The only city in Bosnia running well multi-ethnically is Brcko. Ordinary people, politics, the police force, courts and schools… Bosnian Moslems and Croats and Serbs… get on together. Elsewhere in the country, 15 years after the war, ethnic animosity is still the norm.
Outside Brcko, this has virtually paralysed decision-making in Bosnia Herzegovina, with its Muslim-Croat Federation and the smaller entity, the Serbs’ Republika Srpska.
As a result of the Dayton Accords, the civilian peace implementation is supervised by the international community’s High Representative. But continuing internal friction has prevented reform and cooperation among the disparate parties.
Journalist Dzenana Karup Drusko, taking part in EU discussions, talked about the lasting impact of inter-ethnic killing in the 1992-95 war. She said that one of the problems in Bosnia Herzegovina is that “we still have a denial of crimes. The Prime Minister of the Serb Republic still claims that there was no genocide in Srbebrenica.”
Neither the Bosnian member of the country’s tripartite Presidency, Moslem Haris Silajdzic, nor current Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who wants to be in the presidency, has moved to calm passions.
Silajdzic recently said the Serbs were responsible for holding back progress towards European mainstream integration.
Dodik has talked about clear secession of the Serb entity. Critics have repeatedly said his autonomy policies are to blame for the lack of structural reform.
Regional experts say the nationalist legacy is likely to perpetuate the stalemate of political stagnation.
“We don’t expect a radical change out of these elections,” said Galia Glume in Belgium, “for the simple reason that the country’s political elites imbibe more or less equally in nationalist rhetoric. There is a reflex of fear in both societies and the three communities, which remain deeply divided, living together but separated.”
The most successful reform in the country was uniting the rival ethnic armies in 2005. Yet pension obligations for war veterans weigh heavily.