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Professor reflects on 10 years of Bosnia governance


NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, Jan. 10, 2006 – Gerard Toal, professor of government and international affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, National Capital Region, was invited to speak at a series of conferences organized to mark the recent 10 year anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, the agreement that ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and governs that country today. An estimated 200,000 people died in the war that raged from April 1992 to September 1995.

At a Woodrow Wilson Center conference, “The Dayton Peace Accords after 10 Years,” Toal commented extensively on the international community’s “Dayton to Brussels” strategy (the move from the era of Dayton, the Bosnia created by the Dayton Peace Accords, to the era of Brussels, the Bosnia that needs to be created for it to become a member of NATO and the European Union) and pointed to some of the obstacles that still face the country that only 10 years ago was wracked by war. He told the audience of international scholars on Bosnia and top policy makers and politicians from the region, that while the Dayton Peace Accords were a necessary peace treaty to end the war in Bosnia, “it is now time to revise the country’s governance structure so that Bosnia can become a strong and coherent state able to secure membership in the European Union.”

Toal also spoke at an “Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe” conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia, attended by the High Representative for Bosnia, Lord Paddy Ashdown, as well as the members of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia. Toal argued that a reconciliation process still has not begun in Bosnia and that the country continues to face serious problems of economic stagnation, political corruption and impunity for war criminals.

“However, in spite of this,” he said, “the international community’s long engagement in Bosnia can only be described as a success,” Toal said. “In stark contrast to Iraq today, not one peace keeper died from hostile actions in Bosnia.”

In April 2005, Toal testified before the United States Congress, presenting his research on the returns process in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He has been interviewed by Voice of America’s Bosnian language television and his article on the weakness of the Dayton Peace Accords was published in the leading Croatian magazine Hrvatska Revija (Croatian Review) last month.

Toal’s analysis of Lord Ashdown’s tenure as High Representative appears this month in the first issue of the journal, Geopolitics. He is also part of an international research team that won a $650,000 award from the National Science Foundation to compare conflict experiences and ethnic relations in Bosnia and the North Caucasus since 1990. As part of this research project, Toal set up public opinion surveys in both regions in 2005. He was also an invited academic guest of the Ministry of Economics to the turbulent Russian Republic of Dagestan this past fall, where he spoke to students and professors at the University of Mackhashkala.

Virginia Tech has fostered a growing partnership with the greater metropolitan Washington D.C. community since 1969. Today, the university’s presence in the National Capital Region includes graduate programs and research centers in Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Leesburg, Manassas, and Middleburg. In addition to supporting the university’s teaching and research mission, Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region has established collaborations with local and federal agencies, businesses and other institutions of higher education.