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Bosnia’s Next Crisis

Summary:
Nationalist rivalries and rampant corruption continue to hold Bosnia and Herzegovina back. Now that it is in another deep political crisis, the international community must reconsider and clarify its own role, creating the conditions for Bosnian leaders finally to sit down and hash out the compromises needed to make the country work. STOCKHOLM – The Russian threat to Ukraine is not the only potential crisis in Eastern Europe this year. Bosnia and Herzegovina is heading for a period of deep political turmoil, with a key election scheduled for October. ­Regime Change in the Global Economy Ji Haixin/VCG via Getty Images The

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Nationalist rivalries and rampant corruption continue to hold Bosnia and Herzegovina back. Now that it is in another deep political crisis, the international community must reconsider and clarify its own role, creating the conditions for Bosnian leaders finally to sit down and hash out the compromises needed to make the country work.

STOCKHOLM – The Russian threat to Ukraine is not the only potential crisis in Eastern Europe this year. Bosnia and Herzegovina is heading for a period of deep political turmoil, with a key election scheduled for October.

Bosnia has never been an uncomplicated place. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it generated one crisis after another, eventually contributing to the outbreak of World War I. Then, with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the late twentieth century, it was the site of a brutal war between Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs, and Croats.

The Dayton Accords ended the conflict in 1995, after more than 100,000 people had been killed – including in the genocidal Srebrenica massacre that July – and after millions more had been driven from their homes. The next step was to build a functioning state out of the wreckage. But the armies of the three groups were the only functioning structures left, and many local leaders saw peace as little more than the continuation of war by other means. Hopes that a new generation of non-nationalist leaders would rise out of the ashes were soon dashed.

Although international aid has transformed the country, covering up most of the traces of war, its politics remain profoundly dysfunctional, due to the continued political dominance of nationalist parties. As a result, the prospect of Bosnia joining the European Union looks increasingly distant.

In its 2021 annual assessment of Bosnia, the European Commission notes that “political leaders continued to engage in divisive rhetoric and unconstructive political disputes.” There has been virtually no progress in meeting the 14 benchmarks for starting EU accession talks, and “during the pandemic, the negative effects of widespread corruption and signs of political capture continued to manifest strongly.” Neither judicial officeholders nor...

Carl Bildt
Co-Chair European Council on Foreign Relations @ecfr. Among many other things. På svenska på @cbildt.

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