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Session 1: What is a Way Forward for Bosnia?

Session 1: What is a Way Forward for Bosnia?

Discussion Points:

  • What has the 2015 Reform Agenda achieved, and how can it be built upon?
  • Should the EU consider pressurising for major changes to the executive election system?
  • How could a new constitution both maintain the achievements of the Dayton constitution and improve efficiency in governance?
  • In the wake of the closure of the ICTY, where in the EU policy agenda does addressing outstanding issues in transitional justice stand?
  • How can the EU use conditionalities to incentivise meaningful constitutional reform?
  • Is the EU in competition or collaboration with Turkey and Russia in BiH?



After more than twenty years since the Dayton Agreement, it is time for the EU to revisit how it can address Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) political, administrative and social stalemate on the long road to the country’s accession. At all levels, the governance structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina remains paralysed by the complex system of checks-and-balances and an unwillingness to cooperate between ethnically-oriented political parties, despite the EU’s attempt to significantly remodel BiH economically and politically through the 2015 Reform Agenda. Four years later it is clear that, while some progress has been made in inter-entity coordination and structural adjustments, the plan has failed to transform BiH’s clientelist and divided politics.

Implementation was a condition for the continued delay in enforcing the result of the 2009 ECHR decision which declared the Dayton electoral system illegal on the grounds that it prevented Roma and other minorities from holding certain offices. The perennial issues of the right to secede and creation of new separate entities within the federation seem to be far from resolved. Meanwhile, the public holiday marking the foundation of RS and the electoral boundaries of Mostar have been found illegal by the constitutional court, yet no change to either is on the horizon. In day to day life, residency in either the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina (FBiH) or RS has an appreciable impact on access to entitlements, such as compensation for wartime torture. Even the results of the census are contested. With all these problems in mind, particularly in regard to the area of the rule of law, major concerns are rising among EU member states on whether this candidate country can become a viable member state. A new approach is clearly needed, the question is what kind of strategy can achieve meaningful results.

Citizens, increasingly disillusioned by the EU’s perceived failures, are meanwhile courted by Turkey and Russia, who both claim to offer alternative futures for the country. Slow progress is not only a question of the rule of law and human rights for BiH and the EU, but also of the EU’s position in the region. Furthermore, ethnic divisions in the country have not substantively ameliorated since the 1995 Dayton Agreement – the brought the war to a close and instituted a constitutional framework which has been praised for maintaining stability. Thus, the EU faces the possibility that extensive constitutional change could upset already fragile inter-ethnic relations. In a word, the EU cannot afford to get the strategy wrong. What kind of programme can the EU formulate which will both achieve the effectiveness and credibility required to secure its own influence and avoid generating unrest?


Selected Readings:


Previous BSF Sessions on Similar Topics

BSF 2017Academic Panel 3: The EU as a Crisis Management Actor: CSDP in the Neighborhood

BSF 2016Plenary Panel 3:Addressing Political Instability and Weak Institutions in South East Europe

BSF 2014Plenary Panel 2: The EU and its Peripheries