Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Report 52 / Europe & Central Asia

To Build a Peace

Three years after the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia), the country has many of the trappings usually associated with statehood such as a common flag, currency, vehicle licence plate and passport.

Executive Summary

Three years after the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia), the country has many of the trappings usually associated with statehood such as a common flag, currency, vehicle licence plate and passport.  However, these and other breakthroughs have generally required disproportionate amounts of time and effort on the part of the international community and have all too often been rammed through in spite of Bosnia’s domestic institutions.  Despite visible progress towards many of the goals contained within the DPA, therefore, Bosnia’s peace still gives the impression that it is built on shifting sands.  Moreover, although critical to the peace process, the scale of the international presence, which increasingly resembles a protectorate, is in some ways counter-productive to Bosnia’s long-term future.  On the one hand, domestic institutions and politicians have to a large extent given up responsibility for governing their own country.  On the other, the massive international stake has led key international players to declare the peace process a success, irrespective of how it is actually evolving.  The international presence is also extremely expensive, costing some $9 billion a year.

When Richard Holbrooke, the principal architect of the Bosnian peace, wrote his account of the circumstances and negotiations leading to the DPA, he called it To End a War.  The war that he wrote about has clearly ended.  Now, however, it is time to build a peace, and to achieve that the process has to become self-sustaining.  To coincide with the forthcoming Peace Implementation Council (PIC) meeting in Madrid on 15 and 16 December 1998, the International Crisis Group (ICG) presents a series of recommendations aimed at achieving a self-sustaining peace process.  The paper examines the background to this year’s PIC meeting; it considers priorities for the year ahead; and it proposes measures to boost efficiency and transparency in the international community’s operations.  Recommendations are indicated in italics.

Sarajevo, 15 December 1998

Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec about the precarious situation in the Western Balkans, as Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the frozen Kosovo-Serbia dispute continue to stoke regional instability.

The Western Balkans, a region defined in part by not being in the European Union, also contains several countries that were devastated by war in the 1990s. Now it faces new troubles, driven in part by the legacies of the old. Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronted with calls for secession in the autonomous Serb-dominated region, Republika Srpska, as well as the ongoing electoral grievances of its Croat minority. Meanwhile, efforts to resolve Kosovo’s dispute with Serbia over its independence have come to a standstill, leaving minority communities on both sides of the border vulnerable.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Consulting Senior Analyst for the Balkans, about why ethnic tensions persist in the region and whether there is any risk of a return to conflict. They discuss the prospects for European integration, asking whether the promise of EU membership remains an effective incentive for resolving these longstanding disputes. They also consider what impact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had for stability in the Western Balkans, a region where painful memories of war are still very salient today.



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For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, make sure to check out our Balkans regional page and keep an eye out for our upcoming report on the risk of instability in the Western Balkans.

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