Update on Bosnia-Herzegovina

By Mesic, Stipe | Presidents & Prime Ministers, November 2000 | Go to article overview

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. …

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