Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) will live. There are many problems, but saying that Bosnia is on the road to hell is wrong. This country will sooner or later become a member of the EU. The European path is the only one Bosnia can walk. That is the vision of Mr. Wolfgang Petritsch, Austrian Ambassador to Paris and Chairman of European Cultural Foundation, a prestigious Amsterdam-based association committed to bridging European gaps through culture. Also Chairman of the Geneva-based CEIS, Petritsch is an experienced diplomat who served as High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia. He also chaired the European team during the 1999 negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. In Europe, he is one of the most respected experts on the Balkans. An interview by Matteo Tacconi.
Dialogue of Cultures
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) will not be closed. It is the right decision. But I am surprised that many optimistic opponents and pessimistic supporters of the AKP now seem to act almost as if a party closing did take place. The project of democratic innovation must go on, and the only road for it is that of constitutional amendments, indeed preferably a new constitution. But it can be achieved, in a divided society, where there is no political revolution, only by a highly consensual approach. Many supporters of the AKP seem to believe that no consensus is possible.
Soccer often alleviates the chronic evils of countries. It annuls ethnic divisions, or if there are none, it thwarts the rifts caused by politics. This script applies to all the countries in the world. All except Bosnia. In this Balkan country, devastated by the 1992-1995 war and still divided along the front’s old lines, soccer causes even greater divisions. The Serbs, barricaded in the Srpska Republic – one of the two federal regions – support the Serbia team. They feel Serbian, not Bosnian. And they consider Belgrade, and not Muslim Sarajevo, scornfully renamed “Europe’s Teheran”, their real capital. Bosnia is supported only by the Muslims.An article by Matteo Tacconi.
The country is imploding. Ethnic divisions, with continuous crossed-vetoes between ethnic groups and slow-moving reforms that risk condemning the country to eternal inaction. Bosnia, with an institutional structure that is the result of the Dayton agreements dated December 1995, marking the end of the conflict, is a federal state, with a central government (situated in Sarajevo) with not very incisive power, and two ethnic groups - the Srpska Republic (SR, Serbian) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH, Croatian and Muslim) - boasting rather significant functions and competences. At this point much also depends on whether Europe will act and try and draft a “Plan B” for Bosnia. This before the singular (Bosnia) is definitively replaced by the plural (Bosnias). Before disaster hits, with the disappearance of Bosnia.An article by Matteo Tacconi.
The borders between Algeria and Morocco have been closed since the early nineties. Every time I cross into the Schengen area I cannot hide my envy as I pass from one country to another without having to show any document at all. Why have Arabs failed in creating an Arab Union, whilst our European neighbours managed to create the EU out of the extremely tough aftermath of the Second World War? Founded in 1945, the Arab League is still an ineffective organisation. The essence of the problem is not the people but their leaders and the fact that we always revert back to the same issue: a lack of democracy in the Arab world.
Ireland has had enormous advantages over the past 35 years thanks to its EU membership. The country has changed from being an exported of butter, beef and Guinness to the place where some of modernity’s symbols are produced – ranging from Viagra to Botox, and including microchips. The Irish ‘No’ was the result of a complex mix of different kinds of generally unfounded fears. With a financial crisis resulting in pessimism, the EU has, even more than in the past, become the easy scapegoat. There is a need for new idealism, or perhaps it is precisely idealism (the sort that aspired to a new European Constitution) that has been rejected? A great deal now is in the hands of France, led by Nicolas Sarkozy, current President of the European Union. The time has come to establish whether there is still a will to move forward and above all in which direction.
“During any given day, most of the time I feel European, and this feeling has become stronger ever since my native country, Bulgaria, entered the EU”, says Tzvetan Todorov to Resetdoc. He sees the foundations of a European identity in the protection of diversity and in an “obligation of tolerance”. The French-Bulgarian philosopher and linguist, who recently published La Littérature en péril, says that he is “very proud” of being a European, and hopes for greater continental political integration, while believing that national traditions are not destined to disappear (“I do not think that we will ever speak ‘Europeanese’”). The author of The Conquest of America also hopes that Tony Blair will not become the President of the EU and asks us not to identify the culture of Muslim immigrants with their religion: “I do not think that there is such a thing as an encounter between the West and Islam”.
It is absurd to think that Islam cannot accommodate democracy or that democracy cannot accommodate Islam. It is not Islam per se, but religion tout court that stands in some tension with secularism and with democracy – a tension that is healthy rather than unhealthy in a free society. Like Christianity and other religions, Islam is a religion practiced in many cultures and societies, sectarian, stratified, schismatic and pluralistic. To the degree Islam is fundamentalist, so is religion in many places, because in our secular age religion is under siege and fundamentalism is above all a reaction to religion under siege.
“Unfortunately, after Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, we have seen a return of the stereotypes used in existential debates. The kind of discussion used in psychoanalysis. It is said that Europe is distant from its citizens, that it no longer has a mission nor the spirit of its founding fathers. This is not true. While there are no longer powerful post-war feelings, Europe has not disappeared from the consciousness of its citizens.” Giuliano Amato, former Italian Premier and Vice-President of the EU Convention, invites Europeans to avoid skepticism, and adds: “I share the idea expressed by Bronislaw Geremek and others, stating that our cultural identity exists, but it is not an unquestionable fact, but rather a task we must want to address, ensuring that our shared characteristics overcome our diversities.“
Obama enters the White House, and what happens? Liberal Internationalism is the name that his advisors have chosen for what they hope will be his foreign policy. But what does it mean? The end of Bush’s unilateralism, a new position on global warming, maybe some indication of a willingness to join the International Criminal Court, a different approach to the World Trade Organization, a stronger commitment to “the responsibility to protect” in places like Darfur or Myanmar, a clear recognition that the “war” against terrorism is mostly police work and political work, a withdrawal from Iraq (maybe), more troops in Afghanistan, a diplomatic initiative in Israel/Palestine and also in the larger Israel/Arab conflict. A new American foreign policy may not however make a significant difference.
Turkey’s unfolding constitutional crisis could end in many things: the continuation and even conclusion of the long democratic transition; military coup with entirely uncertain consequences; or, in between them an unproductive stalemate. And what if the AKP will be closed? The AKP would be replaced, as historically, and with or without Erdogan the successor party (like the AKP itself) should be able to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor. The search for consensual solutions must continue. The Constitutional Court will remain an important actor in any consensual process, and it makes no sense to vilify it whatever anyone may think or imagine about some of the members and their allegiances.
I think Carl Schmitt was right in saying that politics needs an enemy. Must this enemy necessarily be the ‘other’, and hence a political opponent or someone who is diverse? Could the enemy instead be hatred, intolerance and such other issues, so that the message conveyed through the media would become very different? One could say that this does not attract attention. This is not true. Political leaders have an undisputed advantage compared to anyone else. If they have something significant to say they obtain attention and visibility. Ordinary people can preach wonderful things without anyone paying any attention, while statements by national, regional and local political leaders become news, and not necessarily bad news.