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28th May 2022

Bosnian leaders in Brussels for US-led constitution talks

  • Olli Rehn said Brussels recommends a constitutional evolution, rather than revolution (Photo: European Commission)

Bosnian political leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss a reform of their country’s constitution, on the basis of a draft text secretly prepared by the Americans and guardedly backed by the EU.

The leaders of eight political parties of Bosnia and Herzegovina started negotiations in Brussels on Saturday (12 November) in a gathering which will last until Monday, followed by a possible second round of talks in Washington later this month.

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The talks are being held on the basis of a blueprint, revealed by the Guardian on Friday, which was developed during seven months of secret negotiations between US experts and officials and Bosnian politicians.

The text was drawn up by US administration officials, according to news agency DDT-Net, and the Brussels talks were held under the auspices of the Washington Institute for peace, with EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn on Saturday briefly addressing the gathering.

The plan foresees a fundamental strengthening of the central Sarajevo institutions of the country, which is presently witnessing political fragmentation.

The current tripartite presidency, shared by the Muslim, Croat and Serb communities, is to be replaced by a single president, while the country’s two current "entities", the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic, should lose powers to a strengthened national parliament, according to the plan.

Cautious EU backing

Commissioner Rehn said he "welcomed" the Bosnian leaders' Brussels effort, stating: "This is a clear sign of an emerging consensus to review the Dayton Constitution. Leaders of the country have the ownership of the process, which the European Commission is ready to facilitate."

But while the Guardian writes that the Americans have ambitiously scheduled the signature of the text in Washington on 21 November - the 10 year anniversary of the Dayton peace agreement - Brussels is more cautious.

Commissioner Rehn noted: "It is up to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to decide on constitutional changes. We recommend a constitutional evolution, rather than a constitutional revolution."

Divisions

The DTT-Net agency reports that the mood following Sunday’s talks was "better" after deep divisions had emerged on Saturday.

On Saturday, Muslims leaders had generally supported the idea of strengthening central state institutions, but both Croat and Serb politicians had expressed a strong attachment to their communities’ autonomy.

Croats currently share power with Muslims in the Muslim-Croat federation.

The Serbs run their own Republika Srpska but some Croat politicians are now demanding greater autonomy as well.

On top of this, the Serb side disagrees with the idea of a single Bosnian presidency.

On Sunday, the mood surrounding the talks was more optimistic though, with the eight Bosnian politicians beginning to show greater flexibility.

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