Bosnia’s Logjam

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Series Details Nº143, January 2013
Publication Date 11/01/2013
ISSN 1989-2667
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More than a year after the EU reinforced its institutional presence in Bosnia, progress on the EU reform agenda has been limited and disappointing. A brief period of reform initiated by a new coalition government in early 2012 was undermined when the coalition collapsed and government restructuring ensued. The country has remained in a state of political stagnation. Such institutional paralysis has raised concern among international officials about Bosnia’s ability to survive the withdrawal of the international presence.

Some diplomats have blamed Bosnia’s unique institutional construct and recent political dynamics. However, the international strategy in Bosnia is plagued by significant shortcomings. Differences between the EU and the US have hampered the emergence of a concerted international plan to effectively promote Bosnia’s reform agenda. The joint visit by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton and outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October 2012 marked a significant diplomatic offensive intended to demonstrate EU-US joint support for the Euro-Atlantic agenda.

While this initiative temporarily focused local attention on the reform process, more than high-level public diplomacy will be required to produce tangible and sustainable results. The international presence in Bosnia must be restructured prior to the 2014 election cycle to ensure better coordination and empower the reform process with adequate human, political and economic resources. The EU and the US have been increasingly absorbed by instability in the Middle East and difficult transitions in the Arab world, but the stakes for Bosnia could not be higher.

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