Bosnia and Herzegovina in NATO – Peace in the Balkans (II)
Horizontal Conquest Expansion Tendencies
Author: Haris Silajdžić
Continuing with "Bosnia and Herzegovina in NATO – Peace in the Balkans (I)", Dr. Silajdžić writes about what can be a neglect of the historical context, and points out that in BiH, "maintaining the status quo in reality means implementing the results of genocide, because the passage of time it cements the force-imposed condition, which corresponds to the negators of genocide and is in line with the ideology that produced the discrimination in the first place ”; recalls that genocide has been determined and adjudicated by the Hague Tribunal, a United Nations court, and that "denying genocide is therefore a grave humiliation for the entire international community and a blow to the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations"; states that the citizens of BiH were "victims of Greater Serbian aggression and genocide, and are now hostages to the same policy that stands in the way of BiH towards NATO and EU membership"; and as good news highlights BiH's path to NATO and the support BiH has for it, and "any tangible advance towards NATO membership restores faith in the possibility of building a modern democratic society".
The contrast between the situation in BiH and that part of the Dayton Peace Agreement that prescribes the protection of human rights is all the more striking as we live in the aftermath of the Hague Tribunal's pronouncements that leave no doubt about the character of the war in BiH. It was not a civil war, but an "international conflict", that is, aggression. The cause of the hostilities is not "age-old hatred", a cliché that is often used more as an excuse and a reason for inaction than justification.
There were no ethnic or religious conflicts in BiH after World War II. BiH heritage coexistence, its original integration co-existence from time immemorial, its Bosnian paradigm. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church operated alongside the Bosnian Church, but never clashed; problems always came from outside.
It is this deep-seated mutual respect for Bosnians and their affinity with their country that has been the target of Serbia's political leadership. First, bad blood was created among the communities in BiH through media propaganda, and then brutal military force, using the resources of the former Yugoslav People's Army, fell on the non-Serb civilian population of BiH. Only in this way, through savage massacres, persecution of civilians and concentration camps, was it possible to achieve the goal of the ethnically clean territory they intended to annex to Serbia. This territory was also cleared of the characteristics of the culture and religion of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croat Catholics to an extent far beyond anything seen in World War II. The highlight of all is genocide.
It was not a civil war but a "planned genocide" (Joseph Biden). The international community has been repeatedly warned of preparations for aggression led by Milosevic and his regime, but there have been no reactions. "You were warning us, but we didn't believe anything like this could happen." (Senator Robert Dole, talking to the author when visiting Sarajevo). The protagonists of Greater Serbian ideology have shown that they can be trusted when it comes their willingness to liquidate the non-Serb population in BiH.
Here's an example that, unfortunately, is just one of many. In the first half of February 1943, the Muslim population of the then Priboj district was exposed to terrible massacres by Chetnik General Draza Mihailovic. Thousands of innocent civilians from Foca, Cajnice and many villages were killed. The report by Pavel Djurisic to his superior, General Draza Mihailovic, states that 8,000 civilians, women, children and the elderly and 1,300 men, whom Djurisic calls fighters, were killed. In those days, more people were killed than in Srebrenica, where it happened some fifty years later.
Srebrenica is not only a symbol of genocide, the greatest crime in Europe since the Holocaust, but also of the fragility of our values: what we said would "never happen" again, nevertheless happened.
This text was written on April 6, the day Sarajevo marks the liberation at the end of World War II in 1945, and this is also the day when the siege of Sarajevo in 1992 by the Serbian aggression forces lasted for 1,425 days. It is the longest siege of a city in history, killing more than 11,000 adults and more than 1,600 children. All this was happening in Europe in a time of global peace, followed by a large number of international media, often live.
Neglecting the historical context, even if it is a country on the European margin, can lead to tragedies caused by the well-known ideologies of European provenance. Fascism virus is never far from the surface, especially in Europe. Therefore, the attitude of political Europe to the manifestations of this ideology in the Balkans is confusing and worrying.
The big question that arises is whether the consequences of this latest attack on the non-Serb civilian population of BiH will be mitigated by the measures that can be taken, or despite the Hague Tribunal's clear judgments, will this criminal project continue to live as an open call for new genocides, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
For now, convicted war criminals are serving prison sentences and their project, for which they have been convicted, continues to serve as a successful model of violations of international law and elementary civilization norms!
Moreover, encouraged by the lack of sanctions for successful obstruction of Annex 7 to the Dayton Accords, the Republika Srpska entity authorities treat few returnees as second-class citizens and question their property and even the property of the state in various ways, despite judgments of the Constitutional Court of BiH.
War criminals imposed as heroes
Because of all of the above, it is difficult to understand the absence of decisive reactions to the demonstrative public rejection and disparagement of ICTY judgments. The entire political and military leadership of the Entity of the RS has been convicted of war crimes for long imprisonment, or life imprisonment, and all have been rewarded by the entity's authorities. In Banja Luka, and other cities in the entity, schools and institutions bear the names of these war criminals who have been transformed into heroes and examples of a new generation. Even the aforementioned General Draza Mihailovic has raised a bust, a Nazi collaborator who was convicted of massacre of civilians and executed after World War II.
In Srebrenica, a symbol of genocide, next to the cemetery where the victims of the genocide were buried, parades of hooligans with music and provocative songs without the reaction of local authorities. This is done by young people who have been identified as war heroes by the war criminals, similar to the Republic of Serbia, where systematic social rehabilitation of quisling collaborators, such as Milan Nedic, Dimitri Ljotic and Draza Mihailovic, has been carried out for over thirty years as part of a comprehensive review of established World War II facts. These people are responsible not only for the mass liquidation of non-Serb civilians, but also for the Serbs of anti-fascists, communists and other undesirables.
Milan Nedic found it appropriate to publicly boast that Serbia is the first country (after Estonia) to resolve the issue of Jews, mainly by mass liquidations. The atrocities against the Roma population within the Nazi policy of racial "cleansing" were the least to attract attention, but this did not make them any less terrible. Muslims in BiH and Sandzak were massacred, regardless of age and gender, "without mercy and pity," as Stevan Moljevic, author of the "homogeneous Serbia" syntax, dictates.
After a pause of fifty years, everything is repeating itself: war criminals become heroes and an example of reputation for a new generation, and the negativism and revisionism of current policies demonstrate a willingness to use that generation for new (self) murderous campaigns in the name of the mythical Greater Serbian construct regardless of casualties. US General Ben Hodgson recently asked himself against whom Serbia is armed with Russian weapons, who is threatening them, apparently unable to understand the irrationality of the act.
On the other hand, it is quite possible that talking about irrationality is on the wrong track of loading some higher goal where it is missing. It could be a rational, cynical marketing manipulation addressed to plebs as the most reliable consumer. But whether it be the spasmodic maintenance of power, the political vanity of messianic proportions, or even belief, the result is the same.
Foundations of Civilization
It is only logical that those who approve of genocide, who publicly celebrate war criminals, deny them genocide. That genocide was identified and ruled by the Hague Tribunal, the United Nations court: denying genocide, therefore, is a grave humiliation for the entire international community and a blow to the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations, an organization founded after victories over fascism. The fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina does not yet have a law prohibiting the denial of genocide is devastating, notwithstanding the resistance supported by the views of the Government of the Russian Federation. Specifically, it is known that a representative of the Russian Federation vetoed the United Kingdom Resolution on the Srebrenica Genocide (2016) at the UN Security Council. The very foundations of our civilization and our humanity are at stake here.
(The COVID-19 pandemic shows that it is precisely these marginalized values such as humanity and solidarity and international cooperation, institutions and conventions that have no alternative.)
It is unacceptable that the judgment of the Human Rights Tribunal in Strasbourg (Sejdić-Finci, Pilav et al. Case), which abolishes discrimination in BiH, has been waiting for a full ten years! Maintaining the status quo in reality means implementing the results of genocide, because the passage of time cements the force-imposed condition, which corresponds to the negators of genocide and is consistent with the ideology that produced discrimination in the first place.
It is similar to insisting on further ethnicization of the Election Law, which also represents an attempt to implement the results of aggression and genocide, while the direct judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which are directly enforced, are still awaiting implementation.
In other words, it takes time to thoroughly implement the results of aggression and genocide; the implementation of the Dayton Agreement on human rights must wait, as synchronization of the two processes is an obvious impossibility. Given that Dayton explicitly establishes the primacy and priority of this issue, it is clear that priorities are determined by policies, or policies that have other goals. To these policies, or policies, the discourse on the implementation of the Dayton Agreement only serves as a front for pursuing these other goals.
What is waiting? Are all geopolitical combinations expected to be realized to the detriment of BiH before the essential implementation of the Dayton Agreement is reached? BiH citizens ask when they will be punished? They were victims of Greater Serbian aggression and genocide, and now they are hostages to the same policy that stands in the way of BiH towards NATO and EU membership.
As it is, dictated by a criminal project, BiH cannot be an EU or NATO member, and BiH citizens do not want to give up their natural right to live in a normal, democratic country. This is the situation in BiH.
On the other hand, the cause of the cataclysm, which has hit BiH and other countries of the former Yugoslavia, shows no signs of changing the policies of aggressive expansionist nationalism. Moreover, and after all that has happened, there are open threats from Belgrade officials using military force in BiH and Kosovo. War may seem to be the only way out of politics that has put itself in a stalemate over the last thirty years, and so these threats should be taken seriously no matter what they seem tragicomic.
Horizontal conquering expansion tendencies are not diminished; vertical uplift through the upgrading of national resources is at the forefront. This proliferation obsession, present from the mid-19th century, from the Nazareth of Elijah Garasanin from 1844 to the present day, was perpetuated by the perseverance of nationalist and clerical circles, and by various activities, memoranda by the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade, which gave its academic imprimatur. This obsession stifles democratic change and social catharsis at the root, while maintaining on the surface the possibility of achieving the goal, albeit incompletely.
When this possibility is eliminated, the reason for such a policy will disappear. Then those political forces in Serbia that flirt with the nationalist agenda under the pressure of populist inertia will be relieved of that obligation. Because of this, any settlement, especially regarding changing international borders, gives legitimacy to a retrograde political current that makes Serbian politics hostage to Nikola Pasic (1845-1926) to this day. Of course, this policy would only concern the citizens of Serbia if it were not fatal to the surrounding countries.
"Getting used to the idea"
Milorad Dodik, a current member of the BiH Presidency, uses the COVID-19 pandemic to intensify his campaign against BiH, Dayton and the presence of the international community, therefore, everything that stands in his way of fulfilling his tasks under the Greater Serbian project. For this member of the BiH Presidency, the country he presides over is a "mistake," an unnecessary creation that has "no sovereignty"; it is surplus as were hundreds of thousands of expelled and liquidated civilians of BiH citizens. He admittedly confessed to genocide against the citizens of BiH until instructions were given from the Belgrade ideological headquarters on how to proceed in the case.
Genocide-cleansed entity RS Dodik intrusively "annexes" Serbia with the aim of "getting used to the idea," following detailed instructions from the Greater-Serbian establishment in Belgrade. It is clear that the problem is with this establishment and Russia's policy that trades influence in the Balkans, bearing in mind strategic goals in other, more important areas. All this goes without serious international reaction, which has had consequences.
Encouraged by a statement by the former UN secretary-general in which he regrets the grave mistakes made against a UN member, a signatory to the text as chair of the BiH Presidency, speaking before the UN General Assembly (2010), warned participants that the mistakes in BiH implies the intention and approval of activities aimed at endangering peace.
The good news for most BiH citizens comes from NATO. The structures of this organization, as well as those responsible for this segment at the State Department and the diplomatic missions of some Western countries in Sarajevo, are working hard on BiH's progress towards full membership, with all the difficulties they face. Sometimes these difficulties are unexpected, such as the certain reserve of two Western European members of NATO.
This process is slow, but it is of historic importance for BiH as well as for the entire Western Balkans. Like the EU, NATO is founded on the democratic values that most BiH citizens want in their country. Membership of NATO would give BiH citizens the necessary stability they need to develop genuine democratic relations in the country, as well as to develop economic potential that is still untapped. There is no doubt that BiH's NATO membership would provide a strong impetus to democratic processes in the countries of the former Yugoslavia and to co-operation on the principle of mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of those countries.
Hence the resistance to NATO by Greater Serbian politics; preventing the realization of territorial claims means the disappearance of the reasons for the existence of this policy that stands in the way of the progress of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, including Serbia, for decades. That is why a progressive, future-oriented and cooperation-oriented policy in Serbia would be good news, especially for BiH.
Steps that can be taken in a short period
There are a number of steps that can be taken without delay to restore citizens' confidence into the whole process. This is, first and foremost, the enactment of a law to punish the denial of genocide, or the promulgation of that law by the High Representative. Without that step, every talk of democratic values, human rights and reform has no echo.
The mentioned “entity vote” is illegitimate because it is based on systematic and systematic obstructions by the authorities in RS for the return of refugees and displaced persons. It is not just an obstruction to the implementation of key Annex 7; it is a total recklessness of Dayton and its purpose as a response by the international community to a massive, open violation of all human rights by aggression and genocide, most severely in post-World War II Europe. BiH cannot move forward until politics that cause the planned genocide can impose its will.
Such entity voting must be abolished or reformed. The solutions are in the judgment of the Human Rights Tribunal in the Pilav case, the resolutions of the US Congress, the opinions of the Venice Commission, the analyzes of domestic and international experts, democratic practices and sound logic.
The implementation of the judgments of the Human Rights Tribunal (Sejdić-Finci, Pilav et al) has been waiting for ten years, which calls into question not only the function and relevance of that institution, but also the obligation to enforce any judgments, including those of domestic courts. In this regard, it is necessary to prevent the interference of politics in the BiH judiciary with effective measures. The judiciary has expertly trained staff, but the influence of politics makes the results of their work lose credibility in the eyes of citizens, which is unacceptable, especially for a country seeking to move towards EU membership. It is similar to citizens' confidence in the electoral process, which is at a very low level due to the manipulations that occur regularly in each election cycle.
These are steps that can be taken in the short term after the pandemic has calmed down with the active involvement of BiH institutions, the international community, NGOs and the media.
It is important to emphasize, however, that any significant progress towards NATO membership would open up new perspectives and restore faith in the possibility of building a modern democratic society. The citizens of BiH deserve it, not least for their heroic resistance to aggression when they, as soldiers and civilians, defended their country under very difficult circumstances. The vast majority of them, regardless of their ethnic and confessional affiliation, have proven by deeds in war and peace that they are a civilized and well-intentioned part of the European and world community; they did not do what others did to them, they did not allow the acts of aggressors to drag them into the abyss of utter inhumanity.
(Dr. Silajdzic was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, co-chair of the Council of Ministers of BiH and a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina)