Bosnia’s ruin and the future of Ukraine

Vitaliy Portnikov

It is quite possible that we will bargain for the destiny of Bosnia…

The crash of Bosnia’s corrupted statehood unfolds against the backdrop of Ukrainian political protests. Coincidentally, total corruption in the state has also become one of the reasons for the protests. Therefore, there is quite a temptation to draw a parallel between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine and, as an example, the way Bosnian law enforcement officers arrested Zivko Budimir, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation and how they draw him out from his own office with in handcuffs. But only a few people can imagine that the events we are witnessing today in Sarajevo or Mostar portend exactly the Ukrainian future and this future is not very bright.

The political, economic, and social crisis in Bosnia is such a common phenomenon, that massive protests and the arrest of the president are needed in order to bring this country to the world’s attention. But it is worthwhile to consider how Bosnia’s neighbors, Slovenia and Croatia, are now a part of the European Union, and even Serbia (which recently did not know how to get rid of Slobodan Milosevic’s authoritarianism) begins the process of European integration.  Meanwhile, Bosnia remains in a depressing post-Yugoslav condition.

The reason is that, in reality, there is no Bosnia and Herzegovina state as such, in fact there is none. Terrible war and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia destroyed the common cultural space as it used to be, where Muslims, Serbs and Croats lived. On the one hand, the West could not agree with the results of ethnic cleansing­, and on the other, it could not ensure that refugees would return to their historical locations. And that is how the compromise was reached: within Bosnia on the territory “cleansed” from Muslims and Croats, Republika Srpska has emerged while two other nations have formed Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation. Each of the two areas has its own authority, the collective Presidency manages them, but ­in fact they are managed by an international mediator, because the Presidium members cannot agree on almost anything by themselves.

Now tell me, how can a state develop when one part (which consists of two unconnected enclaves) is looking toward Belgrade, and another part – toward the West, but not exactly because Croats habitually focus on Zagreb and Muslims have both Western and Eastern support? And if we even agree that Muslims and Croats still have a feeling that Bosnia and Herzegovina is their homeland, for Serbs Republika Srpska is the homeland, Serbia, to be precise.

Thus, it becomes clear that the government in such a country is not quite real. That is, it can still take bribes for assisting various crooks, but to control the police – sorry, not. I’m not saying, of course, that it is a bad thing to detain bureaucrats who were caught with their hand in the till. I just think that it is good only in terms of an independent state. But when this happens under a protectorate, then it does not really matter.

And here is the most important thing: I would like to see the arrest of the corrupted President in terms of the sovereign Ukraine. If the Ukrainian crisis continues and mutually acceptable terms of a political settlement are not achieved, it is quite possible that we will bargain for the destiny of Bosnia with no need of any ethnic cleansing. And the Republika Srpska with its capital in Kharkiv is being created for us by the followers of the same people who created the Republika Srpska with the capital in Banja Luka. And, of course, in such a state there will be constant rebellions, shock resignations and there will be even arrests of law enforcement leaders as well.

The most important thing will be missing, that is the development strategy, because with no genuine interest in a shared destiny, no shared destiny is in place either.

Translated by Olena Grudnenko, edited by Natalie Domchenko


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