Changes to the Dayton Peace Agreement are Inevitable

Changes to the Dayton Peace Accords, which include Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution, are necessary and inevitable, Miro Lazovic, a participant in the negotiation process that led to the end of the 1995 war, told TV N1 on 21.01. He added that politicians in Bosnia do not want such changes because the current system holds them in power.

TV N1 Question: Local media recently reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Croatia’s Zoran Milanovic have spoken about possible changes to the Dayton Agreement!

Lazovic: This can be a”good thing”. “If this information is correct, I interpret it, considering that the circumstances are such that we in BiH are hostages to the Dayton Agreement, which to a certain extent creates instability in the region.”

“The fact is, in recent years, much has been said about the need to change the Dayton Agreement or to adopt a ‘Dayton 2’ Agreement, especially in regard to Annex 4.”

Lazovic explained that it was clear to everyone involved in the negotiation process 25 years ago that no stable and democratic country could emerge from such a system. He added that this was also mentioned during talks with Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who brokered the Agreement.

“He (Holbrooke) replied, ‘… you have to live like that for 15 years and then the time will come for a change’.”

“We’ve been living with it for 25 years. The Dayton Agreement has turned Bosnia and Herzegovina into a cripple”, Lazovic said, adding that under such a political system, each ethnic group faces discrimination in at least one of the country’s entities.

According to the Dayton Peace Agreement, the country’s Presidency consists of representatives of Bosnia’s three constituent peoples – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The House of Peoples is also filled with members of these groups only.

In 2009, the European Court for Human Rights ruled in favor of a lawsuit submitted by Dervo Sejdic, a Roma and Jakob Finci, a Jew, who said the system did not allow them to run for president or member of the upper house of the parliament because of their ethnicity.

The court ordered the country to remove this discrimination from its constitution, but since then nothing has been done to implement the ruling.

The issue also concerns members of the three constituent peoples who live in areas of the country dominated by one of the other two groups or peoples.

Bosniaks and Croats living in the Serb-dominated part of the country, Republika Srpska (RS), cannot run for president or upper house lawmaker either and neither can Serbs from the Federation (FBiH), which is the other half of the country mostly populated by the other two groups (Bosniaks and Croats).

Lazovic also commented on statements by Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, who rejected any possibility of changing the Dayton Agreement.

“I remember a time when Dodik was against the Dayton Accords and at one point he changed his mind and vocabulary”, Lazovic said, adding that US envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, also said a few months ago that BiH needed a different constitutional framework.

“This is inevitable”, Palmer said.

The reason Dodik opposes any change is that “this position is appropriate for him and for those who are similar to him as it protects their power”, Lazovic argued.

“They are aware that if the Sejdić-Finci ruling is implemented, the constitutional framework must be changed – citizens should be a priority, not ethnic groups”, he said.

Lazovic does not believe that a new agreement will be reached, a ‘Dayton 2’, but that the existing one will rather be modified” on an evolutionary path during the Euro-Atlantic integration process”.

According to the ruling of the Human Rights Court, the term “citizens” should have already been included in the Constitution, he stressed, adding that BiH has no chance of becoming an EU member with its current constitutional framework.

But such a change is unlikely to happen “without the strong involvement of the US administration” and “pressure from Brussels”, he said, adding that Election Law would also have to change.

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