While Putin engages in sabre rattling on the Ukrainian border, his acolytes in former Yugoslavia are also on the move. In this short but disturbing piece, Eric Gates alerts us to what is going on.
Although Bosnia (officially Bosnia and Herzogovina or BiH) has been out of the headlines in recent years, and the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995 have largely held, it would be hard to describe the country as being at peace. Present-day Bosnia is a country with a federal structure that reflects two parallel communities and governments that appear to interact as little as possible. The structure effectively freezes the lines dividing the Serbian (49 per cent) and Bosniak/Croat (51 per cent) communities. There are two ‘entities’ – the Federation of the ten Bosniak and Croatian cantons and the Republika Srpska which is predominantly Serbian. The dividing lines on the map create a complex patchwork.
The current government of the Serbian entity within Bosnia, under the leadership of Milorad Dodik voted on Friday 10th December to withdraw its autonomous entity from Bosnia’s armed forces, judiciary and tax systemss. If carried through, this would undermine the key elements of joint security, the rule of law and the economic system in Bosnia. Withdrawal from the national army would enable the creation of a Serb force in the Republic of Srpska and facilitate an autonomous state, against the terms of the Dayton Accords. It is not clear whether this could happen peacefully, nor whether the residual Bosniak/Croat cantons would survive as an independent state.
The issue was headline news, briefly, on the ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4. Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary, held meetings with Bisera Turkovic, Minister for Foreign Affairs in Bosnia and Herzogovina, regarding the current situation.
A UK based charity, the Healing Hands Network, which has been providing help and therapy to victims of the war in Bosnia writes:
“Our clients, 26 years on from the end of the war mostly have significant levels of PTSD, [post-traumatic stress disorder] exacerbated by lockdowns and queues for essentials. The vaccination programme is second rate. Our manager and her husband have had to go to Belgrade to get jabbed, quite dreadful to have to go to the country who initiated the genocide. However, this avenue is now closed. It is inconceivable that the clients I have seen over the years should be subjected to another period of conflict. They will be broken. Because of their physical injuries, many are reminded of the day the grenade or the bullet caused their lives to be changed forever.
“Bosnia has made great strides, despite the instability – new hotels, businesses, improved train services, and increased tourism. There is also much involvement from the Middle East, especially Turkey, the UAE, and Qatar, who built the wonderful library.
“Our charity director has had direct face to face and ZOOM talks with His Excellency the Bosnian Ambassador to the UK, Vanja Filipovic, whose family are all in Bosnia, so we have a very good idea what is going on.”
That is the tragedy that is again unfolding on the ground.
Look across Europe and Bosnia and Herzogovina becomes one part of a larger jigsaw. There is friction between Belarus and its neighbours, Poland and Lithuania. There are Russian military exercises on the border of Ukraine. All three create potential flash points. Which one will ignite: which one is being run as a distraction? By probing continuously, the aim could be to find the weak spot where western interests can be pushed back. Exploit that one, secure the gain and then move on to the next.
Peace for our time.
Contrast this with Eric’s piece from February this year: