The «Bosnian Spring» and the Serbian Fall

 

Pyotr ISKENDEROV | 15.02.2014

The dramatic developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina are becoming increasingly pan-European in character. In the dynamics of the conflict one can see parallels which make it similar to the crisis in Ukraine and at the same time give apologists of Eurointegration in other countries cause to think.

Of course, the protests which have swept over Bosnian cities have their own national peculiarities. After all, based on aggregate socioeconomic indices, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is one of the three weakest countries in Europe, along with Albania and Moldova, and the crisis tendencies there are not difficult to see.

In spite of this, up until recently the ruling elites of Bosnia and Herzegovina – Muslim, Croatian and Serbian – have been able to maintain relative political stability. Pressure from an external factor, the presence of a High Representative in Sarajevo with unprecedented powers for a sovereign state, has also played a role. However, the European crisis, the growth of unemployment, the typical Balkan widespread corruption and the increased activities of external forces have radicalized the situation. As a result, both Milorad Dodik, the charismatic president of the Republika Srpska, which forms part of BiH; and Bakir Izetbegovic, the moderate leader of the Muslims, have lost popularity noticeably under the pressure of radical forces. The possibility of holding early elections has been placed on the agenda. The politicians already in power are also advocating this, hastening to «ride the wave» of the protests. «The people want a change in government», says Bakir Izetbegovic, hoping to broaden his electoral support, although currently he is already a member of the highest body of power in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the collective Presidency.

For now the mass protests are mainly taking place on the territory of the Mus-lim-Croatian Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities which make up the state. The position of the Croats looks more reserved due to the peculiari-ties of their position. British researcher David Chandler accurately characterizes these peculiarities, stating that Bosnian Croats are strengthening their position in Bosnia by maintaining and deepening their ties with more affluent Croatia. An excellent example for the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia! After all, the risk of a full-scale spread of the current crisis into the territory of the Republika Srpska should not be underesti-mated.

A detail worth noting. Bosnia and Herzegovina signed an Association Agreement with the European Union back in 2008 – a document similar to the one Brussels was trying to get Ukraine to sign. The direct consequence of Eurointegra-tion has been that what remained of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s industry after the ethnic civil war of 1992-1995 is collapsing. The national statistics agency reports a 44% unemployment rate, and one out of five residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina lives below the poverty line. However, the European Union and its anti-crisis funds have neither the ability nor the intention to help a country which is not even an official candidate to join the organization.

It now seems that Brussels is preparing to subject Bosnia and Herze-govina to a demonstrative military «peace enforcement operation». The High Rep-resentative of the international community in Sarajevo, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, stated in an interview with the Viennese newspaper Kurier: «If the situation continues to become more complicated, we may think about sending EU troops…» Considering the intensity of interethnic disputes which persists in Bosnia and Herze-govina almost two decades after the end of the fratricidal war, the socioeconomic crisis could easily grow into the disintegration of the country. It is very likely that the West will take advantage of events and force the Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina… British Foreign Secretary William Hague has already urged his EU and NATO colleagues to make every effort to help Bosnia and Herzegovina move toward membership in the European Union and NATO.

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