European Western Balkans

Belgrade discussion: The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina

BELGRADE – European fund for the Balkans in cooperation with the weekly magazine Vreme hosted a discussion named “The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina” on the Tuesday at Mixer House in Belgrade.
The main topic of this event was the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the moderator said is believed to have been in a “frozen” state since the Dayton Agreement, signed in the year of 1995. He added that it is also believed that BiH is the country with the most difficult situation in the region. The main question, which was at the same time the main motive of the whole discussion is whether Bosnia and Herzegovina, in its current state, has a future and what factors could affect its future path. Four speakers participated in the discussion: Dejan Jović, political analyst, Nenad Kecmanović, political analyst, Srđan Puhalo, political analyst and social psychologist and Nebojša Vladisavljević, political scientist.

Nenad Kecmanović opened the discussion by stating that the situation in BiH is being too dramatically presented to the world, and added that everyone who visits BiH can see for themselves that the daily lives of its citizens are quite normal. He thinks that there is a problem in the whole region, including Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, and not only in BiH.

“The Western Balkans is facing a big crisis and I do not believe the EU can fix this problem, especially since the EU is becoming a less attractive option for regional countries. But is important to ask how could BiH even become a part of the EU, where only democracies are being accepted, and not protectorates and countries with dictatorship,” asked Kecmanović. He believes that the Dayton Agreement is the only solution available at this moment and that it is necessary to abide by the basic foundations of the agreement.

Dejan Jović pointed out that BiH will not disintegrate nor become fully integrated and those options would only be possible if there were radical changes in the international circumstances.

“Countries are not formed and disintegrated because the people decide so. We all remember that Croatia and Slovenia asked for independence from Yugoslavia, and no one supported their decisions because the US refused it,” said Jović.

He also added that if Dubrovnik and Vukovar had not happened, the international community would have never changed its mind about this matter. Only at that point, they realised that Yugoslavia does not protect its own citizens and changed their opinion.

He pointed out that peace in BiH is important for the international community, but that this matter brings up a new dilemma if peace and democracy work together or not. He stated that the people of BiH are not capable of using their own sovereignty properly because when they first had a chance to vote, they chose politicians who were not capable of obtaining peace in the country. Because of that, it is better for BiH to be under the surveillance of the international community, then to have control over its own sovereignty, a situation which can lead to conflicts.

By contrast, Vladisavljević said the problem was that we have high expectations concerning the intensity and speed of reconstruction of countries that have recently gone through a war.
“When we look for a model of a multinational state, we look up to Switzerland, but is that the right country to compare ourselves to? We should compare the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the events that occurred in Northern Ireland, Cyprus or Lebanon. From this point of view, we could realise that our situation is not that bad,” explained Vladisavljević, who believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina is in need of democracy.

Srđan Puhalo thinks that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future is not to be doubted, but he points out that the biggest problem BiH is facing now is a great number of young people who are leaving the country because they see no future in it.

“Young people are tired of nepotism, corruption and the constant talk of war. Once in every three months a new war is being mentioned, and nationalism is a weapon which is being used for manipulating the people,” said Puhalo. He stated that the current situation is good for the politicians of BiH, and because of that they have no interest in resolving it. They try to make the current situation last by talking about inexistent conflicts so that they can manipulate the people more easily, and continue with their governing.

The discussion left the question if it is necessary to update the Dayton Agreement opened or if a new document should be created, one which would suit the current situation in the region better. The speakers concluded that politics and war are opposites, but that the simulation of war in the arena of politics is the purpose of politics, as well as a good form of prevention from real conflicts and wars. Because of this, even verbal nationalism can be useful, because it can prevent real aggression from happening, and therefore prevent a civil war.

The discussion named “The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina” in Mixer House was the first out of three that will discuss the question of the future of BiH. The next one will be held on the 12 April in Zagreb, and the last one on the 10 May in Sarajevo.

Marina Zec

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