Democratic Consolidation and Social Consesus Cleavage Between Unitarists and Separatists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

1. Cleavages

  Political disagreements in the society of Bosnia & Herzegovina are deep and have a long tradition. They are followed by certain cultural and historical milieus in which they have been played out, including stereotypical images, a lack of political culture and of a democratic tradition, no rule of law, an inefficient state and, finally, a lack of basic consensus about essential social and political issues.

The national question is the dominant political issue and all others can be, somehow, reduced to it. [1] The civil war divided Bosnia and Herzegovina according to the national principle. Bosniaks (Muslims), Serbs and Croats were warring sides, not members of different political or ideological groups, or citizens of different states. As in the case of former Yugoslavia, there were real political interests standing at the basis of the conflict. Those interests shape the public and political scene of present-day B&H: Serbs in both Croatia and B&H emphasised the preservation of a conjoined state as their main political interest; while Bosniaks (Muslims) and Croats aspired towards independence, being afraid, among other things, of Serb domination. This conflict still shapes the inner political theatre of B&H - Serbs show a clear tendency towards reducing the authorities of the central B&H institutions; while Bosniaks (Muslims) show a desire to strengthen them.

Since then, the whole set of fundamental social issues has remained unresolved, while the lines of the divisions have overlapped with the boundaries of the national groups. Therefore, the general social consensus regarding fundamental social and political values, as well as membership of the political community, becomes more important as a necessary condition for the possibility of having a functioning democratic system (cf. Sekelj, 1998 and 1994; Vukovic, 1998).

In the following sections of this article, I will deal with some of the problems B&H faces. The main theme will be the lack of consensus regarding social structure and the division between two opposing blocks. The article also devotes itself to an analysis of the social policies and solutions that were tested, more or less unsuccessfully, during socialist Yugoslavia and in the post-war period.

2. The state and membership

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In one of the researches conducted as a part of the UNDP Early Warning System project, people in Bosnia & Herzegovina were asked how they perceived their main interest. Serb respondents claimed it was either to have Republika Srpska recognised as an independent state (35.6%) or to have it united with FR Yugoslavia (28.8%). Croats considered their main interest to be either the establishment of a Croatian entity (20.2%) - that is, the establishment of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia[2] (13.7%) - or otherwise uniting with Croatia (11.8%). Bosniaks (Muslims) think that having B&H as a state of equal citizens and nations is their main interest (47%). Earlier research showed that 1% of Bosniaks (Muslims), but 32% of Croats and 56% of Serbs, claim that it is not at all important to them to achieve a unified B&H, whereas 75% of Bosniaks (Muslims), but only 14% of Croats and 10% of Serbs, claim it is important to them (USAID, 1998).

These data could be interpreted as reflecting the divisions between those who agree and those who do not agree with the idea of a united Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then again, it could be claimed that B&H society is divided into two opposing camps: the proponents of integration and the proponents of autonomy. This social cleavage becomes even more important since it overlaps with national divisions: roughly speaking, Serbs are the weakest proponents of a united Bosnia & Herzegovina whereas Bosniaks (Muslims) are the strongest. Croats are somewhere in between, although their attitudes are, according to both surveys, closer to the separatist/autonomist claims of the Serbs than the unitarist/integrationist claims of Bosniaks (Muslims). The division is even more complicated bearing in mind that it is reflected through not only the national but also the governmental structure: Serbs, who are the majority in Republika Srpska, are autonomists; while in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina there is a division between Bosniaks (Muslims) as strong integrationists and Croats as clear autonomists.

Hence, a large number of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina do not see the state, as it is today, as embodying its own interest. Furthermore, the large majority is not emotionally attached to it either. One-third of young Croats (between 14 and 30) and 70% of Serbs of the same age feel little or no attachment to B&H. On the other side, only 4% of Bosniaks (Muslims) share this feeling while 85% claim they are strongly or partly attached to B&H (UNDP, 2000: 93). These data reveal that a large number of Croats and Serbs do not see B&H as the frame within which their national interests can be fulfilled. They might even mean that these groups do not see B&H as a frame for the fulfilment of their own personal interests.

The large majority of B&H citizens is clearly not attached to B&H, either at the emotional or the rational level. The feeling of membership, added to the perception that membership of a society can be formally expressed through citizenship, might be an integrative factor in any society. However, in order to represent this integrative factor and to have cohesive power, membership and the feeling of membership (an attachment that symbolises both rational and emotional levels) need to have a value.

In a multi-ethnic state, such as the United States of America, civil identity and the feeling of membership of a society represent that integrative factor. The US has strong and, for the majority of citizens, acceptable myths, symbols and traditions. These are, above all, the belief in a large, democratic superpower, in the myth of the 'American dream', in the symbols of American success and power, in the rule of law protecting individual rights and interests, etc.[3] Nation states, on the other hand, possess corresponding integrative symbols from the domain of national history, traditions, symbols and culture. Bosnia and Herzegovina possesses none of the above.

The process of the constitution of a 'Bosnian' nation[4] and a 'Bosnian' civil identity has not taken place; probably, neither will it do so in the near (and maybe even in the distant) future. National communities in B&H are constituted on ethnic principles and these are followed by strong feelings of belonging and identification. Civil identification, however, which exists in a rudimentary form between only a few members of the B&H cultural and political elites, and even fewer numbers of its citizens, cannot struggle with strong national feelings and the absence of a conscious feeling of belonging to a national, i.e. an ethnic, group. Civil identity presupposes a strong, efficient and legitimate state that is attractive and acceptable to its citizens, acts as a source of joint identity for them, possesses common and accepted symbols, etc. However, civil identification stands no chance in a conflict with national identification. It is a consequence of the deeper penetration of particular codes of ethnicity in the everyday life of the members of a collective than a question of the simple principles of civility (Shoeflin, 1995: 161).[5]

I believe that, so far, I have shown that:

a. an important part of B&H citizens does not experience this state as a frame in which their interests might be fulfilled; hence, they are not rationally attached to it
b. an important part of B&H citizens does not experience it as their own; hence, they are not emotionally attached to it
c. B&H is not capable of creating a civic identity that could have integrative strength.

However, this is not the end of the list of problems that B&H faces. Besides it not being acceptable to its citizens and that they are not attached to it, B&H is neither a functional nor an efficient state.

The state as an institution (in addition to all the other institutions that can only function and have sense within it) has an enormous importance in the process of democratisation and transition. Namely, there is something that logically precedes formal membership of a community and the possession of a passport and citizenship, as well as the feeling of membership - this is the existence of a state of which one ought to be a member and of which one ought to feel membership, and the perception of what sort of citizen one ought to be within it. The broadest frame in which political and social life takes place and, thus, the aspect of it that we are most interested in at present - i.e. democratisation and transition - consists of the state. Linz and Stephen emphasise that democracy is a form of governance. There is no form of democratic governance that can be democratically consolidated if there is no state. Accordingly, the non-existence of a state, or an intensive lack of identification with it, one so intensive that large groups of people living on a certain territory wish to join another state, causes significant and, sometimes, even irresolvable problems (Linz and Stephen, 1998: 20). Therefore, findings regarding the attitudes of B&H citizens, and findings about the nature of the state of B&H, become even more important. The first issue, the attitudes of B&H citizens, has been discussed already, while the next section will be devoted to a consideration of the second.

3. What is the state of B&H like?

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Bosnia and Herzegovina is under a certain type of protectorate. After the Dayton Peace Accord was signed, 60,000 foreign troops were deployed in B&H. Five years later, there are still 20,000 troops stationed there. Besides the military, there is an important civil presence. The authority of the Office of the High Representative is larger than any assembly or government in B&H. OHR has authority over the highest legislative and executive instance in the state. Carlos Westendorp and Wolfgang Petritsch have imposed numerous laws and the designs for passports, currency, flag and anthem, and have dismissed numerous representatives of Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H), including the former RS President Nikola Poplasen. OSCE is another important international institution with significant authority in B&H: OSCE organises elections, makes rules and procedures, approves candidates, etc. The Independent Media Commission is the supreme regulatory body in the field of the electronic media,[6] while significant authorities lie within other institutions - the UN, international police task forces and others.

B&H is divided into two entities, one (RS) being centralised and the other (FB&H) divided into ten cantons which have significant authority. The majority of joint institutions at the level of both B&H and FB&H have often been paralysed in their decision-making processes, in which case, OHR has issued many decisions and imposed numerous laws. The inefficiency of central institutions is revealed at every step, from the most trivial examples - the design of car plates or the question of congratulations to the new Yugoslav President Koštunica, which the Bosniak (Muslim) and Croat members of the B&H Presidency refused to sign - to crucial issues such as, for instance, the permanent election law. Above all, the state - three nations and three national, political and cultural elites - are divided with regard to several issues crucial to the functioning of the state:

a.        Strengthening of the central institutions Bosniak (Muslim) and a section of the Croat parties have intensively pleaded for a strengthening of the central B&H institutions which have, according to the B&H Constitution, a very limited scope of responsibilities. On the other hand, Serb parties are strong opponents of this process

b.      Revision of Dayton Peace Accord (DPA) This is one of the most painful subjects in B&H politics. Numerous Bosniak (Muslim) and Croat politicians and organisations propose a revision of the Dayton Accord, while Serbs have evolved from the strongest opponents of the DPA in 1996 to its strongest proponents and defenders in 2001. During 2000, several projects were suggested regarding the reconstruction or revision of the DPA. The Croatian National Council[7] has proposed the cantonisation of RS,[8] while the election slogan of the Party for B&H[9] was 'Bosnia without entities', Haris Silajdzić pleading for the revision of the DPA on the grounds that it 'preserved an order based on genocide'. This has caused huge alarm and reaction among the Serb parties, such that Milorad Dodik, then RS Prime Minister (and a moderate politician, too), asked Petritsch to remove Silajdzić from the post of co-chair of the Council of Ministers[10]

c.       Joint army This is yet another political and social issue on which there is no consensus. A joint army was not envisaged by the DPA and, according to the B&H Constitution (Articles 2 and 3), defence is within the scope of responsibilities of the separate entities. However, the representatives of the international community have started a debate over a joint army since this is a precondition for acceptance in some international organisations (NATO, the Council of Europe).[11] Bosniak (Muslim) and some of the Croat parties support the creation of a joint army, while Serb parties strongly oppose it.

d.      Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia The Republic of HB was a parallel state of Croats in B&H during the war. It was formally dismissed in 1996, although the Federation of B&H is today still divided into Bosniak (Muslim) and Croat areas. Croats in B&H still maintain parallel institutions - from a security apparatus to education and the economy. The Croat-Bosniak (Muslim) cleavage in the Federation culminated at the end of 2000 when Croats, i.e. the leading Croatian party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), organised a referendum on the 'equality of the Croatian people', which is often interpreted as a referendum for a 'third entity'.

Hence, Bosnia and Herzegovina is faced with disagreements amongst the majority of its population concerning the present state of B&H. It does not have the cohesive power that would make it attractive to Croats and Serbs. Besides, B&H faces the problems of a lack of the rule of law and a functional state. Cleavages regarding the structure of the state and its key functions and institutions are deep and overlap national divisions, so that there is almost no important social or political issue that is not connected with such disagreements.

Solutions to these problems lie within the domain of the political and social engineering exercised on the territory of former Yugoslavia in previous times. There are amazing similarities between B&H on the one hand and the former socialist Yugoslavia and SRB&H on the other. In this respect, the level of innovation and efficiency in problem-solving techniques has not progressed far. In the next section, I will try:

a. to give a short and precise description of the solutions that are on offer to the challenges presented within B&H
b. to analyse the solutions and their parallels with past projects
c. to show why such solutions do not and, in some cases, cannot deliver results.

4. Solutions

back to top 4.1. Parallels with SFRY

There is a clear analogy between the divisions of B&H society into three nations on the one hand and the divisions that existed in SFRY and SRB&H on the other. The chronology of the Yugoslav crisis, the dissolution of the federation and the civil wars that followed, as well as the crisis that emerged in B&H after the war, demonstrate that some of the structural causes that led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia both still exist and also strongly influence the character of states and political life in this part of the former Yugoslav federation.

a. Political representation

One of the most obvious analogies between the problems that shocked former Yugoslavia and which are currently present in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the conflict on the nature of political representation. That conflict was inherited from the pre-war period and remains unresolved. Analogously to conditions in the pre-war federation, when republics, i.e. the future independent states, fought for the 'one republic-one vote' principle as a means of 'protection against the domination of the largest nations' - i.e. the Serbs - so the Serbs in present-day B&H, plead for the 'one nation-one vote' principle, thereby to protect themselves from Bosniak (Muslim) domination. The dilemma regarding the factors which comprise political constituencies - either citizens or the collective defined in terms of nation or ethnicity (or the republic, in the case of the former Yugoslavia) - is still the prevailing feature of the political cleavages in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The result of the DPA was a double constituency: of nations and of citizens. Serbs are the constituent nation in RS, while Bosniaks (Muslims) and Croats are the bearers of constituency in FB&H. At the entity level, the citizen bears constituency but does not do so at the level of the joint state, i.e. at the level of the central B&H institutions.

Recently, the B&H Constitutional Court decided, in spite of the Serb and Croat judges voting against, that certain clauses on constituency are not in accordance with the Constitution. Therefore, all three nations are constituent on the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The real consequences of this decision ought to be seen in the near future, and they could influence both the electoral law and the constitution of the central B&H institutions.[12] There are deep divisions regarding this issue among B&H citizens. Ninety four per cent of Bosniaks (Muslims) support the constituency of all three nations across the territory of B&H, but the level of support falls to 84.6% among Croats and to 40.4% among Serbs.[13] The subsequent implementation of a constitutional clause that says that all three nations are constituent across the whole territory would mean that Bosniaks (Muslims) could vote for the Serb member of the Presidency and vice versa, and that the complex parliamentary mechanisms that exist in FB&H would probably also have to be introduced in RS. This decision, therefore, will significantly influence both the structure and the way in which the state and political systems function, and is also just one of the many areas with regard to which there is no consensus between the three nations and the three political/national elites. However, the present structure of the state of Bosnia & Herzegovina remains in accordance with the former constitutional provisions and the provisions of the DPA, according to which the issue of constituency is territorially limited.

b. The national question

In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the national question was resolved in a similar way as in the former Yugoslavia. Post-war B&H is constituted as a complex state containing mechanisms that ought to convince all three nations that their vital interests are protected. Consequently, the complex state apparatus - from municipalities and cities, across cantons and entities, to central government - has not advanced from the old solutions of 'national parity' and 'rotation'. Regrettably, the basic causes of inefficiency in the state apparatus lie precisely in these mechanisms, which are also a possible source of conflicts. By this I mean the complex, expensive and inefficient state apparatus[14] that can only induce further problems both economic (corruption, economic inefficiency) and political (inter-ethnic intolerance, conflicting national interests and the impossibility of their reconciliation, etc.).

The basic causes of the lack of legitimacy of the B&H state as perceived by its citizens lie exactly in the institutions and decision-making mechanisms that have emerged as a consequence of the wish to create guarantees for the protection of individual and collective rights.[15]

With regard to the issues of creating a 'Bosnian' identity and a 'Bosnian' nation, and the conflict with specific national identities, the experiences of the former Yugoslavia are of significant importance. In former Yugoslavia, the national question was inherited from the period of the rule of the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires. One of the solutions offered by the communist authorities was the segregation of the republics/nations and, since 1974, the clear confederalisation of the state. In the meantime, there was a 'weak' desire to establish a united 'Yugoslav' nation and culture. However, the project for a unitary Yugoslav ideology was easily conceded (Petranović, 1994), becoming transformed into a declarative pledge for the 'brotherhood and unity of all nations and nationalities'.[16] 'Yugoslav' identity was a utopia that was never realised during the seven decades of Yugoslavia, under any of the different rulers or in the different social circumstances and epochs. That failure was partly a consequence of circumstances, as well as of the structure of the idea, especially in the form for which it was pleaded in socialist Yugoslavia: the authoritarian regime asserted the idea of 'Yugoslavhood', brotherhood and unity very roughly, suppressing national conflicts and frustrations and, at the same time, offering no solutions (which, perhaps, could not be offered under such a regime) and even creating sources of new future conflicts.[17]

In this respect, Bosnia & Herzegovina is in an even worse situation than the former Yugoslavia. B&H came out of the war as a state composed of three mono-national territories/units. Those three territories lived as mono-national for a limited period of time, too brief to be able to develop a civic identity, let alone a national one. The nature of nationalisms in B&H represents an additional problem. Namely, all of these were connected by strong feelings of endangerment and a fear of segregation and domination by other nation(s). Therefore, only in a sufficiently stable community with strong democratic and civil society institutions, in a community in which a national group could feel safe, could the fears and distrust that stands within the foundations of B&H nationalisms be removed. In such a community there could not exist the vicious circle of suffering and humiliation through which one national movement, idea or interest puts the appearance of another. In such a community does not exist the group of othersagainst whom we gather into an association (or a community) based on a nation, as is the case in multinational communities in which the mechanisms of a strong state and civil society do not exist. It is precisely these mechanisms that could reduce national fears and passions. In such a community, identification and even gathering together on a national basis is possible, but there also exists a basic form in which this identification by another can be overcome. In such a hypothetical community, various identifications could be possible, as well as associations of people with the same or similar interests that would cross the boundaries of national groups.

Of course, such a state is not present in B&H. Moreover, sharply opposed national interests overlap at this point and, under present conditions, consensus about this issue is not possible. On the one side, the Bosniak (Muslim) interest is not to preserve small and isolated mono-national communities because this would 'legitimise the policy of ethnic cleansing' and permanently prevent the creation of a 'united multi-ethnic Bosnia & Herzegovina'. It is not in the interest of the international community because it would oppose the five-year long and $5bn-worth B&H project. Finally, even if national elites do come to an agreement on the desirability of this project, it is not clear how this consensus could be reached and how it could be made acceptable for the majority of B&H citizens.

c. Multi-ethnicity

The alleged long tradition of multi-ethnic life in Bosnia & Herzegovina, the long tradition of a tolerant and peaceful life shared between the national communities, is often observed as valid grounds for the resolution of social and political problems in B&H. According to this assumption, all that needs to be done is to re-establish the pre-war state of affairs, to return refugees and displaced persons to their pre-war places of residence and to punish war criminals. That would entail the effective preparation of the justgrounds needed for building a modern democratic society.

However, multi-ethnicity in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a political myth - it has never actually existed. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia disappeared a long time ago and its experiences are irrelevant to the life of B&H society. Socialist Yugoslavia is much more important and its heritage influences the circumstances of present-day B&H far more evidently.[18]

The Socialist Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina was, according to widely-accepted interpretation, a multi-ethnic state. However, the essential fact is being forgotten - that SRB&H, as well as SFRY, was not a democratic state. A discourse on multi-ethnic communities is meaningless if the community itself is not democratic since, by definition, if its members do not live as members of a certain nation in a free community, then they cannot form and state their opinions, or defend their interests. If this is not so, multi-ethnicity is then reduced to a mere demographic or statistical fact. Hence, the alleged multi-ethnicity in B&H is meaningless if the members of the different nations cannot act in public and political life as Serb, Croats or Bosniaks (Muslims), and to plead for their interests and to seek to have them brought into accord with the interests of other groups that are publicly designated as collective, national interests. It was not possible in the former Yugoslavia. There were no Serbs, Croats or Bosniaks (Muslims) in public and political life, but instead self-managers, the working class, Yugoslavs, Bosnians, and citizens of Sarajevo or Banja Luka.


Citizens of Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as foreign representatives and politicians, often refer to the three nations as living peaceably together and that, using the entrenched phrase, 'nobody cared about anyone's national or religious background'. Looking at it from this perspective, civil war in B&H becomes even more paradoxical. It is, however, neglected that the articulation of interests and the expression of attitudes and values takes place both in a public sphere, on the one side, and a private sphere on the other. At a superficial level, the members of the three nations could really have lived together, and there are even empirical proofs. Conflicts, however, did appear at the next level, in the public/political sphere, in which interests were so strongly divergent that war seems like a logical, though not a necessary, consequence. Conflicts in the public sphere, of course, are reflected in the private. Therefore, it is evident that individual tolerance cannot overcome such a severe conflict of interests and that solutions are found not at the first level, but at the second. Moreover, this shows that individual virtues cannot make foundations of social values.[19]

In addition, the former B&H has inherited the burden of inter-ethnic conflicts from the Second World War, i.e. those conflicts that the communist authorities did not even try to resolve. Of course, these problems could not have been resolved in an undemocratic state; they could only have been crushed or suppressed (which the communist authorities did partly do), or otherwise forgotten or neglected (which the authorities also did). Alternatively, some quasi-solutions could have been offered such as, for instance, to equalise the guilt of chetnik and ustashe and to promote the ideology of 'brotherhood and unity'. None of the recipes could succeed since disagreements need to be discussed, solutions negotiated and institutions which represent agreed solutions defended. In other cases, there is a need to pay the price that the citizens of the former Yugoslavia have themselves paid.

d. Trans-national unions

Projects on trans-national unions, as a way of bridging national intolerance, lean on the alleged multi-ethnic tradition of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The last such attempt was that of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the transformed League of Communists, which is, thus far, the most successful multi-ethnic party in B&H. The success of the SDP in the local and general elections held during 2000 mainly resulted from Bosniak (Muslim) votes. In the areas with Serbian and Croatian majorities, the SDP did not make significant progress, even though it had the support of the whole international community.[20]

The source of the most intensive distrust between Serbs and Croats with regard to SDP-like projects may lie in the very nature of the project and the way it is propagandised. The programme of the SDP is, basically, the same as that offered by the PDA (the Party of Democratic Action, the Muslim 'national' party of Alija Izetbegović) and, even more importantly, precisely what Serbs and Croats reject - a united and multi-ethnic Bosnia & Herzegovina. The only difference is in the form and in the promoters - on the one side, there is the civil and multi-ethnic offer made by the SDP, while on the other there is the Islamicised and clerical offer made by the PDA.

Besides, one of the reasons why there are no 'trans-national' unions and no B&H identity lies in the lack of institutional support. Namely, creating strong, efficient and, more importantly, legal and legitimate centralised B&H institutions would support the creation of a B&H political identity and such 'trans-national' unions. These would be the institutions that would foster among B&H citizens the feeling of belonging to a political community.[21] But, under the present circumstances, it is impossible to create these institutions. Even more paradoxically, the basic social consensus regarding the creation and the strengthening of such institutions ought to be made by the national elites. They would have to 'renounce' their own national identity and, of course, some of their interests and create a new 'Bosnian' identity. Such a project would have to be accomplished within a framework in which one much easier task has not been accomplished - the creation of a functional state of Bosnia & Herzegovina; a minimal task that could be set in front of the three nations and the three elites.

e. Protectorate

Finally, for such a complicated set of intolerance, strong emotions and conflicting interests, the last shelter is a protectorate. There even exist some publicly-stated requests directed to the international community to introduce a protectorate.[22] The present international administration has the authorities of a protectorate, while the history of B&H reveals similar examples. However, since then democratic institutions and the institutions of civil society have evolved - in Bosnia & Herzegovina as well as in democratic societies. Individual expectations and attitudes have evolved in the same direction.

On the territory of Bosnia & Herzegovina, a protectorate has some historical roots. Namely, a protectorate could be classified as an authoritarian modernising governance - i.e. as an enlightened regime which knows what is best for its subjects. An authoritarian modernising governance develops the economy, builds infrastructure - roads, schools, hospitals, etc. - and conducts secularisation (Molnar, 2000: 121).[23] There is a tendency to interpret the former socialist authorities in SFRY, especially under Tito, as an authoritarian modernising governance. However, such a form of governance has its bad sides, too.

Authoritarian modernising governance is, above all, irresponsible. It can do harm to its subjects, as well as benefit them. If it does cause harm, then it can be stopped only by a rebellion, assassination or civil war.[24] On the other hand, authoritarian modernising governance, even if it makes an effort to improve the situation of its citizens/subjects, does not cultivate democratic traditions and the ethos of responsibility. It is a governance that cannot leave behind a sustainable democratic government, even if this had been a goal.[25] Ultimately, what it does leave behind is subjects who have been lulled into the false sense of security and comfort that has been offered them; it leaves them disinterested in the life of the community, in politics and in the defence of their freedoms and rights. Such a form of governance also bureaucratises the whole state. It introduces the principle of 'upward responsibility', i.e. responsibility to the leaders, not to the voters. Thereafter, the whole public sphere, including the economy, starts to operate according to the principles of the bureaucracy.

Requests for the introduction of a protectorate need to face up to an additional fact that marks social and political life in Bosnia & Herzegovina - nationalisms and their nature. As I have said, nationalisms in B&H are connected with feelings of endangerment and fear. It seems to me that foreign authoritarian governments cannot fight with that kind of social environment. Therefore, no matter how attractive the definite introduction of a protectorate might seem, in order to solve all the problems that have been discussed, it seems that circumstances in B&H (social, political, the regional situation, ties with Yugoslavia and Croatia, etc.) ought to direct its politicians and elites (and, maybe, citizens) to look for a better solution.

5. Conclusion

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My aim was to offer a short analysis of what I consider to be the essential problems in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Of course, this state suffers from numerous other problems, including corruption, organised crime, the large number of refugees and displaced persons, undefined responsibility for war crimes, etc. However, I believe that all of these are the direct or indirect consequence of the basic, structural problems that have been discussed. Therefore, the other problems cannot be resolved until the basic issue of the structure of the state and national relationships are resolved.

The solutions provided so far have not been able to make progress. The present structure of the state and its decision-making procedures suffer from the same illnesses as the former socialist Yugoslavia and Bosnia & Herzegovina; the alleged multi-ethnic tradition in B&H is not a solid ground for building a new, modern, democratic society; the population is divided and has incompatible interests; while a protectorate is not a long-term solution. Let us repeat: the present solutions have made no progress - on the one hand, the strengthening of central B&H institutions, the forcible suppression from the political scene of national parties and the promotion of transnational unions which allegedly merge with the multi-ethnic tradition, and, on the other, an international protectorate and its five-year implementation. The assumption that these solutions need time to come to fruition cannot yet be confirmed, but the present state of affairs gives no indications for such a conclusion.

The basic problem - the national question - has remained unresolved until now. All solutions seek to find out how the three B&H nations could live together in a unified and functional state. The question that logically precedes this is: do the three nations want to live together in a unified and functional state of Bosnia & Herzegovina? Of course, this is not the subject of this analysis and it is a far more demanding one than the simple diagnosis of the present state of affairs. However, one thing is for sure: it is not possible in B&H as it appears today and the models that have been offered do not encourage it.[26]

Solutions to these problems depend upon certain structural preconditions, above all the existence of an efficient and functional state, and, thereafter, the willingness and interest of the elites to build a B&H cultural, political and national identity, as well as the willingness of citizens to accept and become accustomed to it. This analysis shows that none of the above conditions is fulfilled among all three nations.

Bosnia & Herzegovina is not a functional and legitimate state in the opinion of its citizens. To build consciousness as regards membership of a community, and in order for that consciousness to become a value:

a. the community needs to be legitimate and desirable for its members
b. on the rational level, citizens need to be seen as having a personal interest in the membership of the community
c. on the emotional level, citizens need to experience the community or the state as 'their own'.

Finally, there needs to be a state in which this process would take place and elites that would initiate it.

The present day, as at many other crucial moments in B&H history, plays a major role in politics and becomes a basis for the overall political life of the community. In order to decrease the importance of the national feeling and to increase the importance of the civic, based on interests as well as civic identity, the ties and unions based on those interests need to be builtinside nations. Those interest-based unions would be a foundation for trans-national associations. In order to create interest-based ties inside the nation, new political and cultural elites that would initiate such processes need to emerge. However, this, in one sense, formal condition is preceded by a structural one: some of the causes leading to the appearance of nationalisms need to be eliminated. By this I mean the feelings of fear, endangerment and 'frustration' (I use this term conditionally). Those feelings of fear and endangerment could be eliminated in cases where members of the nation feel safe in their community, precisely as members of the nation. This would create the conditions for the creation of the associations and the interests that could not, in a critical moment, be suppressed by national interests.

Furthermore, the three nations need to consider the communities as 'their own', and they need to accept them and consider them as legitimate. This legitimacy needs to be accepted by all three nations; that is, the communities need to be legitimate for the members of all three nations. This acceptance of the communities of 'others' must have the strength of warranty of the legitimacy of different interests and communities, and therefore of the existence and safety of one's own.


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[1] I will use phrases like 'ethnic group', 'ethnic' as well as 'nation' and 'national', although I believe that Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are three nations, not three ethnic groups (Cf. Kymlicka, 1995, Chapter 2; and Thomas and Freeman (eds.), 1996, Chapter 6).

[2] The parallel state of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina that existed during the war but which ceased to exist in 1996.

[3]> Similar parallels exist in the examples of Germany, France, Great Britain and even in the countries which have emerged after the dissolution of Yugoslavia - Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, etc. The example of Montenegro is, in this respect, clearly indicative because it provides a picture of how symbols, institutions and myths emerge. At the end of the 20thCentury, the idea is being developed of an autochthonous Montenegrin culture and language (the Academy of Duklja, the association of writers, the Montenegrin language), church (the so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church) and state (the institutions of a de facto independent state of Montenegro). In addition, traditions and political myths are being revived, history re-interpreted, etc.

[4] Bosnian does not equal Bosniak. Bosnian refers to an inhabitant of B&H, while Bosniak (Muslim) is a synonym for a Slav Muslim from B&H.

[5] Shoeflin continues on to claim that problems arise when there is a divergence between ethnicity and the principle of civility, when politically important parts of a population think that the state does not represent their aspirations and expectations, and when it is experienced as alienating and, therefore, unnatural. Then, the ethnic relationship, which is stronger, subverts the code of the principle of civility, and the ethnicisation of the state or the marginalisation of ethnic minorities might appear (Shoeflin, 1995:162).

[6] IMC issues licences and closes stations, while it can impose programmes (as in the case of the Madeleine Albright speech broadcast on RTRS) or ban them, etc.

[7] An organisation led by Ivo Komšić, designated by international media analysis as a moderate Croat politician.

[8] Such an idea is also supported by Croatian President Stipe Mešić, A. Izetbegović and the OSCE Mission to B&H.

[9] Also perceived as moderate, although its leader is one of the wartime Bosniak (Muslim) leaders and closest associates of Alija Izetbegović.

 The Council of Ministers is the B&H Government.


[11] According to one NATO report, a joint army would consist of 7,000 Bosniaks, 5,000 Serbs and 3,000 Croats (Sarajevo-based daily Dnevni avaz, 29.10.2000). Moreover, for acceptance in Partnership for Peace, the state would need to have a united police and intelligence service (Banja Luka-based daily Nezavisne novine, 21.11.2000).

[12] A senior SDA official and deputy in the RS National Assembly, Sulejman Tihić, recently stated that SDA would plead for changes in the RS symbols, since RS was no longer the state of the Serbs, as well as for the introduction of the House of Nations in the RS Assembly. The same demand was made by Stjepan Kljujić, Republican Party President (Nezavisne novine, 4-5 November 2000 and 5 January 2001). In January 2001, High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch introduced Constitutional Commissions in the assemblies of the entity as a first step in the implementation of the decision of the Constitutional Court. These institutions are interpreted as forming an embryo House of Nations in the RS Assembly. The paradox in this decision, as well as in that of the OHR and OSCE that refugees and displaced persons could vote in their pre-war place of residence, is that citizens on one territory (or administrative domain) are governed by representatives elected by citizens living on the other - and, sometimes therefore, by people living thousands of kilometres away. Of course, the decision was motivated by a desire to motivate refugees and displaced people to return to their pre-war place of residence, but it has not been at all efficient, as have few of the other policies directed towards an acceleration of returns.

[13]Early Warning System B&H, June 2000.

[14] 'Harmonisation of attitudes' and unanimity as a decision-making procedure (that is, as a criterion of distinguishing between valid or legitimate decisions) are very expensive (Prokopijević, 2000). The World Bank estimates that 13.2% of GDP is spent on the wages of employees in public administration, while the usual standard is less then 3% (Feral Tribune, No. 754/2000).

[15] One has only to bear in mind that, among the members of the different nations, a lack of legitimacy is manifested differently and, probably, has different causes.

[16] Yugoslav ideology was not the legitimising formula for the new communist authorities, as also it was not for those in the era of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The key legitimising formula was republic/national and communist/ideological in nature. When the ideological crisis started, the Soviet bloc disintegrated and communist ideology lost its legitimising strength, while political elites looked for a replacement for the weakened legitimising formulas. In some east European countries, the elites turned towards the democratic-liberal tradition, while others chose nationalism.

[17] One of the forms in which the deep social and political crisis in which the former Yugoslavia spent a good part of its history also manifested itself in the 'cultural' plan. Yugoslavia was a multi-national state with several cultures that jealously preserved their originality. At the same time, there was a 'weak' wish to develop multi-culturalism. Multi-culturalism manifests in two forms: (a) interactive multi-culturalism in which different cultures can develop as well as mix, creating a mixed, Creole culture (USA, Canada and Australia are the main examples); and (b) segregate multi-culturalism, which does not allow interaction between cultures that could lead to the creation of a new Creole culture. Different cultures existing in a community are separate and equal, which offers guarantees to each that it can survive and develop. Segregate multi-culturalism aims to provide protection against domination by one culture and the assimilation of minority cultures (Pavković, 1998: 56). The largest part of the post-war history of communist Yugoslavia (and hence its Republics, including B&H) is marked by segregate multi-culturalism.

[18] Even if it were true that B&H had been a real multi-ethnic community, then it would have been absolutely irrelevant after a bloody civil war that, in a way, remained unresolved and where the causes were not removed. The assumption that the alleged multi-ethnic tradition (even if it had existed) would have overcome these causes is not empirically proved (although one sort of process of proving and persuasion concerning this issue is going on right now).

[19] In precisely the same way not individual morality, butaccurate laws and their consequent implementation, with public control, represent a cure for corruption.

[20] These projects are often followed by clear discrimination between the so-called national parties. The best examples are the dismissal of RS President Nikola Poplasen (Serb Radical Party) and the prohibition of this same party, threats that the Serb Democratic Party would be prohibited (Richard Holbrook) and that sanctions would be imposed on the Republika Srpska if the Serb Democratic Party entered executive power (Wolfgang Petritsch).

[21] It needs to be emphasised that creating these kind of institutions does not depend on the 'will of the people' or on the structure of political theatre, but on the structural changes that need to follow the transformation of B&H society. Cosmetic changes, like the dismissals of officials of prohibited parties, besides being undemocratic, endangering the rule of law and belittling the legitimacy of institutions, and eventually the state itself, are not efficient and, finally, are short-term - namely, they do not remove the structural causes that lay at the foundation of the majority of problems B&H faces today. By structural changes I mean, above all, the development of the institutions of democratic society and a modern state - which is probably different to the present B&H - that could represent the basis for creating a more tolerant atmosphere, as well as the development of the economy and private entrepreneurship.

[22]Dani, No. 141/1999. That request was made by the editorial board of Dani magazine, but High Representative Petritsch refused it decisively.

[23] See Vuković, 1999 on abuse of enlightened governance.

[24] Even if it were assumed that authoritarian modernising governance did only beneficial things to its citizens, the transfer of authority remains a problem. The example of Tito's Yugoslavia clearly illustrates how difficult it is for an authoritarian governance to find a rational, efficient and sustainable way to extend its life after, for instance, the death of the power-holder. Molnar reminds us that this problem was noted by Aristotle (Aristotle, 1975: 145, 1312b) and Locke (Locke, 1978, book II: 93).

[25] I believe this claim stands in spite of the opposite example of Germany after WWII. Germany was, then, in a quite specific situation.

[26] Of course, where one cannot be sure what is the solution. Ultimately, social science need not have such pretensions.