Top world countries charged with overseeing peace-implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina will begin meetings today in Sarajevo to decide the future of the international presence in the troubled country.
The meeting of the Peace Implementation Council, PIC, comes amidst the worst post-war crisis in Bosnia and at a time of growing tensions between the Bosnian Serb leadership and the international community’s Office of the High Representative, OHR.
Representatives of the countries gathered in the PIC will meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the situation, as well as the status of reforms required for eventual closure of the OHR and its transition into the Office of the EU Special Representative.
Once this transition is completed, it will effectively mean that the international community would drop its broad governing and peace-enforcing powers in Bosnia and leave the fate of the country to its leaders.
The top Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) leader, Sulejman Tihic, warned over the weekend that the time was still not ripe for this transition. If OHR powers are abandoned before thorough constitutional reform, Tihic said, it “would be almost impossible to stop further dissolution of the country,” which could even lead to renewed “conflict.”
Tihic’s analysis was mirrored by many other local and international analysts and experts who fear that a time when the country and its Dayton peace accord are facing their greatest threats, it should be abandoned by the west.
“High Representative; Do not turn the light off,” urged an analysis published by the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje on Sunday.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Milorad Dodik, prime minister of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska told media that “the OHR should be closed as soon as possible”.
“Constitutional reform would make sense only if done by us in Bosnia and Herzegovina, without the United States of America or some other international factor,” he added.
Bosnia’s High Representative Valentin Inzko told journalists over the weekend that no final decision regarding the OHR should be expected at the PIC meeting, citing lack of progress and even a reversal of progress in almost all reforms required for OHR closure.
“It is clear that it [PIC] will not be in a situation to discuss a decision about the closing of the OHR,” Inzko said.
A western diplomat told Balkan Insight that the EU remained determined to see the OHR closed by the end of the year. Due to the lack of progress that would allow closure of the OHR, the final decision on this issue is expected at the next PIC meeting in October, the source said.
“Repeated statements by RS [Republika Srpska] leaders questioning the sovereignty of the Bosnia and Herzegovina state and its institutions further complicated the political environment during the reporting period,” read the background material prepared for the PIC meeting, which was obtained by Balkan Insight. Two documents outline meager progress on a few reforms and a complete blockade on all other administrative, legal, political and economic issues in the country.
In yet another sign of growing political deadlock in the country, a meeting of Bosnia’s eight top political leaders, which was supposed to take place on Sunday, was canceled until further notice.
Dodik, Tihic and other local leaders had time to meet with the senior US Congressional delegation, which visited Sarajevo over the weekend, just ahead of the PIC meeting. After hearing conflicting positions and messages from local leaders, the US delegation stressed the need for further constitutional reform as well as continuation of political discussions as the only way forward.