The Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina strongly condemns the frequent demands that the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopt the package of constitutional amendments that were rejected in April of this year. Renewed attempts to impose amendments that are designed to cement and strengthen ethno-territorial divisions threaten the stability and democratic future of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. This strategy negates the democratic will of the majority of the Bosnian people, as well as the clear instructions of the Council of Europe for the immediate elimination of entity-based voting and the adoption of a new constitution – based on European principles of functionality and democracy – by 2010.
Expert legal analyses and opinions clearly demonstrate that the proposed amendments replace the faulty Dayton arrangements with catastrophic options. If these amendments are adopted, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be further weakened and the supremacy of the entities, particularly Republika Srpska (RS), over the State will be greatly enhanced. The amendments’ most dire and retrograde provision mandates the dissolution of
Parliament whenever the House of Representatives fails to elect the Presidency or the Prime Minister after three rounds of voting. This would leave Bosnia and Herzegovina with no State-level legislative or executive powers whatsoever, and all powers would be in the hands of the entities. Due to entity-based voting, only a handful of deputies coming from RS, constituting only twenty-three percent of the House, would thus be able to effect a complete absence of legislative and executive authority on the State level.
Therefore, Bosnia and Hezregovina must follow the mandate of the Council of Europe and begin the constitutional reform process through the elimination of entity-based voting. Such a step would ensure the immediate and speedy economic and social recovery of the country for the benefit of all its peoples. This, in turn, would create the necessary conditions for the adoption of a completely new and modern constitution. Entity-based voting serves exclusively as a weapon for blockade whenever only 23 percent of deputies want to impose their will on the other 77 percent. Hence,
arguments that entity-based voting is a guarantee against domination are patently false. All mechanisms for the protection of vital national interests would be completely preserved, and there would be no possibility for domination over any of Bosnia’s national groups.
It is imperative that all Bosnian political forces, as well as representatives of the international community, approach the process of constitutional reform in a constructive manner, and exclusively with the best interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina in mind. The continued attempts to impose, at any cost, flawed and dangerous constitutional amendments only direct attention away from real problems and dangers, especially considering the fact that the promised “second phase” of reform envisions the establishment of federal units within Bosnia and Herzegovina, creating additional international legal uncertainties for the country.
Factors that are external to Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot create a precedent for Bosnia, but such factors also must not curtail the necessary breadth and scope of reforms in Bosnia, or serve as obstacles to fully modern and democratic constitutional arrangements. A strategy that seeks to create more favorable conditions for the planned resolution of Kosovo’s status by imposing upon Bosnia and Herzegovina amendments
that satisfy the demands of RS and Serbia is not only dire for Bosnia, but is also highly misguided, as history demonstrates that concessions to Serbia’s nationalists on one front never lead to positive results on any other front.
Finally, the rejected package of amendments completely fails to demonstrate any usefulness of a phased approach to constitutional reform, considering that it does not contain concrete guarantees, is not based on democratic principles and European standards, and does not envision a timeframe for the adoption of meaningful reforms. At the same time, this package creates a potent mechanism for a complete and prolonged
extinction of Bosnia’s central government by RS deputies, with no available recourse for ending such a blockade. Not only do these shortcomings and risks condition all future reform upon the good will of the RS political elite, but they also place the fate of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entire legislative and executive system of government into the hands of that elite.
The Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina therefore strongly appeals to all relevant domestic and international forces to concentrate their efforts toward constitutional reforms based on the provisions of Resolution 1513 of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly: Immediate elimination of entity-based voting and adoption of a completely new constitution by 2010 that will 1) replace the ethnic representation mechanisms by those of civic representation; 2) employ efficient and rational decision-making procedures to the principle of involving all constituent peoples; and 3) re-examine the territorial organization of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including its division into entities.