2011 was another lost year for Bosnia. The EU appointed a new Special Representative and launched several initiatives but failed to unblock the political stalemate.
Stabilising Bosnia and Herzegovina is a priority for the EU, which acts in unison through both its enlargement toolbox and CSDP arm (EUFOR Althea and a policy mission), and has a clear objective: the creation of a functional state commanding the loyalty of all communities. But this goal remains as far away as ever. In late December, Bosnian parties finally agreed on a state-level government after a long hiatus starting with the elections of October 2010. Even in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities, the composition of an administration has caused a crisis with HDZ, the largest Croat party, remaining in opposition. No progress was made on implementing the Sejdićand Finci decision by the European Court on Human Rights concerning the rights of communities other than Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. Republika Srpska’s president, Milorad Dodik, further consolidated his grasp on power, effectively ruling out any prospect for an overhaul of the Dayton constitution.
The EU undertook two initiatives. In February, Angela Merkel hosted Bosnian leaders in Berlin but failed to convince them to adopt a so-called European Clause allowing the state-level parliament to pass EU-related legislation with a simple majority. In May, an intervention by High Representative Catherine Ashton led to Dodik’s U-turn on holding a referendum regarding state-level judiciary and the office of the prosecutor. Through eleventh-hour action, Ashton brought Serbs back from the brink as a referendum could have precipitated secessionor at least a stalemate with the international community. Yet the crisis effectively precluded future centralisation initiatives and was largely manufactured by Dodik. As a result, the European Commission adopted its worst report since 2006 in October. In September, the EU appointed as Special Representative Peter Sørensen, discontinuing “double-hatting” with the Office of the High Representative, and upgrading its presence. Overall, the EU’s efforts kept Bosnia stable but yielded no positive developments like the lifting of the visa regime back in 2010.