Exactly 20 years ago, the Dayton Agreement, which ended the bloodiest war in history as a result of the disintegration of the Former Yugoslav Federation, was signed on 14 December 1995 at the Elize Palace in Paris by the first President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Aliya Izetbegovic, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franco Tucman. The agreement, prepared by the American diplomat Richard Helbrooke, prevented wider massacres that could occur, and caused a vortex of political and economic instability that has been going on for 20 years due to the fact that it could not establish a full political structure in the country. After signing the agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina saw the integration process with Europe as the only way out and continues to work in this direction. However, this also seems difficult. The Dayton agreement emerges at this stage. Swedish Dipomat Karl Bildt, who served in Bosnia, pointed out that he is not very hopeful about the future of Bosnia in Europe, and stated that the political structure in the country is still divided on ethnic basis and the central government is weak. Although there have been attempts to revise this agreement, which negatively affected Bosnia in many respects, over the past 20 years, no progress has been made yet.
The Political Structure Envisioned by the Dayton Agreement Increases Instability…
The agreement, which also formed the basis of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, called the Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats, who had been fighting each other for three years, as the “founding elements of the country”, while gathering them under one roof. In the state established together with the agreement, there is the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with 10 cantons, the Republika Srpska and a special region called Brcka, and this causes a total of 13 different political structures to exist in the country. In the emerging state model, there is the Tripartite Presidency Council at the top of the state. The Tripartite Council consists of three members, a Croat, a Serb and a Bosniak. The members elected in the general elections carry out the duty of council chairman for 8 months on a rotating basis. Bosniaks and Croats are elected from the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the Serbian member is elected by the citizens of the Bosnian Serb Republic. The state-level Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two separate assemblies, the “Assembly of Nations” and the “Assembly of Representatives”. While only Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks are elected to the Assembly of Nations, deputies from other ethnic groups can also be elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks alternately run it. The country also serves as the “Office of High Representatives” for the implementation of the civilian parts of the Dayton agreement appointed by the EU. holds it.
The bureaucratic and complex political structure complicates the decision-making process.
Enacting even the simplest law from the parliament requires the approval of Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats, so it can take months to pass. Paddy Oshdown, a former UN Representative, said in a statement that “There are at least 1200 judges, 760 policymakers, 180 ministers and four governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, revealing the complexity and clumsiness of the political structure in the country. Another important problem in decision making is the Tri-State.
The Presidency is happening to the Council. In particular, the decision to be taken on foreign policy and constitutional issues needs to be agreed by all three council members, and this takes time. All three ethnicities must give their consent for a decision or law to be passed.
Serbs and Croats Support Agreement, Bosniaks Support Changes
While the international community has made significant efforts in recent years to simplify the complex structure in the country, Serbs and Croats in the country are opposed to changing the structure. Concerned that if this structure changes, the rights in question in the country will decrease, Serbs and Croats advocate the continuation of the existing structure. Bosniaks, on the other hand, demand that the agreement be revised and the political structure be made more functional. At the time the agreement was signed, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegovic said, “We signed an unfair agreement. However, my people need peace…” He stated that he was not satisfied with the agreement from the very beginning, and that he accepted it as a necessity due to the conjuncture. The Dayton Peace Treaty is again cited as the biggest obstacle to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards NATO and EU membership and its economic development.