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

Post-conflict Power-sharing: The Dayton Agreement

In the three and a half years between mid-1992 and 1995 there were many efforts by external actors to put an end to the violence and convince the warring parties to subscribe to a peace agreement and an institutional framework for a single

21 Miklos Biro, Dean Ajdukovic, Dinka Corkalo, Dino Djipa, Petar Milin and Harvey M. Weinstein, 'Attitudes toward Justice and Social Reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia', in My Neighbor, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity, ed. Eric Stover and Harvey M. Weinstein (2004), pp. 183–205. Bosnian state. Even before the Bosnian conflict erupted, the European Community (EC) and the United Nations (UN) had set up an International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY) to deal with the various legal and political issues arising from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, as well as to negotiate peace in the conflict areas in Croatia and Bosnia. Many foreign mediators and lawyers were involved in the negotiations between the three warring sides in Bosnia, before finally in November 1995 the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA) were agreed after weeks of protracted negotiations and consistent pressure from US and European diplomats involved in the peace process, which had ultimately culminated in NATO air-strikes. The Peace Accords were officially signed in December 1995 in Paris, by the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović, the President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman and the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), Slobodan Milošević. Although neither Croatia nor the FRY were officially at war with Bosnia, the inclusion of Tudjman and Milošević in the peace negotiations recognised their countries' involvement in the Bosnian war and implicitly treated them as the legitimate representatives of their respective ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia and in Bosnia.

Much has been written about the international efforts to bring peace to Bosnia and this book will not dwell in details of the various proposals and peace plans that failed to achieve that goal over the years.22 However, some of those earlier peace plans did provide the basis on which the details of the DPA were developed. Most importantly, the institutional structure of post-war that was agreed in the various drafted plans throughout the years, gives an insight into what type of institutions and constitutional arrangements domestic Bosnian elites found acceptable and to what the external actors thought was adequate in a country like Bosnia.

Based on the initial work of the ICFY and Ahtisaarti's report from early 1992 on the possible constitutional structure of Bosnia, from the very beginning partition was ruled out and Bosnia's independence reaffirmed.23 At the same time, as large parts of the territory were out of government control, a unitary centralised state structure was also abandoned and potential solutions were sought along the continuum of decentralised and federal state structures. The initial Vance-Owen Peace Plan from 1993 entailed the creation of ten ethnically-mixed provinces (cantons), all with substantial administrative and governance powers including taxraising and policing. The provincial governments would be composed following the proportional representation principle and based on the ethnic structure of the province population but would make decisions using simple majority voting

22 For a more detailed overview of peace negotiations see the accounts of David Owen, Balkan Odyssey; Carl Bildt, The Peace Journey; R. Holbrooke, To End A War (New York: Random House, 1998).

23 Statement of principles for new constitutional arrangements for Bosnia and Herzegovina. ICFY. 18 March 1992, Sarajevo. Available from: Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive. Special Collections and Archives. University of Liverpool. collections/owen/boda/ecco3.pdf
procedures. The central government would be responsible for foreign relations and commerce, and would work by consensus with the ICFY co-chairmen as arbiters during the interim period.24 Thus from the very beginning, variations of a power-sharing institutional structure were deemed as the most adequate answer to the concerns and demands of the political elites in Bosnia. The final text of the DPA does not add much to the institutional and constitutional instruments used in the initial proposals – extensive decentralisation, proportional representation and collective voting, and consensus constitute the backbone of the institutional structure stipulated by the DPA.

The only significant departure from those power-sharing principles was made in the HMS Invincible peace plan in late 1993, which was the closest plan to a formal partition. The negotiators of the plan proposed the creation of a union of three republics, one for each ethnic group. Each of the constituent republics would have had substantial freedom in international relations to enter into treaties and seek membership in international organisations, while after a period of two years republics could have conducted an independence referendum and left the union with the consent of the other two republics.25 Even this was not entirely new, as similar solutions in the Yugoslav context were discussed during 1991 as part of the Izetbegović-Gligorov Platform to remodel Yugoslavia on con-federal principles, but subsequent plans had abandoned the idea of three separate entities. After the Washington Agreement of February 1994, which established the Croat-Muslim federation, the proposals focused on developing a federal state structure between two federal units, Serbian and Croat-Muslim, with no right to secession, which was the eventual outcome of Dayton's negotiations. With the exception of the HMS Invincible plan, the institutional proposals throughout the war centred on different mixes of power-sharing instruments within a single, if decentralised and federal, state. The minor differences between the initial Vance-Owen and Dayton peace plans provisions concerning the constitutional framework of the state suggest little controversy over the institutional details of the Bosnian state, and ultimately, that Bosnian politicians felt comfortable with the suggested institutional solutions.

The main problem in subscribing to any of the proposed peace plans was usually in their annexes, in particular the annex which contained the map of territorial division between the various sub-state entities that the peace plans proposed. Very early on, the discussion about peace settlement in the country acquired the overtone of distributing (a percentage of) territory to (a given percentage of) ethnic group in the population. Indeed, the fact that there was ethnic cleansing going on made it important not to award the perpetrators by allocating them more

24 The Vance-Owen Plan. Agreement Relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina. 30 January 1992, Geneva. Available from: Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive. Special Collections and Archives. University of Liverpool. 25 Agreement Relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina. September 1993. Available from: Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive. Special Collections and Archives. University of

Liverpool. territory thanks to their control of 'cleansed' areas. However, soon the negotiations turned into trading territory as political leaders and foreign negotiators aimed to carve the agreed or desired percentage of Bosnian territory to be under the control of a given ethnic group. Even the final hours of the negotiations in Dayton were about defining corridors and adjusting entity boundaries to match the desired 49–51 per cent territory distribution between Republika Srpska and the BosniakCroat Federation.26

The political leaders' insistence on gaining control over a certain percentage of Bosnian territory is puzzling, given that regardless of the percentages involved, no ethnically homogenous and totally inclusive territorial unit could have been created for any of the three ethnic groups. Even more puzzling is the disregard that political elites showed for the distribution of infrastructure, industry and natural resources in drawing the boundaries of the territorial units. Had they seriously contemplated independent statehood, such pragmatic concerns about the viability of their future states should have been taken into consideration. Had they been seriously committed to living together in a common state, more attention would have been paid to the constitutional and institutional details of the common state and their efficiency for future policy making. The symbolic importance of 'historic lands' of the nation, which appears to have driven Bosnian politicians' demands during the negotiations, not only prolonged the peace settlement, but also reduced the resources devoted to refining the institutional mechanisms of the new state.

The war destroyed the nascent democratic regime in Bosnia and allowed the elected nationalist leaders, the only ones represented in the negotiations process, to silence any opposition from within their own ethnic groups, as well as any alternative ideas about the post-war outlook for the Bosnian state. Any nascent civil society that may have developed before the war had likely disappeared. Those groups and associations that survived were likely to now be serving only one ethnic community, lacking the power and credibility to challenge the political elites' grip over the peace negotiations. Ultimately, the outcome of the lengthy peace process was a single Bosnian federal state composed of two entities, with a 49–51 per cent territorial distribution, and a complex power-sharing institutional structure that was outlined in the annexes of the DPA.

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