28 October 2011 - NATO PARLIAMENTARIANS URGE BOSNIAN POLITICIANS TO REDOUBLE EFFORTS SEEKING COMPROMISE
A highly polarised political atmosphere in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is raising serious concerns about that country’s capacity to develop functioning state institutions and move towards Euro-Atlantic integration. This was the primary finding of a NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation visiting that country from 25-27 October.
Failure to form the central government one year after the parliamentary elections, deeply divergent views on constitutional arrangements, delays in implementing essential reforms, endemic corruption and criminality and the unresolved question of defence property registration are the clearest manifestations of political paralysis. Yet, major players in Bosnian politics continue to cling to rigid positions that utterly undermine the construction of a functioning state; the people of this beleaguered country are paying the highest price for this failure.
“If politicians in BiH are serious about their stated goal of joining the Euro-Atlantic community, they must be prepared to revisit their entrenched positions”, said Lord Jopling, UK, Chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security (CDS). Jopling cited the manner in which political leaders inNorthern Irelandmanaged to pull back from their most extreme policy stances as an illustration of how building peace is possible in deeply troubled and insecure regions ofEurope.
Fifteen members from six NATO countries, representing the CDS and the Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co-Operation and Convergence, travelled to Sarajevo and Banja Luka to meet with top politicians and government officials, such as the Bosniak representative in the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, and heads of the Assembly and the government of the Republic of Srpska, as well as with leaders of several key international organisations, policy experts and NGO’s.
Members of the NATO delegation repeatedly told their Bosnian interlocutors that the institutional structures established in theDaytonagreement can only be revisited through a genuine dialogue engaging political leaders and civil society. Failure here will only trigger sustained political and economic crisis and this, in turn, could very likely lead to a degradation of the security situation. The reform of the defence sector, one of the few success stories in building functioning state institutions, provides a potential model.
Delegation members learned that there is no clear consensus on the precise role that the international community should play in fostering reconciliation and reform. The special role played by the UN Office of High Representative, for example, is not universally embraced. Some see it as essential in a system where compromise remains elusive, while others see it as providing an excuse for the political class to evade responsibility. The EU mission in BiH has recently been reinforced in order to provide more positive incentives to build a functioning democracy; but even this cannot substitute for the role that leaders and civil society must play to affect positive change.
Finally, members of the NATO PA delegation felt that the international community must remain strongly engaged in BiH, particularly as mounting political, economic and social tensions could have appalling humanitarian and security consequences for BiH and for the region as a whole.