Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bosnia's police: how the West sets up a new ethnic conflict

Bosnia is a state that never would have become independent if the case had been considered objectively. Unfortunately international opportunism prevailed and now we are stuck with a mess.
Ever since the Dayton Agreements were signed both the Bosniaks and the international community have tried to undo it. There is a continuous pressure for "reform" and somehow all reform means centralization. After getting the army under central command the pressure is now to achieve the same with the police. The government of the Republika Serbska and the great majority of the population there are against, but this has not stopped the pressure.
The most important pressure comes at the moment from the EU that made police reform a precondition for the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement.
The main complaint about the present situation is that criminals can easily cross borders and so evade police prosecution. However, many European countries have a fragmented police and crossing borders is easy between the Schengen states too. Experience learns that after one or a few incidents the police forces involved will work out a work-around. In fact something similar has already happened in the Sarajevo region.
Another complaint is the interference by politicians. But there is no reason to expect that national politicians (read Bosniaks) will be less interfering as their Serb collegues.
A last demand from the EU is that the borders between the police regions should be based on "technical criteria". Somehow this is supposed to mean that those regions will completely ignore the boundery between Bosnia's two entities.
The Serbs certainly have reason to be afraid for the consequences. As a follow up to the recent army reform the central government has proposed to move most of the troups to the Serb and Croat regions where they will function as a kind of occupation army in order to prevent any separatist thoughts.
In the Osman empire the Christians were second rate citizens when it came to justice and protection. Some muslims still dream about regaining their superior position and unfortunately the man who led Bosnia to independence was one of them.
Nowadays you can hear very confident Bosniaks (a.k.a. Muslims) who see it as their birthright to rule Bosnia because they are the biggest ethnic group (43%). It is their idea of democracy that the biggest group should rule. Because the West armed and trained their army after the Dayton agreements they are very confident that they can support their rule with arms if necessary.
If Bosnia is to become a viable democratic state it must be a state where the different groups respect each other. Such respect can only be built from strength. By weakening one party and strengthening another the West is creating a very instable construction.
Sure, Bosnia's ethnic groups lived mixed together without much problems before the war. But by declaring itself independent it created a separation. If the Bosniaks cannot live with the Serbs in Serbia it is an implicit declaration that they cannot live with the Serbs in Bosnia too. This effect might have been mitigated by careful negotions with the local Serbs. But the Bosniaks chose the confrontation and the international community was (and still is) so foolish to support them.
It would be a much better policy to stimulate the two entities to develop themselves. Stop tinkering with the Dayton Agreements - this creates only distrust and is rightly considered as a breach of contract. If there are problems - like at the moment with the police - they can be solved with simple pragmatic solutions.
I see with disgust how the central government and the international community are hampering the economic development of the Serb republic and how the OHR is promissing the Serb population that they will be punished for refusing the police reform. This is the sowing of hatred and distrust - not the confidence building that Bosnia needs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This blog is about that strange institution that is hardly understood: the nation-state. It has been the driving force behind state formation since the 1800s, yet it is seen as archaic in some circles.

A major problem is that our ruling classes (diplomats, politicians and industrialists) live in a multinational world with lot of international contacts. In such an environment it is easy to forget that for the great majority of the population the world looks different. As a consequence the nation-state is often left to the populists - contributing to the bad name of the nation-state.

Most nation-states are about language. In a few cases other factors like race or religion is the discerning factor, but in those cases (like Northern Ireland) there is a history of discrimination.

There are two factors that have made the nation-state a hot topic:
- the government became much more important as an employer and with that ethnic discrimination became a major problem.
- when people worked on the land it didn't matter which language they spoke. But collaboration in big companies and organisations requires that people can understand each other very well. With the increase in office work the problems of a multi-lingual environment have only increased.

In underdeveloped countries like India or Africa you can still find the traditional situation that you could see in Europe too before 1800, with different ethnic groups living mixed. But in the developed world ethnic minorities have become rare. Many are slowly absorbed into the mainstream. In a few cases special minority rights allow two groups to live together, but these rights are hard to get. Cities like London and New York may look very multi-national, but they are basically melting pots.

Have a nice reading!