Marion Kraske: “Appeasement is a dangerous endeavor – for the region and for the EU itself!”

Štefica Galić
Autor 20.12.2021. u 10:15

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  • We have clearly to state: The concept of local ownership did not bring any positive results so far – for that you would need responsible political stakeholders to achieve a self-driven reform process. We see that neither Milorad Dodik , Dragan Covic nor Bakir Izetbegovic are real politicians, in contrast, they are ethno-oriented clan leaders with the ultimate aim to stay with their network in power. And the secessionist tendencies by Dodik and the whole spin by HDZ about a so-called „legitimate representation“ – actually this is a pure construction, in fact, it means a Third entity – is the clear attempt to achieve the war goals of the 90ies, the idea of creating a „Greater Serbia“ and a „Greater Croatia“. Dodiks and Covics agendas are backed and encouraged by Zagreb and Belgrade, with clear support also from Mister Putin in Moscow. The EU must stop as soon as possible these hazardous politicians that are intending to destabilize the whole region.

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Marion Kraske: “Appeasement is a dangerous endeavor – for the region and for the EU itself!”

The EU is therefore asked to strengthen in BiH and the Western Balkans projects and platforms for “facing-the-past“-activities and discussions. We have numerous verdicts by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – they should be used as a tool for education. They should be openly discussed in the media, in exhibitions, in museums, in schools and universities. We have to stop the propaganda machinery by nationalistic forces to whitewash war crimes, killings, mass rape, etc. The acknowledgement of crimes is the first step of a future normalization process. Luckily the new State Minister for Culture in Germany, Claudia Roth, recently announced to set the focus on the „Culture of Remembrance“. This concept should be transferred also to Balkan countries And I hope that also Germanys´ Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, will initiate new projects in BiH to make especially the younger generation a generation of critical minds questioning and condemning the crimes committed by fathers, grandfathers or uncles. Otherwise, BiH and the region will stay stuck in the 90s, said Marion Kraske, a German analyst, journalist and expert on the Balkans in an interview with tacno.net.

Interview conducted by Štefica Galić

Galic: As an analyst and journalist, you follow the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, how do you see the attempt of Dodik’s secessionism, Covic’s whining about the threat to Croats and the election law… How do you comment on all that?

Kraske: The political situation has been escalating for years – and we have to state that the International Community is guilty for that to a large extent. The International Community, in the first place the EU, has been supporting the nationalist forces for a long time. For EU/US it seemed ok to keep the devastating Status Quo instead of boosting a sustainable democratization process. Otherwise, it´s incomprehensible that the numerous verdicts of the ECfHR (Sejdic, Finci, Zornic, Pilav, Slaka, Pudaric) have not been implemented so far. This is scandalous – it shows that the EU is not able respectively not willing to defend European values in Bosnia.

The so called „Mostar deal“ was the attempt to fix something on paper (for bureaucrats, for private careers), another dirty, intransparent deal that was strengthening the nationalistic block of SDA and HDZ which were the bad-guys blocking elections for more than a decade.

We have clearly to state: The concept of local ownership did not bring any positive results so far – for that you would need responsible political stakeholders to achieve a self-driven reform process. We see that neither Milorad Dodik , Dragan Covic nor Bakir Izetbegovic are real politicians, in contrast, they are ethno-oriented clan leaders with the ultimate aim to stay with their network in power. And the secessionist tendencies by Dodik and the whole spin by HDZ about a so-called „legitimate representation“ – actually this is a pure construction, in fact, it means a Third entity – is the clear attempt to achieve the war goals of the 90ies, the idea of creating a „Greater Serbia“ and a „Greater Croatia“. Dodiks and Covics agendas are backed and encouraged by Zagreb and Belgrade, with clear support also from Mister Putin in Moscow. The EU must stop as soon as possible these hazardous politicians that are intending to destabilize the whole region.

Galic: Many envoys from the EU and America are coming and trying to figure out what is going on here. From Germany, several parliamentarians came from the Green Party and other political parties which are lobbying in the EP to sanction those responsible for the crisis in BiH. I also know that there are those in the EP who are lobbying against sanctions against Dodik and for Covic’s election law. Is there anything realistic that can be done to help our country and its citizens?

Kraske: I strongly believe that time is ripe for a reset in the foreign policy towards BiH. Some EU parliamentarians visited recently Bosnia and Herzegovina and got informed about the urgency of supporting democratic and liberal forces in the country – which so far was not the fact. Now they are asking for sanctions and a shift in the whole EU approach. We have to be honest: The policy of the EU Commission has completely failed. EU-Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi is discredited. He is a guy of Viktor Orban who several months ago was involved, in cooperation with Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa, in the preparation of a shameful “Non-paper” that formulates the re-modeling of the Balkan region along ethnic lines. This is the ideology of genocide and ethnic clean territories – the policy of Milosevic, Tudjman, Karadzic, Mladic, Boban, Praljak and others.

Having this in mind it´s no wonder that Mr. Varhelyi came to Bosnia with the clear intention to deliver something to extremist HDZ that could be characterized as an attempt to deepen the ethnic division in BiH, to cement the power of this troublemaker. This step would destroy the country – and it stands in contrast to the position of the German government (the Merkel and the new one led by Olaf Scholz) that any steps should be avoided that go into this direction. This position was recently confirmed also by the European Council.

BiH does not need a further ethnic division, in contrast, the political, judicial and ethnical matrix needs a minimization of the toxic Ethno-dictatorship having in mind that the ethnic-driven cartels are strongly connected to high-level corruption.

Any further Appeasement policy will strengthen the nationalistic agendas and contribute to a stronger Russian influence in BiH and the Western Balkan countries as a whole since Moscow is supporting these stakeholders strategically. Besides the threat towards the Ukraine Moscow is threatening the Balkan region with destabilization. Therefore the EU – both, the EU commission and the EU delegation in BiH – has to stop pushing dirty compromises with SNSD and HDZ. Such clandestine deals and chumminess are clearly not in line with essential European security interests!

Momentarily we are defending in BiH our European values. This means that we are defending basic democratic principles like equality for all citizens – they have to have the same rights, in the judiciary and the electoral process. Any prolonging of the discriminatory system of the Dayton based discrimination which excludes Jews, Roma people and in general citizens who are living in the “wrong” ethnic area is at the same time a prolonging of the scandalous failure by the European Union to help Bosnia and Herzegovina become a functional and peaceful democratic country during the last three decades.

Now it’s time to decide between a future democratic and peaceful Bosnia that will be part of the EU – or a troublemaker shaken by criminal nationalists that are spreading hate and ethnic-nationalistic lies, using the country and its resources as their milk-cow for self-enrichment and destruction.

In the context of Genocide and Genocide denial we saw recently in the Parliament of the Federation a nasty cooperation between SNSD and HDZ – this is the ultimate red line in any European country. Genocide denial is the first step to repeat war crimes when there will be a new opportunity to turn words into deeds. In this regard, we have also to condemn the relativization of Genocides by Croatian president Milanovic. I missed a clear and condemning statement by the EU. Did you hear anything? Again: We have to fight without any compromises against these extremist tendencies – this is in the interest of all democrats in the European Union.

Galic: Society in BiH is divided, corrupted and can do almost nothing. I know that the citizens of BiH do not want new conflicts, they have not yet recovered from the old ones. They just want to live normally and I’m sure they don’t hate each other. Hate is filled in the public space by the nationalist ethno gangs in power and their henchmen in the system and the media. Young and old are fleeing and leaving our country, which is the biggest defeat of nationalist policy in the last 30 years. How to live in such ethno-frameworks?

Kraske: If we critically scrutinize the situation in the health system of BiH, the hospitals, the educational system, the environment, the infrastructure, the energy sector – we have to state that the nationalistic power centers did not do anything for the well-being of the country and its citizens. The standards are extremely low and, taking into account the ongoing Corona pandemic, these poor standards are a risk for the life of the people. Corruption is killing, see the cases of the fake respirators or the use of industrial gas instead of medical gas in the RS. Instead of doing their jobs, we see political players producing one political crisis after the other, in the meantime exploiting the budgets and resources for private and party interests.

Around 80.000 people left in 2021 – as a consequence of corruption, criminal structures and a devastating job situation. The nationalists are driving the biggest potential unconcernedly out of the country. And this mass exodus has a dangerous impact on the current and future economic and political situation in BiH.

As a consequence, we need a complete exit strategy to minimize the power of these nationalistic extremists, with clear messages: No attacks on state institutions, no secession, no further ethnic division and a complete stop of the systematic discrimination. In this regard, we need a strong partnership between OHR, EU and USA. The role of the High Representative is extremely important in such a tense situation, Bonn Powers must be again an option and used without hesitation in case that somebody attacks the state and its institutions. Unfortunately, this step was already done with the founding of the Agency for medicine in the RS. For those who were still in doubt if this secession is a real move by Dodik, the recent decisions by the National Assembly of the RS made it crystal clear. This is a threat not only to BiH but to the whole region – and the European peace order as a whole. Hence this has to be brought to an end.

The key out of this crisis of ethno-nationalism and fascistic ideas of eliminating people just because they are from another ethnic group is a clear commitment by the International Community to bring the shameful discrimination to an end. Jews, Roma people, citizens in general, all individuals have to have the same rights.

This is very simple. Without any compromises. This is the core principle of the European Union. Individual rights, citizen´s rights, women´s rights – this must be the ground for a normalization and democratization process for BiH. To achieve these goals the International Community should also support strategically the opposition, democratic and liberal forces, human rights defenders, etc. These are important strategic partners for a future democratization process – not genocide deniers and people with secessionist intentions. Anyhow: As long as people are blackmailed during the election process because of the overall dominance of the nationalistic influencers, as long as elections are not fully free and independent from manipulations and threats the International Community must avoid everything to legitimate the nationalistic, criminal troublemakers. They are in their positions, ok, – but they are not our strategic partners on the way to an EU membership.

Galic: The citizens of BiH want a civil state, where everyone would have the same rights, and not one that only suits ethno-criminals and their radical tutors from Serbia and Croatia, whom we have seen, celebrate criminals as heroes or deny genocide. Is there a way out of this vicious circle?

Kraske: The law against the denial of the genocide, imposed by the former High Rep, Valentin Inzko, was a milestone, a crucial step to normalize the situation in BiH. We can compare this with Germany: The Holocaust denial was also penalized, and the law is to this day a sharp tool to combat revanchism and right-wing-extremism

The crimes committed in the context of the Holocaust are taught in schools, at universities. This has to be started in BiH as well. It´s dangerous when politicians deny what happened in the 90ies. Milorad Dodik is glorifying Serbian war criminals, Dragan Covic glorifies the Para state of Herzeg Bosna, a joint criminal enterprise to kill and expel all Non-Croats from Herzegovina. HDZ BiH is trying to camouflage these crimes reinterpreting them as heroic acts, same with the crimes that were committed in the Republica Srpska. We should have in mind, that Republika Srpska is the result of a policy of ethnic cleansing – so any collaboration with these forces by the International Community means a complicity in the spirit of revanchism.

The historic facts must not be any more denied. We saw where denial leads to – to a constant radicalization and uncontrollable revival of the ideologies that led to the Bosnian war.

The EU is therefore asked to strengthen in BiH and the Western Balkans projects and platforms for “facing-the-past“-activities and discussions. We have numerous verdicts by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – they should be used as a tool for education. They should be openly discussed in the media, in exhibitions, in museums, in schools and universities. We have to stop the propaganda machinery by nationalistic forces to whitewash war crimes, killings, mass rape, etc. The acknowledgement of crimes is the first step of a future normalization process. Luckily the new State Minister for Culture in Germany, Claudia Roth, recently announced to set the focus on the „Culture of Remembrance“. This concept should be transferred also to Balkan countries And I hope that also Germanys´ Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, will initiate new projects in BiH to make especially the younger generation a generation of critical minds questioning and condemning the crimes committed by fathers, grandfathers or uncles. Otherwise, BiH and the region will stay stuck in the 90s.

Štefica Galić
Autor 20.12.2021. u 10:15