Will There Be a War in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Adelina Marini, 23 September 2016
It is no longer funny, nor exotic, but very real – there will be a referendum in Republika Srpska (RS) of Bosnia and Herzegovina and this, alas, already brings sabre rattling. Concern is growing in Croatia, but also disappointment with the inactivity of politicians, media hysteria is developing in Serbia with feeble attempts to harness them, and Bosnian media are already crying in terror and bringing out photos from the time of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, begging politicians to stop talking about war. In Croatian media, the subject of the upcoming referendum is not on the front pages, but there are numerous commentaries and news articles dedicated to it. “Republika Srpska would like to copy Crimea, but does not have Serbia’s support”, is the headline of a commentary in Vecernji list. However, in the last few days, especially following the threats by Sefer Halilović, there is a feeling being created that BiH is at the brink of war, firearms are being pulled out of storage on both sides, such development is not very likely, writes the newspaper.
According to Vecernji, similarities between the Crimea referendum and the Republika Srpska one are more than obvious. RS is populated mainly by ethnic Serbs, just like the majority of Crimea’s population is of Russian nationality. The larger part of the Serbian population in RS would like to join Serbia. Vladimir Putin, who carried out the annexation of Crimea, does not mind the Republika Srpska referendum at all, as opposed to the rest of the players at the international political scene, including the USA and the EU, but also Croatia, and even Serbia, further comments Vecernji.
In a commentary for Novi list Boris Pavelić sends out sharp criticism against authorities in Croatia for the loss of influence in BiH. “Amateurishly late, disappointingly inadequate: only after the army commander of BiH Sefer Halilović worryingly warned that Dodik’s Sunday referendum will destroy the post-Dayton peace and pull BiH back into the time before Dayton was signed, meaning in a state of war, Croatia begins to worry about the crisis, which has for weeks been threatening with a regional escalation, the like of which we have not seen in the last two decades of peace”, writes Pavelić and asks: “How is it possible for Croatian authorities to monitor with such laconic leisure the biggest deterioration of the regional political situation over the last two decades, because of which BiH quite literally has been brought to the very brink of armed conflicts?”. Those responsible for the situation, according to the columnist, are the governments of Milanović and Orešković, led by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.
"Bosnian powder keg” is the headline of a text in tportal by Ante Srzić, who gathers opinions from analysts. According to the professor from the Philosophy University in Sarajevo Enver Kazaz, there will be no war in BiH, for it is an overly expensive toy. “The commemoration of January 9th preserves the ideological legacy of the war chiefs of the Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. Instead of speaking in this sense about an ideological crisis, Sefer Halilović, with his militaristic statement, gives arguments to new hysterics”, believes Kazaz. Senada Šelo Šabić from the Institute for Development and International Relations in Zagreb says she literally trembled when she saw in the morning the headlines, talking about a possible armed conflict in BiH and that Serbia will protect RS and Croatia wants protection for the Croats in BiH. She expects the situation will calm down after the elections and the referendum, but Dodik managed to achieve his goals, namely strengthening his position for the local elections, she believes.
She adds that Dodik has good partners, who are ready to immediately join the game. First of all this is Bakir Izetbegović, but also Aleksandar Vučić and Ivica Dačić. The problem, according to Senada Šelo Šabić, is that even if the situation calms down now, at some point something will happen. The question is who is capable of stopping the free fall. Alas, she told tportal, the EU is incapable of this, regardless of the decision to accept BiH’s application for membership. The question is which moment of the deterioration of the situation will force the international community into action.
Media tension in Serbia is considerably higher. The state-owned TV channel RTS aired an interview with the famous Serbian director Emir Kusturica (born in Sarajevo), according to whom the referendum for the Day of RS is not about the date, but about freedom and the preservation of “our culture”. In his opinion, there are constant attempts at causing RS to disappear and the current situation demonstrates just that, he says. Most tabloids shout from their front pages about the threat of a new war and the state elite helpfully states that the Serbian people will be protected. There needs to be an end to this, urges Veselin Simonović from the pages of Blic. “Over the last few days I have had the editor-in-chief of one of the dailies, complaining that he cannot deal with the competition, which incites war for what could he put on page one that would be stronger”, writes the columnist.
He said that he advised him to put on page one ”People, there will be no war!” The headline, he writes, is tabloidic enough, but offers something different than what the competition is offering. The most important thing is that it is true, says Veselin Simonović. In his opinion, the biggest warmongers are media, which are closest to the authorities and their jubilation will be endless until their chief - Aleksandar Vučić - continues to be the reformed Vučić of five years ago. In the author’s opinion, Vučić, as well as the rest of the leaders from the region, find it fitting to constantly keep the fire on international tension.
Serbian Danas quotes the words of President Tomislav Nikolić, who is happy that NATO has finally understood that one of its generals should not interfere with the relations between other countries and should not rattle the sabre. Word is of the statement of general Petr Pavel that the Balkans are still a potential source of armed conflicts and his call that NATO prepares to defend its members. “We know that NATO has guns, there is no need for anyone reminding us, we just want to know whether or not it is prepared to use it senselessly and needlessly, with no justification”, said Nikolić. In his words, there is not a man alive, who would want to wage war. “They will no longer find a counterpart for war in Serbia, just for peace and good relations. Anyway, anything is possible and there always needs to be consideration of the existence of some hothead” is Danas’s quote of the Serbian head of state.
Večernje novosti comes up on its cover page today with the statement that Sarajevo is preparing a new provocation against Serbia, namely a new genocide indictment.
In media of BiH itself there are more frequently texts, sharing memories of the war and appealing that an end is put to militant rhetoric. In Novi Indira Kriještorac, who was three years old in 1992, urges Halilović, Vučić, Dačić, Dodik, and Izetbegović to stop speaking on behalf of the young generation, for it does not wish to wage war. “We want jobs, we want to live”, she writes and turns towards media: “Dear fellow journalists – Serbian, but also ‘our domestic’ ones – either inform correctly, or do nothing at all. I know that, as our mutual colleague, Belgrade resident Dejan Kožul says, blood sells newspapers – but let’s have at least a little professionalism, ethics, a code for all that is not Fascism and not a shame”. In the end of her text the author urges all politicians, if they have nothing smart to say, to get lost and take their war with them.
Translated by Stanimir Stoev