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Return to Jajce and Travnik
Return to Jajce and Travnik
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary

Return to Jajce and Travnik

Croat-controlled Jajce and Bosniac-controlled Travnik are both municipalities to which displaced persons who do not belong to the majority ethnic group have been returning in substantial numbers.

Executive Summary

Croat-controlled Jajce and Bosniac-controlled Travnik are both municipalities to which displaced persons who do not belong to the majority ethnic group have been returning in substantial numbers.  Some 5,000 Bosniacs have returned to Jajce (pre-war population, 44,900) and 2,500 Croats have returned to Travnik (pre-war population, 70,400) since the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) came into force.  These 7,500 “minority returns” constitute nearly 20 per cent of  the total estimated 40,000 minority returns throughout the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia), although the combined current populations of Jajce and Travnik (less than 75,000) account for less than 3 percent of the Federation’s current population. These two municipalities in the Middle Bosnia Canton thus may be considered successful examples of minority return, if not yet reintegration.  Nevertheless, at different times and to varying degrees, the authorities in Jajce and Travnik have obstructed return movements.

In both municipalities, as throughout the Middle Bosnia Canton, politics is dominated by the nationalist parties, the Croat HDZ (which has a narrow majority in the Jajce municipal council) and the Bosniac SDA (which has a large majority in the Travnik municipal council). 

To date the return process has taken a number of different forms: pilot projects, a negotiated cantonal return plan, and movements led by displaced persons themselves, so-called spontaneous returns.  Both pilot projects -- which were agreed at Dayton in 1995 -- were fulfilled early in 1996 as some 200 Bosniac families returned to Jajce and 300 Croat families returned to Travnik (200 more than mandated by the pilot project).

Orchestrated violence greeted hundreds of Bosniacs who sought to return to Jajce in August 1997.  The combination of high-level and immediate political intervention, active steps by the Nato-led forces to re-establish a secure environment, and a prompt and thorough investigation by the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) succeeded in restarting the return process.  IPTF’s investigation found that the demonstrations had been directed by the local HDZ party, and led to the removal of the Jajce police chief.  However, the leaders who masterminded the violence remain in power today.

Following the August 1997 violence, the late Deputy High Representative Gerd Wagner brokered agreements with all 11 municipalities in the Middle Bosnia Canton to kick-start minority return. Though valuable as an expression of political intent, the resulting Cantonal Return Plan has suffered from slow donor response and failure to make any provision for Serb returns.  Displaced persons who seek to return continue to face obstructionism, albeit less blatant than in 1996 and 1997.

In Jajce the municipal authorities have registered only 700 returnees, leaving the majority in limbo, without status or entitlement to benefits such as health care.  While Bosniac officials have recently begun to work in the municipal offices, they have not been given substantive work and the municipal authorities have clearly failed to make the atmosphere conducive to non-Croats.  Symbols of the Croat Republic of Herceg-Bosna, declared illegal in various agreements signed by HDZ authorities, are everywhere and the local HDZ headquarters is situated in the municipality building. 

HDZ officials continually cite Travnik as an illustration of intolerance towards Croats.  This is a result of a string of violent incidents there, including murders, in the late summer and autumn of 1997.  Despite high-level attention and IPTF support, the murder investigation has failed to yield any suspects.  That said, most international officials in Travnik doubt that the murders were ethnically-motivated. Since September 1997, Croat and Bosniac police have patrolled together wearing the same uniforms.  However, separate, informal chains of command continue to undermine the operations of a genuine joint police. The HDZ’s proposed solution for Travnik is to restructure the municipality along ethnic lines, replicating the division of Mostar into six municipalities, three with a Croat majority and three with a Bosniac majority.

In both Jajce and Travnik parallel municipal institutions remain in place and education is segregated.  In both, double-occupancy (the occupancy of two or more homes by a family unit which pre-war occupied only one home) is a widespread problem, and non-governmental organisations and international agencies have failed to monitor let alone systematically address the problem. The Cantonal Interior Ministry remains divided with separate Bosniac and Croat offices.

Jajce has received approximately 7 million DM  and Travnik 8 million DM in housing reconstruction aid.  This is considerably less than similar municipalities elsewhere where there have been fewer returns.  Aid to returnees in Jajce has been restricted owing to the uncooperative attitude of the municipal authorities, yet donors should be able to target their assistance so as to support return without strengthening the authorities.

The report ends with three pages of recommendations which, if implemented, could help ease reintegration of minority communities and facilitate further returns.

Sarajevo, 3 June 1998

Report 232 / Europe & Central Asia

Bosnia’s Future

While the physical scars of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war have healed, political agony and ethnic tension persist. Real peace requires a new constitution and bottom-up political change.

Executive Summary

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH, or Bosnia) poses little risk of deadly conflict, but after billions of dollars in foreign aid and intrusive international administration and despite a supportive European neighbourhood, it is slowly spiralling toward disintegration. Its three communities’ conflicting goals and interests are a permanent source of crisis, exacerbated by a constitution that meets no group’s needs. The political elite enjoys mastery over all government levels and much of the economy, with no practical way for voters to dislodge it. The European Union (EU) imposes tasks BiH cannot fulfil. A countrywide popular uprising torched government buildings and demanded urgent reforms in February 2014, but possible solutions are not politically feasible; those that might be politically feasible seem unlikely to work. Bosnia’s leaders, with international support, must begin an urgent search for a new constitutional foundation.

The international project to rebuild Bosnia has had success: war’s physical scars are largely gone, and the country is peaceful. The political agonies, however, show the intervention’s limits. Years of well-intentioned reforms, imposed or urged, have left a governing structure leaders circumvent, ignore or despise. May’s floods left scores dead and thousands homeless, exposing the price of poor governance. With growing frequency, Bosnians ask the questions that preceded the 1992-1995 war: shall it be one country, two, or even three; if one country, shall it have one, two or three constituent entities, and how shall it be governed?

The heart of the problem is in Annex 4 to the Dayton Peace Agreement, known as the constitution (and in several changes imposed by courts and international officials). It defines BiH as a state of two entities, in effect but not explicitly federal, but also the state of three constituent peoples (Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs), and yet, simultaneously, of all citizens. A suffocating layer of ethnic quotas has been added, providing sinecures for officials increasingly remote from the communities they represent. The tensions created by constitutional schizophrenia are pushing BiH to the breaking point. A new design is needed: a normal federation, territorially defined, without a special role for constituent peoples, but responsive to the interests of its three communities and the rights of all citizens.

The state administration’s need to reform is made acute by a 2009 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that in effect requires BiH to change the ethnicity-based way it chooses its chief executive and part of its legislature. Existing proposals try to squeeze the constituent peoples into an ostensibly ethnicity-blind structure on top of which a complicated network of indirect elections would allow party leaders to choose the executive with as little democratic input as possible. The EU and the outside world support this tinkering with Dayton to satisfy the decision, though such proposals have manifestly failed. Bosnians need to rebuild their political structure from the bottom up.

There is no consensus on where to start, but Bosnia may have to break from its political system based on constituent peoples and their rights. Crisis Group has not reached this conclusion lightly. It reflects long experience and observation that no one has been able to frame a broadly attractive vision on the existing flawed basis. With stresses and frustrations accumulating in all communities, Bosnia must conceive new foundations to survive. Agreement may take years and much experimentation and debate, but the search should begin.

BiH is home to three political communities: those primarily loyal to the Bosnian state, usually but not always Bosniaks; those loyal to Republika Srpska (RS), usually Serbs; and those desirous of Croat self-government, usually Croats. Giving the Croats what they want, their own entity to make a three-entity Bosnia, is absolutely rejected by Bosniaks. Building virtual representative units for the three communities, possibly with new emphasis on municipalities as basic building blocks, is intellectually plausible but requires a leap of faith few seem ready to take. A purely civic state is inconceivable to Serbs and Croats.

Neither leaders nor civil society have deeply explored alternatives to three constituent peoples in two entities; any consensus would take time. Nevertheless, the goal should be clear. The head of state should reflect Bosnia’s diversity, something a collective does better than an individual. The same body could be the executive government. Some decisions should require consensus, others a majority. All three communities should be represented, not necessarily in equal numbers. There should be no ethnic quotas; representation should reflect self-defined regions and all their voters. Poorly performing, unnecessary state agencies and ministries should be slimmed or abolished, with powers reverting to the entities; but the state would need new ministries and agencies required for EU membership. The ten cantons in the larger of BiH’s two entities, the Federation (FBiH), are an underperforming, superfluous layer. They could be abolished, their powers divided between the municipalities and the entity government.

Political culture is part of the problem; an informal “Sextet” of party leaders in effect controls government and much of the economy. A multi-ethnic coalition persists, election to election, with only minor adjustments. Membership is earned by winning opaque intra-party competitions in which voters have little say. Change in this system can only come from within: Bosnians should join parties and participate in genuine leadership contests. Sextet power is further buttressed by control of hiring, investment and commercial decisions at state-owned firms, a situation that chokes private investment and growth.

Bosnia is unimaginable without the work of international officials who did much to shape political institutions and implement peace, but the international community has become more obstacle than help. BiH is trapped in a cycle of poorly thought-out, internationally-imposed tasks designed to show leaders’ readiness to take responsibility but that put that moment forever out of reach. The only way to encourage leaders to take responsibility is to treat the country normally, without extraneous tests or High Representatives. The EU could signal a new start by stating it will receive a membership application – the first of many steps on the long accession road. It should then be an engaged, not over-didactic partner in Bosnia’s search for a way to disentangle the constitutional knot.