European Western Balkans
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EU, US lack of pressure enabled state capture in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Photo: Flickr/ Jennifer Boyer

BERLIN – A quarter of a century after the Dayton agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoys peace. But, in the last 15 years, the EU and US have failed to press for reform in the country, a neglect that has enabled ethno-political leaders to capture the state, points out policy brief “Hostage state: How to free Bosnia from Dayton’s paralysing grip”.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, the European Fund for the Balkans supported the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Majda Ruge, Senior Policy Fellow of the ECFR, in preparing this study.

Majda Ruge, among other things, analyses the functioning of the institutional framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which draws its legal basis from the Dayton Peace Agreement, which did provide peace and confirm the continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state, but also created one of the most decentralized federal systems in the Western world.

The analysis also tackles the reform process and the role of the EU and the US, the abuse of Dayton institutions by ethno-criminal networks, and how state capture affects Bosnia’s economic and demographic decline.

“The EU and US have failed to press for reform in the country, a neglect that has enabled ethno-political leaders to capture the state. A result of this is poor governance, abuse of office and negligence of the economy and public administration,” reads the policy brief.

And while the central government is subject to capture and blockade, examples of visionary leadership and entrepreneurial success have emerged at the local level. In the author’s opinion, the most effective way to eliminate ethnic and political instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina is to eliminate its sources – first of all, freeing the state from political leaders who use ethnic divisions as a means to divert attention from other issues.

Therefore, Ruge believes, efforts to achieve reforms should focus on restoring the integrity of the judiciary and the rule of law, and thus creating the conditions for dismantling the networks captured by state institutions.

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