The first quarter of a century is over in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Historically, it is a short time in the existence of a state, but history teaches us that the Balkans is a place where the existence of states is – relative. Yugoslavia, for example, has accumulated 67 years in its various forms and has failed to survive. Here, one average life is marked by two wars and at least two changes in the state system.
We are like that in nature. Both us and those who made us.
Imagine, for example, that it is 2001 again, and that the Serb member of the BiH Presidency needed to sign an agreement to co-operate with The Hague tribunal to help apprehend war crimes suspects. Impossible, right !? That is exactly what the then member of the Presidency from the ranks of Serbs, Živko Radišić, did. From today’s perspective, in which Milorad Dodik uses practically every opportunity to celebrate Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić – that seems impossible. Just as after the attempt of “Croatian self-government”, the High Representative – and Wolgang Petritsch was in office at the time – removed the Croatian member of the presidency, Ante Jelavić, and thus practically removed him from the political scene forever, which in Bosnia and Herzegovina is always full of cynicism.
Carlos Westendorp, who introduced the single currency, car registration, and the flag and coat of arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina, removed Nikola Poplašen from the post of president of Republika Srpska in 1999 because he did not want to appoint Milorad Dodik, a young socialist. At first, he was the favorite of the West and what we call the International Community, but as time will show, is going to use all the sluggishness of the European administration and enter his second decade of absolute power in the Republika Srpska. It all goes around.
Cynicism is, in fact, the only continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last twenty years. The session of the EU-BiH Stabilization and Association Council was finally held these days, after about – three years. The new circumstances of the pandemic certainly contributed to this, but objectively, it was not too different even when the world was not ravaged by the virus. Because, there have always been two measurements, two “policies” of the European administration which, each in their own way, “worked” for the (de)construction of Bosnia and Herzegovina. One, who wanted to build a European path, and the other, who, by constantly obstructing and maintaining practically, the gains of war, left a black hole in southeastern Europe, in the darkness of the 1990s.
Because, hand on heart, Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state, in today’s reality, was created by American intervention, not by European consensus. The assessment may seem too strong, but it turns out that it was up to Europe, or the more inert part of its administration, the area framed by the Croatian coast, and the rivers Sava, Drina, and Una would remain some kind of Middle East (or far worse) where the rules of the game are determined ad hoc, in such a way that international arbitrators lobby for a certain advantage, for only one of the three (national) parties in BiH. A state in which, practically, no one represents a common interest, could exist as such a model, but its destiny is essentially “stuck” in those four famous words that were the basic credo of Valentin Intzko. “I express my concern.”
All the pallor, inconsistency, inaction, and lack of interest seem to fit into those exact four words. “I express my concern.”
Which are, in fact, the same as a translated local euphemism: “Let there be no shooting.”
Because, “expressing concern” is, in fact, neo-colonial cynicism, which means everything and nothing, and it is used when there are no answers to specific questions: that is, when those conditions for which it declaratively stands, cannot be provided. Repeating elections every four (or every two years), with the same actors, the same rhetoric, the same levers of power, and the same model – is not working towards a successful thing. It is an eternal repetition of the same cycle. A necessity in which Europe found itself. No one is reasonable and should not expect all our problems to be solved in Brussels. Nor that we are some kind of priority in the new reality (new abnormality?) of current political relations. Still, less cynicism would not be out of place. The reports that come in the mail every morning from the offices of European institutions in BiH are most similar to the products of the information services from late socialism, which repeated the mantras of “unity” and “success” day by day. Fatigue and disbelief are the main features of these announcements that tell us nothing, but probably, to some extent, soothe the conscience of the programmers of our present reality.
By expressing concern.
Having become an object of international relations, and having missed some historical chances for raising the level of functionality of the state to a higher level, Bosnia and Herzegovina stands between the fact that it is practically impossible to assemble into one unified subject. Which, in terms of the quality of life of its citizens, would be the best solution. Also, at the moment, it cannot be broken up into several units – which is a secret wish of its enemies and a (good) part of the policies of its neighboring countries.
It is an ungrateful, difficult, and in the long run unsustainable position. This was described only a few days ago, in Brussels, by the current president of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija. Saying, among other things, that it turned out that “we are not the best student in the process of joining the EU.”
Expressing concern. What Tegeltija neglected is that he is not a “student” in this whole story, but he should be a “class teacher”. Which he obviously didn’t live up to.
Which, in the end, doesn’t bother those who received it. Neither does it bother those who chose him.
Because, in the end, we still choose. For now, we can choose between “expressing concern” and “let there be no shooting” That choice is not ours either.
And it’s not, well, much of a choice.
Just as (only) elections are not democracy.