The Bosnian war broke out on April 1, 1992, after Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared itself independent from Yugoslavia. Most Bosnian Muslims and Croats supported independence, but Bosnian Serbs proclaimed their own republic, the Republic of Srpska. In the war that followed the three largest populations of Bosnia formed all private armies. The Bosnian Serbs were backed by Serbia and the Bosnian Croats by Croatia. The Bosnian army was multi-ethnic, but was dominated by Muslims.
By miltaire balance of
the Serbs, the Serbian army conquered eventually 70% of Bosnian territory. In these areas, ethnic cleansing took place. Muslims and Croats were driven out or put in prison.
From 1993 to 1994 also Croats and Muslims clashed, by which the war became still more difficult to survey. The war ended in December 1995 after U.S. intervention. An estimated 100,000 Bosnians were killed, more than one million Bosnians, mainly Muslims, are living in exile since then. Bosnia and Herzegovina is still divided into two entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Muslims and Croats

A real country or a gradual breakdown in which the three peoples live alongside each other? It has become normal the last 16 years that people go to segregated schools and that they are political represented based on ethnicity. Shortly after the war it counted that people slaughtered each other not anymore. The country was governed by the international community, with a 'High Representative' who like a king could impose decisions. Then the need grew to make a real country, with the prospect of EU membership.

Slowly, the interference was reduced and a central government harnessed. That process is now nearly stopped. Reforms remain off. Plans to close the office of the 'High Representative', are repeatedly postponed. What is required is not so much. "It's not about sharing each other's house and bank account. Only to live within the same democracy, where the same laws apply to everyone. But that was apparently too difficult. Especially the Bosnian Serbs and Croats want to uphold the peace agreement set out in the domestic balance of power.

The politicians who most vigorously defend the letter of Dayton (*) are the biggest opponents of state reform. It's like flogging a dead horse, sigh diplomats. That the current format is not working is for sure. Parliamentary decisions can not be taken by simple majority. As one of the populations do not like something, it does not happen. Partly because of that, the country has no government.Also the for a potential EU membership crucial constitutional amendments have not yet been implemented. The current constitution still makes distinction between Bosnian muslims, Croats or Serbs.

Bosnia is more and more economically and administratively behind on neighboring countries in the region, including Croatia. By mutual bickering, the country can loose this year to 96 million euros on pre-accession EU funding. Croatia recently received the green light for accession, which is also intended as a signal to countries in the region: effort pays off. But the Bosnians will have to do it themselves is the message.

There are views that the various ethnic groups in Bosnia will never agree and that the international community should not wait on that. 'Sometimes you have to enforce change. If Bosnian politicians can not solve, decisions have to be imposed from the outside is an opinion. That is possible. The 'high representative' in Bosnia Herzegovina has the power to do this. Without international intervention politicians who want to split get their sentence and who emphasize the differences. After a few years standstill, they can say: 'You see, we have tried, but it really is not possible. Let us separate. Then, 16 years after the war, it will be the conclusion that coexistence in Bosnia is not possible.

Towards a new constitutional blueprint
for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina's provisional constitutional system, as created by the Dayton Agreement, has outlived its purpose by more than ten years. Economic and political governance are now even more deadlocked by corruption, political recriminations and institutional failure. Fouéré and Blockmans argue the need for more robust engagement by both the EU and the US and for a constitutional convention to spur reform. This should facilitate the transition from the country’s current status as international protectorate to sustainable self-government, guided by the EU pre-accession process.

Erwan Fouéré is an Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and Steven Blockmans is Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and head of the EU Foreign Policy research programme

The agreement's main purpose is to promote peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to endorse regional balance in and around the former Republic of Yugoslavia (art. V, annex 1-B), thus in a regional perspective. The present political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its structure of government were agreed upon as part the constitution that makes up Annex 4 of the General Framework Agreement concluded at Dayton. A key component of this was the delineation of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line, to which many of the tasks listed in the Annexes referred.

The State of Bosnia Herzegovina was set as of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of the Republika Srpska. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complete state, as opposed to a confederation; no entity or entities could ever be separated from Bosnia and Herzegovina unless through due legal process. Although highly decentralised in its Entities, it would still retain a central government, with a rotating State Presidency, a central bank and a constitutional court. The agreement mandated a wide range of international organizations to monitor, oversee, and implement components of the agreement. The NATO-led IFOR (Implementation Force) was responsible for implementing military aspects of the agreement and deployed on 20 December 1995, taking over the forces of the UNPROFOR. The Office of the High Representative was charged with the task of civil implementation. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe was charged with organising the first free elections in 1996