Feature 24 May 12

Spadijer:'Dayton Was The Best Possible Solution'

The possible expansion of the competences of the Bosnia and Herzegovina state might undermine all three entities, says one of the creators of the Dayton Agreement, which established modern Bosnia.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Leaders signing the Dayton Agreement I Photo by Wikicommons

Balsa Spadijer, former head of the Serbian Constitutional Court and advisor to the Serbian delegation that negotiated the Dayton Peace Agreement, and now retired university professor, seventeen years after the signing of the Agreement says it was the best possible solution at the time, but that none of the sides were satisfied with the agreement accomplished.

“The Serbian's initial idea was that future Bosnia had two entities – Serbian for 51 % of the territory and Bosnian for 46%. However, the Bosniaks, with support form the US, opposed the plan finding it unacceptable. It was their belief this would lead to the division of Bosnia,” says Spadijer.

The urgent need for a peace agreement amidst the horrors of the Balkan wars was recognized by the Contact Group, who has been following the events in the Balkans since the early 1990s.  The group was composed by “influential” countries such as the United States, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia.

Key principles of the Dayton Agreement:

The Dayton Peace Agreement, DPA, comprises 11 annexes covering the military, political and civilian aspects of the peace settlement, as well as those of regional stabilisation.

The Agreement created Bosnia as a sovereign state composed of two largely autonomous entities -- a Muslim-Croat federation, called the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and a slightly smaller Bosnian Serb-run entity, called Republika Srpska.

The DPA obliged Bosnia, Croatia and then Yugoslavia to fully respect each other's sovereign equality and to settle disputes by peaceful means. By signing the Accords, the parties undertook the commitment to respect human rights and the rights of refugees and displaced persons. They further agreed to co-operate fully with all relevant entities and organisations in implementing the peace settlement and investigating and prosecuting war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law.

 A day after the formal signing of the DPA in Paris, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1031, giving NATO the mandate to implement the military aspects of the Agreement. On 20 December 1995, a 60,000-strong NATO-led multinational force, called the Implementation Force, IFOR, was deployed in Bosnia. IFOR, which was given a one-year mandate, was replaced in December 1996 by a Stabilisation Force (SFOR). Initially numbering around 32,000, SFOR was downsized over time to about 7,000 troops. In December 2004 the mission to implement the military aspects passed to a European Union-led force, EUFOR.

The implementation of the civilian aspects of the DPA was assigned to the Office of the High Representative. Operating under the UN Security Council mandate, the High Representative serves as the international community's top envoy in Bosnia and has overarching powers, including the authority to fire officials and enact laws. His tasks include facilitating and co-ordinating the activities of the organisations and agencies involved in the civilian aspects of the peace settlement.

 

Spadijer recalls that the aim of the Crisis Group was to avoid NATO military action, noting that not  only western countries wanted to end the war, but also Balkan countries, especially Serbia, who was facing the enormous economic difficulties caused by sanctions.

“Serbia wanted to withdraw from war with this agreement. The money was missing, the sanctions were still in place, the economy had collapsed, so Milosevic wanted to put a full stop on the events in Bosnia,” he explains.

“But Milosevic could not control the situation in the town of Pale, the informal capital of the Bosnian Serbs during the war. The US knew about this situation, and therefore requested that Radovan Karadzic [self-declared president of Republika Srpska ] was left out of the negotiations,” Spadijer added.

The participants of the Dayton conference, which lasted for twenty days, were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who was representing the Bosnian Serb side as well, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey.

From the international side, the peace conference was led by the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, and negotiator Richard Holbrooke with two Co-Chairmen - EU Special Representative Carl Bildt and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov.

“When we arrived in Dayton, we saw that this was the play run by the US, and that their word would be final. So Serbia needed to reduce its demands, in order to preserve the Serbian entity,” Spadijer said.

“We had one demand from which we did not want to retreat and that is that each side must have a right of veto on the decisions of the future state. I was strongly advocating that all decisions should be made jointly,” he explains.

Bosnia and Herzegovina before the signing of the Dayton Agreement I Photo by Wikicommons 

After the agreement had been reached, the Bosnian Serb leaders claimed it was imposed and unfair to the Serbs, which later deepened the already existing divisions between the leaders in Banja Luka and Belgrade. 

Ratko Mladic, former general of the Bosnian Serb army, now accused of genocide by the ICTY, almost cried.

However, professor Spadijer believes that the Serbs got enough, adding that the requests from the Bosnian Serbs were at the time unrealistic.

“We should not forget the fact that the Bosnian army was very near the current capital of the Bosnian Serb entity, Banja Luka, just before the Dayton negotiations started, and if the negotiation had not occurred the town would have fallen into Bosniaks hands,” he explains.

Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Dayton Agreement I Photo by Wikicommons

Even though Milosevic believed that the sanctions would be lifted following the Agreement, they were just partially suspended.

Spadijer believes that Milosevic's position in the international community was favourable back in 1995, and that if he had played smart he could have prevented the secession of Kosovo.

“I warned him that the nationalistic and exclusionary policy towards Albanians would not be possible on a long term basis and that it should be changed, but he was persistent in his politics of leaving Albanians out of the picture. And for this, he got a wider support of Kosovo Serbs.”

“Then everything got out of control, and Serbia faced conflict again,” Spadijer said.

The Dayton Agreement has been often criticized because it created weak central institutions and dependence on international governance. The critics of the DPA describe Bosnia as a country that is still not a functioning state, unsustainable in the long run.  

However for Spadijer, at the time it was reached, the Dayton Peace Agreement was a success.

“It achieved the immediate aim of halting the bloodshed in Bosnia and re-established peace,” he concludes.

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