Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Ranking Minority Member - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our witness and everyone joining us this morning.

Mr. Chairman, our country and this commission have long been involved in Bosnia, one of the keys to the western Balkans. While it is not yet clear how the recent Bosnian election will affect the prospects for Bosnian constitutional reform, the problem of creating a real democracy is Bosnia will remain.

The Dayton Accords were signed 15 years ago. They achieved their purpose in stopping the genocide—they were never meant to do more than this, certainly not to become a permanent constitution. But somehow that has become the question: in deference to Bosnian Serbs, whose military in the mid-1990s forced the creation of ethnic entities through genocidal aggression, will Bosnia continue to be governed by the Dayton Accords or a Dayton-like constitution that provides for so-called “entity-voting”? Or will it become a one-person, one-vote democracy?

Bosnia has reached a fork in the road, and it has been stopped there for several years now. Under Dayton, with its mutual vetoes, neither the Bosnian Serbs, who will accept nothing less than “entity voting”, nor the Bosnian and Croatian advocates of democracy, have the authority to resolve the question.

Mr. Chairman, I believe it is time for our government to exercise real leadership by re-engaging in Bosnia and vigorously promoting the only possible solution: a constitution providing for a one-person, one-vote democracy. It’s not our job to get involved in drafting the constitution, but there should be a democratic constitution, and Bosnian Serbs ought not to be to prevent that in perpetuity. In practice, our policy seems to have been that there can be no movement towards reform unless the Bosnian Serbs agree. This has meant that Dayton continues, and that separatists continue to stir the pot. In Bosnia, time not on the side of democracy.

I am also particularly interested in the development of democracy in Kosovo, where a constitution has already been adopted, but which in some ways outside powers –that is, the US and Europe – may have gone too far in the opposite direction. Whereas in Bosnia, we have not done enough to promote the creation of a democratic constitution, it’s my understanding that western governments and NGOs have been very involved in determining not only the fact but also the precise form of the new government. This is something we certainly ought to watch out for throughout the region – it’s fundamental to democracy that the people to be governed take the lead in creating their government.