“The second millennium is coming to an end. The walls have fallen, we have our turning point. Europe is free, Europe is becoming new. Except for a little Balkan friction.”
That was the seventh verse of the legendary EAV number “Neandertal” in the original from 1991.
And if we take a look at the region at the gates of our united Europe today, it becomes clear: Thomas Spitzer and Co. could have saved themselves the trouble of rewriting.
Almost 30 years after the end of the war, things are starting up again in the Balkans. Nationalist forces are advancing – the vision of a functioning Bosnian-Herzegovinian state as a potential candidate for EU membership is fading. Recently there have even been warnings of a split in the country. But does that really have to be a bad thing?
Slovenia’s declaration of independence on June 25, 1991 is seen by many as the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia. In truth, however, it only heralded the final, dramatic act of a piece whose overture was the death of long-time head of state Josip Broz “Tito”.
Without the oversized integration figure of the man from a humble background, the resistance fighter, the leader of all the peoples of Yugoslavia and also without his hard hand, the decisive bridging moment was ultimately missing. That personified founding myth that was able to hold together what doesn’t want to hold together.
After his death, the party and the state were unable to fill the gap left by Tito. Political, economic and social crises accelerated in a downward spiral, the centrifugal forces of which increasingly drove the ethnic groups apart – until in the end only one solution seemed worthwhile: that of a new start as a nation state.
But what worked for ethnically almost homogeneous republics like Slovenia and to a certain extent also Croatia, led to the bloodiest chapter of the fratricidal war in multicultural Bosnia. Around 100,000 people died in the struggle between Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks for a country where they had lived peacefully together as neighbors for so many years.
In the end yes for nothing. Because to this day, former opponents – victims and perpetrators on all sides – are forced to live together in the “new” state. One that is formally independent but cannot grant this freedom to its people. Instead of efficient administration and democratic self-determination, the country’s political system is paralyzed by institutionalized distrust and remains under international tutelage.
So it’s really no wonder that Bosnia can offer its people neither reconciliation nor a future, and that belief in one seems to be waning.
It is therefore not surprising that nationalist politicians such as Serb leader Milorad Dodik are threatening to secede from the Serb-dominated part of the country and are trying to take advantage of the situation by loudly rattling their sabers.
After all, the idea of independence for the Republic of Srpska is quite popular – at least more than remaining in the status quo of one of the poorest countries in Europe with no prospects.
So instead of throwing fuel on the fire, threatening sanctions and ultimately playing Dodik’s game as a boo-man, the international community and its high representative would be well advised to give the country a vision.
One that can only aim to restore complete national sovereignty and ensure the Bosnian people’s right to democratic self-determination. open-ended.