Bosnia's Next Crisis
Nationalist rivalries and rampant corruption continue to hold Bosnia and Herzegovina back. Now that it is in another deep political crisis, the international community must reconsider and clarify its own role, creating the conditions for Bosnian leaders finally to sit down and hash out the compromises needed to make the country work.
STOCKHOLM – The Russian threat to Ukraine is not the only potential crisis in Eastern Europe this year. Bosnia and Herzegovina is heading for a period of deep political turmoil, with a key election scheduled for October.
Bosnia has never been an uncomplicated place. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it generated one crisis after another, eventually contributing to the outbreak of World War I. Then, with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the late twentieth century, it was the site of a brutal war between Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs, and Croats.
The Dayton Accords ended the conflict in 1995, after more than 100,000 people had been killed – including in the genocidal Srebrenica massacre that July – and after millions more had been driven from their homes. The next step was to build a functioning state out of the wreckage. But the armies of the three groups were the only functioning structures left, and many local leaders saw peace as little more than the continuation of war by other means. Hopes that a new generation of non-nationalist leaders would rise out of the ashes were soon dashed.