman of Serbia, and Franjo Tudjman, the strongman of Croatia, along with the SDA and Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic. Milosevic for practical purposes represented the Bosnian Serbs at Dayton—partly because the top Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, and the top military commander, Ratko Mladic, were already indicted as war criminals by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but also because the Americans chose to rely on Milosevic’s pragmatic instincts and marginalized Bosnian Serb representatives. Tudjman’s presence at Dayton and his assent to the final deal was equally crucial to co-opting the Bosnian Croats into the agreement.

Resolution / Status: 

The Dayton agreement structured BiH as a loose union of two ‘entities’—the Republika Srpska and a Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (FBiH), often referred to as the Bosniak-Croat Federation. The RS became effectively a state within a state, and its powers included the right to maintain its own defense ministry and military forces. Within the Bosniak-Croat Federation, governance was devolved to ten cantons. This devolution to cantons was largely intended to assuage the concerns of Bosnian Croats, who are outnumbered four to one by Bosniaks on Federation territory (the FBiH has its origins in a March 1994 pact to end Bosniak-Croat fighting in BiH, mediated in Washington, DC by the Clinton Administration). Three Croat-majority cantons enjoyed substantial self-governance under this arrangement, and another two ethnically mixed cantons were given special power-sharing regimes.

The institutions of the umbrella Bosnian state, as well as those of the Bosniak-Croat Federation, were given very limited competencies, and these weak institutions were moreover required to operate on the basis of parity and power-sharing (between all three communities at the state level and between Bosniaks and Croats at the FBiH level). Of the two constitutive principles of federalism—self-rule and shared rule—Dayton evidently gave primacy to self-rule over shared rule. In addition, each of the two entities was given the right to establish and develop cooperative ties with neighboring states—meaning Serbia-Montenegro for the RS and Croatia for the Bosniak-Croat Federation.

This delicate and complicated attempt to reconcile fundamental disagreement between the Bosnian peoples on the question of BiH’s statehood ran the risk of satisfying none of those peoples. The Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats were denied the right to secede—and either govern themselves in sovereign jurisdictions or unite with the neighboring states of Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia. And while Dayton preserved a single Bosnian state this was more on paper than a living reality, and most Bosniaks felt that Dayton had created an absurd caricature of a state by pandering to the demands of the other two groups. Bosniaks were and remain particularly exercised by Dayton’s recognition of the RS, which they typically view as an entity engineered through genocidal violence against them—in Srebrenica, Prijedor and numerous other places (during the war, the Bosniak population of the areas that became the RS dropped from over 500,000 to under 30,000). Nearly fifteen years later, these grievances and differences persist . The Dayton agreement has, with some modifications over time, provided a framework for precarious statehood and tenuous tolerance in BiH but the fundamental disagreement that led to war in 1992 remains unresolved. The precedent for post-war BiH’s complex state structure is the loose federation of communist Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s, based on autonomy for constituent units and shared, preferably consensual decision-making at the center. Dayton created a democratic and internationally supervised variant of that model.

The Dayton agreement was followed by a massive international intervention geared to state-building and reconstruction. The security cover was provided by a NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force; this totaled 60,000 troops in 1996 and was progressively reduced over time. A raft of international organizations took charge of the various non-military aspects of peace-building. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) controlled and administered all matters related to political parties and elections until 2002. A United Nations-led task force worked on the monitoring, restructuring and reform of BiH’s police forces until its mandate expired in end-2002. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worked with displaced people, and the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the US Agency for International Development contributed to the economic side of reconstruction.

An Office of the High Representative (OHR), headquartered in Sarajevo and headed by the ‘high representative,’ the international community’s top official in BiH, coordinated and supervised the non-military aspects of peace-building. From end-1997 the high representative was vested with extensive powers of intervention in and control over BiH’s institutions and politicians, and the increasingly intrusive nature of the OHR’s interventions deepened the country’s quasi-protectorate status. The international role in Bosnia since Dayton has been one of the most high-profile, extensive and ambitious projects of peace-building and post-conflict stabilization of recent decades.

While the constitution of the post-war Bosnian state, laid out in Annex 4 of the Dayton agreement, gave primacy to collective ethno-national rights, the agreement also included commitments on individual human rights. The most significant such commitment, incorporated as Annex 7 of the agreement, guaranteed the right of return to all Bosnians who had been expelled from or been otherwise compelled to abandon their homes during the war. This represented an extremely ambitious commitment—and in practice a very major challenge for the international community’s operation in post-war BiH—not just because of the huge scale of the displacement problem but because the right of return directly confronts the central purpose and consequence of the Bosnian war: The engineering of mono-ethnic territories through ‘ethnic cleansing.’

Prospects / Analysis: 

The security cover extended to BiH by the large-scale deployment of international forces after the Dayton agreement has proven effective. The presence of these troops ensured that the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL)—the frontline at war’s end modified by some adjustments at Dayton, that meanders for 1100 kilometers across the country and separates the RS from FBiH areas—did not congeal into a hard line of partition manned by gun-toting militias. Movement of people across the former frontlines was relatively sparse for four years after the war, and attacks on the relatively few displaced persons who attempted to return prior to 2000 were common. From 2000, however, ‘minority returns’—where expellees return to their homes in an area dominated by another ethno-national community, thus undermining the effects of wartime ‘ethnic cleansing’—rose sharply across BiH. This was due to a gradually improving security environment enforced by the international military presence, coupled with a major campaign to promote such returns by the consortium of civilian international agencies active on the ground. During the peak period of minority returns, 2000-2002, 261,417 persons were recorded as minority returnees in BiH.

By March 2010 a total of about 467,000 minority returnees had been recorded since 1996, including about 170,000 returnees, almost all Bosniaks, to the RS. These figures do inflate the actual returns, as a sizable proportion of recorded returnees reclaim their properties only to sell up and go back to areas dominated by their own group. But even so BiH has seen reasonably substantial minority returns, and minority enclaves have re-emerged in a number of locales brutally homogenized during the war, particularly in the RS. At the beginning of the 21st century, a positive example of recognizing and implementing the human rights of refugees has occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina, after a grim twentieth century during which mass expulsions repeatedly took place in different parts of the world with no possibility of redress.

Ethno-national self-rule trumped shared rule in the Dayton settlement. The result was an unbalanced federalism that generated problems for the basic functionality of the state and its several constituent parts, and raised concerns about whether this institutional architecture would make BiH an unviable candidate for future integration into the EU (which is widely viewed in BiH and across the former Yugoslavia as the long-term anchor of security and a beacon of relative prosperity).

Under intensive international supervision, the Dayton compromise has starting in 2000 been reformed in two ways to address this problem. First, the competencies of the common-state government—which is organized on principles of ethno-national equality and shared decision-making—have been expanded, and the number of ministries at this level has more than doubled. Defense has been brought under the jurisdiction of the common-state government—as is normal in federal systems—and a single, small, 12,000-man professional army has been created (albeit with distinct Bosniak, Serb, and Croat formations). A common-state ministry of European affairs and integration directs BiH’s accession process to the EU. Second, measures have been enacted to give non-Serbs statutory rights and representation in the RS—for example, one-half of the RS government’s ministerial portfolios have to be filled by Bosniaks and Croats—and Serbs reciprocal rights and representation in the FBiH.

The actual impact of these reforms is debatable, and they have not only left the fundamentals of Dayton intact but in some ways further extended the group-based paradigm of governance. Yet in BiH, where the prospect of a common ‘civic’ identity is a fantasy and partition too has been consistently ruled out by the international community, this paradigm, for all its flaws, represents the only feasible approach. In 2003, an United Nations Development Program opinion survey found the integrationist, ‘civic’ model of statehood to be favored by 9 percent of Bosnian Serbs, 17 percent of Bosnian Croats, and 52 percent of Bosnian Muslims—that is, it was rejected by overwhelming majorities of two of the three ethno-national communities, and by almost half of the third community as well (no census has been held in BiH since 1991 but Bosniaks likely comprise about half the population, Serbs about a third, and Croats 12-15 percent). The deep underlying divisions in Bosnian society are revealed by the absence of any significant political party with a cross-ethnic base of popular support.

In end-2004 the NATO-led peacekeeping force was replaced by a lean EU contingent that in end-2006 consisted of 6,000 soldiers and was cut in 2008 to just 2,200 personnel. The incendiary regional context that triggered the Bosnian war is now in the past. Similarly, after the completion of the UN’s police training and reform program in end-2002, BiH’s police forces are monitored by a small mission of police officers from EU countries. After 2002, the OSCE handed over its administrative and oversight tasks related to elections and parties to a Bosnian election commission composed of equal numbers of Bosniak, Serb and Croat members, assisted by a few international appointees until 2006. The grandiosely named Office of the High Representative, increasingly criticized over the past decade for its airs and intrusive policies by Bosnians and interested non-Bosnians, has also been reduced over the last few years to a shadow of its former overbearing self.

The balance sheet of international peace-building in post-1995 Bosnia-Herzegovina is modestly positive. Looking back from 2010, it is clear that progress has been slow and halting, but significant. Until 1998, to cite just one example, three different currencies circulated in BiH and when the Central Bank of BiH, set up and headed by international community officials, issued a common BiH currency (the convertible mark or KM) that year—pegged initially to the German mark and later to the Euro—the step was regarded as so radical that the new currency was for months resisted in the predominantly Serb and Croat areas of the country. That situation has long changed and the KM—as well as the Euro—circulate freely throughout the country.

The lesson of Bosnia-Herzegovina for international projects in other parts of the world that seek to make viable states, build durable peace and democratize authoritarian polities is that there are no quick fixes—and no quick exits.

Bosnia-Herzegovina continues to be afflicted by a plethora of serious problems stemming from its post-war and deeply divided condition. The greatest problem is a moribund economy, its symptom rampant unemployment. The socialist-era industrial economy, based on a network of factories located in the cities and larger towns, is largely extinct and has not been replaced with a viable market-based successor. The other great problem is caused by emigration, which began in 1992 as war refugees started to leave the country. These refugees included the bulk of BiH’s trained professionals and intelligentsia, and most would build new careers and lives in countries across the world. They were joined by more émigrés who left the devastated country in the post-war years. As a result BiH has substantially lost its educated and professionally qualified citizens, essential to the well-being and future of all societies, and surveys have repeatedly shown that the majority of Bosnia’s youth would prefer to emigrate. Other significant problems include the segmentation of the school system on ethno-national lines, the poor quality of higher education, and the spread of organized crime.

And of course, the traumas and tragedies of the war are still a recent, profoundly painful and deeply divisive memory, and healing and reconciliation remain long-term goals. The trial and conviction at the ICTY of a significant number of persons—the majority being Bosnian Serbs accused of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war—have done little to bridge the sharply conflicting perceptions and narratives of the war held within Bosnia-Herzegovina by Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats.

There are no easy solutions to this complex of problems. Renewing ruptured ties and building new ones between Bosnia-Herzegovina and its neighboring states in the former Yugoslav region—a region of which BiH is still the microcosm—is at least as important to long-term reconciliation and recovery as the awaited salvation from Brussels.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is at peace, but not at peace with itself. Most Bosnian Muslims despise the existence of the RS, most Bosnian Serbs resent the Bosnian Muslims’ attitude towards the RS, and most Bosnian Croats are aggrieved that unlike the Bosnian Serbs, they do not have a distinct and unitary territorial entity of their own. The intense disagreements over the legitimate basis of political community and sovereignty that ignited the 1992-1995 war simmer on. It is far too simplistic to blame “Dayton” for this continuing conundrum. The conflict between incompatible notions of national self-determination that Dayton—and the post-Dayton international intervention—have sought to tackle is not amenable to resolution and closure.

References / Further Reading: 

Andric, Ivo. The Bridge on the Drina. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1959.

Bose, Sumantra. Bosnia after Dayton: Nationalist Partition and International Intervention. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Burg, Steven and Paul Shoup. The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Ethnic Conflict and International Intervention. Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 1999.

Selimovic, Mesa. Death and the Dervish. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1996.