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Bosnia: The Calm After the Storm

Published: February 15, 2014; 15:34 · (Vindobona)

The protest movement has lost momentum. The future of Bosnia is more uncertain than ever before.

Bosnia: The Calm After the Storm / Picture: © Vindobona.org

Last weekend, Bosnia was close to a second civil war. In Tuzla, where the protests began, and Sarajevo, the country´s capital, the public order got completely out of control. In total, 30 Bosnian cities were involved in the riots. About 150 persons were injured and a number of government buildings were set on fire. After the severe riots, the regional governments in Tuzla, Sarajevo and Zenica resigned.

Only one week after the escalation of the protests, peace and quiet returned. Only a few hundred protestors are on the streets in Bosnia´s capital Sarajevo.

The two main protest movements „Udar“ and „Revolt“ stressed that the people in Bosnia have to live under extreme conditions. “The people are living at the subsistence level. The public order, which is based on the Dayton Agreement, is not acceptable.” According to the protest movements, the Bosnian state machinery is not only extremely inefficient, but also highly vulnerable to corruption.

The protest movements still wants to take back controversial privatizations and the state presidium to step down. However, the prospects of success are rather limited. According to political analysts, the protest movement is no potential threat for the economic and political elites.

Nevertheless, the short protest wave already was a success, according to Nerzuk Curak, political scientist at Sarajevo University. As Bosnia is split into three camps, there was a lack in common standpoints. “As a result, it is very positive that the citizens could find common interests. The schizophrenic and uncontrollable structure did not allow the people to think the same.”

“The most important thing is that the citizens keep in mind that the protests were their protests.” Curak explained that the politics often tried to capture the dissatisfaction and the desperate mood. “The call for social justice is concerning for the elites. The political elite often has close ties to kleptocratic businessmen.” Curak says.

As in the preceding years, the situation in Bosnia will be characterized by uncertainty, Curak said. “Due to the Dayton Agreement, Bosnia has become ungovernable. We are living in a state which does not work and where political unwell and apathy have become a constant factor.” Curak added. According to the professor, there will be no war. „Not because we are living in peace, but because we are living in a kind of non-war.“

The he main motives behind the protests were the extreme dissatisfaction with the government´s inactivity, the poverty and the enormous unemployment. The unemployment comes at 45% and the average monthly salary mounts to € 420. About 800,000 out of 3.8 million Bosnians are suffering from manifest poverty. Inzko explained that the extreme disparities in income and wealth are one of the main motives of the protest movement. “It is all about the social situation of the mass and the fabulous wealth of a few people.”

However, the economic disaster is not the only reason behind the enormous dissatisfaction. In 1995, the civil war in former Yugoslavia has ended. Since then, Bosnia could not return to sustainable stability. Not only the economy, but also the institutions are working satisfyingly. The country is split into three federations which are inhabited by three different ethnic groups: Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks. While the Serb minority wants to declare its independence, Bosniaks want a central state and Croats want to join Croatia.