The Case for Accelerated NATO Membership and OSCE Coordination of Constitutional Reform

Read the Full Paper Here: USIP – Bosnia and Herzegovina


The policy choice in Bosnia revolves around one question: how much time does the country have?

If one believes that the country is reasonably stable, that another election will produce more cooperative leaders, and that Bosnia’s “EU future” is assured, then the way forward is clear: cede international leadership in Bosnia from the U.S. to the European Union. Under this benign assessment, incremental work towards EU membership will address the country’s outstanding issues, including eventual reform of the country’s constitution.

This paper argues that, in fact, time is rapidly working against Bosnia. Elections are unlikely to transform the political landscape. Next year’s poll will be the country’s tenth. Few true moderates have attained elective office. Even if the parties never pick up arms again, Bosnia risks permanent stagnation, a plausible scenario that puts the substantial American investment – and continuing American interests – in Bosnia at risk. In the words of a former senior Bosnian official, without swift reform the country is doomed to become an “economic colony” of its neighbors, supplying cheap labor from its chronically underperforming economy. Instead of an inevitable EU member, Bosnia is more likely to remain an unwelcome, dysfunctional and divided country, with an aggrieved Bosniak (Muslim) plurality, a frustrated, increasingly defensive Serb entity, and an anxious, existentially threatened Croat population.