Identity, nation and religion in the Balkan Wars

(presentation quotes)

Intro To be born in a setting such as Yugoslavia is called bad luck. ―In this part of the world,‖ as the epigraph to chapter 11, from Macedonian rock performer Vlatko Stefanovski, notes, ―a man has no chance to be born and buried in the same country.‖1 Geographical position The first of many paradoxes concerning Balkan: its geographic delimitation was never precise. It is as if one can never receive a definitive answer to the question, "Where does it begin?"….. So Balkan is always the Other: it lies somewhere else, always a little bit more to the southeast, with the paradox that, when we reach the very bottom of the Balkan peninsula, we again magically escape Balkan.2 The world today is more and more marked by the frontier separating its insiders from its outsiders, between the "developed" — those to whom human rights, social security and the like apply — and the others, the excluded.3 The fantasy which organised the perception of ex-Yugoslavia is that of the Balkans as the Other of the West: the place of savage ethnic conflicts long ago overcome by civilised Europe, the place where nothing is forgotten and nothing learned, where old traumas are being replayed again and again, where symbolic links are simultaneously devalued (dozens of cease-fires broken) and overvalued (the primitive warrior's notions of honour and pride).4 At this writing (2002), neither the EU project has been completed nor the Balkan problem solved. There exist again ―two Europes.‖ Symbols and landmarks of the wealthy, stable, religiously indifferent, and seemingly happy one are Brussels, Maastricht, the rebuilt whitewashed city of Berlin, and rejuvenated east-central European urban centers such as Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest. By contrast, symbols of the new ―Other Europe‖ are zones of conflict such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and the Basque country. At any rate, while Europe is ―reinventing‖ itself, the Balkan nightmare continues.5 During the last decade, the number of independent nation-states has increased despite the globalising forces alluded to above.6 Nationalism While globalising forces appear to be rendering borders less important, it is obvious that territorial identities are not necessarily of diminishing significance. As Europe enters the twentyfirst century, nationalist disputes continue to impinge on the lives of many. In places such as the Balkans, national identity is of huge importance. Over the past decade many have lost their lives

1 2 3 4 5 6

VjekoslavPerica, Balkan Idols, page 212 ZizekSlavoj, The Spectre of Balkan, page 1 ZizekSlavoj, Ethnic Dance Macabre, The Guardian Manchester (UK) Aug 28, 1992, page 1 ZizekSlavoj, Ethnic Dance Macabre, The Guardian Manchester (UK) Aug 28, 1992, page 2 VjekoslavPerica, Balkan Idols, page 235 StoreyDavid, Former Yugoslavia: Territory and national identity, page 109

in a series of bitter conflicts centring on ethno-national identity and competing claims to territory.7 Importance of religion After the Eastern European revolutions of 1989, Eastern Europe ceased to exist as a geopolitical unit and cultural concept and was replaced by ―Central Europe‖ and ―the Balkans‖. The successor states of the one-time open and proud Yugoslavia became ―the Balkans,‖ mired again in ethnic bloodshed. From the 1950s through the 1980s, Yugoslavia was, in spite of its official ―Third World‖ (nonaligned) course, de facto part of the West. After the collapse of communism, Yugoslavia‘s successor states, except Slovenia, were despised by the West and, in the case of Serbia and Croatia, came into conflict with the West, while Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia became Western protectorates. The Yugoslav peoples became again what nineteenth-century western European statesmen termed ―bits and refuse‖ of nations. Local ethnic nationalist revolutions ended in failure. New regimes that emerged during the wars of the 1900s were labelled ―Mafia-states‖ by an Italian analyst of world affairs. Each post-Yugoslav ―successor state‖ went down its own path of degradation. And only the growing influence of myth and religion helped some people to believe that the new was better than the old.8 In multiethnic and multiconfessional states, religious organizations have found it hard both to accommodate to pluralist-minded secular regimes and maintain interfaith cooperation. With one notable exception—the United States of America—all multiconfessional states have experienced crises of religious legitimacy, and none has accomplished a noteworthy breakthrough in interfaith cooperation. This is not to say that the United States will be permanently immune and safe from some kind of a Yugoslav-type crisis. In a number of cases, religion has played a part in serious conflicts and civil wars (e.g., India and Pakistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Northern Ireland, and so forth).9 Genocide vs. Ethnic cleansing The European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2009 on Srebrenica states: In July 1995 the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which was at that time an isolated enclave proclaimed a Protected Zone by a United Nations Security Council Resolution of 16 April 1993, fell into the hands of the Serbian militias led by General Ratko Mladić and under the direction of the then President of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić. During several days of carnage after the fall of Srebrenica, more than 8 000 Muslim men and boys, who had sought safety in this area under the protection of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), were summarily executed by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Mladić and by paramilitary units, including Serbian irregular police units which had entered Bosnian territory from Serbia; nearly 25 000 women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported, making this event the biggest war crime to take place in Europe since the end of the Second World War. This tragedy, declared an act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), took place in a UN-proclaimed safe haven, and therefore stands as a symbol of the impotence of the international community to intervene in the conflict and protect the civilian population. According to Human Rights Watch Report from 1996 on Croatia: Impunity for abuses committed during ―Operation Storm‖ and the denial of the right of refugees to return to the Krajina, during the 1991 war, Serbian forces had largely expelled the 85,000 Croats who had lived in the
7 8 9

StoreyDavid, Former Yugoslavia: Territory and national identity, page 114 VjekoslavPerica, Balkan Idols, page 186 VjekoslavPerica, Balkan Idols, page 213

Krajina area. By mid-1992, these forces had appropriated, pillaged or burned Croatian property and cultural and religious institutions. By mid-August 1995, the 200,000 Serbs who lived in Krajina had been forced to flee, their villages and property had been burned, and what had not been destroyed by the Serbs during their five-year rule in the area was promptly reduced to rubble by Croatian forces that assumed control of the area. For its part, the U.N. did little to protect human rights during its four-year sojourn in the so-called "United Nations Protected Areas." It did not prevent the Serbs from expelling Croats in the early 1990s and it did not protect the Serbs from attack by Croatian forces in 1995. Although professing its commitment to the speedy return of Krajina refugees to their homes, the Croatian government has created numerous legal and practical impediments to that return. Most Serbs from the Krajina region have been denied Croatian citizenship because their only identity documents were issued by the Republika Srpska Krajina (RSK) authorities. Other documents that might prove their identity were left behind when they fled the Krajina during the offensive, and they are unable to return home to obtain these documents. By April 1, 1996, only 3,000 of the estimated 200,000 Serb refugees from Croatia had returned to their homes. Bosnia: Sejdic/Finci case After a number of failed alternatives, the Dayton Agreement of 1995 divided BosniaHerzegovina into two autonomous units – a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Bosnian Serb Republic. Nationalistic rhetoric and the associated desire to control particular portions of territory for that group have hardened divisions which were of relatively minor significance only a few years previously (Campbell, 1999).10 Under the Constitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two Entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The rule limiting the applicants' eligibility rights was based on power-sharing mechanisms that made it impossible to adopt decisions against the will of the representatives of one of the "constituent peoples" of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thus, relevant provisions included a "vital interest veto", a "veto of the Entities", a two-Chamber system (with a House of Peoples made five Bosniacs and five Croats from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and five Serbs from Republika Srpska) and a collective Presidency of three members, composed of a Bosniac and a Croat from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a Serb from Republika Srpska. As reported in the press release of The European Court of Human Rights, the Court acknowledged that this system, put in place at a time when a fragile ceasefire had been accepted by all the parties to the inter-ethnic conflict that had deeply affected the country, pursued the legitimate aim of restoring peace. It noted, however, that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina had improved considerably since the Dayton Peace Agreement and the adoption of the Constitution, as borne out by the fact that closure of the international administration of the country was now being envisaged. According to the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Sejdic and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina the explanation of the case is as follows: The applicants are citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were born in 1956 and 1943 respectively and live in Sarajevo. The former is of Roma origin and the latter is a Jew. They are both prominent public figures. The Bosnian Constitution, in its Preamble, makes a distinction between two categories of citizens: the so-called "constituent peoples" (Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs) and "others" (Jews, Roma and other national minorities together with those who do not declare affiliation with any ethnic group). The House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly (the second chamber) and the Presidency are composed only of persons belonging to the three constituent peoples. Mr Jakob Finci enquired with the Central Election Commission about his

StoreyDavid, Former Yugoslavia: Territory and national identity, page 112

intentions to stand for election to the Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly. On 3 January 2007 he received a written confirmation from the Central Election Commission that he was ineligible to stand to such elections because of his Jewish origin. The applicants complained that, despite possessing experience comparable to that of the highest elected officials, they were prevented by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the corresponding provisions of the Election Act 2001, from being candidates for the Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly solely on the ground of their ethnic origins. The Court concluded by 14 votes to 3 that the applicants' continued ineligibility to stand for election to the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked an objective and reasonable justification and had therefore breached Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report11: The Bosnian parliament‘s move on October 13, 2011, to amend the constitution to allow members of minority groups to run for high public office is a positive step, Minority Rights Group International, Human Rights Watch, and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Human Rights Program said today. The changes would allow Jews, Roma, and other minorities to run for high elected office, which they have been excluded from doing for 15 years. The groups expressed concern, however, that the commission charged with proposing the constitutional amendments itself lacks meaningful minority representation. Macedonia – Power sharing The Framework Agreement established that ‗there are no territorial solutions to ethnic issues‘ and that ‗the multi-ethnic character of Macedonia‘s society must be preserved and reflected in public life‘. Thus, it indeed opened up ways of solving many pending questions, but it also essentially redefined the citizenship framework: re-ethnicized at municipal level with the provision which extends significant rights and official language status to any ethnic community which counts for over 20 percent, and minimally de-ethnicized at state/institutional level. The state institutions could be said to act as rare integrative spaces, or spheres of supra-ethnic convergence, as Macedonia still functions as a unitary state.12 Rather than being de-ethnicised, since the 2001 Ohrid Agreement the Macedonian citizenship framework was reformed, democratized and expanded, but reethnicised at the same time on multiple levels resulting today in its ‗fractured‘ nature.13 The segregated education system ‗entails a risk that having been educated in different languages and separated from the earliest age, the members of the different communities might co-exist without knowing each other and communicating, thus perpetuating mutual mistrust and intolerance‘ (ECRI 2010, p.18). 14 Power sharing has a profound impact on the governance of the respective countries or regions. By emphasizing the need for ethnic co–decision making, such institutional arrangements signal a departure from classic nation-states where the dominance of one ethnic group, at least in the state‘s central institutions, is of crucial importance. Nevertheless, the concept of ethnic

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Human Right Approach Report on Bosnia, SpaskovskaLjubica, The Fractured ‗We‘ and the Ethno-National ‗I‘, page 3 SpaskovskaLjubica, The Fractured ‗We‘ and the Ethno-National ‗I‘, page 11 SpaskovskaLjubica, The Fractured ‗We‘ and the Ethno-National ‗I‘, page 7

cogovernance equally excludes a civic polity where ethnic belonging is of secondary importance.15 The case of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia exemplify, however, that political representation alone cannot suffice in protecting the interests of the different ethnic groups or in stabilizing these two countries. Nondominant groups have enjoyed broad political representation in parliaments and governments. Both in Macedonia since the early 1990s and in Bosnia since the end of the war, coalition governments incorporated representatives of the different groups. In Macedonia, the absence of adequate representation of Albanians in the state administration, especially in the police force, and the limited ability to use Albanian in the public administration, as well as other minority-rights related issues, furthered broad support among the Albanian population for the armed conflict during the spring and summer of 2001. In Bosnia, nondominant groups fail to enjoy adequate rights in terms of employment and schooling and frequently faced discrimination in local administrations. This has been a key factor in delaying the so-called minority returns—refugees or internally displaced persons returning to their prewar residence in areas where they now constitute a nondominant group.16 Protecting the communities through political representation is likely to benefit larger communities with adequate representation and disadvantage smaller groups, who, either due their size or their weaker political mobilization, are less able to pursue their demands. Thus, minorities other than the three constituent nations in Bosnia and minorities other than Albanians in Macedonia have been largely excluded from negotiations of the protection of rights.17 Although the Ohrid Framework essentially addresses all of Macedonia‘s ethnic communities and stretches the boundaries of inclusiveness towards all of them, the public and political spheres have been dominated by the Macedonian and the Albanian political and ethno-cultural presence, as the two largest communities. As Bieber (2004, p.242) notes ‗minorities other than Albanians in Macedonia have been largely excluded from negotiations of the protection of rights.‘18


BieberFlorian, Power Sharing as Ethnic Representation in Postconflict Societies:The Cases of Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo, page 231
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BieberFlorian, Power Sharing as Ethnic Representation in Postconflict Societies:The Cases of Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo, page 241/242 BieberFlorian, Power Sharing as Ethnic Representation in Postconflict Societies:The Cases of Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo, page 242 SpaskovskaLjubica, The Fractured ‗We‘ and the Ethno-National ‗I‘, page 7

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