Zlatko Dizdarević: It takes two to tango – and some more

Does anyone remember the story in Bosnia and Herzegovina that one day all of us from the Balkans would join the European Union. One by one. According to just rights and objective merit and, well, according to certain interests, calculations and needs of Europe, too. No matter how much we still believed then – after the disintegration of Yugoslavia and all the “achieved” goals – that the “right to Europe” means respecting the proclaimed, unquestionably fair and incorrupt rules for joining that dignified family.

Then doubts arose along with new, subdued views of the whole story. At first, the “blood type of then large, geo-strategically important and secular Turkey was unsuitable. And there was no one to say it publicly, so it ended with a delay and brutal political logic: You will not have it, there are those who are waiting to join us … This often occurs to me these days with a reason. Subsequently, for different reasons, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and a bunch of others, “eastern ones” joined overnight. And only a decade before that, they were impressed by what we used to be.

The talks of “realpolitik”, interests, standards, different views and interpretations of the same facts and partners began to enter our reality. To victory! Faster for some, slower for others and to the extent anyone in the ever capricious Balkans was ready to adapt to the new reality and interests even if they were completely different from those as recent as yesterday.

In the past years, the illusions about the conditions that have to be met in order to finally tango with Europe have been shattered with often painful truths being uncovered – what is really important as a condition in (non) selection of dancers and what is not. For some, any identification with the Balkans, to which they very recently belonged, suddenly became painful. Vienna in the heart, Pest in the soul. And when everything settled down, other references emerged to the surface as primary. The pragmatic reality of today’s European Union, in many ways different from the old, huge one, did not take into account anyone`s emotions, those of new candidates in particular.

The story of Bosnia and Herzegovina from this perspective is even more interesting. After it was ruined enough, destroyed, torn away from a different, recent history and indebted to the great ones because of their interests through the Contact Group and Dayton, which was all written down in the new Balkan geo-strategy – “European path” of Bosnia and Herzegovina was announced. Only visionary though, it had yet to be traced through unknown ravines, hills and valleys, illogical side roads or detours. Many workers went on ground having no idea what the wise surveyors and tracers had measured and plotted. In that environment, the external “strategists” of the new B&H turned to other, more important terrains. Here, at home, the cunning locals who capitalized on the resulting empty space, turned to themselves, their interests and the goods left without owners by the war, without wit, clear goals and a system that would show them how to achieve those goals properly and fairly. Slow but persistent, devastating for many but profitable for others, the disintegration became a normality.

The reality of two parallel games, domestic and external one, brought about a common interest of the opponents of Europeanization – to maintain the “status quo”. Local war profiteering oligarchy, “legal and legitimate” according to Western principles, was given the opportunity to vulture over the ruins of the spiritual and material legacy of the former solid states. The new bureaucracy in Brussels, strongly committed to lamenting over new mandates, provided the conditions for maintaining that pleasant and permanent stale pond. The crowning proof of the mandated success is: “there is no more shooting there.” It is also a recommendation for new destinations. Bosnia continues to boil.

Signals that many things in Bosnia and Herzegovina are far behind can be seen in the calendar of the rise of others. Everyone started from the same point on the road to the EU; only B&H still does not have the candidate status, nor the indications of the beginning of negotiations. Even Kosovo, still unrecognized by five EU members, has potential candidate status. Negotiations on Stabilization and Association Agreement were completed in three years (2013-2016). B&H took ten years from the start of negotiations to its entry into force (2005-2015).

Certainly, this story about tango partners who eye each other for too long, promise love, then cheat, then flirt and promise all over again – is a great story about each one of them, but also about a number of public and secret reasons why things don’t develop in the expected direction even with assurances that verbal and written promises will be fulfilled properly. There are many behind-the-scenes interests within the already completely politically and institutionally decomposed B&H. There is no lack of the sudden, bizarre “European” misunderstanding of the “Balkan tavern”. However, it is the legalization of domestic policy whose goal is to defeat the other and deepen the conflict that is disturbing.  Only the naive do not see, or pretend not to see, how much the appetites of many in the Balkans have grown towards the anticipated outcome of the imposed torture of B&H and with them the “idea” from abroad on how to profit from this torture following historical ambitions.

There are many difficult decisions that are still missing in the continuation of the construction of a somewhat more normal situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the true will, strength, knowledge, determination to respect and implement the written conditions for the admission of B&H into EU. It will not be possible to tango without those, but also without the right tune for the right audience.

The series of articles that follow will therefore be dedicated to many ambiguous or even noticeably wrong steps already taken. This cannot last indefinitely. The status quo will be questioned eventually. After all, there is a visibly great fatigue from what has not been done so far. There will soon be no tango to dance, as there has not really been any for years with the repeated lie (or ignorance) of Brussels: “The results achieved in B&H on reform path are – impressive.”

To date, there has not been a more impressive misconception from abroad which has served the bad guys at home so well. We need to take a stand. After all, here is the immediate opportunity following Palmer’s lunch with “political leaders” and the Sunday statement:”The talks were of good quality. We were surprised by that …”

Do we really start all over again?

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