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Macedonia and Bosnia: Prospects and Challenges

The findings on the drivers of ethnic accommodation and resistance help us draw wider conclusions about the prospects and challenges for Bosnia and Macedonia in the post-conflict context. More than a decade after the end of the conflicts, the political process in both countries is often dominated by ethnic issues and contestation. The institutional framework introduced by the Dayton and Ohrid agreements also on occasion fails to encourage inter-ethnic compromise.

Rather than evaluating their post-conflict trajectory in linear terms, as a success or failure, this book shows that Bosnia and Macedonia have witnessed periods both of greater accommodation and reforms and periods of ethnic resistance and stagnation. While many problems were addressed in the immediate conflict aftermath, subsequent challenges and difficulties in political elites' co-operation have precluded seeing the two states safely past the point of no-return in postconflict recovery. On the contrary, looking at post-conflict politics in terms of thresholds can be counterproductive. Not only is it too early to abandon powersharing tools and international involvement, but the need for such mechanisms is as strong as ever. Ethnic divisions, which require constant management in the political process, are not an early post-conflict disease, but a more lasting condition of these ethnically diverse societies. However, if there are also appropriate institutional and political mechanisms to manage them, ethnic divisions do not necessarily have to block the political and economic development of Bosnia and Macedonia. Unfortunately, political elites in Bosnia and Macedonia lack the unwavering commitment to the power-sharing logic of politics. Some ethnic Macedonian and Bosniak politicians often signal a preference to return to majoritarian principles of democratic politics. This raises fears of marginalisation among minority groups' politicians, who in return keep ideas about secession alive in their discourse. Such normative divisions between the political elites in Bosnia and Macedonia have yet to be overcome. Challenges to the power-sharing institutions, the territorial organisation and to the constitutional design of the state are still common in both states. Lack of agreement on those fundamental principles of political interaction reinforces divisions in society and makes accommodation over specific policy

issues more difficult. Normative and ethnic divisions also affect the democratic prospects of these two states. Democracy is certainly possible in ethnically diverse states; thanks to various formal and informal institutional tools at their disposal, politicians from different groups can make decisions jointly and resolve contentious issues. However, democratic consolidation is still problematic because some of the mechanisms that improve ethnic accommodation tend to retard democratic consolidation. Reliance on informal practices to resolve political problems and ethnic tensions removes these functions from the formal institutions in which they officially reside. This makes democracy less formal and less accountable than elsewhere among democratising states, since political institutions in these two countries tend to perform a double role of ensuring both democratic and ethnically harmonious political process. As pursuing democratic and ethnically harmonious political processes can sometimes clash, a delicate balancing act is necessary to keep politics democratic and competitive, but not at the expense of ethnic relations. Since the end of its conflict in 2001, Macedonia has advanced slightly further than Bosnia in terms of NATO and EU integration, economic recovery, and reform implementation. However, although Macedonia became an EU candidate country in 2005, and fulfilled most NATO membership requirements in 2008, it nonetheless faces similar problems to Bosnia. Nationalist rhetoric is widespread; relations with neighbouring countries are ambivalent, and the qualities of democracy and ethnic relations remain below regional standards.10 Combining democratic and economic reforms with continuous management of ethnic divisions is a complicated task that requires strong institutional capacity and leadership. It is also a task that that Bosnian and Macedonian political elites cannot avoid, without risking a return to

ethnic conflict and further divisions.

Finally, over the past few years no breakthrough has been achieved in any of the policies analysed in earlier chapters. There has been no progress on constitutional reforms in Bosnia, meaning further progress on police reform has also been blocked. The country's leaders have failed to agree over the implementation of the ruling (by the European Court of Human Rights) to amend the constitution to allow members of smaller ethnic groups to run in presidential elections. The country has not yet applied for EU membership and, apart from Kosovo, remains the only former Yugoslav state not to have obtained candidate status with the EU.

Neither has Macedonia progressed towards EU integration. Its bid for accession has been repeatedly blocked by neighbouring Greece over the long-standing name dispute between the two states. Ethno-nationalist rhetoric persists, and regularly flares up before elections, as does small-scale ethnic violence. No progress has been made on implementing the recommendations from the strategy for integrated education, and that lack of progress has perpetuated ethnic segregation and divisions among the country's youth.

10 See for example reports on declining media freedom by Freedom House: freedomhouse.org/sites/default/fi ages/Mission%20Statement%20 FINAL%281%29.pdf


 
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