The international community risks fulfilling Russia’s agenda in Bosnia

To what extent is the proposal of the High Representative favoring the “Croats of the HDZ” over other ethnic groups in the Federation manifested in the inconsistent implementation of the census results in the formation of the various branches of government. Under OHR’s ​​plan, the 2013 census would determine the distribution of seats in the Federation House of Peoples. Based on this census, Croats in Herzegovina and three cantons fully controlled by the HDZ are better represented in the House of Peoples than Croats in any other canton.

At the same time, the 1991 census will be used to decide on the distribution of ministerial positions in the Federation government. Currently, three ministerial posts are allocated to Serbs, five to Croats and eight to Bosniaks, with the possibility of allocating a Bosnian post to the category “Others”. If the OHR were to apply the 2013 census to government formation, the Bosniaks would get ten ministerial posts, the Croats four and the Serbs two. Such inconsistency on the part of the OHR and the international community, which supports the imposition of changes to the electoral law and the Constitution, further erodes public confidence in its proposal, especially among Bosnians and those who do not identify with any ethnic group, alienating them from the liberal international community, which enjoyed their unwavering support throughout the post-war period.

It cannot be ignored that the United Kingdom and the United States – among the countries most involved in Bosnia in the post-Dayton period, and among those who most constructively affirmed the Bosnian state – have brought their support for the OHR at this time. This risks leaving citizens with the nauseating feeling that the country has once again been abandoned by the West, and worse, that the destructive HDZ-SNSD nexus has prevailed. In a population so fatigued with dysfunction within and disappointment without, this would serve as an ideal precondition for a Moscow influence campaign aimed at actively recruiting allies in less obvious circles, perhaps – be disillusioned moderates in Bosnian parties, or Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, and other citizens with a civic (not ethnic) orientation.

Russia already hinted at this strategy when Sarajevo was chosen several years ago by the Gorčakov Fund as the location for its conference on military neutrality.

Bosnian citizens’ growing distrust of the liberal international community has the potential to make the country the first “domino” in a collapse of Western influence in the region, in favor of alliances with Russia and other illiberal forces. . This would strengthen Serbia’s position vis-à-vis Kosovo and lead to the consolidation of already strong pro-Serbian and pro-Russian political actors in Montenegro. It’s hard to see this as anything other than a win-win for Russia.

It is conceivable that Moscow will also continue its support for nationalist-secessionist forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in whose geopolitical imagination the country should be attributed to the expansionist projects of neighboring states. Moscow has long signaled its support for these projects. A 2017 article in Sputnik was titled: “If Bosnia collapses, not only will the Serbs get a state, but there will also be a chance for the Croats”. But Russia could also play the role of guarantor, ostensibly safeguarding state sovereignty and integrity by restraining the aspirations of disintegrationists, until pro-European and pro-Western actors change their political course. They have used this tactic before in various post-Soviet spaces.

It is therefore essential that the OHR and the international community commit to strengthening Bosnia in a way that supports the implementation and advancement of the ideals of liberal democracy, ensuring that all citizen enjoys equality and equity and protects collective rights without placing them above individual human rights. It is only by building such a society that the multi-ethnic nature of Bosnia can become an engine of progress. And such a society can only be built if the OHR and the governments of countries like the US, UK and Germany play a constructive role in its realization.

The choice for Schmidt is clear. His actions have the potential to expand the space in which narratives of destruction thrive in Bosnia and Herzegovina, validating visions that involve redrawing regional borders along ethnic lines. Or he can rethink his proposal and choose to bring Bosnia back to its civilizational (and geographic) home in Europe by imposing changes that promote democracy and embrace inclusion.

The only real option for Schmidt should be and always should have been this second way. Otherwise, the OHR is poised to repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, when, as Baroness Helić noted, “indifference to ordinary Bosnians and too much concern for the interests of strong leaders” was a recipe. for disaster and death.

Sead Turcalo is Associate Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Sarajevo. Edina Becirevic is a professor at the Faculty of Criminal Justice, Criminology and Security Studies at the University of Sarajevo. She holds a doctorate in defense and security from the University of Sarajevo.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.

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