Update on Bosnia-Herzegovina
Mesic, Stipe, Presidents & Prime Ministers
It is with particular pleasure, but also with a sense of great responsibility, that I have accepted the invitation to address you at the Center for International Programs of the University of Dayton on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Accords which put a stop to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and which are known worldwide by the name of this city.
Croatia is one of the signatory countries of the Dayton Accords. With its policy at the time, Croatia was not responsible for the development of circumstances that made the Accords necessary. Therefore, there are two key reasons why the President of Croatia ought to say how he sees the Dayton Accords five years later, and how he evaluates their prospects within the broader context of establishment of a lasting and just peace in the Balkans and Southeast Europe.
Let us proceed from a simple and incontestable Fact. Half a decade ago, the Dayton Accords made it possible to put a stop to the bloody and brutal war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is true that they also sanctioned the outcome of this war, but it is likewise true that the Accords, achieved after painstaking negotiation, were all that could be achieved at the time. Therefore, I could say that they were the only possible and thereby, in the circumstances of the time, the best solution.
Having said that, I do not intend to idealize the Dayton Accords at all. Along with the already mentioned sanctioning of the outcome of war, they also comprised compromise solutions as well as certain concessions to the "warlords" of the time. However, at the same time, we also find in them the starting elements for laying the foundations of democracy and democratic institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the obligation of all signatories to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.
Although all these points could be discussed at great length, but I think that there is not much point in dealing with the past. We cannot change the past anyway. We are faced with the future, and we are those who will decide what it will be like. Therefore, we are faced with the question, where and how will we be five years after Dayton?
First, the Dayton Accords have not yet been fully materialized, and our primary task is to see that they are implemented completely. Having said that, I have in mind the need to make possible the return of all refugees and displaced persons in peace and dignity. Of course, this is possible only within the broader context of normalization of conditions in the area of the former Yugoslavia.
Therefore, we must fully achieve what we agreed in Dayton. When I say "we," I mean states, because the signatories of the Dayton Agreement are no more among the living or do not any longer exercise a key political function. Tudjman is dead, Izetbegovic has retired, and Milojevic was forced to step down when his planned electoral fraud failed. The protagonists have left the scene, and the policies are changing or appearing to change. This means that the conditions have been created for our considering how to implement what was agreed in Dayton five years ago, and how to proceed another step.
Some indications of such future development are already present. The decision whereby all three peoples in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbs, the Croats and the Bosniacs, have been proclaimed constituent throughout the state is particularly important. This has set in motion the breakup of the borders of the so-called entities, which are not states nor should they behave as such. This process requires the strengthening of the central institutions of the state, that is, the reinforcement of the integrative factors of Bosnia-Herzegovina, not in order to make it a unitarian state, but rather, in order to make it an integral state capable of living and functioning as such. In this context, the results of the recent parliamentary elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina also give cause for moderate optimism.
Finally, a single command of the armed forces ought to be instituted. They will continue to include three elements, but there cannot be three commands. Another point in this regard is the need to stop outside financing of the elements of these armed forces. Bosnia-Herzegovina must have an army that it can finance, and this army can and must be geared only to the defense of the internationally recognized borders of the state. The Republic of Croatia has already reduced the amount allocated to the military component of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and intends to cut it off completely in the foreseeable future, and finance civil programs of economic, social and cultural nature.
The Dayton Accords envision full cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal. No words should be wasted on the need for consistent and sustained compliance with this requirement. The Hague Tribunal is an instrument which will help us all face the dark sides of the past, and the consistent detection of the perpetrators of crimes and their individual identification is the only way to prevent all constructs regarding the collective guilt of any nation.
As far as the special relations of one and another entity with neighboring states is concerned, I think that after the changes in Belgrade, it would be more appropriate to start thinking and acting in terms of a general normalization of relations among the states emerged from the former Yugoslavia. There would have been no Dayton or its implementation without the United States and the European Union. Without these two key factors, and also the SFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina and its way to full normalization, including full democratization, would be unthinkable in the years ahead. I see the responsibility of the international community in its appreciating this point and behaving accordingly. NATO, in spite of all controversies related to its role in Southeast Europe, has shown itself to be a factor for maintaining but also for imposing peace. In this part of the world, such a role will be required for some time to come, and it would be a good idea for the planners in Brussels to develop a corresponding strategy. Of course, the establishment of close ties among the states in the region and NATO, and their membership either in the Partnership for Peace or in NATO, will put things on an entirely new foundation. This point requires immediate consideration.
The political and security, picture of Southeast Europe has started to change fundamentally after the changes in Belgrade. I see these changes only as a beginning--but a beginning that I distinctly welcome on behalf of the Republic of Croatia. I would like to see that this optimism has not been unfounded. Of course, there are still many outstanding issues--from Kosovo through the position and treatment of minorities to the future relations between Serbia and Montenegro.
I believe that the resolution of these relations will also facilitate the development of a new framework for dealing with the problem of Kosovo. As far as the involvement of the international community in Kosovo is concerned, there have been omissions and failures, but today and in the time ahead this involvement is imperative. It ought to be conceived and realized in accordance with conditions, while taking at the same time, as much as possible, the stated political will of the people. There has been enough war. Now one has to negotiate. In this regard, the international community at large and the United States can also be of great help.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is now entering international institutions and organizations. In this process, it would be proper for it to follow the road taken by other states emerged from the former Yugoslavia under the same terms and in the same way, because we are all equal successors to the former Yugoslavia, and no one is entitled to claim any special benefits. At the same time, however, the new government in Belgrade ought to be granted the privilege of determining its own priorities, and its position should not be made more difficult by rushing certain issues, because conditions in Serbia are still far from being stable. On the other hand, such flexibility does not imply any renouncing of the principles, and this point should be made quite clearly.
For the time being, the Stability Pact is fulfilling its purpose, although I have the impression that it is not yet in full swing. Croatia is prepared to do its part within the Pact, and we expect other member countries to follow suit, including of late the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In conclusion, I see the future of the region, the region not being limited only to the states emerged from the former Yugoslavia, in a gradual but not too slow approach followed by integration of the countries involved in Euro-Atlantic organizations, NATO and the European Union. Having said that, I firmly support the individual approach. This should be a regatta and not a convoy, a race in which every country could achieve its link-up as soon as it meets the requirements. Much has been achieved, and there is still a lot to be achieved. Assuming the existence of political will on all sides on the ground, I am convinced that all tasks facing us can be accomplished. Of course, the involvement of the international community will still be required, perhaps on a somewhat lower scale and in a somewhat modified form. However, looking at the future today after five years, I am not a pessimist. Bearing in mind the recent past, this is not so bad.
Stjepan Mesic was born on December 34, 1934 and graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. In 1992, he was elected Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, and in 1994, he founded the Croatian Independent Democrats party (HND) and was relieved of the office of Speaker. In 1997, he entered together with HND members in the Croatian National Party (HNS) and became the Executive HNS Vice. President and President of the Zagreb HNS Branch. Mesic assumed the office of the President of the Republic of Croatia on February 18, 2000.
This excerpt is from an address by Stjepan Mesic, President of the Republic of Croatia, at the University of Dayton's Center for International Programs in Dayton, Ohio on November 18, 2000.…
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Publication information: Article title: Update on Bosnia-Herzegovina. Contributors: Mesic, Stipe - Author. Magazine title: Presidents & Prime Ministers. Volume: 9. Issue: 6 Publication date: November 2000. Page number: 25. © 1999 EQES, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.