2013 Volume 2013 Issue 174 Pages 174_98-174_110
The General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), signed in 1995, provided an extremely difficult challenge of statebuilding to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). It created a structure consisting of two ethnically-based entities, and it sets the goal of reconstructing a plural society. This paper discusses two different levels of issues concerning property in order to analyse such controversial statebuilding.
The first issue is the unresolved question of State property in the country. The State of BiH and two entities have not been able to agree on how the properties, entitled in accordance with the agreement on succession issues from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, should be registered and allocated. A decision of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, issued in July 2012, effectively gave an answer to the above question. The Court held that the State of BiH was entitled to continue to regulate the state property of which it was the title holder, recognising that the state property reflected the statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH. The Court also expressed its opinion on positive obligations of the State to take into account the harmony of all levels of government in regulating the matter of State property. Although this decision itself is a significant step of statebuilding, one of the two entities, the Republika Srpska (RS), refuses to recognise the role of the State as a guardian of property, and the State is not able to gain the trust of the RS. Citizen’s welfare is not in purview of this discussion.
The second issue concerns property restitution for refugees and internally displaced persons. Various activities were carried out in this area, including establishing a commission for real property claims,suspending or amending discriminatory property laws, imposing new legislation, removing obstructing housing officials and politicians, planning implementation of property right decisions, publishing monthly statistics of implementation rate by municipality, and conducting information campaign. Such laborious activities led to the unprecedented success of post-conflict property restitution. By treating all the relevant citizens equally under the same principle and harmonised procedure, rule of law in this specific area of property rights was established. However, most of the activities were accomplished by the international community and thus they had nothing to do with State legitimacy. Although the nationalistic local authorities relinquished their control over property, the restitution did not lead to massive return, and the plural society is regenerated in limited localities.
Unless citizens raise voice seeking a direction which is different from what their nationalistic elites are leading them to, or the elites themselves change their view of State, there is only thin hope for the progress of statebuilding in BiH.