But Is There a Strategy? Defining a Transatlantic Consensus to Catalyze Progress in BiH

DPC Policy Brief

Executive Summary with Recommendations

This policy note dispels with the facile and simplistic myth that the only way for the international community to engage in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is through either imposed solutions, or through an ownership policy of reliance on local elites – the current default setting. What the situation calls for is employing the coercive advantage of a transatlantic consensus to create an environment in which focused engagement by citizens to define a vision for a new social contract can be articulated. This top-down, bottom-up dynamic can be described as a “pressure sandwich” aimed at squeezing an elite that has no incentive to change the status quo.

The top-down elements of this recalibrated strategy include:

  • A clear commitment to a common policy for protecting BiH’s territorial integrity, employing visible and credible manifestations of that bolstered commitment in BiH: a reinforced EUFOR, including in Brčko, as well as a non-executive NATO presence.
  • Clear messaging to Belgrade and Zagreb that the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), not they, are guarantors of peace in BiH under the terms of Dayton – and that the country’s political and democratic evolution should be driven by citizens of BiH alone.
  • Clarity that Dayton BiH and the Office of the High Representative (OHR) are a package deal – and that the credibility of that institution must be strengthened to defend the peace and the institutional developments gained since.
  • Recommitment to the rule of law, including shoring-up deeply damaged institutions such as the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), the Court of BiH, and the police.
  • Radical curtailment of capital infusions (IFI funds, infrastructure projects, etc.) in the absence of meaningful and implemented reform. Political elites have employed these for patronage purposes to rent popular acquiescence to their unaccountable misrule.

The bottom-up elements of this strategy include:

  • Clarity that an accountable post-Dayton social contract and popularly legitimate constitutional order is the goal of the West’s posture and engagement.
  • Support for a clear set of principles for a citizen-developed social contract based on government accountability to citizens and compatibility with Euro-Atlantic integration.
  • Support for system design to prioritize: functionality and accountability; equality of service delivery and infrastructure; strengthened local self-government and capacity; balanced individual and collective protections for each self-defined group of citizens (not just three “constituent peoples”); and full adherence to all standing ECtHR judgments.

Together these elements combine to offer BiH’s people, however they self-identify, a true partnership for the first time – one designed with the express purpose to allow popular initiative and agency to flourish.

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