A View from Sarajevo—Ten Years After Dayton

As part of an ongoing occasional series to mark the tenth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement, OSI hosted a discussion with Gordana Knezevic, an international journalist who covered the war in her native Bosnia for the Sarajevo-based newspaper Oslobodjenje. The forum was moderated by OSI Senior Policy Advisor Laura Silber.

Dayton's anniversary this November is nothing to celebrate really, Knezevic said. She recalled a journalist friend who had remarked at the time of the agreement that in the coming years, we will see either the pacification of the Balkans or the Balkanization of world politics. The past decade has perhaps seen too much of the latter, Knezevic said.

Although Dayton saved lives and stopped the war, she said, it also split up the country, beginning an internal cold war. Bosnia is now on an internationally sponsored life-support system, unable to exist on its own. Dayton gave birth to perhaps the most complex state in Europe, one that is extremely expensive and governed by "a labyrinth of government institutions."

Because partition validated the new reality brought about by ethnic cleansing, Knezevic said, Dayton represented a defeat for those who believed in multiethnic society. The agreement preserved Bosnia, but at the expense of dividing it into the Serb Republic and Muslim-Croat federation.

The current situation on the ground is not encouraging, according to Knezevic. Access to NATO's Partnership for Peace was denied to Bosnia as a result of the Serb Republic s failure to hand over suspected war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Serb nationalists are unlikely to start another war, but they will do everything they can to slow the process of Bosnian integration into Europe. Economic stability and prosperity are not in the interest of those who support Balkan apartheid, as it would erode the corrupt power of Serb, Croat, and Muslim nationalist parties.

Asked whether she thought Dayton has had some success (such as rule of law, a public media that presents multiple perspectives, and bank reform), Knezevic conceded that it had. If Dayton saved lives and it did it was good.

Date: March 30, 2005
Time: 7:00 p.m.

New York City

Gordana Knezevic and Laura Silber