The portal European Western Balkans conducted an interview with Nedim Hogić, political analyst from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
EWB: Usually it can be heard that Bosnia and Herzegovina has to make progress in reforms and become a more functional state in order to achieve opening accession negotiations. How do you see the way in which Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming a more functional state?
Nedim Hogić: I do not see that Bosnia is becoming a more functional state. It should move towards a more functional federation with a substantive degree of autonomy and decentralization yet what we see is a lack of progress on economic policy issues coupled with a permanent nonviolent political conflict between secessionists and unitarist drives. Obviously, EU integrations should work as an incentive for compromise and reforms. But, recent EU Western Balkans strategy which places an even higher degree of expectations on the WB6 countries than it did on any of the countries that ever joined the EU makes it unclear whether it will move towards EU integrations at all.
EWB: This year will be the election year in Bosnia and Herzegovina which means that we can expect a lot of issues to be politicized. In which way it might affect the process of opening accession negotiations?
NH: The biggest threat lies in the possibility that after the elections in BiH the governments on all levels save for RS and the cantons are not formed because of HDZ’s boycott due to what they view as the most important issue for the rights of Croats in BiH. By this, they mean recomposition of FBiH House of Peoples in accordance with Constitutional Court’s judgment as per Ljubić’s appellation. This could significantly slow down the accession process. On the other hand, a political fragmentation among the political parties dominant in the areas with a Bosniak majority could lead to a creation of very wide and loose coalitions between parties interested more in particracy than in socio – economic reforms and fight against corruption.
EWB: When it comes to the EU integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, do you think that the President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik and the Bosniak member of the Presidency Bakir Izetbegović can work together to make any kind of compromise in BiH possible?
NH: I think that – at least in the short run – these leaders will not make compromises. Izetbegović feels that he has already made several compromises for example, the establishment of EU accession coordination mechanism as per wishes of HDZ and Dodik and that he has little room for maneuver left. On the other hand, Dodik feels that it is the strengthening of Republika Srpska and hard line towards anything coming from Sarajevo is what got him to where he is now and that by abandoning this position he would lose popularity with the electorate. The incentive for compromise is weak especially since the pursuit of EU integrations is much less a desirable political goal for political parties in the RS than it is for those in FBiH.
EWB: How do you see the future of Dayton? Do you think that under the current institutional framework Bosnia and Herzegovina can have a prospective future?
NH: Ever since the failure of Butmir negotiations on constitutional reform in 2008, it has been preached to Bosnians of all nationalities that they can work with the existing constitutional framework in order to implement reforms needed for EU accession. All calls for even moderate changes to the constitutional framework such as the establishment of state level Agriculture Ministry were rejected and were not pursued by foreign actors. But, if we look at recent statement made by EU Special Representative to BiH Lars Gunnar Wigemark that “certain parts of the Dayton agreement will have to be modified” it seems like there is an understanding that changes to institutional arrangements will have to be made.
I think that Dayton Constitution was an excellent conflict management tool that reached its limits once BiH began negotiating Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in 2008. Ever since that time we see it becoming a tool for obstruction. I think that it needs to evolve into a modern constitution of a federal country that provides substantial decentralization and autonomy to regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Without this, progress is possible but it will be very slow and potential for conflict will remain high.
EWB: Even though a statehood day in the Bosnian Serb entity has been banned by Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Constitutional Court, the parade was held. Also, Milorad Dodik stated that the goal of Republika Srpska is the greater possibility for its independence. How do you comment this situation?
NH: Milorad Dodik has been in power for twelve years now and is together with Aleksandar Lukašenko, Angela Merkel and Milo Đukanović the longest serving person in power in Europe. One of the main reasons why he has stayed in power for so long is the fact that he plays to the sentiments of Serb population in Bosnia and Herzegovina by promising them independence and linking the fate of Republika Srpska with that of Kosovo. While he enjoys no substantial support for independence and while he rules a region ravaged by corruption and authoritarianism it is unlikely that without a major geopolitical shift any move towards real independence is possible. This makes him organize faux independence events such as Statehood day parade.
EWB: How do you see the presence of organization “Serbian Honour” at the celebration of the statehood day? This is not the first time that they showed their presence in Republika Srpska as before they have been photographed in Assembly hall of Republika Srpska.
NH: It is certainly very worrying that an organization with ties to paramilitaries operating in Ukraine is present in National Assembly of Republika Srpska. And we have also seen that news reports about this have worried Dodik who was quick to deny that there are paramilitary organizations operating in Republika Srpska despite evidence that paramilitaries were trained in the Humanitarian Center in Niš and that they themselves claimed that protection of physical safety of the Serb people is one of the goals of existence of this organization. I hope that since the security agencies obviously have the intelligence on them an investigation into their activities will result in determining whether this organization has paramilitary capabilities.
Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States