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Home arrow Political science arrow After Ethnic Conflict : Policy-making in Post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

Mapping the Field: Ethnicity, Violence, Institutions

Two issues define the main subject of this book: persisting ethnic divisions in the post-conflict political context and power-sharing institutions. These features shape the context against which politics is conducted in the two states analysed – Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.

In ethnically divided societies, ethnicity is more than a political-cleavage line – one of the many cross-cutting lines of aggregation of political interests, such as class, urban/rural or socio-economic background. In ethnic conflicts across the world ethnicity has proven capable of mobilising populations into armed conflicts against other ethnic groups, resulting in violence, destruction and crime. This mobilising potential of ethnicity differentiates it from other sources of social

Loza, 'Blame It On Dayton', Transitions Online, 18 November 2010; Alison Smale, 'Roots of Bosnian Protests Lie in Peace Accords of 1995', The New York Times, 14 February 2014. identification (such as class, gender or socio-economic status, for example) and distinguishes ethnic politics from other types of democratic competition between social groups.

While most states today are to a certain extent multi-ethnic, not all are deeply divided along ethnic lines and few have been through a recent ethnic conflict. The discussion in this book is focused on two ethnically divided states that have been through violent ethnic conflict. The legacy of violence and distrust that accompanies post-conflict politics, along with the pressure to return to normal peace-time politics, lead to a specific, often very precarious, domestic political situation between the groups and the political elites who were engaged in conflict and who now seek a way to successfully overcome this past and live together in a common state.

Among the many features of post-conflict politics and society, power-sharing arrangements play a crucial role in transforming politics in post-conflict states. The set of power-sharing practices and mechanisms employed in post-conflict politics to overcome ethnic antagonisms, allow equal access to political power to all ethnic groups. As a result, power-sharing arrangements are a very common tool employed by foreign mediators for brokering peace in conflict-ridden societies. Indeed, power-sharing arrangements have become a favourite post-conflict tool. From Bosnia and Kosovo, to countries as disparate as Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka, power-sharing has been the preferred route to recovery and re-establishing democracy in ethnically divided states.

This book uses a comparative study between post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia, both of which have been through ethnic conflict and whose post-conflict political systems are based on power-sharing institutions. A small comparative study allows greater in-depth analysis of the politics of each state, the insights of which will contribute to better understanding of how political elites engage with institutions to produce more or less accommodating and conciliatory policy outcomes. In this framework, Bosnia and Macedonia make an interesting comparative set. They differ in several important respects, such as conflict history and intensity, international involvement and constitutional structure, but display similar outcomes in terms of political-elite accommodation and resistance.

First, in terms of the intensity and destructiveness of the conflict, during the three-year Bosnian conflict (1992–95), more than 100,000 people were killed and many times more were injured, displaced, raped or dispossessed. In the course of the three years of war, immense damage was inflicted on the infrastructure of the state as well as the fabric of society. The Macedonian conflict, which lasted about six months in 2001, was far less intense and destructive; about 100 people were killed, most of whom were members of the armed forces (both Macedonian and Albanian rebels). Some villages where intense fighting took place suffered damaged infrastructure, but to a much lesser extent than Sarajevo or elsewhere in Bosnia, which felt the consequences of several years of continuous shell fire. Moreover, the conflicts had different historical backdrops. The three ethnic
groups in Bosnia had been in conflict as recently as the Second World War, while prior to 2001, Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia had never engaged in mutual conflict.

Second, in terms of international actors' engagement, Bosnia saw much more extensive intervention. That intervention included employment of NATO military forces and military presence after the end of the conflict, alongside intensive diplomatic efforts and several different failed attempts to forge peace between the warring sides. After the end of the war, the international presence in Bosnia remained and the High Representative still holds significant powers. In Macedonia, on the other hand, international involvement was limited to a swift and resolute diplomatic effort by the EU and NATO, which resulted in a quick end to hostilities without military intervention. Macedonia hosted short military and police missions after the war, but has no major additional international presence today.

Finally, the post-conflict federal arrangements were different across the two countries. Following the Dayton Peace Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a federal state consisting of two entities, one of which is a federation of its own, and has a very weak central government. In contrast, the Ohrid Framework Agreement enabled Macedonia to remain a unitary state with a very strong central government, but with local-level municipal governments with fairly limited budgetary and policy-making freedoms.

These differences between the two countries suggest that ethnic accommodation would be more likely in Macedonia. The complex state structure, persisting conflict legacy and external presence would suggest Bosnia should be more likely to experience resistance across ethnic lines. However, in terms of political-elite behaviour, both countries have displayed a similar outcome: on some sensitive issues political elites have managed to accommodate, while on others compromise has remained elusive. For example, while agreement over common car plates in Bosnia and Herzegovina was reached by 1999, issuing of personal identification numbers for citizens – a similar personal data issue – remained problematic and triggered mass public protests in June 2013. In Macedonia, language education for Albanian pupils remains problematic, despite politicians having reached agreement on the use of minority languages in state institutions. By looking in greater depth at cases of successful and failed policy accommodation, the forthcoming chapters explore the reasons for such uneven progress.

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