What the Belgrade-Prishtina Agreement means for Bosnia

The agreement between Belgrade and Prishtina, even if its implementation will surely hit some snags has repercussions beyond the two countries themselves. In particular Bosnia is going to be affected, being the other country in a continuous major political crisis.

First, the ability of the Serbian and the Kosovo government to find a compromise should put the current political elite of Bosnia to shame for not agreeing on some basic reforms, ranging from the implementation of Sejdić-Finci verdict to ensuring that Bosnian farmers can continue to export their dairy products to Croatia after it joins the EU on 1st July.

The second major consequence of the agreement will be for Republika Srpska and Milorad Dodik. Lately, he and his associates from the SNSD seem out of step with reality.When Tomislav Nikolić apologized the other day for Serbian war crimes, Dodik only commented that the interview (for BHT) was aggressive and that because he wants “good relations with Serbia and its leadership, there is no sense nor need to go into public comments and polemics“–hardly an endorsement for Nikolićs apology. Relations with Serbia have deteriorated after Dodik placed all his bets on Boris Tadić during the elections last year and thus is clearly not in favor with the current government, especially Aleksandar Vučić. The corruption investigations in Serbia that involve good “friends” of Dodik also did not help to improve relations.

Now with the deal between Serbia and Kosovo, Dodik has also lost his ability to evoke a credible alternative to Bosnia. His continuous suggestions that Republika Srpska might eventually become independent  has received a serious blow. While he never talked about the RS joining Serbia, it is clear that the RS could only leave Bosnia with Serbian support. The RS is too small and isolated to achieve this without a supportive neighbor, especially as few other countries in the region and in Europe are likely to take a favorable view. It never seemed particularly plausible that Serbia would support the RS in independence (instead of supporting it as an at least formal part of Bosnia) at the price of EU accession and worsening relations with its neighbors, but it has now become even less credible. The Serbian government has shown a degree of pragmatism and willingness to not pursue the idea of partition in Kosovo. So why would a government of Serbia “give up” on Kosovo, despite it being still part of Serbia according to its constitution and turn around and support the RS. As Dodik’s ally in Serbia, the DS also supports the agreement, Dodik seems rather isolted with his more critical view of the agreement. In fact, he is now closer to Koštunica and thus without strong allies in Serbia. Even if the DS were to return to power in Serbia (unlikely any time soon), it would be without Tadić as a friend and without the same ambiguity he displayed over the RS and Kosovo. Just a few days ago, Nebojša Radmanović, the Serbian member of the Bosnian presidency, evoked  in an interview the RS assembly resolution from 2008 that claimed if half of the UN members recognized Kosovo, the RS would also have the right to declare independence. Now, the count is over half with 98 (of 193) UN members recognizing Kosovo and a referendum on independence of the RS seems increasingly unlikely and evoking its might just start sounding a lot holler in next year’s electoral campaign.

The Strange Verdict of the General with a Checkered Past

Back when they got along: Perišić and Milošević

Momčilo Perišić is the latest of a series of high ranking inmates at the ICTY that have been freed by the court. The last time I recall him being released was from his duties as Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister in the first DOS government of Zoran Djindjić. He had to resign after he was caught meeting a US embassy official at Motel šaric outside Belgrade in what looked a lot like a conspiratorial meeting. While the “spy” affair never was fully cleared up, it seems that Perišić tried to pass on incriminating documents against Milošević. It also served as ammunition for Vojislav Koštunica and his loyal army chief Pavković against Djindjić. Perišić broke with Milošević in 1998 over Kosovo, but already met student protestors in 1996-7 to assure them tanks would not be used. After his break with Milošević he created his “Movement for a Democratic Serbia” and joined DOS. However, his movement was never more than a personal vehicle and once he was arrested and then dismissed as Deputy Prime Minister, he movement and political engagement came to end. It is thus ironic when a comment for Sense notes that “Momcilo Perisic was the only senior official from Serbia and FR Yugoslavia convicted by the Tribunal and sentenced for crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Slobodan Milosevic was charged with the same crimes, and the judgment can be considered as Milosevic’s posthumous acquittal for Sarajevo and Srebrenica.”

The latest judgment is troubling in challenging a number of key findings of a number of earlier rulings of the ICTY about the linkages between the army of the RS (VRS) and the Yugoslav army. The key argument of the judgement is that the concept of “aiding and abetting” is only applicable, if it was directed towards committing crimes and it does not suffice if assistance was used to commit crimes. The understanding o the appeals chamber of the VRS leads to rather odd conclusions “Appeals Chamber agrees with the Trial Chamber that the VRS was not an organisation whose actions were criminal per se; instead, it was an army fighting a war. The Appeals Chamber notes the Trial Chamber’s finding that the VRS’s strategy was “inextricably linked to” crimes against civilians. However, the Trial Chamber did not find that all VRS activities in Sarajevo or Srebrenica were criminal in nature.” (para. 53).” This is reiterated later on: “VRS was participating in lawful combat activities and was not a purely criminal organisation.” This assessment is highly problematic. First, the purpose of the VRS seems hard to reconcile with lawful combat activities, second arguing that not all activities were criminal is about as convincing as stating that the Mafia is not only involved in criminal activities and thus supporting it does not mean that one is “aiding and abetting” criminal activities. I agree with the dissenting opinion of judge Liu who argued that “to insist on such a requirement [of a specific direction] now effectively raises the threshold for aiding and abetting liability. This shift risks undermining the very purpose of aiding and abetting liability by allowing those responsible for knowingly facilitating the most grievous crimes to evade responsibility for their acts.” (para.3). Liu also challenges the idea that even if the Trial Chamber did not consider the VRS a criminal organisation, it was found to have conducted “systematic criminal actions against Bosnian Muslim civilians” (para.4) and that Perišić know about the crimes committed by the VRS (as in fact anybody reading a good newspaper at the time did) (para. 8).

In brief, the decision suggest that you can provide crucial support including weapons to an organization conducting a war that committed “systematic criminal actions” and get free because you did not direct them specifically to commit these crimes.  Although the judges note (para. 72) that “that this conclusion should in no way be interpreted as enabling military leaders to deflect criminal liability by subcontracting the commission of criminal acts. If an ostensibly independent military group is proved to be under the control of officers in another military group, the latter can still be held responsible for crimes committed by their puppet forces,” it seems to have become a lot easier to do just that.

Bosnia’s Ghosts in Syria

Twenty years ago I spent a month in Syria. I managed to find a nice small flat in a neighborhood that extended up Mount Qasioun just north of the city center of Damascus. Past the wide boulevards on which the embassies lay the slope of the mountain became steeper and modest apartment buildings lined the streets. Here, was my apartment which a landlady in her late fifties had been renting out to students who mostly came to Syria to study Arabic. Before I could move in, I met her in her cramped apartment and discussed the rent. She was a bit puzzled by Luxembourg and where this place was and her curiosity about my home country exceeded the usual level of interest. After a while of back and forth, she just asked me outright what was on her mind: “Luxembourg has nothing to do with Yugoslavia, right?” This was not a question I expected. I could answer will all sincerity of course that Luxembourg never was a part of Yugoslavia or had nothing to do with. Her question had nothing to do with the war that was raging in Bosnia or the dissolution of the country. For her, Yugoslavia was still real and nothing good. Her previous tenants were from that country and had left the apartment in a terrible state. She swore never rent to Yugoslavs again. After I laid her concerns to rest, I received the keys and could move into my apartment. The only trace of my previous tenants were a few Panini stickers of the Yugoslav football team. I don’t remember if they were of the European championship in 1992 when Yugoslav qualified but was barred from participating due to the sanctions or whether it was from two years earlier when Yugoslavia lost in the Quarter Finals to Argentina.

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It was not during my month in Syria that I ever thought of parallels between Yugoslavia and Syria, but four years later when I visited Lebanon that the parallels to Bosnia struck me. Today, after two years of war in Syria it is hard not think of the parallels to Bosnia. Of course, there are striking differences: The war came to Bosnia as the Bosnian Serb leadership rejected Bosnian independence and sought to create an “ethnically clean” statelet to join Serbia and started a war with the support of the Yugoslav army and Serbia. In Syria, the war began as a crack-down of the regime on protesters demanding a change of government that has escalated into a brutal war with the government killing protesters and opponents.

What is reminiscent of the war in Bosnia is the passivity of what is euphemistically called the international community. External intervention was never seriously on the agenda. Whether it was the blockage in the UN Security Council, difficulty of intervention (unlike in Libya), or the fear of giving weapons to the wrong side, arguments are plentiful. The result is the continuation of the war with increased brutality and more severe long-term consequences.

Big Brother is watching

Big Brother is watching

As the war continues, it turns more into a conflict over identity and the Assad regime in Syria has it wish. Originally a repression by a brutal dictatorship is turning into a war between the Sunni majority and Alavites who have been associated with the Assad regime. The longer the war drags on and as the rebels see little support for their cause to rid Syria of the Assad regime, the more this conflict becomes sectarian. Increasingly, it seems that even if the rebels were to win, this would just usher in further conflict in which the Alavite minority and other smaller communities such as Christian groups would become the target by the majority. Currently, it is hard to imagine what post-war Syria would like, but it seems certain that the two years of war have seriously damaged community relations and segregation and conflict will follow. Three and a half years of war in Bosnia also undid many ties and created a deeply divided society. In this sense, those who started the war created a new reality where the divisions they invoked became real. The longer the conflict continues, the harder it will be in peace time to undo the damage done. Not intervening will not make Syrian reality go away, but every day that the war continues, the peace will be harder. These are the parallels to Bosnia.

Balkan Horoscopes

Last month just in time for the 20th anniversary of Republika Srpska, the main public broadcaster RTRS decided to broadcast in its evening news as one of the main stories the predictions of Gojko Mandić, astrologer by profession (his computer does give him some authority, but it does lack the magic). He warns that the state (the RS is meant) and the nation should not invest in risky financial transactions and number of other really promising predictions. This type of news does remind of the Milošević years in Serbia when the paranormal, the paranoid and the paramilitary worked hand in hand and nations got their horoscopes, cards read and other funnies. Some of these are still around, such as Treće Oko (current headline: why do aliens love Novi Sad?), the Serbian equivalent of Weekly World News.

Predicting the future of the RS

Predicting the future of the RS

But maybe it is a good idea to look into the stars of the countries in the region…

Let’s start with our latest birthday boys and girls: Serbia (15.2.) and Kosovo (17.2). Both are Aquarius, so it would seem like their future is kind of similar (I didn’t figure out the ascendents and all of that). According to yahoo horoscope, this what 2013 holds for Serbia and Kosovo:

“2013 is the year when all of your hard work starts to truly pay off in spades. Saturn, the cosmic taskmaster, is taking up residence at the tip top of your horoscope for the next few years, giving you the make-it-or-break-it impetus to get the job done right. You’ve been biding your time over the past few years, collecting the necessary research and finding a slew of inspiring mentors. Now is your chance to finally get your genius concepts on the map where they belong. Yours has been a slow-and-steady climb rather than a meteoric rise to the top, thus you’ve built a rock-solid foundation to carry your dreams through with serious staying power. Your success is anything but a flash-in-the-pan. Over the next two years, you’ll continue to work hard to build on earlier accomplishments and integrate all that you started investing in since 2000…

… 2013 is the perfect balance of business and leisure for you, Aquarius!”

Our next Birthday country is Bosnia (1 March), which makes it a Pisces:

2013 is nothing short of stellar for you, Pisces. … Your powers of psychic perception and healing have never been stronger. Your ability to create glamour, weave fantastical illusion and provide invisible-but-potent healing to others is beyond measure. Others will feel inextricably drawn to you without understanding why. This is excellent for your star potential as others sense something extraordinary and sublime in your presence. People want to have you around as much as possible even without fully comprehending why. The best part is that people are willing to pay big bucks for whatever it is you have to offer and no matter how intangible it may seem. For once, you won’t feel like the oddball, freak or the perpetually misunderstood alien in the crowd but rather the mysterious-yet-sought-after special someone that others cannot resist. It’s all part of your otherworldly glamour and mystique. Work it, Pisces! … If you were planning on expanding your home or upgrading, now’s the time. … The eclipse points of 2013 will stir up your travel sectors — both domestic and foreign — so keep your passport and suitcase handy. This year is all about mind and soul expansion for you on every level. Get ready to leave the comfort of familiar territory for more experience and adventure than you’ve dared to dabble in for years. This year will be anything but ordinary.

Montenegro is Cancer (13.7), as is Croatia (25.6.) so they’re having similar prospects.

Get ready for a year of fabulous expansion, sweetness and love galore, Cancer. This summer, lucky Jupiter is moving into your constellation to bring amazing opportunity and expansion to your world — all the way into 2014! You’ve been preparing for the breakthrough and surge in success, so you’ll be more than ready to take your rightful place in the limelight. All areas of your life receive the benefits and blessings of Jupiter for the second half of 2013. Your confidence is sky high and you feel more optimistic about life and your future than you have in ages. All of the suffering, heaviness and loss of 2012 will quickly become a thing of the past as you embrace the amazing opportunities being showered upon you in 2013.

2012 had you face some very deep fears steeped in your childhood. Family issues and wounds from childhood were the challenges you had to face. It wasn’t easy but it brought a tremendous amount of inner strength in its wake. Rest assured, this new phase takes you out of the past and into the world of love, romance and creativity. You’re being asked to put considerable time into pursuing your heart’s desire — without exception. If you can structure time for what you love, your life will be infinitely more rewarding than it has been in years. The depression is definitely lifting and you are willing to embrace the sweet life once again.

And finally Macedonia is a Virgo (8.9.):

2013 brings you sweeping change and intensity, Virgo. The biggest transformation takes place in the realm of the mind. Communication, correspondence and courses of new study carry great importance…. If you’re not already a powerful public speaker, teacher or writer, get ready to discover your latent potential to sway the masses with your power of speech! You’re also hungry for knowledge in 2013, and will want to strengthen your skill set and beef up your resume with even more knowledge than you possess naturally.

The eclipse patterns stir up endings and new beginnings in relation to siblings, travel and legal issues. Siblings or close relatives could become a source of strain, and you’ll have to create firm boundaries. In fact, boundaries in all realms of communication will serve you to avoid overload. Your life is about to become ridiculously busy and filled with more people than you know what to do with. At the end of the day, you’re still a hermit at heart and need plenty of alone time, so be sure to carve that out regardless of how social your world becomes.

Ok, I give up, there is no more need for political analysts, commentators and all the rest. Some good yahoo horoscopes do the trick much better and of course, there updates are plenty (daily, weekly, monthly). .

Notes from Ditchley

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I returned a few ago from a very interesting conference at Ditchley on the Western Balkans. The discussions with policy makers and analysts did not raise any radical new ideas, but it was good opportunity to take the temperature on thinking about and from the region. It was also a lesson in bad metaphors. Many felt that carrots and sticks are not working, but theories why differed: People in the Balkans prefer meat to carrots or the carrot is actually a stick. Either way, the days of carrots and sticks seems to be over (nobody mentioned that the metaphor implies that the person in question is either a horse or a donkey).

There was broad consensus that overall things were heading in the right direction, but there were a number of warnings: many (but not all) thought that the state of democracy & rule of law and lack of deep rooted reforms in the economy will continue to be a source of difficulties in the years to come. There was a bit of a divide between a number of Western policy makers who felt that the EU and its member states were doing enough to bring the countries of the region into the EU and that it was up to political elites to make an extra effort and a number of analysts who thought the EU should do more and make the membership perspective more realistic. A specific suggestion was for the EU to begin accession talks with all countries of the region as soon as possible rather than wait for each country on their own to fulfill the specific conditions. Once talks begin–the symbolic year of 2014 was mentioned as start date–the negotiation process will force countries to shape up and carry out reforms in a manner that is unrealistic prior to the beginning of talks. It seemed clear that such a scenario is unrealistic at the moment with a many member states skeptical about enlargement and afraid (although unjustifiably so–see Turkey) that accession talks would lead to membership ‘on the sneak’. A problem that has become more pronounced in recent years is the use of individual member states to use the accession process to set additional conditions. This has made the accession process less predictable as the Commission cannot guarantee the next step in the process as individual countries might block whatever comes next for unexpected reasons that have little to do with accession. Of course, this also undermines the credibility of EU accession. The current approach of the Commission to launch dialogues with countries without accession talks has been a good way forward but without beefing up the DG Enlargement this cannot be expanded more broadly.

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The most encouraging signals came over the Serbia-Kosovo talks which are expected to lead to some tangible conclusions before the summer and when the current window of opportunity might close. On the other hand, Bosnia was much discussed, but there were few new ideas on how to help the country out of its current deadlock.

I found it encouraging that there is a clear sense that incrementalism is the way forward, there is not going to be a big bang, but rather small steps that will change the region and resolve the open questions. For this to be successful, one needs to overcome the dynamics of what one participants aptly called the EU member states pretending to enlarge and elites in the Western Balkans pretending to reform.

My role in the Austrian colonial conspiracy against Croats

Since I posted my brief response to the faked interview yesterday (republished on radiosarajevo.ba), there have been some new twists in the story. Dnevnik.ba which apparently unknowingly took over the fake interview appologised and published a clarification. Somewhat different has been the response of poskok.info.

They acknowledged in email correspondence the mistake (attributing it to a colleague from Croatia), but after I did not respond to their questions about the Croat rights to self-determination, etc. (it seems like answer to their questions was a bit like tell a thief how the clock works which he just stoke from you), they published a, shall I say, rather tendentious comment. The bottom line is that they added the stuff to the interview because I should have said it and only because of the whole Austrian colonial influence didn’t (I especially like the description of VL as the neocolonial voice of Austrian postcolonialising capital).

In contrast to what the portal thinks, I am not an expert in international law and there are probably others better qualified to answer the question whether or not the Croats of BiH (aka the Austroottoman Kurds in the heart of Europe) have the right to autonomy or self-determination. My sense is that the answer would disappoint the portal, but then again, this might all be part of a global conspiracy.

A few imaginary lines or some news snake oil on Croat entities

In today’s brave new media world, stories, articles and interviews are quickly posted, reposted and shared. While it is making life difficult for many media outlets to get the reader to come their site or buy the newspaper or magazine, stories get a round quickly. Sometimes it seems that the reposting portals might do just a bit more than circulating an existing text.

The original interview

The original interview

It took me thus by surprise when some friends and acquaintances asked me a few days ago whether I really supported the creation of a Croat entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not having suffered amnesia recently this news surprised me as much as my friends. The source for these claims was the “re-print” of an interview I gave a few days ago to the Croatian daily Večernji List on the webportal poskok.info (meaning viper in Croatian).

The title of the „interview“ was “Hrvatski entitet je isključivo hrvatsko pitanje. Radi se o naime o suverenom pravu koje se Bošnjaka ne tiče…”  a line one would not be able to find in the original interview. Following many questions which the portal correctly copied from the interview (without ever mentioning the original source), there comes the surprise:

The Fake

The question “Do Croats have the right to ask for their entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina?” which Večernji List never asked me followed by an answer I never gave:

“Of course they do, this is as if you’d ask me does the buyer of a car get the steering wheel for this car? Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are a constituent people and accordingly to all [sic!]UN convention sovereign people have the right even to self-determination and to declare independence. In this sense, the demand for territorial autonomy inside the state that is not questioned is a normal and legitimate process. The problem of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is more the problem of the right expression of what that people anyhow have the right to considering that their political elite does a bad job and is inarticulate, whereas a part of the Croat political forces many years openly serves the Bosniak national project.

Broadly seen, Croats in BiH already have some ‘entities’ considering that cantons per definition are entities for themselves are entities [sic]. Entities in international law are nothing else but territorial units with specific institutions and competences.The international community constantly commits legal violence against Croats in BiH. The questions is when this body will radicalize and then the question will arise whether they will stay in BiH. Namely, Croats in BiH are above all a small nation who hold the balance, if you turn them against BiH I think that BiH is finished as a political idea.”

The fictional answer contains bad metaphors and the absurd idea that UN conventions have anything to say about constituent people, their right to self-determination or entities.

Following the next question the creative interviewer returned to an original question by VL, but took the liberty to embellish the answer (the added sections marked in bold) :

I think that the odds for this in current circumstances, are very slim, but politics is changeable and the question is what will be tomorrow. Remember Kosovo. Who foresaw the independence of this province? And Kosovo is not inhabited by a constituent people, but an ethnic minority in Serbia.

The failed constitutional reforms in BiH in 2006 and 2009 demonstrated that even minimal change to the Dayton Constitution is nearly impossible. Creating a Croat entity would be a major change to the Dayton Constitution and is opposed by Bosniak [the text in VL mistakenly writes Bosnian] politicians if it affects only the Federation.

Certainly the RS would oppose the changes if it would also affect the RS. As a result, I cannot see this coming about, unless this is part of a grand bargain between the political elites. However, the record has been poor. Finally, the census of next year is likely to show two things. First that Croats are much smaller in number than Bosniaks and Serbs and that many Croats do not live in areas with whom the Bosniak elite manipulates as ‘nominally Croat’ regions.  In this manner the theory of multiethnic Bosniaks is failing considering that ethnically mixed regions of BiH generally exist in regions that used to be part of Herceg Bosna.

These two points strength the arguments for creating a Croat entity but the question of its realization depends only on Croats. Frequently the wrong question is asked in public—will Bosniaks allow Croats this and to this one constantly returns. There is nothing Bosniaks have to allow Croats and neither Croats Bosniaks. The sovereign right of people are defined for themselves and concern only the nation to which it relates.

Also here the changes use terms like “Herceg Bosna“ which are not really widely used outside of, well “Herceg Bosna” and the additions constitute the opposite of my original statement which I concluded with the observation that “Both of these undermine arguments to create a Croatian entity.”

So why should I or anybody else care what some marginal portal called “Viper. Portal for Social Decontamination” makes up? With the quick spread of stories via social media such as twitter and facebook, few media are truly marginal. Thus, word spreads even from unserious portals such as poskok.info as it attested by the numerous friends and acquaintances who found out that I was a clumsy defender of the supposed Croat right to a third entity. Secondly, news spread to another, more serious news portal, dnevnik.ba which circulated the fake interview, getting hundreds of hits (currently the portal is down). Thus quickly a few made up questions from a marginal portal become “real.”

“Mixed Meat” or a lesson in national purity in Republika Srpska

One comes across a lot of bad, hateful and nationalist texts when reading newspapers in former Yugoslavia, but a recent column in the Daily Glas Srpske (Voice of Srpska) called “Mixed Meat” (Miješano meso) stands out as a highlight to which lows of hate speech the public discourse in the RS has sunk.  The columnist Nikola Pejaković describes in great detail his opposition to mixed marriages, marriages between individuals of different national or religious background, and suggests that they are essentially a expression of communism, to be precise: “a Yugo-melting pot with the goal or creating a Yugoslav nation, atheist and based on the teachings of Marx, Engels, Stalin and local šalabajzer” (an untranslatable term standing for something like a simpleton).

He accuses particularly Serbs for having given up their god and been to willing to enter mixed marriages and points out “the experience of the past war has demonstrated that mixed marriages have resulted in many problems for these people and their families. Thus we should no longer beat around the bush. Ok, love happens, but when it happens… But where to marry? In whose church? Or again in the municipality, like the marriage is a municipal matter, a building permit.”

In the end the columnist concludes that “in my humble opinion marriages that remain mixed (sic!), where one doesn’t know who is the man and who the woman, neither to which god the children should pray, where for the sake of peace at home they celebrate neither Easter or Bajram—are just a misfortune for the lover and for their children.”

Of course such a language is nothing new to Glas Srpske, which was owned by the Republika Srpska government until a few years ago when it was sold to Željko Kopanja who used to be considered a critical and daring journalist in the RS.

While the hate speech of the war and immediate post-war period has declined it remained loyal to nationalist rhetoric of SNSD. Amidst glorifying the RS and the war, downplaying war crimes committed, the suggestion that “mixed marriages” stands out as particular offensive. The fake care for children from mixed marriages cannot hide the fascist (and I do not like to use this word) assumption: nations should marry among themselves, some kind of national purity would thus be maintained expressed through religiousness and worship of the imagined ancestors of the nation.

Not only does the author clearly oppose mixed marriages to be concluded, but also against the ones that already exist. Ironically, the authors claims that “Excuse all those who are in mixed marriages or from mixed marriages. This is not against them, but against the communists and their pro-Nazi plans, playing with people-nations and genetics, against their experiments which cost us 60 year standing in place ….” (of course there were mixed marriages before Communism and after)

Of course, it is the author who is promoting ideas of national purity which is a lot closer to the terms he accuses the communists of. The fact that such ideas which present the legal relationship between two individuals of different national or religious backgrounds communist and undesirable in 2012 in a European daily is hard to fathom, especially for a newspaper published in Banja Luka where Radoslav Brdjanin said 20 years ago about children from mixed marriages “We shall throw them into the Vrbas and those who swim out are certainly Serbs.”

An unexpected count: Results from the Bosnian sample census

Over the past two weeks, Bosnia held a small scale sample census to prepare for the much expected 2013 census. The census has been postponed several times and is highly controversial, mostly because the issue of ethnonational identity. Not only are quotas in the civil service and elected offices allocated according to the census (so far formally according to the 1991 census, but down the road it might be hard to uphold this if a new census is available), it is also an important tool for all parties to bolster respective claims (i.e. about the Serb predominance in the RS, about the number of  Bosniaks in Bosnia overall). Today, nobody knows the number of inhabitants, not to mention their self-identification. It is thus no surprise that the census results will be hotly contested. Already the run up to the census has been controversial: the identity questions about ethnic/national identity and religion have created heated debate once the first draft questionnaire was published. While offering write-in options, it did offer the categories Bosniak, Croat, Serb, undeclared and other (write in) and below, neatly replicating the identity categories, Muslim, catholic, orthodox, undeclared and other.

The critique focused on the fact that non-religious citizens had no clear category available, nor did people with multiple identities. Again, all these categories were similar to censuses conducted in other countries of the region in 2011. In addition to domestic criticism international observers lobbied for less rigid and more open questions. The NGOs lobbying against the proposed survey were successful and the questions on identity were reformulated.

The new questions first gave a write-in option with the national identities only listed below, allowing for  respondents to choose more than one identity. For religious affiliation the questionnaire now offers the choice to be an agnostic and atheist, a significant change from the previous form and regional practices.

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The sample census hast just been completed and no results have been officially announced, but today Dnevni List published results of the census. The results have to be taken with great care, as we do not know if they are based on all sample municipalities, nor can we be sure that the results are reliable (the article includes some dubious claims, such as the suggestion that any nation that amounts to more than 50% of the population has the right to a nation state according to international standards). There is an important additional caveat. The sample census is not aimed at being representative. However, it was conducted in different regions of Bosnia, including the Federation, the RS and Brcko, in villages and in cities (or rather city municipalities, including parts of Banja Luka, Sarajevo, Mostar). Thus, it is not representative, but it can certainly considered to be indicative of country-wide trends.

If the results are even anywhere close to being indicative, it would be quiet an earthquake for Bosnia’s identity politics. According to the article, 35% declared themselves to be Bosnians and/or Herzegovinans, especially younger citizens. This would make this group presumably larger than any of the three nations and certainly more so than Croats and presumably Serbs. In addition, many older citizens appear to have identified as Muslims rather than as Bosniaks. Others identified as Catholics and Orthodox rather than as Croats or Serbs. This would suggest that state and religious affiliation matters more than national identity to many.

While the article does not publish the results in percentages, the data presented would suggest that against most common expectations ethno-national identity categories have largely failed. State identity might be stronger than expected and the uniform ethno-religious categories have been challenged.

Even if there are no immediate implications for the political system, in case these results are replicated country-wide, it would have considerable consequences. It would be hard uphold institutions such as the three member Presidency and the House of Peoples which currently exclude all non-Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. The implementation of the ECHR ruling regarding Sejdic and Finci would also receive greater urgency. It might also raise questions why non-ethnic parties fared so poorly if they have such a large pool of potential voters and might reinvigorate electoral campaigning of this population group.  Either way in Bosnia, censuses are elections and vice-versa. It will be important to look out for the census/election results next year.

Oxford in Banja Luka…

Since I wrote a post last year about private universities in the Balkans, I have kept coming across some oddities in the region and beyond associated with private universities. Here is the latest:

I was surprised to see that Paneuropean University Apeiron in Banja Luka won an award from Oxford (“Oxford in Banja Luka”), but this is what its ad proclaimed (see below) on the website of B92. Imagine my surprise that this “Pan-EUropean University for Multidiscipline & Virtual Studies” achieved such recognition.

Of course, it is not quiet so simple. The award was granted by the European Business Assembly (http://www.apeiron-uni.info/). The EBA is “an independent corporation for development and management of economic, social and humanitarian collaboration.” The only connection to the University of Oxford is the location. The organisation seems mostly specialised in organising “high profile” events and handing out awards (the Socrates Awards are given out twice a year). The list of recipients strangely enough requires log in.

The organisation is interestingly linked to the following

ICL (the International Club of Leaders, President – , UK. ICL – is the association of top-managers of the world’s leading enterprises in the middle category).

CRE (The Club of the Rectors of Europe, President – Wil Goodheer, Austria. CRE – is an association of rectors, professors and academics from the major university and academic centres of Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa).

OGMV (Knight Order of Grand Master La Valette, Grand Master пїЅ Professor John W.A. Netting, UK. OGMV – is a chapter of leaders from different spheres of public life that advocate for the triumph of universal human values, humanism and patronage).

ISC (The International Socrates Committee)

The Club of the Rectors of Europe, is chaired by the rector of the International University of Vienna. This university has no website or rather its domain expired (http://www.iuvienna.edu) and is not listed among the recognized private universities in Austria (http://www.bmwf.gv.at/startseite/hochschulen/privatuniversitaeten/). However, it seems to have now become the Megatrend International University Vienna (MIUV) (http://www.megatrendvienna.at/), as the street address of the old international University and the new Megatrend are identical (http://www.efors.eu/vienna-universities-en/id/1101).  However, as disclaimer on the website states ” Megatrend University owns the operations of former IU including its website only since May 7, 2011. Megatrend is in no way the legal successor of former IU or its owner, the “Verein zur Errichtung und Förderung der “The International University” and is not responsible or liable for any action or omission of them. Should you find any statements or promises of former IU on this website, this is only due to the transition process and will be changed very soon.” Nevertheless, also the Megatrend International University is not listed as a university recognised by the Austrian ministry. The new rector is a different one than the president of the “Club of Rectors of Europe”. The Club of Rectors seems to be also offering its own awards, one recently handed to Slobomir University for Quality in Higher Education (European Quality Award): http://www.spu.ba/eng/european.html

Interestingly, the International Socraties Committee (http://www.ebaoxford.co.uk/International%20Socrates%20Committee/) in charge of”determining the International EBA Award-winning nominations” includes few academics, except of the Afa Bablola University in Nigeria (which also recently got an award in Oxford: http://www.abuad.edu.ng/en), the Euro University in Estonia, a university in Armeina, Nargono-Karabakh and Georgia and Vietnam and Megatrend Universtiy in Serbia.

Of course, we don’t have the list of Socratest Award winners, as the list is not public on the European Business Assembly website. Googeling for the award, we find out that the winners around the globe,  including

Forest Research Institute Malaysia

SHABAVIZ PUBLISHING COMPANY

INTERNATIONAL MARBLE CO. LLC, OMAN (highly recommended viewing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B75CahcNk_o)

Micro Technologies India

Baku State University

Henry Herbert Lartey, Chairman of the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), Ghana

Euro College, Macedonia (http://www.eurocollege.edu.mk/vienna/index.htm)

and Megatrend University (http://www.megatrend.edu.rs/fps/str.php?bs=Istorijat&language=1)

and many many others

I recommend also viewing this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eH8JXvNOFo&list=UUe8Tt1HLzgCdCdltjeLrp8g&index=1&feature=plcp

I leave the judgement of what this award means for the Paneuropean University in Banja Luka up to the reader.

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