The United States yesterday predicted a bleak future for Bosnia-Herzegovina if it does not change its constitution to “modernize” the decade-old Dayton Accords that ended the war in the former Yugoslav republic.
R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, called on Bosnia “to create a single presidency from the three men who hold the office now, a strong prime minister and a more effective parliament.”
Failure to do so “will mean there is no horizon for the country, that there is no chance for them to join the European Union,” Mr. Burns said at a U.S. Institute of Peace event held on the Dayton agreement’s 10th anniversary.
“Bosnia can’t remain a fractured state and think it can take its place in Europe,” he said.
The accords, named for the Ohio city where they were negotiated and signed in 1995 by the Clinton administration, “established a state with internal divisions,” Mr. Burns said.
“Ten years later, these internal walls must be torn down,” he said. “The country’s people — Croats, Serbs and Muslims — must be allowed to mix, to integrate, as differing people do in other multiethnic states all across the globe.”
Mr. Burns, the State Department’s highest-ranking career diplomat, took part in the Dayton process as the department’s spokesman at the time.
The agreement, negotiated chiefly by Richard C. Holbrooke, ended a conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives and drove more than 2 million people from their homes.
It created two political entities — a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation — with a three-person rotating presidency.
“Dayton marked the great turn from war to peace for the people of the Balkans and a seminal moment in American diplomacy,” Mr. Burns said. “It was followed by a decade of peacekeeping that kept the guns silent.”
But the “accords need to be modernized,” he said. “Bosnia needs to create new national institutions that can chart a new future for the country.”
Mr. Holbrooke, who also took part in yesterday’s event, echoed Mr. Burns’ call for urgent reforms.
“I need to tell you, frankly, that by defending the Dayton agreements in their present form you are essentially trying to prevent progress,” he told Bosnian Serb leaders at the event.
“You must help improve Dayton,” he said. “Republika Srpska needs to realize once and for all that it is part of a single country called Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
The EU announced yesterday it would open negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia on Friday, with the ultimate goal of membership in the 25-member union.
Mr. Burns said that the country joining the EU and NATO “is essential for its people to prosper and thrive.”
But he warned that Bosnia will not be fully accepted by the international community until indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are brought before The Hague tribunal, which is also trying former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
“We will not support Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia-Montenegro for membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace [program] until this problem is resolved,” Mr. Burns said.