Europe takes a turn

Sead Numanovic of the Bosnian daily Avaz yesterday asked some questions about the visit of Foreign Ministers Hammond (UK) and Steinmeier (Germany) to Sarajevo to press implementation of their initiative to hasten reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I replied:

1. What do you think on Hammond-Steinmeier initiative on Bosnia? What is good, what is bad in it?

A: I think it is good the Europeans are showing interest. But I have doubts an initiative that ignores the defects of the Bosnian constitution will succeed in generating serious reforms. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong though.

2. Is there a willingness among Bosnia’s politicians for reforms?

A: In theory yes. In practice, it depends on which ones. They dislike proposals that weaken their own hold on power and patronage. But only by doing that, in particular with respect to state-controlled companies, can Bosnia begin to function more effectively.

3. Is the request from EU for reform through this initiative modest or far reaching one?

It seems to me modest in conception. Brussels is trying to make these initial steps easy, in order to get Bosnia into the EU accession process faster. It did something similar for Serbia. I wish it would do it for Macedonia, which truly deserves it.

4. What does the US think about the initiative (I was told US are not so happy about it)?

A: I think well-informed Americans would have preferred something more far-reaching, including amendment of the constitution to reduce ethnic vetoes and clarify the central government’s authority to negotiate and implement the acquis communitaire. The Americans are more pro-European than the Europeans, at least right now.

5. Is an idea to reform economy and social sector, without at this stage touching constitutional issues, a wise one?

A: Let’s wait and see. Those of us who have wanted constitutional changes haven’t produced brilliant results. Let someone else try a new trick.

6. What if this initiative fails?

A: I suppose someone will propose something else. Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina is falling well behind in the regatta to join the EU. That is unfortunate, but its citizens need to find a way to take the helm and get the politicians to row harder.

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