Two months before the final arbitration decision, the most significant progress has been made in the return of the citizens to Brcko. But that, as everything else which has happened in this town under the international administration was under the sign of the Republic of Srpska: the symbolic return of Bosniaks and Croats with Serb documents, participation of expelled Bosniaks in the elections for the Republic of Srpska Parliament, formation of the multiethnic police force with Serb insignia on its uniforms.
If the last year's postponement of the final arbitration decision was justified by the delay in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement, and if by that the Federal claims on Brcko were reduced to possible obstruction by the Serb side, now it seems that the Federal authorities are loosing their arguments one by one.
Certain Jaksic, one of the witnesses for the Serb side at the arbitration in Rome, stated a year ago for Glas Srpski that the Federation has no convincing arguments for its claims on Brcko, besides pure provocation whose goal is to cut the republic of Srpska in two. The issue of territorial continuity has been a cause of clashes between Pale and Banja Luka for some time.
The clash between the two warring sides, which has boiled down to the accusations regarding the division of the republic of Srpska, has reached its boiling point at the Brcko problem. The president of the Serb entity has several times warned that Pale will loose Brcko because of its carelessness, while that city is the "condition for the integral Republic of Srpska". By doing that, she has clearly indicated that her attitude regarding Brcko only differs from that in Pale in the "approach" not the final goal.
Nevertheless, after the establishment of the multiethnic police force in Brcko, it seems that the differences between Pale and Banja Luka have narrowed. It is unclear whether the meetings of Plavsic and Krajisnik which had taken place exactly in Brcko have contributed to this; in any case, the newly elected police chief in Brcko, a member of SDS, has stated that the establishment of the multiethnic police force in Brcko is not the result of the policy of the Republic of Srpska, but the implementation of the administrator's decree; he also added that the co-operation of the Serb side will be noted in the final arbitration.
After president Plavsic's speech at the session of the Republic of Srpska parliament in Bijeljina in which she, among other, emphasized that the republic of Srpska shouldn't be an ethnically pure, but a multiethnic state, the only remaining question on the eve of the final decision regarding the status of Brcko is: why should Brcko, as a multiethnic town, not be in the Serb entity?
The main argument for the Federation's claim on Brcko was not the return of the refugees to their homes. The Dayton Agreement guarantees that to everyone. The paramount argument was the fact that Brcko is the cornerstone of the integral Bosnia-Hercegovina. And that's what we fought for in the war. From time to time, this argument is mentioned, but in the euphoria of the return it is often pushed aside. In that sense, the consolation that one need not worry about Brcko because it will remain in Bosnia-Hercegovina misses the point. Because, the future of Bosnia-Hercegovina depends on the status of Brcko.
Recently, the citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina have received advice from the very top of the pyramid of the international power and influence to forget about the past and concentrate on the future. Neither the authorities nor the people of Bosnia-Hercegovina should forget that the status of Brcko holds the key for the future of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Translated on 2/4/98