A mutual visit of Georgian civil activists and journalists in Sarajevo, organized by the European Council, continues. The first meeting has been held with the professor Mirko Pejanovic of the University of Sarajevo. He acquainted us with the history of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and spoke about the reasons behind the conflict. First it was under the Ottoman empire, then became a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The given territory takes its name Bosnia-Herzegovina from that period; the time Bosnia’s europezation process had begun.
During the World War 2, the Balkan Peninsula was occupied by the Nazis, yet Bosnian guerillas offered intense resistance to the invaders. After the Nazi occupation Bosnia-Herzegovina became a part of Yugoslavia. The period between 1960-1980 is considered the golden era of the Yugoslavia federation. But a crisis begins in Yugoslavia in the beginning of 1990s, and the federation splits into several republics. The Bosnians came out from Yugoslavia membership with referendum, but Slobodan Milosevic didn’t want the federation subjects to split. He addressed the Yugoslavia citizen army, from which everyone but the Serbs had been dismissed. Then aggression towards the Croatians and Bosnians had begun. Scores of people were forced from their homes. The Bosnian muslims and Croatians were oppressed the most. The situation had aggravated very much, and all the ethnical and religious minorities of those republics clashed with one another. And only the intervention of international forces made it possible to stop the bloodshed.
The bloody war between the Bosnian muslims, orthodox Serbs and catholic Croatians was brought to an end with the Dayton Agreement signed in 1995. Bosnia currently consist of 2 subjects- the Serb Republic and Muslim-Croat Federation.
As a results of NATO’s interference in the Bosnian War of 1992-1995, the conflict parties came to an agreement in Dayton(U.S. Ohio) that implied the establishment of two units on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation of Bosnia –Herzegovina was created thereby, with 51% of the territory, and the rest 49% came to the Republic of Serbia. Parallel to that, the autonomous unit of Brchko was established as well, which enjoys local self-government. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a three-president governance, with each having a right of veto. Since 1995, after the NATO forces had entered, no major clash has taken place.
Mirko Pejanovich says that 3 segments of peacemaking have been used in Bosnia. One- the freedom of movement between the cities previously engaged in war. First a bus escorted by international forces was let in, then all transport facilities were given identical numbers. Gradually, it became possible to move freely, without escorting.
The second segment was the restoration of infrastructure. USD 14 billions international aid was allotted to Bosnia and Herzegovina. By 1996, 17 governments, 18 UN missions, 27 intergovernmental organizations and 200 NGOs had been involved in the process. In addition, tens of thousands of militaries were deployed on the territory of Bosnia.
The third segment was the comeback of the refugees. Tens of thousands of refugees were brought back to their homes. With the aid of international organizations, a law on the reclaim of lost property was instituted, and the changes made to the constitution had promoted the restoration of trust. The given changes brought in the equality of all ethnical and religious groups, giving equal rights to the Bosnian muslims, orthodox Serbs and catholic Croatians united under the federation, and the three presidents are representatives of those nations. They have created a kind of council and each of them becomes, according to the rotation principle, the commander-in-chief and the signer of acts once in eight months.
The war criminals have been convicted by the Hague Tribunal. The Federation currently has one army that embraces representatives of all ethnical groups and has mixed command. Though the state of peace isn’t completely stable for the moment, Bosnia and Herzegovina is steadily heading towards the EU. It has obtained NATO membership action plan(MAP), yet a stall in the reforms has hampered the country on its way to the EU.
Media and conflicts
The subject of the next lecture was “media and conflicts”, delivered by Vlastimir Mijovic. He said that the media has played a major role in the incitement of the Balkan conflicts. According to him, the first word in the beginning of a conflict is shot by media, and that the last “bullet” has to be as well shot by the media. All conflicts end sooner or later, but the media still refers them in hate speech. Just as in the case with Georgia, in Bosnia too the military journalism dominated over the peace journalism. The situation is now changing for the better, but the Bosnian media is still lacking for freedom and often becomes a subject of manipulation, Mijovic says. He compares journalists with the employees of a tobacco factory, meaning that journalists can as well create production that poisons people.
Our hosts speak very little about the past, war, as if they are ashamed of recollecting those events. Mijovic says for that matter- now the time is the main ally of Bosnia, the time of peace and forgetting of pain. There is a big different between the Georgian and Bosnian conflicts, but still I can see some similarities. The major difference I believe is that our neighbor is Russia, while theirs are European countries.
In the evening we went out with our Ossetian colleagues to see the old district of Sarajevo. We saw the bridge where prince Ferdinand and his wife were killed, and that very murder became the reason behind the World War I.
We have multitude of discussions within our group. The following phrase have been said- a mechanism of achieving peace by forgetting democracy, as international organizations forced those nations towards peace and made anti-democratic exceptions. The issue of the country’s arrangement isn’t completely clear, but everybody says that peace is of utmost importance and only then comes the stability.
In the evening we, Georgians and Ossetians, sat together and drank a toast to peace and those making peace.
Goga Aptsiauri, Sarajevo