«Martina Fischer/Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer Forschung DSF Nº 36 Dealing with the Past and Peacebuilding in the Western Balkans1 Martina ...»
hopes to join the EU in July 2013. In March 2012, the European Council accepted Serbia as an official candidate for accession, along with Montenegro and Macedonia, while Bosnia-Herzegovina is still far from taking such a step. In all three countries, governments and parliaments are eager to fulfil the standards set by the EU when it comes to reforms of legislation. At the same time the implementation of laws – a precondition for a functioning “rule of law” – is still deficient. In all the countries of the region, there is ongoing conflict between the proponents of modernisation in line with EU standards and those who oppose such processes. Transitions from a socialist to a capitalist economic system have been burdened by massive corruption scandals (Despot and Reljić 2011; Donais 2002) and there are still economic sectors where legal economies and shadow economies overlap or are even connected by structures related to organised crime (International Crisis Group 2012, 7).
Furthermore, state-building processes remain controversial or inconclusive. Montenegro’s and Kosovo’s independence had major repercussions on the developments in the region, particularly in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Status issues which were unresolved for many years (as in Kosovo), dysfunctional administrations in sophisticated power-sharing structures (in Bosnia), and feelings of insecurity as a consequence of the recent war experience mean that in some places, citizens’ faith in state institutions and identification with the polity have not been able to develop. Almost all the countries – although to very different degrees – struggle with the uneasy presence of parallel societies and divided communities.
Bosnia-Herzegovina Bosnia-Herzegovina’s political system, established by the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), is based on two entities, the “Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina” (FBiH, primarily inhabited by Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats) and the “Republika Srpska” (RS, primarily inhabited by Bosnian Serbs), and institutions at the state level. These include a State Presidency consisting of three representatives from the Bosniak, Croat and Serb communities,7 a Parliament and a Council of Ministers. Bosnia was set up as a semi-protectorate in 1995, with an international High Representative who coordinates the implementation of all civilian aspects of the DPA, in cooperation with an international Peace Implementation Council (PIC).8 As a consequence of the Dayton constitution, state institutions remained weak, and entity institutions were more powerful from the very beginning. This imbalance and the very complex administrative structures of the new federal system contributed to a situation where agreements on reforms (i.e. in the educational system or security sector) were constantly obstructed.9 Deficits of coordination by international actors have further contributed to this situation (International Crisis Group 2011a, 1).
Representatives of the three constitutive groups in BiH continue to express diverging ideas on the future state structure. Serb representatives promote a confederation combined with a very high degree of autonomy for the entities, while Bosniak representatives want a more federal state based on more powers for the overarching state institutions. In recent years, political confrontation has increased. Influential Serb representatives pointed to 7 Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are recognized as “constituent peoples” in the preamble of the Constitution of BiH.
However, the legal framework determines that the Serb representative in the presidency is elected in the RS, while the Croat and Bosniak representatives are elected in the FBiH.
8 The Office of the High Representative (OHR) oversees the implementation of civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement and regularly reports to the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) that includes delegations of the US, EU Presidency and Commission, Russia, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Turkey.
9 For in-depth analyses of Bosnia’s development since 1995, see Bliesemann de Guevara 2009; Bieber 2006; Chandler 2008, Fischer 2007b; Fischer 2010; Gromes 2007; 2008; International Crisis Group 2010; 2011a,b; Solioz 2011.
Montenegro’s and Kosovo’s independence and suggested that inhabitants of the RS should have the right to hold a referendum to decide whether they want to be citizens of BiH. Influential Bosniak representatives insisted on empowerment of state institutions and some called for the abolition of the entity structure, which fuelled further polarisation. Croat parties raised their voices, calling for the establishment of a third entity. These tensions were palpable in the election campaigns in late 2010. The elections resulted in a substantial swing towards the Social Democrat Party (SDP). However, in 2011 the country experienced a massive crisis.10 In the course of these tensions, the formation of the government took 16 months. In February 2012, a coalition was agreed by the Social Democrats (SDP), the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Union of Independent Socialists (SNSD), the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), and HDZ 1990.
However, in Bosnia, state-building is still incomplete, and some aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords have to be clarified. Constitutional reforms are seen as a must by the international institutions, as the Dayton constitution is not compatible with EU standards.
As a consequence of Bosnia’s model of consociational democracy, Serbs who are resident in the Federation and Bosniaks or Croats living in the RS are excluded from being elected to the Presidency, because entity populations have to vote for “their” respective candidates. Moreover, persons who do not match any of the ethnic categories face disadvantages when it comes to positions and jobs in public administrations. In short, the Constitution of BiH discriminates against those who do not assign themselves (or are assigned) to the three constitutive nations but to minorities. International initiatives aimed at facilitation of these sensitive topics between the conflicting constituencies have been repeatedly disrupted and to date, no consensus has been achieved. The international overseers face a dilemma, as Serb parties increasingly oppose international involvement, while Bosniak parties are calling for more powerful intervention, and Croats hope for support for their concepts of reforming federal structures. International pressure on constitutional change is seen as an aspiration to “revise the outcomes of the war and restructure what is currently a confederally constituted state into a unitary state in which the Bosniaks, as the largest ethnic group, are the titular nation. Offered the choice whether, despite the uncertain outcome of the accession process, to agree to such demands or to insist on their political rights as a national group, they do not hesitate to make a decision and vote against any change to the status quo” (Despot, Reljić and Seufert 2012, 4-5; translated by H. Crowe). There is a danger that the country will become deadlocked again and again, which might increase the “no future” feeling that is widespread, especially among the young generation, and constantly fuelled by the bad economic situation.
Serbia During the research period, Serbia’s government, chaired by Prime Minister Cvetković and the Democratic Party (DS), explicitly supported EU accession.11 The pro-EU course also had a staunch advocate in President Boris Tadić, who also sought to advance goodneighbourly relations with Croatia. At the same time, international expectations were not entirely met as government politicians from different parties had clearly stated that for them a unilateral statement of independence from Kosovo was not acceptable, pointing to the Constitution that defines Serbia’s territorial integrity. A common pattern of discourse was 10 For an analysis of the factors and dynamics of the recent crisis, see ǅihić 2010; Gromes 2012; ICG 2010; 2011a, 2011b.
11 For an analysis of recent political developments in Serbia, see Clark 2008; International Crisis Group (2008; 2011c;
2012); Becker and Engelberg 2008; Listhaug et. al 2011; Petritsch et. al 2009.
also to avoid clear definitions of borders or to keep this vague, which occasionally implies a measure of tacit support of rhetoric of autonomy that is expressed by Republika Srpska’s government in Bosnia. However, although the government in Serbia had declared that it wanted to settle the conflict and find a solution that is acceptable for both sides, violent incidents at the border between Serbia and Kosovo have repeatedly been reported, apparently also fuelled by actors involved in organised crime. Rapprochement was blocked for a long time, on the one hand, by the German government, suspecting that such incidents were supported by the government of Serbia, and on the other hand by the government of Romania, which expected concessions for the protection of the Romanian constituency in Serbia. After concessions on Kosovo and regulation of minority rights, Serbia was granted accession candidate status in March 2012.
Coping with the socio-economic and political problems is a serious challenge for Serbia.
The privatisation of former socially-owned companies, breakdown of companies, and cuts in social welfare programmes have created a difficult situation for much of the population.
According to official statistics, 8% live in poverty, which particularly affects jobless people, children, single mothers, refugees and IDPs, and ethnic minorities, such as the Roma. At the same time, economic structures are prone to corruption due to a lack of regulatory authorities and independent media. Reforms of education, healthcare and social insurance, the judiciary and the military are still incomplete. Another challenge is to manage peaceful coexistence of minorities and majority populations in different areas of the multicultural state. Relations between Serb and Albanian constituencies in South Serbia and relations between Serbs and Bosniaks in Sandžak are tense. In Vojvodina, the positions of those who promote autonomy and those who oppose the concept have to be balanced.
In 2011, anti-democratic movements, and in particular the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led by Tomislav Nikolić, mobilised against the government and demanded early elections. Regular (presidential and parliamentary) elections were held in May 2012.
Contrary to the outcomes predicted by surveys, Nikolić finally won the Presidency, with the SNS gaining 24% of the votes. The new government, which consists of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), the Socialists (SPS) and the United Regions of Serbia (URS), will be headed by Ivica Dacić (leader of the Socialists and once the right-hand man of former President Slobodan Milošević).12 Croatia Croatia has been a NATO member since 2009 and the Croatian government signed the EU accession treaty in December 2011. At the time of writing it was awaiting the final recommendations of the European Commission for Croatia to become the 28th member of the European Union in July 2013. During the research period, the country was governed by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor. Elections in December 2011 brought a majority for the Social Democrat Party (SDP) and led to a new government coalition of Social Democrats (SDP) and the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS), led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.
In recent years, Croatia’s governments were eager to fulfil international expectations and meet the EU’s criteria for institutional and legal reforms. This was backed by a consensus among all the relevant political parties, although some populist voices tried to raise antiEuropean rhetoric in the period when Slovenia blocked the accession process. Presidential elections in 2009 and elections in 2011 showed a decline of ethno-nationalistic forces, but
it is assumed that these still hold relevant power in state administrations and have some potential for populist mobilisation. However, like other countries in the region, Croatia was also strongly affected by the international financial crisis. The country has also experienced several corruption scandals in the past three years. As political parties and administrations were involved in these crimes, citizens’ trust in democracy has suffered as well.
Ethnopolitical conflicts play less of a role in Croatia than in Bosnia. The majority of the population is Croatian, as a consequence of the war operations in the early 1990s: the war between pro-independence forces and the Yugoslav army left about one-third of the country in ruins and resulted in the flight of more than 250,000 Serb citizens.13 Today the Serb minority has decreased to an estimated 5% of the population. Nevertheless, there is some potential for social conflicts. In particular, the war-affected areas of Eastern Slavonia and the Krajina suffer from massive poverty, and some municipalities are also marked by distrust and parallel societies. Furthermore, economic experts express concerns about the huge welfare gap between urban centres and some rural areas.
In a referendum on 22 January 2012, a majority of Croat voters endorsed the prospect of Croatian membership of the EU. However, it is important to mention that although 60% of voters supported EU accession, turnout at the referendum was only 44%; the 60% majority therefore corresponds to a total of only 29% of the electorate. The majority of the population reacted with indifference or rejected a project that had been defined as an overarching objective by governments for years. This is also connected to controversial opinions on how to deal with the past: “When some of Croatia’s military leaders were handed over to the Tribunal and found guilty of war crimes, large sections of the Croatian population regarded this as a national defeat. The lack of support for accession to the EU in the referendum in January 2012 must be seen in this context” (Despot, Reljić and Seufert 2012, 4).14 Common problems and challenges Although politics and society in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia are marked by
very different conditions, there are some commonalities: