EU’s Sarajevo

I recently attended an academic colloquia on international development issues. Someone presented an interesting study on the failure of EU development policy on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here is some of the highlights in her research:

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has become an independent country on the 22nd of May 1992. In the first few years of its independency BiH was at war with Serbia and Croatia until the end of 1995. The war ended when the ‘General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ was signed. This agreement is often referred to as the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) for it was signed in the United States nearby the city Dayton. Peace negotiations were initiated and coordinated by the foreign intervening countries that tried to stop the war. In the DPA the structure and organisation of the country was designed and the ad hoc international institution the ‘Office of the High Representative (OHR) has been authorized to monitor and enforce the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA).

In Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided between two Entities and a district. The two Entities are the Republica Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH). The district is located in the North-East corner of BiH and is called the Brčko district. In the DPA the governing competences were distributed to the Entities and the central State government. Both Entities were assigned the same competences. The competences of the State government concern justice, law enforcement, foreign affairs, finance, asylum, refugees, immigration, air traffic control, common communication facilities and inter-Entity transportation. The Entities are in possession of the remaining competences like agriculture, education, health services and others. Brčko has become a separate area for the warring parties could not agree on who would get Brčko district, therefore the area was not divided between the Entities but instead was placed under supervision of a Deputy High Representative of the international community. The district has its own local government and the Deputy High Representative oversees the implementation of Dayton in Brčko area. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) is again divided over ten cantons that have their own governments and constitutions.

Present day BiH is two de-facto separated regimes. Multi-culturalism has absolutely no chance to survive in a country where things are working according to the clannish rules. Bribery is a common and widely recognized practice in the BiH politics. Mistrust among different ethnic groups, even among different clans are so evident that the chance of cooperation on a common development goal is virtually equivalent to the chance of reaching absolute zero temperature there. Therefore, in order to revive local society and economic activities, one must devise a unique plan that could well fit into this peculiar condition of BiH society. A total separation that could split different ethnic groups in different territories independently could probably work the best for the local people there. Unfortunately EU failed to recognize this power-war complex emergency situation and holds the black-white wishful thinking – that is, when the war is over there is only development right away. EU’s liberalism ignores the complex reality in BiH and pose a “make-up fantasy” in its development policy towards BiH, that is focusing on the build-up of multi-culturalism and democratic diverse society in BiH. At the same time, EU bureaucrats refer to the corruption and patronage patterns in BiH as a mere reflection of barbarism and ignorantly impose the policy based on the template of the western society. EU’s presence in BiH therefore in some sense is doomed from the very beginning.

In the integration discourse of the EU the complex emergency is not examined nor dealt with. The EU does not look into the causes, functions and roots of the problems in the Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reasons for this neglect are found in the neoliberal assumption in the integration discourse of the EU and in the possible advantages of selectively overlooking information. It could be that the EU does not want to reveal the complex emergency for this information might affect the image of the EU and of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When information about the situation selectively chosen, these consequences might be prevented. Another reason concerns the neoliberal fundaments in the integration discourse of the EU. In the neoliberal thinking development can only occur through economic and political liberalization. In the neoliberal reasoning the situation in which one intervenes is perceived to be a blank slate, because the context does not affect the outcome of the neoliberal interventions. These assumptions lead to the make-over fantasy which is also found in the integration strategies of the EU. The make-over fantasy falsely assumes that external structures and models can be implemented in a different context without addressing complex emergency. Applying the make-over fantasy limits the success of intervention and provides an explanation why the results of the EU integration process are hampered.