Un-Happy Birthday, Republika Srpska

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Mailmen for Republika Srpska. Source: Srdjan Puhalo, twitter.

Last December, I gave an interview to Der Standard on the dangerous positions of far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in the Balkans, including his support for Serbian claims to Kosovo and his endorsement of the nationalist positions of Milorad Dodik. In response, not Hofer, but the representation of the Republika Srpska to Austria complained to the newspaper and criticised Adelheid Wölfl and not me, although it interview reflect mine and her views.

The comments of the RS representation seem an appropriate subject to respond to on the 25th anniversiary of the establishment Republika Srpska today. The celebration itself is a provocation, after it has been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and an illegal referendum was held in the RS to reject the court decision. The celebration itself was designed to provoke with special police units parading with machine guns (and also the postal services of the RS).

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The arguments put forth by the RS office in Vienna are part of the general effort of Milorad Dodik and his party to whitewash the RS of its responsibility and to continue with the construct a quasi-state begun by Radovan Karadzic and his party. Recently, Serb historian Čedomir Antić published a History of the Republika Srpska, which was praised by RS leadership as part of the answer to the campaign against the RS. Of course without irony, the book covers the history of the RS, going back centuries, a classic exercise in retroactive nation- and state-building. The fact that around 45% of the population living on the territory of the future RS in 1991 were not Serbs is conveniently ignored.

So the RS office objected to me calling violent establishment of the RS a cause of the war, pointing out that the RS was established before the war began. However, the RS might have been declared by a Serb politicians on 9 January 1992, but it was established through ethnic cleansing and the expulsion of non-Serbs after April 1992, and this has been documented in great detail in numerous books and judgements of the ICTY.

Next, the Vienna office objected to me characterizing the rule of Dodik as using authoritarian means and talking for years about secession. As for authoritarian means,his   party has also over the years been publishing lists of enemies of the RS (see also here, here and here). These lists don’t only include names of foreign diplomats, but also Bosnian and Herzegovina NGOs, media and individuals. Such list-making of enemies and equating criticism of the party with attacks on the entities, can only be considered authoritarian practices. Furthermore, the state of the media and press freedom has been extensively noted and criticized by international organizations and NGOs (here, here and here).

Ironically, the office also objected I suggested that Dodik has been talking about secession for years, and that as a result the comment suggests that ‘he should not be taken seriously, which is damaging his reputation.’ Of course, it is ironic that main objection is that he just talks about secession not the project itself, which is of course in breach of the Dayton Agreement and UN Security Council Resolutions. Dodik and his party have been talking about independence and secession since 2006 (including a  resolution in the parliament in 2008 in response to the Kosovo declaration of independence). Klix.ba counted 30 times Dodik threatened a referendum over the years. For claims to independence, here,  see for also for 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015.

Now, of course, I cannot judge whether he really intends to pursue these threats and after more than 10 years of arguing that the RS should decide on independence and that is has the right (which it does not). Recent signs suggest that he more willing to take a chance and pursue this policy, even if it might be a hollow threat, as James Ker-Lindsay, as argued.

Finally, the RS office criticized my characterization of Milorad Dodik as nationalist. Instead, they noted that his politics are social-democratic and calling him a nationalist is damaging his reputation. Of course, they fail to mention that his party, the SNSD was expelled from the Socialist International in 2012. At the same time, the party been fostering ties to nationalist  and far-right parties, including not only the Austrian FPÖ, but also Front National which sent a delegation to “celebrations” of the RS. Dodik has personally welcomed individuals who have been sentenced for war crimes by the ICTY and been a witness of the defense of Radovan Karadžić. None of this is particularly socialdemocratic.

Why bother, the claims made by the RS office in Vienna are silly and unsurprisingly don’t withstand scrutiny? However, there are commentators who either lazily or for other reasons imitate such claims, see the argument of Timothey Less in Foreign Affairs (for an effective critique by Eric Gordy see here). Furthermore, there is a paradox in the claims by the RS leadership  , echoing what its creators in the 1990s, Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić, and others claimed, namely that they were not nationalists, while at the same time pursuing exactly nationalist, exclusionary policies.

Milorad Dodik and his leadership continue to dismantle  Bosnia. For all their claims to the contrary, they also dismantle the RS. It is only recognized in Dayton as part of Bosnia, without Bosnia, there is no RS. Downplaying war crimes, glorifying its perpetrators, suggesting that the RS can only exist  a weak or nonexistent Bosnia suggests the RS is not a salvageable political project, created through ethnic cleansing and mass murder and justified through its denial.

Here is the full text of RS office in Vienna discussed in this post

 

 

 

 

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.

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). .

“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.”

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