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Wednesday, December 10, 1997 Published at 17:49 GMT

World: Analysis

Bosnia: A turning-point?
image: [ UNPROFOR forces could be in Bosnia for some time ]
UNPROFOR forces could be in Bosnia for some time

The international community's High Representative to Bosnia-Hercegovina, Carlos Westendorp, has described the two-day conference in Bonn on peace implementation as a turning-point in building a unified Bosnian state. Mr Westendorp's remarks were prompted by the adoption of a document that gives him powers to impose decisions on the Bosnian leaders and dismiss officials who fail to carry out his instructions. But how far will this new move help speed up the peace process? The BBC's South-east Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos, looks at the prospects.

Two years after the signing of the Dayton accords which brought peace to Bosnia, the provisions of the treaty remain, in many respects, no more than a wish list.
[ image: Many people are still homeless]
Many people are still homeless
For example, only a tiny proportion of refugees have been able to return to their former homes when doing so involves crossing the inter-entity demarcation line between the Bosnian Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat federation. The majority of individuals charged with war crimes are still at liberty - especially in the case of the Serbian suspects. And the common institutions of the Bosnian state barely function at all.

One reason progress has been so slow is that the civilian side of peace implementation has lacked the powers of enforcement that the multi-national military contingent, now known as SFOR, has enjoyed from the very beginning. As a result, the civilian representative, Carlos Westendorp - and his predecessor, Carl Bildt - has been able to do little more than try to persuade the former adversaries to comply with their undertakings enshrined in the Dayton accords.

Now after two years of slow progress, the Bosnia Peace Implementation Council - that brings together 51 states and 21 organisations - has decided to increase the civilian representative's powers. Mr Westendorp is being empowered to take interim measures when Bosnia's Bosnjak (Muslim), Croatian and Serbian leaders fail to reach agreement and he will have the authority to dismiss officials who are blocking the peace process.

Until now, the only way Mr Westendorp could encourage co-operation was through the withholding of reconstruction aid. Now he will have more opportunities for pushing the peace process forward, particularly if he gets the backing of the major powers.

Perhaps in anticipation of a tougher approach by the international community, Bosnia's leaders agreed to legislation on common passports,car number plates and citizenship - though not on a common currency. But not all the signs are positive. The Yugoslav delegate - accompanied by the Bosnian Serb representatives - walked out of the Bonn conference because the concluding document mentioned concern over increasing ethnic tension in the mainly Albanian-inhabited Serbian province of Kosovo. Yugoslavia under President Slobodan Milosevic continues to have a key role in the Bosnian peace process; but Mr Milosevic's return to a more nationalist policy over the past year has made that process perhaps even more complex than before.

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