Alex Massie

Whither Bosnia?

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At Passport Lucy Moore says this Paddy Ashdown speech on Bosnia's future is " a compelling call". Maybe so. Ashdown argues:

Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, Karadzic's creation, has seen the vacuum where will and policy should be. Its premier, Milorad Dodik, is now aggressively reversing a decade of reforms. He has set up the parallel institutions and sent delegations to Montenegro to find out how they broke away….

Meanwhile, in European capitals the growing view goes like this. We invested 13 years of hard work and huge resource in Bosnia. Now it is stable and peaceful and we are rather tired. Kosovo has proved it is possible to divide a country. What matter if Bosnia becomes another Cyprus?…

This is folly of a very dangerous order. What happens to the Muslim populations who have moved back to Republika Srpska, even to Srebrenica, if they are handed back to an exclusively Serb-dominated regime? What happens to Bosnia's shining star, the multi-ethnic, markedly successful sub-entity of Brcko, hemmed in by Republika Srpska? Is it to be handed over, too? I do not believe Bosnia is likely to go back to conflict; most of its people are just too war-weary. But the one event that could change that calculation in favour of blood would be to return to the old Karadzic/Milosevic plan to divide Bosnia.

One need not have any sympathy for the monstrous Karadzic and Milosevic (Sasha Hemon's NYT op-ed is, as Moore says, worth reading on this front) to wonder what's so special about Bosnia? That is to say, from the outsider's perspective, if, as the Kosovar example has demonstrated, Serbia's territorial integrity is of no great import then why must Bosnia's be considered sacrosanct. Or, to put it another way, if it was illegitimate, even criminal, to compel Bosnian Muslims to remain citizens of a country they no longer wished to call home, why is it considered perfectly acceptable to prevent Bosnian Serbs from breaking away and either rejoining Serbia or having their own little independent state?

It's not clear to me that you can deny the Serbs that right simply because they committed the great majority of the monstrous war crimes that scarred Yugoslavia 15 years ago.

And, having visited Northern Cyprus last year nor is it clear to me that it would matter very much (in the grand scheme of things) if Bosnia did in fact "became another Cyprus".

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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