|Krug 99 – Circle 99 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Summary of Session of 19 November 2023 – 48
THE BOSNIAN ISSUE IN THE CONTEXT OF EUROPEAN POLITICAL VALUES
The European Union has recently declared its support for accelerated membership for Bosnia and Herzegovina, while at the same time insisting that Bosnia maintain its imposed ethnic democracy and constitutional discrimination. Of course, this refers to discrimination in the field of active and passive electoral rights of every citizen. The United States has a similar stance toward Bosnia, perceiving the Bosnian state as a political order with two entities and three ethnicities, i.e. the constituent peoples.
From its inception, the European Union (EU) was founded on the highest democratic standards, human rights and the political freedoms of citizens. For this very reason, the official policies toward Bosnia represent pressure to maintain the existing constitutional and legal system in Bosnia, which in turn calls into question the EU’s professed sincerity and well-meaning intentions.
This is especially the case with the Republic of Croatia, a country which is ardently advocating for Bosnia’s accelerated membership in the European Union. But the basis for Croatia’s foreign policy and diplomatic activity toward Bosnia lies in maintaining the ethno-territorial concept represented by the label “constituent peoples.” Moreover, Croatia favors an additional ethno-territorial category in its demand for a third electoral unit (a third entity) and the principle of so-called “legitimate representation” of national groups. We can anticipate that our path into Europe will be conditioned on the implementing of such objectives, which would mean that Bosnia would pay an unacceptable price for membership in the EU: the continuing legalization of a partitioned state, society and sovereignty. At the same time, authorities in Serbia, in coordination with those in the Republika Srpska entity, are advocating “big state ideas,” using the narrative of the “Russian world” as a model for the “Serbian world,” meaning the integration of all Serbs in a “single nation” and a single “Serbian state” at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other parts of the Balkans. The Dayton agreement obliged Serbia and Croatia to stop the war and as participants in the war to sign a peace agreement with Bosnia. However, these countries, even though they were active participants in the war in Bosnia, were then provided the opportunity to achieve during peacetime and politically, through the right to have separate agreements as administrative entities of Bosnia, that which they were unable to achieve militarily.
In this political context, we are witness to what can be characterized as a subliminal policy by European authorities toward Bosnia. This is seen in continual concessions to ethnic principles at the expense of the principles of civil society. This leads to political elites that shun their responsibility to set up true democracy and the rule of law, which would eliminate every form of constitutional discrimination against the common citizen as the fundamental subject of political values and rights. Bosnian political elites are not interested in implementing mandatory international court judgments against the Bosnian state. The main reason is that they would obviously lose their own positions attained through their failed ethno-nationalist concept. For this reason, they are attempting to convert the idea of integration into a political rather than legal question.
The European Union should not treat Bosnia as a community of separate nations (“corpus separatum”), outside the orbit of the democratic standards of their own nations. Rather, they should insist on Bosnia’s transition to democracy and development without favoring any particular ethnic group.
The Venice Commission should draft constitutional proposals for Bosnia, which it has done for other countries in democratic transition, because the current constellation of political authority cannot deliver such changes based on internal ethno-political consensus. Legally, this would mean harmonizing Bosnia’s Dayton Constitution with the final judgments of domestic and international courts, as well as with current international and European documentation concerning the protection of human rights and citizens’ freedoms. In other words, democratic liberal standards should precede membership in the EU.
An imperative for Bosnian membership in the EU should be harmonization and implementation of “European values” and norms that would be in contrast to ethnic domination and constitutional discrimination. And, this should be done by implementing legal principles and democratic standards based on universal human values. Bosnia and Herzegovina can achieve political stability and become a democratic state with rule of law only under the condition that every part of its territory be democratic, without any ethnic segregation, so that all citizens would feel that Bosnia is their state, regardless of where they live or where they previously lived.
Bosnia’s membership in the European Union, if it is based on preserving the existing ethno-territorial postulates, would be a fateful outcome for national politics in Bosnia, which was never resolved by the Dayton Constitution. For the time being, the developing of rule of law and a civic state with a democratic structure of authority remains a utopia in which Europe apparently does not wish to participate. On the contrary, as a precondition for membership, the European Union should require that Bosnian authorities implement European values through developing the rule of law based on the principle of the equality of all citizens. This would also be a genuine stimulus to the integration process and a return of confidence, understanding and reconciliation among the peoples and nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Summary of Session of 3 December 2023, Dr. Enver Halilovic and Dr. Nermin Tursic
Adil Kulenović, president
|Association of Independent Intellectuals – Circle 99 (Bosnian: Krug 99), a leading Bosnian think-tank, was established in Sarajevo in 1993, in the midst of the Bosnian war (1992-1995), while the capital was under siege. Circle 99 provides a platform to bring together intellectuals of various professional and ethnic identities; university professors, members of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, diplomats, and other prominent figures from Bosnia and from abroad. Multidisciplinary discussions and initiatives are held each Sunday throughout the academic year, in the form of regular sessions about politics, science, education, culture, economy, and other societal issues. The overall goal is to sensitize the public towards a democratic transformation, achieving and maintaining peace, and integration of modern Bosnia into the community of countries fostering liberal democracy. Circle 99 has been declared an organization of special significance for the city of Sarajevo.