Consultations, compromise and consensus

By Ivan Bacak 

December 27, 2005 -- There are no such categories as "friends" or "enemies" between politicians. Partners, coalitions, oppositions… anything and no emotions. Memories are allowed, but yesterday is history, today's passing and tomorrow? It depends…
In a multiethnic or better to say polynational societies all sides should respect the magic formula for peaceful coexistence: C + C + C = C
Consultations, Compromise, Consensus could create circumstances for Coexistence.
There has not been a serious meeting of leading Croatian and Serbian politicians from Bosnia since Karadzic – Boban talks in Vienna in 1992. Occasionally, Jelavic met Dodik, Jovic and Sarovic, but those have been more about other business than politics. Serbian and Croatian leaders simply could not prevail mutual mistrust. From time to time, Serbs and Bosniacs held official talks as equals and big ones playing with the smallest Croats. International community often sided with the stronger, punishing very often the weakest nation. Bosnian Croats were treated neither as a nation nor a minority but as troublemakers.
I would just mention the International Crisis Group (ICG) that is made up of analysts, ex politicians and intelligence officers all very influential. It is sufficient to read the titles of their analysis - Reunifying Mostar: Opportunities for Progress, Bosnia's Municipal Elections 2000: Winners and Losers, War Criminals in Bosnia's Republika Srpska - and see prejudices that run deep in the international community towards Croats and Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
For example, the ICG Balkans Report 103, War Criminals in Bosnia's Republika Srpska, of November 2, 2000 recommends, "the international community exclude the extremist Serb party, the SDS, from participation in Bosnian political life and decertify that party and its candidates from participating in further elections."
Further, in their document Turning Strife to Advantage: A Blueprint to Integrate the Croats in Bosnia ICG writes: "While the HDZ, like the SDS, has a record of working consistently against the letter and spirit of the Dayton Accords, the existence of serious ideological splits within the HDZ suggests that a strategy of drawing the more moderate elements away from the hard line leadership has reasonable chance of success. Of course, the international community should keep the question of a possible ban on the HDZ, analogous to that recommended by ICG for the SDS, under careful review."
These recommendations were written five years ago. Today, ten years since Dayton Accords have been signed the view is the same: Bosniacs are viewed as good guys and victims; Serbs as bad but too strong to be squeezed; and destiny of Croats seems to be – to assimilate or disappear.
In these past ten years, the Dayton Accords have been changed several times mostly by the American "visionaries" who still believe in the Bosnian Melting Pot. What they don't realize is that in the Bosnian pot, one can cook cabbage, carrots, all kind of meat and spices, hours and hours, years and years, yet no soup will be made, nothing changes the substance.
Bosniacs are before and after Muslims, Serbs are proud Orthodox Christians, Croats are mostly modern Catholics, and there is no vis maior, the higher power, that could mix them into a new derivative brand product of Pax Americana called Bosnians. Bosnian Ambassador in the USA, Turkovic, tried to confuse the American public with these ideas while talking to journalists two months ago in Washington. A saying here goes that people would rather eat leaves than become new Yugoslaves, a terminology for modern slaves to Bosnia.
The three groups may agree on a Joint but not a United army. They might accept new common symbols for the state of Bosnia, but Serbs and Croats will baptize their children, celebrate marriages, and be buried under their own national flags. All of them would and should accept globalization, integration, reforms, transparency… but at the end all together need to say to the Europeans and to Americans: "Leave us alone! Don't help us anymore, please!"
There are number of analysts who claim that Bosnia is an old Yugoslavia but in small, that just like Yugoslavia, Bosnia will split also. Answering about possible solutions for Bosnia, ex Macedonian Prime minister Ljupce Georgievski said: "If we want to achieve long-term solution, it would be better that Republika Srpska joins Serbia and Croat parts of Bosnia to Croatia. Bosniacs would than form their own country, and all of them would be satisfied."
There is, however, a possible solution without dissolution of the country.
Serbs boycotted the referendum for independent Bosnia at the end of February of 1991 and this fact is and will be used by lawyers of those who don't accept The Hague notion of neighbor's aggression on Bosnia. But, Serbs volens-nolens, if they want or not, should start consultations with Croats, not against Bosniacs, on how to reshape Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both of them must achieve compromise with Bosniacs and redefine the internal relationships in order to save Bosnia, as Croats and Bosniacs at least tried fifteen years ago.
The lowest point for Serbs, if they don't want to lose pride and who knows what else, is to give up the name Republika Srpska and to keep everything else they have today. An old philosopher would say: Sacrifice Forma in order to save Essence!
In a document Turning Strife to Advantage the ICG wrote that the "Open questions about the future of Kosovo and Montenegro, as well as what appears to be the FRY's [today Serbia and Montenegro] continued intense interest in RS, contribute to the considerable unhappiness that is grist for the HDZ nationalist mill. It is beyond the scope of this report whether the international community should review the very nature of the entity system."
As they knew that Croat positions will be even worse few years later.
Indeed, Croats will become minority in the Federation and in Bosnia if they don't support Serbs to keep their own self-government as part of Bosnia.
With a federal unit in a confederal state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croats would finally accept Bosnia as their own homeland and that would be their last chance to survive as constitutive and sovereign people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As Jeffrey Kuhner writes in Washington Times: "By making all three ethnic groups masters in their own house, it will give each of them, especially the minority Serbs and Croats, an incentive to view Bosnia as their shared, common homeland. It will also help contain radical Islam by providing an internal system of checks and balances, which will prevent any kind of potential Islamic movement from seizing national power." (J. Kuhner, An Islamist State in Europe?, Washington Times, 11/28/05).
If Serbs and Croats come to a consensus, as Bosnian Serbs and Croats make over 50% of Bosnian population, Bosniacs would follow the new citizen majority and most of their politicians would support this new architecture of a European Bosnia. This idea is, in fact, the only way for the international community to step back out of the region and finally leave peaceful Bosnia.
There is room to elaborate juridical and economic details about the new Bosnian constitution, state level versus federal units and municipal authorities, and even maybe special arrangement for Sarajevo as a multinational and truly multicultural capitol, if there would be interest for such an elaboration.
At its core, however, this idea is not only compatible with the European standards, but it is the only possible formula for an economically sustainable and manageable state. Citizens would achieve individual safety compatible with their national security and identity while contributing to the regional stability and economic growth.

Ivan Bacak is a vice-president of Defense and Security Board of the FBiH Parliament and a member of Information Committee in the Parliament. He was elected in 2003 to the Federal House of Representatives. He also served as a political advisor to the Croat Member of Bosnian Presidency, and deputy Minister of Interrior in the Government of FBiH
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