18 December 2003
Today, ESI releases a new proposal for constitutional development in Bosnia and Herzegovina: "Making Federalism Work - A Radical Proposal for Practical Reform".
This proposal has been developed following extensive consultations with political leaders and opinion-makers in the course of November and December 2003. It has been presented to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, the Foreign Minister, the leaders of the major opposition parties in both Sarajevo and Banja Luka, and to leading present and former cantonal and entity politicians. It has also been presented to international organisations working in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including at a brainstorming chaired by High Representative Paddy Ashdown in early December 2003. The paper is published simultaneously by the Sarajevo-based news weekly "Dani" today.
Calls for constitutional reform have been a regular feature of Bosnian politics ever since the Dayton Agreement. There is widespread discontent with the present structures of government.
This paper is an attempt to identify practical ways of achieving change. Beginning with existing institutions and the interests which lie behind them, it proposes a practical step forward that Bosnian politicians might actually agree to and implement.
The paper outlines a step by step process of strengthening federalism in Bosnia by abolishing the Federation and creating a simplified federal structure, based around the current 12 units making up the state: the ten cantons of the present Federation, the Republika Srpska and the District of Brcko. The paper sets out why we believe this could attract support from across the political spectrum.
These ideas emerged out of the consultations for the "Governance Assessment of Bosnia and Herzegovina", a major study of governance issues carried out by ESI during 2003 with the support of the United Kingdom's Department for International Development forthcoming). We considered that the issues presented here were important enough to merit a separate discussion paper. The views we express are in no way those of the UK government.