Ten years of The Bosnian Institute
To our Readers and Friends of The Bosnian Institute
This edition of Bosnia Report is the last that will appear in printed form Founded in October 1993, the first series of Bosnia Report ran until issue 19, dated June-August 1997. The current series was launched in November 1997 to mark the establishment - thanks to the generosity of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, subsequently maintained by the Packard Humanities Institute - of The Bosnian Institute, a registered charity. Now, however, the funding that has sustained us for ten years has come to an end, coinciding with the termination of the lease on our office and library. Consequently, in order if possible to preserve the essential core of the Institute’s activities, we have been obliged to take some very difficult decisions, including to cease publication of Bosnia Report in its printed form, and for the moment at least to suspend the regular monthly forums that have been running continuously since February 1995..
We also decided last year, in anticipation of our changed circumstances, that the Institute’s library (which contains roughly 3,700 books on Bosnia and the region, plus a significant collection of periodicals, newspaper cuttings and documents) should be donated to an academic institution where it could continue to be used by researchers. We have accordingly been in negotiation with Kingston University, a developing centre of expertise on south-eastern Europe, for the Institute’s library to become part of Kingston’s holdings, while retaining the integrity of its unique catalogue.
Finally, we shall be operating for the time being without an office or paid employees, in order to reduce outgoings to a minimum while we seek new funding. During this difficult period in the Institute’s existence, we aim to maintain at least our website, and as much as possible of our cultural and publication programme. Any advice or suggestions with respect to funding possibilities will be gratefully received. In the meantime, we take this opportunity to thank, once again, Dr David Packard and the Packard Humanities Institute for their hugely generous support, which has sustained us over a much longer period than we had originally expected or hoped.
Contact: The Bosnian Institute, SAVO, 8th floor, Hannibal House, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6TE or email@example.com
When the first issue of Bosnia Report appeared in October 1993, Bosnia-Herzegovina was at its lowest point. As the ‘Save Bosnia Appeal’ published there recorded: ‘more than a year ago, Bosnian Serb secessionist forces, organized by the Yugoslav army and directed from Belgrade, launched a brutal aggression against the people and elected government of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since then, this multi-ethnic, democratic and internationally recognized republic has been devastated. Countless communities have been destroyed, countless people tortured and murdered, three quarters of the population displaced, thousands of women and girls raped, towns and cultural monuments razed. All of this has been done deliberately, as part of a policy of terror to clear non-Serb populations from coveted territories. Less than 50 years after Europeans vowed "never again" to allow the extermination of an entire people, Bosnia’s Muslims are facing genocide.’ By October 1993 the country was also facing an assault by its erstwhile ally Croatia, whose president Tuđman was pursuing partitionist aims of his own.
The great powers, meanwhile, acting through the UN, colluded in the attempted destruction of a young state, whose independence they had only just recognized, by maintaining an arms embargo that cruelly hampered the defence of those under attack, and by seeking to impose a series of settlements enshrining the very principles of ethnic separation espoused by the aggressors. Their systematic obfuscation of the war’s nature from the outset, and their inability to choose clearly between respect for the existing frontiers and indulgence towards the Belgrade regime’s determination to redraw both state and ethnic borders - something that could be accomplished only through war and genocide - prepared the ground ideologically for the flawed 2007 ICJ judgement dissected in this issue of Bosnia Report. The UK Conservative government of the time (backed, it should be remembered, by the leaders of the Labour Party then in opposition) was at the forefront of these shameful attempts, as documented in Brendan Simms’s seminal Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia. The editors of Bosnia Report opposed from the start ‘efforts to force a solution based on ethnic segregation’, and voiced the conviction that the campaign ‘for a democratic, independent, unitary Bosnian state within its established borders’ would not cease even if a partition deal was signed.
Among the international proposals for ethnic division of Bosnia, one partial exception might have seemed to be the Washington Agreement - brokered in February 1994 by the US, after the debacle of Zagreb’s intervention in central Bosnia - with its rhetoric of human rights, its provision for a federation of majority-Bosniak and majority-Croat cantons with a relatively strong central government, and its reference to future expansion of the federation to include majority-Serb areas. Within weeks, however, all of that was effectively superseded by establishment of the so-called Contact Group, which promptly found consensus on a two-way 49%/51% split of B-H’s national territory between the legitimate government and the genocidal Belgrade-backed separatists, a partition plan that led logically to the Srebrenica massacre. Even as Mladić’s forces were in headlong flight in September1995, moreover, military threats were deployed to force the Bosnian armies to halt their victorious counter-offensive outside Prijedor and Banja Luka, thus saving the genocidal para-state of Republika Srpska - and with it Belgrade’s entire expansionist project - from total collapse. The same principle then inspired the peace settlement at Dayton, where Bosnia’s leaders were forced to accept an ethnic division of their country and a constitution that enshrined ethnic separation as favoured by Milošević and his henchmen. Bosnia-Herzegovina is still living with the consequences.
The basic fact is that the Dayton Agreement does not and cannot work. One third of the national territory of B-H is run as a unitary para-state by the same people who sought to destroy the country by war and now in peacetime block its proper functioning and its path to the EU. Successive High Representatives have tinkered with this dysfunctional set-up, but have shrunk from steps that would call the basic partitionist logic of Dayton into question, since that would require confronting RS pretensions to statehood - and Belgrade’s pretensions to represent all Serbs - not merely in words, but in deeds.
Such policies are not merely fatal for the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina, they also stoke the fires of future conflict in the region, as witnessed by Belgrade’s stubborn defence of an untenable status quo in Kosova. The European Union is faced here with a choice that it cannot forever postpone: whether to continue to appease Milošević’s successors in Belgrade, or whether to chart a new future for the Balkans - inconceivable without a united and democratically governed Bosnia.