Democratization Policy Council

"An initiative for accountable democratization policy worldwide"

Bosnian Croat leadership on course to throw Bosnia and Herzegovina into electoral chaos


By Bodo Weber

As Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) prepares for general elections in October 2018, the European Union is currently experiencing the boomerang effect of its inconsistent policy approach towards the Western Balkan country. Three years ago, the EU, based on a joint German-British initiative, shifted the focus of its policy in BiH towards socio-economic reform. It declared other core political issues, first and foremost reform of the Dayton constitution that forms the post-war basis of an institutionally dysfunctional state, to be “intractable”, and thus kicked them down the road in order to end a decade of reform deadlock, including on European integration. Still, as the new EU BiH initiative, including its centerpiece, the so-called Reform Agenda, generated some limited reform momentum, some of those “intractable” issues frequently appeared along the way, undermining reform efforts. EU officials characterized them as “distracting” issues. 2017 saw the campaign for the October 2018 general elections starting earlier than any previous, post-war elections, threatening to entirely derail the reform dynamics. Moreover, one such distracting issue that emerged in 2017 could lead to the upcoming elections ending up in the most serious political-institutional, constitutional crisis of postwar BiH. It is an issue that is forcing the EU to confront once again precisely those issues it declared distracting and intractable.