An Appeal for Action – A Way Toward a Functional State?
Numerous official and unofficial analyses of the conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina start from the consequences, often entirely overlooking the basic, fundamental and intentionally manufactured causes which have led to the current, in many ways dramatic situation since the end of the war.
Objectively speaking, the entire socio-political situation in BiH is much worse today than it had been in the period prior to the previous war which was a project, a domestic and foreign one. Facts show that, before the victory of this “project” with its bloody consequences, fewer citizens used to contest the country they were living in, its Constitution and established institutions, laws and the system. It was more difficult even to imagine the ongoing routine contestation of the state and its institutions, also coming from political leaders, which mostly remain unaddressed and unsanctioned. Acceptance of historical differences used to be an established value, despite some individual examples indicating the contrary. Despite the evident economic problems, at the end of the ‘90s, aspects such as the living standard, employment, social security and protection, health, education, cultural needs etc. in this country were – compared to the regional average – on a higher level. The objective manipulation and even violations of the supposedly more comprehensive civil rights and liberties of today has been on the rise, which is becoming inreasingly evident every day.
The society and the state
Nowadays, attempts to detect the reasons for the current dramatic situation in BiH completely neglect the fundamental long-term goal of the project for its final dissolution, which everything boils down to. It entails the dissolution, collapse and decomposition of the SOCIETY and its values. This constitutes more of a fateful blow to the viability of the historically multiethnic and multicultural country, than the disabling of the STATE shaped in Dayton. The state itself could be constituted upon more logical and efficient principles and foundations relatively quickly. A society whose values have been destroyed would be much more difficult to reconstitute. The past 30 years have left this society divided and fragmented, its parts opposing one another. All internal goals are boiled down to the mathemetics of “two against one”, which always leave someone feel defeated. The radical changes of the education system, culture and the media, as well as the fact that political orientations have increasingly been shifted so as to work against, rather than toward agreeing upon common interest, have intentionally contributed to this process.
Changes in the organization of the state which have rendered it entirely vulnerable to manipulation by different and opposing interests have greatly contributed to its reality being altered when it comes to politics, values and psychology, and reduced to struggle for domination over others. A population of around 3 million is “organized” in an asymmetric system with two differently organized entities and a district, with ten cantons in one of the entities and no cantons in the other, with 3 members of the state Presidency, 14 governments, 168 ministries and ministers, 135 heads of municipalities and 10 mayors, 223 MPs, 3136 councilors...etc. etc. EU’s idea from several years ago that important segments of the legislative, judicial and executive power be substantially transfered onto lower organizational levels, beneath that of the state, was quite conducive for processes of division and disintegration, in the name of and for the benefit of politics clearly recognizable as local-separatist and nationalist, which wield crucial influence over every segment of the organization of the state. Engaging in politics has acquired the traits of cartel-mafia logic and mentality.
The dominant reasons and finished processes which secured the foundations of the generally corruptive organization of the state and society nowadays lie in the ethno-collectivist-party-mafia-interest organization and connections within a strictly divided society and disintegrated state.
The key to functioning within such a construct is targeted personnel engineering of the entire state system and its institutions, so that it can be controlled in mass operations of institutionalized robbery, plunder, criminal profiteering etc. The undoubtedly victorious reality is that the state and public institutions are being filled with party cadres, trained in unanimity. The most important criterion is obedience, while education, expertise and skill are openly eliminated, especially among the youth open toward the world and values such as liberty, independence and ability. People respond to this reality with indignation, caliing it the “closed circuit to dumb down society and the state”, an illustration of the complete defeat of knowledge, abilities and expertise.
Institutionalism and the judiciary
This reality is characterized by a complete and general legalization of the open denigration of institutions, the system, procedures and the law – formally in the name of “equality” of ethno-national groups and rigths. It de facto all serves to cover up the difusely disseminated and nearly legalized corruption founded upon an extremly conducive state system and new societal “values” designed to accomodate such practices. To protect the newly established ruling structures and to eliminate the sporadic internal attempts to fight it, a special role has been assigned to the judiciary with its institutions, which is entirely dependent upon the goals and dictate of politics in its legalized interest-group “trinity”. There will be no solution until this connection is cut.
Future and the youth
The fact that the country has been losing its population – the youth its future depends on – unstoppably, and at a rapid pace is extremely disheartening for BiH’s future, or even just for the attempt to change and fix something in an efficient manner. Among other things, statistics show that between the census of 2013 and the year 2018, in only five years, 173.000 people had left BiH. In the same period the number of deaths had outnumbered births by 35.000. So, in 5 years, the population had decreased by 208.000. Since 1990, BiH had lost around 22% of its population. Experts believe this number to be higher, since many of those who leave fail to unregister from their old addresses. Three basic groups can be identified when it comes to this increasingly radical depopulation which has been taking a toll on a generation of young and well-educated people.
The first group, those who are leaving, is no longer comprised of youth only, but also the middle-aged, even those who do have jobs. They leave forever with their families. This means that people are no longer leaving only to seek emloyment, but primarily because they see no perspective in BiH, in the near or far future. These departures are no longer sporadic – they are massive and accelarating. Only in the first half of this year, 2019, around 50.000 people had left BiH.
The other group, which will not guarantee the country a European future, is comprised of the “lost”, destructive youth, a profile which has increased significantly in the postwar period, who are not to be expected to bring about prosperity either in the short or long term. These young people have been neglected by their families and education system, in a systemic and collective manner. They were born and raised in a reality where societal, moral, political or any other values have been utterly destroyed. They were raised within systems such as the “two schools under one roof”, extremist and indoctrinated by animosity and hatred of the Other. From the very beginning, they are relagated to the fringes of society, acquring agressive, radically conservative and criminal inclinations. They are thus the base of multifarious decadence, recognizable also globally in the political reality characterized by community disintegration.
The third group among the youth is increasingly widespread. They fail to perceive any positive centers and bearers of healthy contemporary ideas, organizations and movements which would offer them a future based on healthy foundations, to which they could connect and in which environment they could satisfy their constructive needs, realize their visions, knowledge and energy. They withdraw from social life, isolating themselves into small groups to deal with their own projects, probably waiting for the moment when they too will find a way out – by leaving. They have no interest in institutions, state politics and the society.
The meaning of leadership and politics
In all of this, it is evident that BiH is sinking in almost every aspect, and that "nostalgia for past times" is inreasingly present among the older generations. Awakened interest in that period is also evident among many youngsters. Many are approaching the conclusion that post-war promises and hopes that things will be better have definitely turned out to be illusions. Everyday instances of disrespect toward the state, ranging from the failure to accept it to mocking it and all its institutions, laws, systems and procedures are growing in frequency. This has reached such a level that anything different and positive has become a miracle. All of this is met with silence, which has also become normal. Political “leaders”, always divided into threes, support this reality as the very meaning of politics itself. They support it as a system and a business that renders them victorious and maintains the “project” an existental reality, absolutely aware that any step forward would certainly bring them closer to losing power, and land many in jail. This is why the production and maintaining of “tribal” animosities, fear and isolation toward any sort of victory of the common, contemporary and modern society and the state is their current political project. In this context, the constant appeals to our “leaders” by individuals and institutions of the international comunity to “dedicate themselves more to the interests of the people” are increasingly perceived by everyday citizens in BiH as a farce and an insult to the common sense of people living this reality. This is because any, even the smallest step of the leaders “in the interest of the people” – including approaching the EU and its values and standards – would entail significant advances of the system and institutionalism, a better judiciary, or at least a less corrupt system, greater respect toward education, knowledge and skill, a more radical separation of the state from the tribal, political manipulations and backdoor dealings...For the vast majority of our leaders, this would be the end.
The way out of this situation
In practical terms, BiH must enter a serious process of radical changes to the state organization, primarily in terms of its Constitution which would at least have to abide by principles and values built into the constitution of any “normal” EU country. With the existing Constitution, BiH could simply neither be a democratic nor a civic state which ensures equality among the internal differences. It could not be a country in which human rights and liberties are respected, briefly put, it does not even approach a European country. The judiciary in particular should absolutely be separated from the key conceptual and practical influence of politics and “returned” to the legal profession.
The fundamental change would be to eliminate politics from the VSTV (High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council) which, formally speaking, is an independent body free from political influence. It is evident, however, that political parties, especially nationalist ones, wield critical influence over individual VSTV members, who operationalize the decisions of the entire Council. The primary reason lies in the fact that the Council is now comprised of lawyers, judges and prosecutors, while lawyers can be party members, which provides a direct channel to influence the decisions of the VSTV. Changes to the Law on the VSTV would have to drastically increase the professional standards and criteria for member appointment. Lawyers should not be allowed membership, while criteria in terms of knowledge and professional reputation in the judiciary must be raised, so that VSTV members’ experience would guarantee the body’s accountability, independence and professional capacity. The law must also determine to whom the VSTV is ultimately accountable, since currently it answers no one. VSTV is indeed obligated to present the Parliament with an annual report on their work, however, the Parliament has no possibility or right to make any amendments, or express its (dis)agreement on any account. The VSTV is, in principle, a desirable and well-envisioned institution, however, no accountablity mechanism has been established to preclude political party interests, as well as other types of influence over the Council. Without it, neither Council members, nor those trying to influence them will be held accountable.
In this case, parliamentary assemblies are the fundamental levers with which this process could be started. Despite the strong pressures from the parties and the “obligations” parliamentarians have toward them, many are already motivated to agree to this kind of change (through a new Law on the VSTV, ensuring legislative accountability for disrespecting the Constitution, laws and the system). Parliamentaries and politicians have began fearing radicalization of the public, so their readiness for change should be supported by a substantial statement, primarily by the embassies of the US and the EU (the public and parliamentarians no longer have enough respect toward the preposterously “balanced OHR”, and even toward the EU). The public has to be supported by concrete statements and terminology, rather than the euphemistic utterances of Wiegemark and Inzko ("the leaders should“ etc...). If powerful embassies and organizations were to step out with more precise and substantial statements and gestures (OSCE’s excellent move to stop Tegeltija and his entourage from going to Paris over a formally insignificant reason has been a small but much noted move in the public...). If encouraged, the silent public could exert controlled, and yet sufficient pressure onto parliamentarians who have both the numbers and the capacity to take the needed legislative action. The EU should finally speak up in much clearer terms regarding the drastic failure to respect the decisions of the court in Strasbourg, which has inflicted additional substantial damage to the credibility of EU institutions in the eyes of the public and “cooled them off” toward the EU.
With all due respect toward ethnic and religous traditions, the state must rely upon fundamental civic principles, based upon European values. The institutional resistance toward the realization and respect of the civic concept as one of the fundamental values of the European Union is a typical illustration of the lack of respect toward European institutions and decisions. The stubborn resistance by political structures, especially those under the control of the HDZ, to implement the decisions of the Strasbourg court in the 'Sejdić/Finci' and, especially, 'Zornić' cases has acquired caricatural proportions. In this case, it is evident there is an intentional and organized resistance against the concept of civic equality, imposing exclusive ethnic rights over civic ones (unfortunatly, with the open support the Croatian HDZ, Croatia’s President Grabar Kitarović and Prime Minister Plenkovic offer Dragan Čović as the “architect” of this obstruction), which lies in the background of this resistance. Equally so, Bakir Izetbegović and SDA’s “concept” of opposing all of this does not contribute toward strenghtening the civic state. The case of Zornić deals with the denial of respect of the inalienable and unquestionable right of each citizen to exercise their active and passive voting rights, and thus full civic equality, regardless of their ethnic or territorial belonging. This would, logically, lead to many other fundamental changes in line with EU standards, which is proclaimed to be our ultimate goal.
Positive societal values which have intentionally been rendered worthless, certainly cannot be renewed over night. However, in order to start this process, fundamental changes of the major mistakes which, for various reasons, were made at the beginning, in the very conceptualization of Bosnia and Herzegovina, must be initiated urgently. Bold and radical moves must be made within the country, with help from the outside. These processes cannot be led by those whose direct “ethno-corruptive” interests (or, in fact, their private ones) have been for things to remain forever the way they are now.
The basic reason why, for years, it has been possible to realize corruptive intents, of personal and group nature, in the name of the interests of party, national or religious affiliation, lies in the fact that the Constitution, laws and nearly all the institutions of the system, on all levels, do not impose any substantial, clear and applicable kind of responsability for acting against and beyond established constitutional and legal norms and principles of common interest to the state and its citizens. It is especially important that legal accountability be introduced, so that political stakeholders would respect the Constitution, laws and international agreements. Concrete sanctions must be foreseen for violations and disrespect toward the Constitution in the domain known to modern states (for instance, in the so-called Constitutional patriotism). The source of numerous kinds of utter lack of responsibility and open opposition to the system lies in the lack of legal norms regarding accountability for such behaviors, ranging from corruption, to political stances and deeds contrary to the Constitution and the country’s laws. Making energetic moves in order to define the responsibility of political stakeholders to respect and implement the established laws, stipulations, decisions and various measures would entirely be in line with civilizational principles for the organization of the state. This would, in no way, constitute extraordinary “violence” against the rights of the community as a whole, nor its special parts, parties and individuals, but rather guarantee a necessary minimum to start establishing order and securing the functioning of the society and the state.
"The people" are still, for the most part, better than the leaders they choose – however, citizens on all sides are blackmailed economically, pressured by propaganda and indoctrinated with animosities. Even small, yet substantial, encouragements from outside and within which would show that everything could be different, would help encourage these people, much more than it is thought possible. Otherwise, negative energy could very soon become the spark that would lead to a new explosion and disintegration. In the existing circumstances, the new “leaders” of the profiteers and false saviors, political and other criminals, will once again bend this explosion to their own interests, once again transforming general defeat into their own victory.