Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Selim Beslagic
Mayor - Tuzla

Print


Through the ages Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a multiethnic society. People lived together, not one group
against others. Bosnia has never been composed of two or three uni-national parts. The religious monuments of
the four great confessions stood side by side, and for centuries this did not bother anyone.


There has never been a war in BiH caused by internal factors. The First and Second World Wars came from the
outside.


The experience of World War II shows that BiH, in comparison to the rest of the former Yugoslav republics, was
the strongest bulwark of antifascist and anti-nationalist sentiment. Of the seven offensives that Hitler launched in
Yugoslavia, six took place in BiH. And in all six the united forces of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian peoples
triumphed.


Bosnia and Herzegovina contributed least to the fall of Yugoslavia.


And the most recent war was imported from outside BiH. It was all thought up in the circles surrounding
Milosevic and Tudjman. The believers in two opposing great power concepts found common cause at the
expense of BiH. From the beginning they wanted to divide BiH into a Serbian Republic and Herzeg-Bosna. For
the Bosniaks, they proposed leaving the land immediately around Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla, as well as the
isolated enclave around Bihac.


As they always have, the peoples of BiH could live together even today. It is a little-known fact that during World
War II the Bosnian and Herzegovinian peoples suffered a far worse blood-letting than has occurred in this war.
There were massive expulsions along ethnic lines and a drastic violations of human rights. And what happened?
By means of historic circumstances, in the former Yugoslavia national chauvinism was declared to be the
equivalent of illegality, and a violation of human rights and freedom. Anti-nationalism was placed on the pedestal
of patriotism. In that political configuration, there was a strong reaffirmation of the value of unified life and for the
enthronement of compromise as the best path for both the individual and the collective.


The Dayton Accords were a wonderful means to stop the war. In the intervening years much has happened. But
as much as the Dayton Accords were effective against the war, they have been problematic for the further
development and reintegration of BiH. Why?


The Dayton accords, as is well known, respected the results of ethnic cleansing. As ambassador Viktor Jakovic
once said, Serbia conducted an invasion of BiH. To understand this point fully, it is sufficient to take a look at the
national composition of the cities that are now part of the Republika Srpska. Karadzic's SDS won the most recent
local elections because in their campaign they insisted that they had achieved the goals they had outlined in 1991.
In many respects this is precisely the case. The Dayton Accords insisted on a strange and almost unbelievable
combination of one Federation and one Republic, which is officially called the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Those two entities have two completely different legal systems. But the fact that Bosniaks and Croatians form a
minority in the Republika Srpska and that Serbs form a minority in the Federation proves that no single nation is
fully represented in its territory.


This legal situation is to the liking of the nationalists who have still not given up on the idea of dismembering BiH.
BiH should be a treasure house of differences, but today's situation has turned it into a house of horrors.


In the meantime, however, Tudjman's forces have suffered a definitive defeat. Croatia is no longer a factor for
disintegration, but has become a strong factor for the reintegration of BiH. Milosevic, the one-time signer of the
Dayton Accords, has now definitively been declared outside the law, and Serbia is in the midst of a terrible crisis.
The only hope for the nationalists is for obstruction backed up by the Dayton Accords.


It is extremely important that the Croatians have turned their backs on the HDZ. This invitation has been taken up
by the Bosniaks in BiH. In those areas with a Bosniak majority, the SDA has been defeated. Thus, Bosniaks are
also turning their back on the ethno-national option. One can expect to see a similar development among the
Serbs and Croatians of BiH. The Social Democratic Party, as the strongest opposition party in BiH as a whole
now controls some twenty communities. They need economic help to speed the return of refugees and to build
new administrations; this would show that democratic change brings concrete rewards. One third of the votes for
the Social Democratic party came from non-Bosniaks in the last elections. This indicates that Serbs and Croats
have begun to turn away from the nationalist option. In 1996 the SDP garnered 3% of the vote, in 1998, 11% and
in 2000, 20%. The November elections will be a great opportunity for the SDP and for civil society.


The defeat of the HDZ in local elections opens the door for a similar defeat of nationalism in the Republika
Srpska. Everything would be much easier if a single legal system governed Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with a
respect for decentralization. This would lead to the abolition of the two entities and to the cantonization of the
entire territory of BiH on the lines of what has already occurred inside the Federation.


Eventual changes in the legal system of BiH should be carried out with an eye toward integration, harmonization
and the creation of a system in tune with a European orientation. It is impossible for a constitutional system based
on ethno-nationalist principles to coexist with European and regional integration.


The return of refugees is going too slowly. Relatively recently the return of property has been speeded up,
however the majority of people sell this property and do not return to their homes. The reason for this is again the
Dayton Accords, which do not guarantee the same rights to all citizens. In addition, many war criminals are still at
large. People are afraid to return.


The role of international forces is crucial. People are thankful for the end of the war. It is well known that the
presence of 20,000 SFOR soldiers is the only guarantee of peace. As long as they are in place there is no fear
that remaining structures could plan for new conflicts. With the help of NATO we should be integrating the
national armies in BiH into a multiethnic army of BiH as a guarantor of continued security.


The belief in the High Commissioner grows with the promulgation of every measure that guarantees equality. It is a
fact that the country could not function without a higher authority to cut the various Gordian knots. This is the
strongest proof that we must revise Dayton. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs strong central organs -- that is, a
single legislature, a single executive branch, and a single judiciary. Until they exist, the role of the High
Commissioner is necessary.


The single greatest danger for the recreation of multiethnic society is the continued existence of ethno-nationalist
political parties. The international community should impose the requirement that local election slates contain a
reasonable proportion of people from the various ethnic groups perhaps as they were represented in the
population in 1991. Some changes in the Dayton Accords and in the election laws would very quickly neutralize
the main dangers facing BiH.


Up to this point the Brussels Declaration has been the basis for the stabilization of the situation in BiH. The World
Bank and the IMF should provide transparent help with credits to strengthen the state.


Two key things will lead to a better future for BiH. They are changes in the constitutional system of BiH to bring it
in line with European standards, and election victories of multiethnic and pro-European political forces.