Conclusion: Explaining the Success of Military Reform
Military reform has been one of the most successful reforms in Bosnia since the end of the war. Most commentators agree that in terms of local political ownership; successful implementation and lack of spoilers; and clean conditionality by the international community, military reform has proved a success.34 Considering that
30 Anonymous, Member of House of Representatives for SDS 2002–2006: personal interview with the author, Banja Luka, 21 September 2010.
31 Defence Reform Commission, 'AFBIH: A Single Military Force for the 21st Century'. 32 NATO, 'Alliance offers partnership to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro
and Serbia', NATO Update, 29 November 2006. Available at: nato.int/docu/ update/2006/11-november/e1129e.htm (accessed 6 November 2013).
33 Ashdown, Swords and Ploughshares.
34 Denis Hadžović, The Offi of the High Representative and Security Sector Reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Sarajevo: Centre for Security Studies, February 2009); Humphreys and Jelišić, 'A Missed Opportunity: State-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina (October 2002 to October 2006)'; Marina Caparini, 'Security Sector Reforms in the Western Balkans', SIPRI Yearbook 2004: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Stockholm: SIPRI, 2004). the two rounds of military reform entailed significant changes in legislation, but also in the constitutional design and functioning of entities and the Bosnian state, it took more than just a superficial accommodation between the political elites to arrive at such an outcome. Several factors combined to allow for successful accommodation among the different ethnic political elites.
Although power-sharing in Bosnia requires state-level inter-ethnic coalitions, the SDA-HDZ-SDS coalition had little notable effect on accommodation over military reform. Because defence and military issues were entity competencies, state-level bodies had no authority, legislative or executive, over defence policy. The state-level coalition had no direct effect on the progress of reform. However, another power-sharing element – veto powers – was very effective. Because the proposal for military reform had to be first adopted by each entity (and canton in the fBIH) parliament before the state parliament would consider it, it had to be acceptable to all groups. If not, each group had a veto mechanism available to block the progress of reform. This made politicians more likely to compromise and accommodate their differences, as failure to do so would have meant failure of the reform as well as failure to achieve a greater goal – PfP membership.
The two cases demonstrate the importance of informal institutions in enabling ethnic accommodation. Most of the negotiations took place in the DRC rather than through the formal state and entity institutions. The DRC was an ad hoc body, chaired by an international, where the formal power-sharing mechanisms did not apply and there were no veto powers. The commission was an advisory, not a decision-making body, tasked with drafting a proposal for reforms that would subsequently be submitted to elected representatives for approval. However, because it included both military professionals and political representatives from the three ethnic groups, it served as a forum where most of the objections they had were pre-emptively addressed, but without causing an institutional deadlock by resorting to veto usage, as the case could have been in parliament. This informal environment that the DRC created resulted in compromise proposals that were much easier to pass in entity and state parliaments.
By including representatives of both armies, the DRC ensured that the interests of the military community in both entities would be taken into account when drafting the reform. Army representatives did not object to reform – most resistance came from political quarters and was not related to protecting the interests of the army. While there was hardly a professional identity among members of the military that could serve as a cross-cutting group identity to counter the pull of conflicting ethnic interests, the success of the reform enabled military professionals to build it in future. The creation of a single army under unified control could in future provide a space outside of ethnic politics where cross-cutting identities can be fostered.
Resistance arose because Bosniak political elites preferred a single army to increase the power of the central state by adding a significant additional competency – defence. On the other side, Serbian elites preferred complete demilitarisation to prevent the dominant Bosniak side from having a large army under its control. However, the armies themselves did not factor much in the
political calculations of elites. Since the signing of DPA, the activities of both the AFBIH and the VRS had been severely limited because of the large international military presence in Bosnia. Therefore, by centralising the military, political leaders in both entities were not giving up political control over the military – they had not enjoyed that since 1996 – but giving up entity competency to statelevel control. They gave up notional rather than real control over the armies, a 'sacrifice' much easier to accept.
Finally, external actors played an enabling role throughout the reform process. They helped establish an initial consensus on the need for military reform; they created a less formal setting for negotiations; and they maintained a clear conditionality for PfP membership. The initial consensus on the need for military reform allowed for less resistance against the reform and limited most disagreements and negotiations to the methods of reform. The objectives of the reform, making the Bosnian military more cost-efficient and compatible with NATO requirements for PfP membership, remained uncontested, even if not initially achieved. Furthermore, NATO provided a set of clear guidelines and conditions required for granting Bosnia PfP membership. These conditions remained unchanged and were indiscriminately applied to Bosnia and other states in the region, which contributed to the credibility of the conditions. In a display of consistent conditionality,35 NATO further showed that the conditions applied were fair and consistent by granting Bosnia an invitation to join the PfP at the end of 2006, once the progress with military reforms had been advanced.
Moreover, Lord Ashdown used his agenda-setting powers to place the issue on top of the political agenda. By establishing the DRC he created a safer environment for interaction and negotiations, reducing the likelihood of eventual blocking of reforms in parliament and minimising the need to use the Bonn powers to impose solutions. Indeed, eventually the three parliaments (one state and two entity ones) adopted the necessary legislation and amendments. Yet, the case of creating a single army shows that some political actors resent the executive powers of the HR, and a lot of the contestation during this reform was between the Serb leaders and the HR, not between the political elites of the three ethnic groups. By filling in the gap between the two entities, the external actors not only facilitated inter-entity negotiations, but also displaced direct ethnic confrontation and contestation between Serb and Bosniak and Croat politicians, which made ethnic accommodation easier to achieve.
35 G. Pridham, 'Change and Continuity in the European Union's Political Conditionality: Aims, Approach, and Priorities', Democratization, Vol.14, No.3 (2007), pp. 446–71.