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Milko Grmuša: In five years we could live in a country where things work


“It is necessary for the more creative political elements, which are present in all mainstream parties, but also outside the parties, to start moving a little. “Five smart and well-intentioned politicians from all relevant parties in BiH, as well as five foreigners who have relevant influence, knowledge and desire to change the paradigm in BiH, could fundamentally change relations in BiH in the next five years,” said Milko Grmuša, vice president of the Party of Democratic Progress, in an interview for “The Srpska Times”.

TST: Political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina is, practically, permanent state. Why is it so, in your opinion?

GRMUŠA: In addition to the historical reasons that are more or less well known to everyone, I would like to point out one fact that I did not notice was the subject of public analysis. Namely, sometime in early 2000, after a long time, a relatively strong political and social consensus was created in BiH that BiH, together with other countries in the region, should become a member of the European Union. This determination is one of the rare things that was not imposed from the outside – the majority of Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats honestly saw EU membership as a great chance to create real preconditions for long-term peace and social progress in this region. Political actors also accepted this goal and were somehow all aware that everyone would have to make some difficult concessions for BiH to become a full member of the EU. For the Serbs, this meant that there would be a certain reduction of Dayton autonomy, for the Bosniaks that they would have to accept that Republika Srpska was a cemented category, and for the Croats that the third entity was not happening.

At the Thessaloniki summit in 2003, the EU and its most important members (Germany, France and Great Britain) promised all the countries in the region that they would become full members of the EU in due course. This gave all the countries in the region, including BiH, the motivation to overcome the heavy burden of the past, intensify mutual political, economic and cultural cooperation and approach systemic internal reforms.

However, not long after that, the EU admitted to its membership all countries except BiH, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, although, objectively, the new member states did not meet all the criteria for joining the EU. So, it is clear that it was a matter of admitting some countries and not others – only and exclusively for political reasons.

From that moment on, there is no longer a so-called the “Brussels Consensus”, and the previous one, the Dayton Consensus, was grossly violated by numerous constitutional changes in BiH, which were either imposed by high representatives or adopted by domestic political actors in the good faith that this means getting closer to the EU. So, in the meantime, we in BiH have lost the basis on which our political system functions, that is, the new Brussels political agreement was terminated, while the previous Dayton political agreement became ineffective with the aforementioned changes.

In other words, the EU deceived us. Several years ago in Belgrade, President Macron clearly and directly said that the countries of the region will not enter the EU until the EU itself is reformed internally, just so that we fulfil all possible conditions here. So, it’s not up to us, now it’s up to the EU.

However, since the political agreement that was adopted in BiH 20 years ago has been permanently terminated, while the internal factors in BiH willingly accepted that agreement, and the EU terminated it, we now really have an extremely serious systemic crisis, the generators of which, basically, they cannot be subsumed under those popular explanations in the form of daily political bickering. The problem is really complex.

TST: How do you see the solution to that problem and does it even exist?

GRMUŠA: As a jurist, it is completely clear to me that a new political consensus must be created in BiH, that is, a new basic agreement must be drawn up by all relevant actors. Of course, I mean the agreement and balance of the national policies of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, respecting all other interests and taking into account individual human rights and freedoms. This time we have to be aware that we have to make that arrangement, agreement and contract ourselves, without any outside assistance.

basis of this new political agreement in BiH, in my opinion, should be the following elements: the revitalization of the Dayton Peace Agreement and all its annexes, especially those provisions that affirm human rights and freedoms, the market economy, free and fair elections, the strengthening of institutions and the strengthening of their democratic capacity, as well as uncompromising insistence on the rule of law. We all spent too much energy fighting for the supremacy of entity institutions over joint institutions, and vice versa. Too little account has been taken of the very content of the work of those institutions. If an institution does not respect or mocks the law, if it does not work in the interest of people, but in the interest of politicians or tycoons – then, in my opinion, it does not matter whether it is entity or joint, it is then criminogenic and archaic.

Had more attention been paid to the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement towards the needs of ordinary people, I guarantee that we would not have half of the existing problems in the country today.

That’s why I think it’s important that we work in that direction. That’s the first thing. The second thing is to understand that the high representative, or OHR, is an outdated concept. Everyone admits it today, silently or loudly. Back in 2005, the Venice Commission stated that there is no place for the role and powers of the high representative in a civilized and legal state. I believe that the OHR should be closed immediately, and at the same time we should strengthen the presence and partnership with the bodies of the Council of Europe, the European Union and, especially important, the OSCE. What exactly does that mean? To throw out international interventionism, and to involve in our system at all levels and in all mechanisms of government (judiciary, parliaments, governments) the mentioned international institutions and bodies, primarily European, as helpers, expert consultants who will help the implementation of European standards in our system at all levels and strongly and loudly criticize all bad practices.

Of course, the idea is for these foreign helpers to focus on reforms that will be most directly related to improving the standard of living of citizens, while those political issues that burden relations will fall not to the second, but to the fifth plan. In this way, I think we can begin to restore the optimism and faith of the people that the institutions of the system work in their favour, and not in favour of politicians and tycoons.

TST: Do you think that the adoption of that, as you call it,  new “political agreement” is realistic?

GRMUŠA: It’s not impossible. In principle, I am not so much concerned that at first glance this seems to be a utopia, but the fact that I have never heard or read that anyone in BiH talked about something like this. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, but the problem is that here we are standing still, standing in a cornfield while the world moves.

It is necessary that the more creative political elements, which exist in all mainstream parties, but also outside the parties, start to move a little. Five smart and well-intentioned politicians from all relevant parties in BiH, as well as five foreigners who have relevant influence, knowledge and desire to change the paradigm in BiH, could fundamentally change relations in BiH in the next five years. It is about the “5+5 in 5” formula, the goal of which is for BiH to do the following in five years. Okay, the reform of the judiciary, social funds, administrative system, education and health care is a very nasty thing and without all that – well, we will be there somehow, but it will not be a life worthy of a human being and the best will continue to leave the country. To stop this, we need to make these changes. It’s a lot of work, and nobody likes to do hard work. Constitutional powers are nothing but a division of labour. So, instead of arguing about who wants to do something, while in reality no one does anything, let’s respect the model we already have in our constitution and let each level of government do its part.

BiH will survive, the entities will become more serious, the cantons in FBiH will be more operational than ever, municipalities and cities will gain a new dimension.

I don’t see what anyone well-intended can have against this.

See you in five years in a country where things work, where you know who does what, what is a reward and what is a punishment.

You will admit, when you currently have a practically failed system, this is a great motivation for those who want to change something.

The Srpska Times


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