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10 Years After Dayton Agreement Efforts Still Continue to Revive Bosnia

Over the next few days, until November 21, the day in 1995 when the accord was signed in Paris, there will be anniversaries marking the tenth anniversary of the Dayton (Ohio) Agreement that ended the ghastly three-year ethnic war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, formerly a part of the old Yugoslavia.

Sarajevo is still recovering from the three-year siege by Bosnian Serbs that left thousands dead and injured. It is a smaller place than it was. Its cherished multi-ethnic identity greatly diminished. Although most of Sarajevo has been rebuilt, the reminders of war-bullet marked buildings, memorial markers for the dead are pervasive.

Political analyst Senad Slatina stresses how much has been accomplished during 10 years of peace.

"We are talking about a country that has been only a decade ago through a horrendous, horrendous war, during which people were killed on the basis of their names," said Senad Slatina. "And, that nowadays all those people are living together, trying to form the joint state of Bosnia and Herzegovina."

The Dayton agreement, negotiated by former American United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, ended Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II. But, in so doing, it recognized two separate entities: one a Bosnian Muslim and Croat federation based in Sarajevo, and a second, crescent-shaped Bosnian Serb republic comprising about half of Bosnia's territory. Senad Slatina says Dayton failed to build a viable Bosnian state.

"You have warring factions on the ground. You come and interfere and stop the war. But you do nothing to promote the winning policy. You want to please everybody. You want to please those who have trying to destroy this country. And, you want to please those who are trying to preserve this country and to reshape it into a modern and decentralized state. You cannot do that," said Senad Slatina.

Essentially, Bosnia is still governed by a United Nations appointed high representative, while a European led multi-national force maintains security.

Irena Guzelova is the spokesperson for Paddy Ashdown, the outgoing Bosnian administrator. Ms. Guzelova hails recent successes in unifying Bosnia's two armies, tax and legal systems, and creating a single nation-wide police force.

"The last three-and a-half years [during Mr. Ashdown's tenure] have been dominated by creating the institutions that are necessary for the functioning of a state, the basic institutions," she said.

As elsewhere in the western Balkans, Bosnian politicians of all persuasions want their country to be part of the European Union. Because of recent progress, the EU in early December will begin talks on a stabilization and association agreement with Bosnia. Ms. Guzelova says this negotiation is a huge step forward.

"[The stabilization agreement] Which is essentially the first rung in a long ladder to get EU membership. At that point, this is the trigger to essentially rethink the nature of the international architecture [administration] in Bosnia, in particular the office of the high representative," she added.

The European Union hopes that, as Bosnia's government assumes greater powers, the EU-led administration will be phased out by the end of 2006.

Other important developments are underway. Ten political parties from both Bosnian entities met last week in Brussels to discuss the formulation of a new constitution. Those talks continue in Washington, next week.

It has been said that Bosnia is a dysfunctional state. Recognizing that there is some truth in that assertion, efforts, both domestic and foreign, are underway to make Bosnia a modern, viable and unified state. Analysts say he time has arrived to move beyond Dayton.