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Gerald and Deputy HR W. Wnendt - Holiday Inn conference

Bosnia's constitution

January – February 2004

In February 2004, four German foundations jointly hosted a conference in Sarajevo. The topic: to discuss an ESI proposal for constitutional reform. As one Swiss paper noted at the time, "everybody came": more than 200 people, including the whole political leadership of the country, from Sarajevo and Banja Luka.

The ESI proposal was based on a simple insight: despite growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, there was no meaningful debate on constitutional reform in Bosnia:

"Some call for the disappearance of Republika Srpska. Some argue for a third Entity. Some advocate for a return to a unitary state … However, all these proposals suffer from the same fundamental flaw: they fail to indicate how to move forward from a dysfunctional here to a functional there. They do not begin from the current reality - from the constitutions, parliaments and governments which exist, and the real interests which lie behind them."

The proposal was deceptively simple: to start from "what exists".

"The proposal is to progressively abolish the Federation, and with it the constitutional category of "Entity". The result would be a simplified, three-layered federal state with twelve autonomous units: the ten cantons of the current Federation, Republika Srpska and the District of Brcko. This would represent a fundamental change to the structure of the state, turning it into a normal, European federal system. "

True reactionaries, ESI argued in a follow-up paper, were those who refused incremental reform and prefered instead to wait for a constitutional miracle that would never come.

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