Bosnia & Herzegovina: Escaping the Black Hole in Europe

Thursday, March 25, 2010
1219 International Affairs Building

Please join the Harriman Institute for a talk by:

Ambassador Robert L. Barry, Head of OSCE Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1998-2001; US Ambassador to Indonesia, 1992-95; US Ambassador to Bulgaria, 1981-1984.

Ambassador John K. Menzies, Dean, Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University; US Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1996; Chief-of-Mission, US Office in Kosovo, 1999.

Despite massive international intervention over 15 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina may yet become a failed state. Its two entities, the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska are at swords point, with the Serbs and some Croats threatening defection.The economy continues to falter despite large scale foreign aid. Politicians show no concern for interests other than their own continued power and access to the benefits of corruption. The general population, in advance of a general election in 2010, remain apathetic and vulnerable to manipulation by nationalist demagogues.

How did this ambitious nation-building project, begun with the Dayton agreement in 1995 and continuing with an international protectorate still in force 15 years later, end up producing nothing but stalemate? Part of the problem lies with the Dayton agreement itself, which created an unworkable governing structure. Part of the problem lies with the election law, which rewards obstructionism. A major difficulty is the passivity of the population itself, content to rely on the international nannies to rescue them from their own excesses.

Describing this situation is a lot harder than devising remedies. Though US and European envoys have consulted, cajoled and threatened Bosnian political leaders and considered various new approaches, the US and the EU have yet to find a common language. Most EU members see the process of EU access ion as the locomotive which will drag Bosnia into Europe. Other Europeans resist EU expansion. The US would like to see the international protectorate continued and strengthened to prevent collapse of the state and force reform.

Amb. Robert Barry and Amb. John Menzies have devoted years to this dilemma. Ambassador John Menzies was deeply involved in Bosnian relief efforts during the 1992-1995 war and was US Ambassador to Sarajevo and later head of the US Institute of Peace working group on the Balkans. He is currently the Dean of the John C Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. Ambassador Robert Barry was head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina 1998-2001. A 1962 graduate of what is now the Harriman Institute, he specialized in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during his 33 year career in the Foreign Service, which included appointments as Ambassador to Bulgaria and Indonesia