The biggest post-war battle on the political battlefield is over. A political minority has won, at least temporarily. The first chance to demonstrate that the constitution can be modified in peace, without an armed conflict, has failed.
Almost without an exception in the more recent history of this region constitutions were modified only through violent and bloody changes of the state organization. The only true exception is perhaps the constitution from 1974, which started, but only started, the process of federal reorganization of Tito's Yugoslavia.
It could be said that constitutions adopted in the heat of or immediately after local wars or revolutions were always as a rule constitutions with the centralized state organization, so that the federal constitution from 1974 was a turning point inasmuch as it led to abandonment, or at least loosening of the main pillar of this state-political tradition.
It is not surprising that supporters of the centralized country, and in multi-ethnic countries they as a rule come from the political elite of the largest national group, saw the 1974 constitutional reform as the beginning of the end of the joint state, or more correctly as the main impetus or even the direct cause of the later break up of Yugoslavia. It is true that with the advance of federal relations, which mostly boiled down to strengthening of state rights at the expense of the federal government, we were steadily approaching the demise of the federation.
Therefore, is it not true that in our historical memory federalism is nothing but a symptom of deep internal weakness of the state? It seems that the lesson to be drawn from the recent political history is that a federation cannot provide a functioning government, while allegedly a centralized state can.
Just consider the size and organization of the mini-states that surround us: is it not true that they could have been created only by the dissolution or explosion of a bigger state-political body, since they look precisely like typical pieces of a federation or secessionist leftovers?
Patriots who nevertheless want to celebrate their midget nation-states can draw solace from the distant past, which has become extremely important everywhere. In these remains they see the initial elements and building blocks of a monstrous modern construction, the only true "natural" whole. Every new country, they eagerly say, is older than even the oldest federation.
Still, the new ideologues have a hard time preserving their na´ve faith in the long-lasting and promising independence of small mediaeval principalities, especially if that is supposed to be a model for the present. That faith is on the other hand compensated by the fascination with the former centralized state administration, which was once upon the time a characteristic of both small principalities and great empires. It can be discerned that as far as current local politicians are concerned, only an empire can be a successful joint or complex state.
Perhaps nothing as the drama surrounding constitutional changes reveals that the specter of federalism is stalking this land. Many obviously believe that they have escaped the claws of one federalism, but the gaping maw of another one, much larger and much more powerful, has just opened.
After Yugoslavia the shadow of the European Union has fallen on this land. The new constitution is supposed to resolve relations in the country hosting several federal wrecks, a whole pocket of excessively small and still rather scattered secessionist remains.
In each one of them, and as of recently each one has obtained the territorial outline of an entity or an enclave, the dominant political vision has been created by the disappointment with federalism. The prevailing vision is that of the centralized state administration as the only truly "normal" state organization. The fundamental urge driving the creation of entities cannot be understood without the historical experience of the demise of the Yugoslav federation.
It could be said without exaggeration that the vision of ruling political elites of each one of the constituent nations is "entity-like", even in those cases when they advocate united Bosnia-Hercegovina, precisely because it would be centralized and because they abhor federal pluralism. Many politicians would like to tell us: "Under no circumstances should it be allowed that others snatch away, steal our authority".
Therefore, we face a deep "federation" problem in the country that is supposed to be multi-ethnic based on its constitution. Unfortunately, as far as many persons with influence on the public opinion are concerned, precisely the federal state organization, engraved in the political institutions by the Dayton Constitution, is the biggest problem. From constitutional changes they expect a radical and thorough removal of all traces of federalism. As far as they are concerned federalism is the garbage of nationalism.
I have referred to them as Bosnian Jacobines. For others, who reject "civic Bosnia-Hercegovina", federal pluralism is merely a centralized state in disguise. For both factions, centralizers and separatists, federal pluralism is only a transitional phase, a painful concession to the opponents on the road to "the proper" state organization.
However, the biggest flaw of the Dayton organizations is not entities, but the failure of the last federation in the region, the Bosniak-Croat federation. Precisely that part of the country was supposed to guarantee the future of the whole multi-ethnic state, to point out the proper path towards its reintegration. In a way, the Bosniak-Croat federation was a green house that excluded the most difficult "problem": Serb separatism.
Now, it has become obvious that entity organization is the opposite of federation, since increasingly loud demands for the "third entity" indicate the demise of the Bosniak-Croat Federation. Thereby the Croat side demonstrates that from the start the Federation was a (Bosniak) entity.
Isn't the true crisis of this country a crisis of the federal model? Didn't Nikola Spiric say something very important when in the difficult negotiations about the votes in support of constitutional amendments he said that "it is obvious that the problem is in the Federation"? Isn't the most devastating fact that in the case where two entities were merged in one, mixed entity, Croats keep loosing in "entity votes"?
Didn't Lagumdzija attempt to at the last moment remove the biggest obstacle by offering to Croat representatives "extra-judicial mediation", a possibility that proposed laws finally be vetoed in the [Federation B-H] House of Nations without being sent to the Constitutional Court? Isn't that the last, hopeless attempt to save the last federation?
However, it is a big illusion that before "entry into Europe" it is desirable and possible to get rid of "the transitional" federal organization. As if ["pro-Bosnian" block] is impatiently awaiting that someone from the outside impose a new constitution, a constitution that will include powerful "central authority", which will offer us real, therefore "centralized" government. Our politicians are very wrong. Neither is the EU a new empire, nor is it merely "a community of coal and steel".
The accession to the EU will actually be an irreversible entry into the political mold of federal pluralism. Opponents of the constitutional reform, especially advocates of civic centralism, should be told that we are only starting an unpredictable process of gradual, "cosmetic" reform, enacted through constitutional amendments.
Karel de Gucht, OSCE president, could not have said anything more instructive for the local public than when he said during his recent visit to Sarajevo that "we in Belgium have a federation, which hasn't prevented us from being one of the founders of the EU and one of the main factors of the European integration".