Bosnia: A very European division

The following article was first published at the online Serbo-Croatian platform Bilten.

On 30 January the future organization of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the countries of the region without even a formal full sovereignty, was discussed in the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament (EP), a body in which no representatives of the country concerned have the right to participate. This is, of course, a standard procedure: despite having no plans in the near future to admit Bosnia and Herzegovina as members, the European Union in its significant and less significant bodies regularly assesses the “progress” of those countries for which it considers itself responsible. In this sense the “resolution” under discussion in the EP originally contained only the standard platitudes regarding the “rule of law,” which says nothing substantial about the situation in the country.

EuroParliamentIndeed, under the EU’s supervision, the “progress” of each country is estimated more by the compliance of their foreign policy with Western Europe (and the exclusion of the influence of Russian or other competitive capitals) than it is by real democracy or the functionality of the country. This is best shown by the recent positive accounts of Montenegro, which were bestowed without anything in the country changing, other than its foreign policy. In passing, it is worth noting, that one of the countries in which the EP has its headquarters (France) almost a year ago de facto suspended elements of the rule of law through a “state of emergency,” and in this state will hold its presidential elections later this year.

But this time, the announced resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina is somewhat more complex.

The Initiative of a European Greater-Croatia

Representatives of the neighbouring Republic of Croatia in the EP have lodged in the text of the resolution over two hundred amendments, many of which set the “federalization of the country” as a condition for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s “progress.” The expression is unusual, not least because Bosnia and Herzegovina, with its peculiar structure is more decentralized than is usually meant by a “federation.” What best explains this curiosity is the fact that the formulations of the Croatian amendments fully conform to the recent declaration of the coalition of Croatian nationalist parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose “federalization” actually means the establishment of an additional federal unit in Bosnia with a Croatian ethnic majority and beneath the permanent authority of the chieftains of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats; that is, the establishment of a “third entity” in the country (that would exist alongside Serb and Bosniak entities).

As per the usual choreography, the representatives of the Bosniak-majority parties reacted energetically to the plans, describing them as the ethnic division of the country (although the country has been ethnically divided by its constitution since 1995, and in practice by all three ethnic elites since 1990). Representatives of the Republika Srpska have cautiously welcomed the plans, warning however that the establishment of a Croatian entity should not mean reducing the territory presently under the paws of the Serbian ethnic chieftains. In this sense, this European Greater-Croatia strategy is stuck on the same problems that the country has faced since the collapse of Yugoslavia.

How the EP will decide on all of this remains to be seen. One thing is for certain: regardless of the resolution, no kind of “progress” will be made.

30.01.2017.

Translated by James Robertson

 

Vukobratovic (2) (1)Nikola Vukobratović is a journalist and editor based in Zagreb, Croatia.