Samstag, 15. Februar 2014

Protests in Bosnia

(Objavljeno u časopisu The Economist, broj 15, od februara 2014. godine.)


Protesti u Bosni
U plamenu
Najnovija nemiri u Bosni bi trebali probuditi nesposobne lideri u zemlji
"Zašto nema seksa u državnim firmama i vladinim uredima?"
Pita jedan demonstrant. Odgovor: Zbog raširenog nepotizma, što znači da su svi rodbinski povezani.


On fire


The latest troubles in Bosnia may wake up the country’s inept leaders


“WHY is there no sex in state firms and government offices?” demands a Bosnian protester in a clip that has gone viral. The answer: rampant nepotism means everyone is related.


Protests that began in the northern city of Tuzla on February 4th have spread across the country. They may fizzle, but they might just signal the beginning of the end of Bosnia’s post-war system of governance. The protests in Tuzla were started by workers from five privatised companies that went bust after they had been stripped of their assets. By February 8th the protests had spread and violence had broken out. Several government offices, including the presidential building in Sarajevo, were set on fire. The violence and beatings by the police were widely condemned. But as Damir Arsenijevic, an activist in Tuzla, comments: “Tough luck.” The damage caused is nothing, he says, compared with the “billions stolen from people”, by Bosnia’s politicians. In Tuzla and three other regions the leadership has quit. It is not surprising that Bosnians are angry. Eighteen years after the end of the war the people are poor, the politicians are rich and corruption is rife. To get a job as a cleaner in the hospital in Tuzla, the current bribe is said to be €2,000 ($2,700). For a job in one of the country’s main telephone companies it is €10,000. The unemployment rate stands at 27.5%—though the black economy helps the jobless get by. Part of the problem is the legacy of the Dayton peace deal that ended Bosnia’s war in 1995. The country is divided into two “entities” (plus an autonomous district, Brcko). The Bosniak-Croat Federation is itself divided into ten cantons that compete with local governments. The result is a system that pays large salaries to politi politicians and civil servants in a country of just 3.8m which, some say, needs only a mayor.

Most of the protests have been in Bosniak areas. Politicians are lashing out at “hooligans” and concocting conspiracy theories in which mysterious agentswhip up trouble on the orders of foreigners or other ethnic groups. Yet Mladen Bosic, Leader of the opposition party in Republika Srpska, the other, mainly Serb, part of the country, says its government and president “are shoving their heads into the ground and acting like ostriches” if they deny that people are even more disgruntled than in the Bosniak-Croat zone. Small groups protesting in Republika Srpska have been intimidated by Serb nationalists.

So far protesters have been resolutely anti-nationalist. Now something extraordinary is happening. Led by Tuzla, so called “plenums” of fed-up citizens, unemployed workers and intellectuals are springing up to make political demands.

On February 11th elected members of Tuzla’s cantonal assembly met its plenum to discuss the idea of a government of non-party experts. In the ethnically divided city of Mostar, Croats and Bosniaks are also working together in a plenum. If the plenums take root, if new leaders emerge and if they focus on realistic demands, something might really change.

Over the past few years leaders in Bosnia have endlessly debated minor constitutional tweaks while managing to avoid debate about economic and social reforms.

“It is not going to be the same old story any more,” insists Mr Arsenijevic. It may be too early to talk of a Bosnian spring, but it is still only February.


(The Economist, 21.februar 2014)

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