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The Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Future of Bosnia and HerzegovinaIntestimony before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee,Tufts Professor Bruce Hitchner made the case for advancing constitutionalreform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.04.05] In testimony before a Congressionalsubcommittee, Tufts Professor and Dayton Peace Accords ProjectChairman BruceHitchner contended that the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovinaauthored in 1995 at Dayton is in need of reform, and the internationalcommunity must aid in the process.

“Ibelieve, frankly, a strong majority of Bosnians would welcomeconstitutional reform,” Hitchner – the chair of theclassics department atTufts – stated in testimony before the Europe Subcommitteeof the House Committee on International Relations.

InNovember 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords brought about the endto the civil war in Yugoslavia that left 200,000 dead and countlessmore displaced.

TheDayton Peace Accords Project, co-founded the following year byHitchner, aims to further the ideals that brought about the peaceby engaging and educating people about democratization and developmentaround the world.

Still, nearly 10 years after Dayton, Hitchner says many challengesremain.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina has struggled to function as a viabledemocratic state from the day it achieved independence in 1992.Three years of war and ethnic cleansing destroyed whatever senseof shared national unity that existed at the time of independence,”said Hitchner.

“Dayton was never envisioned as a long terminstrument, but as an interim minimalist solution until stabilitycould be reestablished,” Hitchner explained in his testimony.“Regrettably, although Dayton did bring an end to open conflict,all sides in Bosnia were prepared to continue their struggle bypolitical means. As a result, Dayton devolved rapidly from aninterim solution to a virtually fossilized end-state instrumentfor governing the country.”

World leaders could have put the agreement backon track, but didn’t take appropriate action.

“Theinternational community, fearful that further negotiation of Daytonwould reignite conflict, acquiesced in this vision and focusedits energies on keeping the peace, directly confronting nationalistobstruction to implementing the agreement, and tinkering withreform around the edges of Dayton,” he noted.

Hitchner, a former professor at the University of Dayton, traveledto Bosnia in February to meet with leaders about possible changesto their constitution, which was forged in Dayton. In October2006, Bosnia and Herzegovina will hold national elections to selecta government for a four-year term. In his testimony, Hitchnerurged that the constitution be amended by spring 2006 to bringBosnia up to snuff with European governing standards.

In his testimony, Hitchner cited the March findings of the VeniceCommission, which he said concluded that constitutionally, Bosniaand Herzegovina is currently unsuitable for full integration intothe European community.

Reasons for the delay of constitutional reformin Bosnia, explained Hitchner, include “ethnic divisionsenshrined in the country's political structure… [that makeit] virtually impossible for any politician or political partyto gain sufficient support or credibility across party and ethniclines in support of constitutional reform.”

In addition, said Hitchner, “the continuedinternational presence as a parallel authority perpetuates a dysfunctionalpolitical culture… Ruling parties gain from this codependencysince they enjoy the benefits of incumbency with no accountabilityor ownership of foreign-imposed policies and reforms.”

Improvements – including state functionssuch as criminal codes and law enforcement, a customs authority,and intelligence operations – have been enacted, but neverconstitutionally codified.

“The United States, as the chief guarantorof Dayton, should take the lead in encouraging and supportingconstitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Hitchnersaid. Ways in which the U.S. could do this, he explained, includeinvestment in state-level reform and working with European nationsto boost constitutional reform and advance toward EU membership.

“The international community must make constitutionalreform a policy priority over the next two years,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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