The Complex Future of Bosnia

At present, I’m sitting in the discussions in the Croatia Summit 2006 in wonderful Dubrovnik. Here, many of the leaders of this part of Europe – as well as from other European countries and Georgia – are coming together to discuss different issues.

Much has been achieved in the region – but much clearly remains to be done.

It’s only when Croatia is secured as a member of the European Union, and Serbia securely on its road towards that goal, that we can really say that we can look forward to the regions stability.

Bosnia is only a stone’s throw – almost literally – from Dubrovnik. And the past of beutiful Dubrovnik was intimately linked not only to its maritime trade with most of the world of those days, but also its position as a centre for the trade with the hinterland of what is Bosnia and Serbia today.

It was to a large extent the gold of Fojnia and the silver of Srebrenica and Novo Brdo that filled the coffers of medieval Dubrovnik.

There are those that believe that all of the problems of present Bosnia can be sorted out by just changing its institutions, perhaps going as far as abiolishing its two-entity structure.

I hear some shadows of that view in the discussions here as well – although far less than one sometimes find in discussions more far away from the Balkans and its challenges itself.

But that’s a pipe-dream – and in my opinion a rather dangerous one.

Political institutions in today’s Europe have to reflect – within firm frameworks of integration, democracy and the rule of the law – the feelings of identity of its different peoples.

Such feelings of identity do change over time – but it takes a long time. There are no quick fixes.

That applies to Scotland with the United Kingdom, Alto Adige within Italy, Catalonia within Spain, the Flemish region within Belgium or the Åland Islands within Finland – just to mention some of the many examples.

Bosnia is certainly no exception to this. It is a veru complex place – joining together people’s with different senses of identity. And that will remain the place for decades – perhaps generations – to come.

A sign of the situation on the ground is that most of the Bosnian Serbs back the secession of the Republic of Srpska from Bosnia and Herzegovina if Kosovo gets independence, according to a not particularly but nevertheless basically credible recent opinion poll.

According to it, 40% out of the total of 850 respondents have said they support the secession; 22.3% of the people partially agree with the idea that the Republic of Srpska should join Serbia.

It was only 28% of those asked that reject the idea. It is not entirely impossible thyat the number of people who support the idea about the Republic of Srpska’s joining Serbia will grow rapidly if Kosovo gets independence.

Over time, the dangers for Bosnia that these figures represent can only be handled by a clear European path of integration, a careful international handling of the region and a deliberate attempts by the politicians of Sarajevo – whichever their orientation – to win the true thrust of all of the citizens of their country.

We are not there yet – with the internal challenge of credibility and thrust perhaps being the most difficult of them.

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