It would be easy to dismiss critiques like those advanced by Knaus and Martens as simply ignorant, if they weren’t two of the Western Balkans’ most prominent “regional experts” in the German-speaking media space. Moreover, Inzko himself alluded to the degree of opposition he encountered, including among major European governments, to his decision to impose the Genocide Denial Law.
Why would any of these European governments, political experts or journalists oppose a law banning genocide denial in Bosnia? The procedural argument made by Knaus – that the problem is not in the law itself, but in the way it was imposed by the High Representative – seems principled but falters under close scrutiny.
Germany, Austria and Japan all owe their modern democratic regimes to decades of foreign domination and taxation of a much less extensive type than the OHR. After all, post-war Bosnia never experienced the kind of lustration the Allies insisted on in the defeated Axis states.
Indeed, it is doubtful that the EU, the crowning glory of post-1945 European policy, would exist without the democratization efforts of the Allies in the former Axis states. This institutional legacy was so important that the historic 1990 Two Plus Four Agreement, which paved the way for German reunification, required the consent of the United States, Great Britain and France, as well as of the Soviet Union (already almost dissolved). .
It is the fact that even Germany, the economic engine of modern Europe and a regime that acted for centuries as one of the continent’s first great powers, required decades of direct foreign intervention and d assistance to consolidate its democratic regime which is at issue in Bosnia today.
Few in the EU want to engage in this kind of sustained democracy promotion or statebuilding in a small, marginal regime like Bosnia. As such, there has been a years-long effort by key capitals like Berlin to shirk responsibility and instead offload the democratization process in Bosnia onto âlocal actorsâ. But, of course, because the country’s (also) foreign-imposed constitution institutionalized sectarian fragmentation, a significant portion of these local actors reject the very existence of the Bosnian state, let alone its democracy.
The result was what Inzko himself noted in his farewell remarks: a lost decade for Bosnia, where the ‘hands off’ approach of the international community has only served to embolden recalcitrant actors. and reactionaries of the country, while imploding practically all the processes of reform of any relevance.
No one wants the OHR to remain a permanent part of the Bosnian political system, including those who have welcomed the imposition of the Genocide Denial Law. But to pretend that the Bosnian state and sovereignty are not constantly under attack – as many in the EU have chosen to do for much of the past decade, at least – will do nothing to understand the terms of the closure of the OHR.
Ideally, the necessary reform initiatives should come from within Bosnia itself. But just as fascist sympathizers remained a security problem and an obstacle to democratic consolidation in post-WWII Europe, which required a robust set of extra-democratic tools to cope, contemporary Bosnia needs more international assistance to deal with the still militants. heirs of Radovan Karadzic and Mate Boban. Because the philosopher Karl Popper was right: “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not ready to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. . “
Jasmin mujanovic is a political scientist and author of ‘Hunger and fury: the crisis of democracy in the Balkans‘.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.