‘People Who Really Matter’ Still Drive West’s Bosnia Policy

Decades on from the end of the Bosnian war, an amoral managerial approach aimed at pacification remains the baseline in international dealings with the country.

On 14 February 1992, Ambassador José Cutileiro chaired a meeting between delegations of six, predominantly non-nationalist, Bosnian opposition parties, all represented in the republic’s parliament but not part of the governing coalition.

According to Zlatko Lagumdzija, the leader of the largest delegation, from the formerly ruling League of Communists, it was clear to everyone that the Portuguese diplomat did not really want to be there – throughout the meeting, he looked “politely bored”. The meeting he’d really been interested in had been the day before, between the leaders of the three nationalist parties – and still nominal coalition partners – Alija Izetbegovic (then-Bosnian President) of the (Bosniak nationalist) Party of Democratic Action, SDA, Radovan Karadzic of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, and Mate Boban of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ.

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