14 October 2010
ESI discussing Bosnia after the elections
Bosnia. Photo: flickr/Kevin Botto
Bosnia. Photo: flickr/Kevin Botto

On 14 October 2010, ESI Senior Analyst Alexandra Stiglmayer participated in a seminar organised by the European Policy Centre in Brussels, that tried to answer the question "Bosnia and Herzegovina after the elections: what prospects for breaking the stalemate?"

Alexandra made three points:

  1. Bosnia must get on the enlargement path without much further delay and for this to have the desired effect, the enlargement process of the whole region must become dynamic. Alexandra explained that Bosnia would not want to be left behind if it sees other countries moving ahead, and referred to the visa liberalisation where Bosnia also woke up and started implementing the required reforms when it realised that it was the laggard. She suggested that the Commission in its avis on Montenegro does not give the country benchmarks to meet, but that it recommend candidate status and the launch of accession negotiations; and she expressed hope that the Council would ask the Commission for an avis on Serbia. Furthermore Alexandra emphasised that Bosnia can deliver if it wants as the visa liberalisation process has shown, despite all institutional problems, that a lot of non-contentious EU requirements are implemented without much ado, and that the main problem is the narrow-minded, self-interested agendas of the political leaders.
  2. Alexandra stressed that the EU must speak again with one voice on Bosnia. She elaborated on how the EU has lost its focus since 2006 and how counterproductive it has been that EU member states and their ambassadors on the ground in Bosnia have had different opinions on every single issue of importance in Bosnia, so that each party in Bosnia knew that it had supporters for its views. She mentioned as examples the issues of OHR closure and the content and timing of constitutional reform.
  3. Alexandra said the EU must develop a clear, sensible, concise, non-sensationalist, even boring EU-oriented agenda for Bosnia, which should aim to guide Bosnia onto the EU path. She said that calls for a stronger OHR, more international troops and similar recipes that were heard over the past two years were misplaced, and that she also did not agree with analyses that conclude that Bosnia is on the brink of a new war or that the RS has a grand plan for secession; she said the believed that outgoing RS Prime Minister Dodik is just an opportunist. She said the EU should simply demand that Bosnia do the things it needs to do to become an EU member state and stick to that. She also suggested leaving the question of far-reaching constitutional reform for later. Alexandra explained that Bosnia should now implement the Sejdic-Finci ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in a limited fashion since full constitutional reform will be easier to do when Bosnia starts accession negotiations and actually realises what is needed than if the political leaders do it now and turn it into a political showcase.

The other speakers at the workshop included Andrea Cellino, Director of Policy and Planning, OSCE Mission to BiH; Osman Topcagic, Ambassador, Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU; Sabina Stadler, Council of the European Union, Western Balkans Unit; Paola Pampaloni, Head of Unit for Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Commission; Susan Penksa, Professor and Chair of Political Science, Westmont College, USA. The workshop was moderated by EPC Senior Policy Analyst Rosa Balfour.