Bosnia and Kosovo: Europe's Forgotten Protectorate

Sarajevo during 1990s; Unknown author

BELGRADE – Arte, the European Culture Channel, made a documentary on Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo exploring the role of international community and how the goal of bringing democracy and prosperity has been mostly forgotten.

With unemployment rates around 40%, and with even higher youth unemployment, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo belong to the poorest states in Europe, whose habitants continue to search for better life in other EU countries.

Yet, both – Kosovo and Bosnia – were subjects of unprecedented involvement of international community that provided significant financial assistance and was directly involved in rebuilding political and economic structures based on liberal market economy aiming to bring democracy and prosperity.

In 2015 alone the EU spent around 3 and a half billion euros in Kosovo, with the rest of international community providing almost as much as the EU did. Further, if we average out how much aid is given to developing countries, Kosovo alone in the past sixteen years has received something like 19 or 20 times that. On the other hand, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the first six years after the war, received around sixty and seventy billion dollars of direct help.

Yet, in both countries is difficult to see any evidence of the received financial aid raising living standards of people and improving harsh economic situation.

The example of a steel mill in Zenica, Bosnia, indicates the failure of the economic doctrine imposed by the World Bank and other donors who enforced privatisation of Bosnian economy refusing to invest in any state or public owned companies. As a result, there are almost no working factories in Bosnia today.

On the other hand, the case of the American construction company Bechtel, that had built 80 km of a highway in Kosovo for more than 1,2 billion euros (11 million per kilometer) with a help of at that time American ambassador in Prishtina, Christopher Dell, reveals the corrupt practices that involve both sides – international and local actors – and that have largely remained uninvestigated, despite the presence of the EU Law of Rule Mission, Eulex.

KT