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Backsliding in Bosnia

Marko Prelec and Sabine Freizer (Washington, DC--16 Apr 2009)
Marko Prelec and Sabine Freizer (Washington, DC--16 Apr 2009)
(WASHINGTON, D.C) Fourteen years after the Dayton Peace Agreement, Bosnia-Herzegovina remains sharply divided along ethnic lines and is in danger of collapse. In a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington, DC office, two experts from the International Crisis Group (ICG) and one of RFE/RL's top Balkan journalists discussed the international community's role in solving the conflict.

Nenad Pejic, who spent 20 years at Sarajevo TV before joining RFE/RL, believes a long-term solution to Bosnia's ethnic divide "must be imposed from the outside."

"If the Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina could build a successful nation together, why haven't they done so in the past 15 years?" he asked via videoconference from Prague. "There are only two powers that can affect change - Europe and the U.S. Unfortunately, the EU can't agree on a common approach and the U.S. is too busy, which leaves Russia and the Muslim world, particularly Iran, free to fill the gap."

However, Marko Prelec, a Sarajevo-based Senior Analyst with ICG, said a solution forced upon Bosnia from the outside would be "dangerous" and flatly rejected by all three ethnic groups.

"Finding solutions themselves is the only way forward," he said. "Bosnians holding out for an American rescue plan would have no incentive for compromise. If they think the US will come in and do the work for them, the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs are very unlikely to negotiate their differences amongst themselves."

Prelec's colleague, Sabine Freizer, who is ICG's Europe Program Director, agreed, noting that, "At the time of Dayton, there were 60,000 NATO forces on the ground to enforce the terms of the agreement."

"With less than 2,000 NATO troops in the region now, who is going to enforce an imposed solution this time?" she asked. Instead, Freizer said she believes Europe should take the lead and develop a strong policy based on using EU accession as an incentive for Bosnians to work things out.

"As their neigbors move toward Brussels, Bosnia-Herzegovina won't want to be left behind," she said.


--The ICG's latest report: Bosnia's Incomplete Transition: Between Dayton and Europe (March 9, 2009).

About RFE/RL's Balkan Service
RFE/RL launched its first broadcasts to the Balkans in 1994, in the midst of war, with the goal of bringing objective, uncensored news and information to the former Yugoslavia. With more than 150 journalists working out of six countries, the Balkans service established itself as one of the most trusted sources of news in the region. In 1999, a survey conducted by a Belgrade newspaper found that RFE/RL was the most listened-to international broadcaster in Serbia during the NATO bombing campaign.

The Balkan Service is ormally known as the South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and broadcasts in five languages to six countries - Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Croatia. It has five bureaus, 188 affiliate stations, and broadcasts seven hours a day on radio, television, satellite radio, and the Internet (,,