Hands across the peace processes

There is something of an identikit aspect to peace processes, isn’t there? I mention this only as a result of reading the latest column from the compulsively readable Nebojša Malić at antiwar.com. Even when I disagree with Nebojša, which is regularly, he always has something interesting to say.

So, the latest column derives from Nebojša’s recent visit to his native Bosnia, and his impressions of how the place has changed. For a start:

The war’s physical scars in Sarajevo have mostly healed. Several burned-out buildings still remain, but the rest have been repaired and renovated. The city actually looks better today than even in 1984, when it last received a facelift for the Winter Olympics. Old Austrian-era buildings, gone drab with soot and smog over the course of the 20th century, now sport light ochre, burgundy, beige and even green facades. Communist-built public housing in western parts of the city, once depressingly concrete-gray, now sports cheerful blues, greens, yellows and reds.

Yeah, our own urban regeneration is a bit like that. Nebojša continues:

And yet, only the buildings are cheerful. The people grumble. Work is scarce. Those who do work are sucked dry by a myriad of taxes and fees, levied to support a gargantuan bureaucracy. Bosnia-Herzegovina has more government officials per capita than anyplace else on the planet. And after paying all the local, provincial and entity taxes, Bosnians pay a crushing 17% VAT on everything they buy.

Hmm. Definitely something there for the peace studies curriculum. Go on…

Shiny stores filled with expensive goods line Sarajevo’s main streets, but there are few shoppers inside, and fewer buyers. The only burgeoning businesses are cafes, bars and eateries. There is never enough capital for entrepreneurs, but there is somehow always plenty of money for new mosques, or inflammatory war memorials.

Substitute murals for mosques, and you could almost be in Norn Iron. But what I like best is Nebojša’s description of the Bosnian parliament:

To make matters worse, occasional live TV coverage of the Parliament looks like a lowbrow reality show. Many of the legislators can’t string together a coherent sentence. Others communicate strictly through callous insults and outright slander. Diatribes and rants are common. There are a few honorable exceptions to the cesspool that is the Bosnian Parliament, but their presence only underscores the general rot.

Can we twin these guys with Stormont?


  1. Anonymonymous said,

    April 18, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I was at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s annual shindig in 2005, and I have to say it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever clapped eyes on – great, swarming hordes of pro-lifers everywhere, and nary a stick to beat them with.

    I’m Scottish, and I was stunned – one of the major unionist parties put forward some old bugger who blatted on about how the tiny-feet badge he wore represented the abortion holocaust that occurs every day in Britain, while Sinn Fein’s representative gave the first two minutes of her speech in Irish, before rattling on about the horrors of 1974. I wish I was joking.

    A human rights conference anywhere else in Europe might focus on the practical uses of law in bettering the condition of living human beings, but no – in Northern Ireland, it was all about bloody foetuses and dead terrorists.

    In fact, the only guy who made any sense was a former loyalist terrorist who talked about his history of murder, imprisonment and redemption. I can’t remember his name, but he died last year. Bald bloke, moustache, on Question Time a lot – you’ll know who I mean, but I thought he talked a fair bit of sense.

    Anyway, that was my impression – a load of crazed Jesus freaks and sectarian nuts, occasionally opposed by former terrorists who have seen the light. Sorry if that’s a bit reductionist, but hey, that’s what it looks like to an outsider.

    Nice people, though, and I can’t complain about the beer.

  2. ejh said,

    April 19, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Well, maybe, but given the source, you don’t think that the diagnosis would have been the same regardless of the identity of the patient?

  3. Liam said,

    April 19, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Do you think Gerry and Martin have been advising?

  4. Dr Paul said,

    April 19, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Hmmm, a convergence between free-marketeers and Marxists. What can this portend?

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    April 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Don’t worry, I haven’t converted to Ron Paul libertarianism. Not yet anyway…

  6. Garibaldy said,

    April 21, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Excellent post. Though I thought you might have expanded the assault on the peace studies mob. And those delightful former communists who took their orders regarding the Women’s Coalition from Washington, and then got involved in exporting democracy to the Balkans. Perhaps, in retrospect, what looked like blatant careerism was in fact the first serious outbreak of Decency.

  7. Alex said,

    April 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Bosnians pay a crushing 17% VAT on everything they buy.

    The horror….the horror. Horror, and moral terror…

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