Changes to the Dayton Peace Agreement, which includes Bosnia’s Constitution, are necessary and inevitable, one of those involved in the negotiation process which produced the agreement that ended the war in 1995, Miro Lazovic, told N1 on Tuesday, adding that Bosnia’s politicians do not want such changes because the current system keeps them in power.
Local media recently reported that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Croatia’s Zoran Milanovic spoke about possible changes to the Dayton Agreement, and Lazovic said that this could be “a good thing.”
“If this information is correct, I interpret it by taking into account that the circumstances are such that we in Bosnia are hostages of the Dayton Agreement which to a certain extent is producing instability in the region,” he said.
“Fact is that in recent years there has been a lot of talk of a need to change the Dayton Agreement or to adopt a ‘Dayton 2’ Agreement, especially when it comes to Annexe 4,” he added.
Lazovic explained that it was clear to all those who involved in the negotiation process 25 years ago from the start that no stable and democratic state can come out of such a system.
He said this was also pointed out at the time in conversations with Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who brokered the Agreement.
“He responded, ‘you will have to live like this for 15 years and then the time will come for a change’. We live with it for 25 years already. The Dayton Agreement has turned Bosnia and Herzegovina into a cripple,” Lazovic said, adding that under such a system every ethnic group faces discrimination at least in one party of the country.
According to the Dayton Peace Agreement, the country’s Presidency consists of representatives of Bosnia’s three constituent peoples – the Bosniaks, the Serbs and the Croats. The House of Peoples is also filled with members of only those groups.
In 2009, the European Court for Human Rights ruled in favour of a lawsuit submitted by Dervo Sejdic, a Roma and Jakob Finci, a Jew, who argued that the system does 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 nothing has been done to implement the ruling since then.
The issue also concerns members of the three ‘constituent’ peoples who live in areas of the country dominated by one of the other two majority groups.
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.
Lazovic also commented on statements made by the 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 Agreement and at some point, he changed his mind and his vocabulary,” Lazovic said, adding that US envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, also said a few months ago that Bosnia needs a different constitutional framework.
“That is inevitable,” he said.
The reason why Dodik is opposed to any changes is that “this position suits him and those who are similar to him as it protects their power,” Lazovic argued.
“They are aware that, should the Sejdic-Finci ruling be implementer, the constitutional framework would have to be changed – citizens must be the priority and not ethnic groups,” he said.
Lazovic does not believe that it will come to a new agreement, a ‘Dayton 2’, but that the existing one will rather be amended “on an evolutionary path during the process of Euro-Atlantic integration.”
According to the ruling of the Human Rights Court, the term ‘citizens’ should have already been included in the Constitution, he stressed, adding that there is no chance that Bosnia could become an EU member with its current constitutional framework.
But such a change will hardly happen “without a lot of involvement by the US administration” and “pressure from Brussels,” he said, adding that the Election Law will also have to change.