Louise Arbour and General W. Clark on Bosnia & NATO

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Two very distinguish members of international community former chief prosecutor for the International Crime Tribunal for former Yugoslavia Louise Arbour, and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark tried to explain Bosnian situation and process of integration of Bosnia to NATO in last issue of Foreign Policy magazine. In this article, written in so simple and understandable language, Mrs. Arbour and General Clark succeed in their wish to present current situation to international community. Both of them are very well known to Bosnian people and they’re friends of Bosnian people for last two decades. Mrs. Arbour was chief prosecutor of ICTY in time of accusing Mr. Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other side General Clark was leader of NATO forces in a time when air force attacks on Bosnian Serb Army stopped many new massacres and genocides as one in Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

In their article they rightly conclude that current situation is worse than in 1995 when war was proclaimed by ratification of Dayton Peace Agreement. “The country will hold general election in October, and if that were not destabilizing enough, its various constituencies are all running in opposite directions: Serbs are threatening to call a referendum on the Dayton Agreement that stopped the war; Croats are calling for creation of an autonomous entity within the broader state; and Bosnian Muslims are demanding a new constitution giving them more powers, to replace the existing, highly decentralized document”, they said.

NATO helped first time to Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war 1992 to 1995. Alliance role was to ensure peace, to preserve that peace and to help building new Bosnia and Herzegovina as decentralized state with two highly autonomous entities. Last week NATO started forging a closer alliance with Bosnia; Alliance ministers agreed to give Bosnia and Herzegovina a Membership Action Plan (MAP) – first welcoming step on the road to the full membership. This program is not promise that B&H will become NATO member or neither that NATO will defend B&H against military threat or affect its decision-making mechanism. “It is an assistance program through which NATO and its members provide guidance and support on specific political, economic, security, and legal reforms. That is exactly what Bosnia needs at such a tense moment, in part to reassure it various political factions and it part to help push forward badly needed reform”, said Arbour and Clark.

For almost fifteen years two really important part of international community, USA and EU are attempting to help this Balkan country through pushing new constitutional changes to make more functional government. No one on the ground in B&H is completely ready to take difficult steps. Arbour and Clark are on the right path when they said that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs common agenda of projects that would benefit all Bosnians, without upsetting the country’s delicate balance of power and the three communities’ individual, vital interests.

“A closer link to NATO can help build up this common sense of purpose and calm things at home. Much of the current tension in Bosnia exists because all parties feel insecure about future structure of Bosnian state and their status within it. Having a MAP with NATO can give all sides a sense of security, making them more confident about undertaking necessary institutional changes, even when politically difficult”, they said. Mrs. Arbour and General Clark are pretty confident that one of the most difficult Bosnian leaders, Milorad Dodik, leader of Bosnian Serbs and Premier of Republic of Srpska is in favour of NATO membership for Bosnia. Situation in Republic of Srpska it’s not in favour of NATO membership for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Several minor political parties and even Dodik’s SNSD party are requesting a referendum about Bosnia’s membership in NATO, Dodik is more in favour to stay out of NATO with Serbian leader Boris Tadic and to get closer with anti-NATO countries close to Russian leaders Putin and Medvedev. Ground for this anti-NATO feelings is based on last month interview of Serbian foreign affair minister Vuk Jeremic who clearly say “NO” to NATO for Serbia when he claims that NATO wouldn’t help to Serbia’s future.

“If reform does happen, it will work only if it is designed by and for all Bosnian constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. MAP is vital for Bosnia because it leaves the initiative and ownership of the reform process in Bosnian leader’s hands. It differs from the international impositions of the past decade and a half, undertaken by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) on a wide range of issues – from establishing common license plates to extending the mandate of international judges working to investigate war crimes”, they wrote in FP. They continue on same grounds and they said: “This time, the country’s leaders must stop asking when someone is going to come to rescue them and start doing the hard work themselves. Left to their own devices, Bosnia’s leaders can to the right thing, as they did these past few months by passing new laws to obtain substantial IMF assistance and visa facilitation with EU.”

If we analyze last statement from Mrs. Arbour and General Clark is clear that this medal has a two sides. On one side IMF assistance is welcomed from EU and IMF but is highly unaccepted from Bosnian people especially war veterans in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last week veterans protested in front of government seat in Sarajevo when premier Mujezinovic refuse to come out and speak with them about IMF assistance and cuts in their pension’s veterans demolished government building. Visa facilitation with EU had a major support in Bosnian people but political unwillingness to bring new laws in time frames settled by EU are reason why EU is stretching time to make a final decision to liberalize visa programmes for Bosnia. It’s sad that Bosnian people are rather looking in faces of EU Parliament members and envoys for Balkan, Mrs. Tanja Fajon and Mr. Jelko Kacin both from Slovenia, to help them on their road to easier travel to Europe.

After all analyze of Bosnian situation from Mrs. Arbour and General Clark is welcomed; is well articulated favour to Bosnian people; and it helps to West to understand all problems and dilemmas in Bosnian society regarding membership in NATO and EU. Their effort is appreciated only remaining question is: Will Bosnian leader had enough strength and willingness to accept advices and to start their own era in decision making for better future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Balkan region?


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