In July 2022, Bosnia and Herzegovina High Representative Christian Schmidt proclaimed that, shortly before the upcoming elections, changes would be made in the election law, which has been interpreted as an “imposition”. Protests have been organised when it became apparent that the changes envisaged in the election law would be in favour of Croatian-origin parties in the country and that it would be regulated without the common consent of the politicians. The provocative discourse of the politicians escalated the tensions even more. In his statement on July 27, 2022, due to the aforementioned reactions, Schmidt announced that only technical changes would be applied, adding that political parties and their leaders are given time for other political changes, nonetheless stating that if the politicians could not agree, he would implement the changes in the election law himself.
In light of this information, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents to your attention the views it received from Adelheid Wölfl, South-eastern Europe Correspondent at Der Standard, in order to evaluate the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- How do you interpret the recent rise in separatist and nationalist rhetoric in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Separatist and nationalist discourses are part of the political discourses since the 1980ies in Bosnia and Hercegovina. What is different now since 2014 is the increased influence of Russia in Bosnia and Hercegovina and the increasing support for the separatists and nationalists like Milorad Dodik or Dragan Covic.
On the other hand, the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) are increasing their appeasement politics especially towards the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ-BiH) and this changes the overall political dynamics. Nationalists feel encouraged by that.
- How do you evaluate High Representative Christian Schmidt’s steps toward the Election Law? It has been stated that technical changes have been introduced. Well, what could be the other changes, and what is your comment on their possible impact on the stability of the country?
It is not known if Mr. Schmidt is going to decide on political issues in the next weeks but what is clear is that changes of the electoral laws or changes to other laws which have an impact on the elections should not, according to all Western standards, be made during the election process or during an electoral year. If Mr. Schmidt is going to make decisions which favour the HDZ-BiH this will weaken the credibility of Germany and the Office of the High Representative since the Office of the High Representative (OHR) will be then considered as partisan.
- How do you assess the setting before the elections to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 2, 2022?
HDZ-BiH is threatening with the “territorial reorganization” of the state, which means that they want to break the constitution and create a “third entity” called “Herceg-Bosna”. With threatening Western forces, the EU, the US and Great Britain, are willing to appease the HDZ-BiH. These Western forces are afraid that HDZ-BiH could block the country even more than it already does. Bosnian citizens are under increasing fears and pressures since last autumn since The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and its leader Dodik is constantly threatening with breaking up the country. The situation is unstable because of Dodik and Covic and because the international community, especially the EU, is not able to contain these dangerous nationalist forces.
- Do these volatilities in Bosnian domestic politics indicate that the system and peace the Dayton Agreement brought have come to an end? Is it possible to claim that there is a new political restructuring, particularly in this period when the High Representative’s violent outbursts are increasing?
It would be very dangerous to question the Dayton peace accord since this would open up new opportunities for Russia or other actors to destabilize the region.
Adelheid Wölfl has been working as a Southeastern European correspondent for Der Standard, a Vienna-based newspaper, for many years. Wölfl, which has analyzes and reports on many platforms, generally focuses on countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.