August 06th 2009 02:21:37 PM
Maybe There’s a Good Reason that Europeans Say Yes to Visa-Free Travel for Serbs, Macedonians and Montenegrins — but not for Albanians or BosniansPosted by Julia Gorin
First, note the strategic, on-program layout and writing of this item. A caption reads: “EU to propose end to visas for Serbs, not Bosnians”, followed by “Bosnian Serb war-crimes suspect still at large.”
* EU to propose end to visas for Serbs, not Bosnians
* Bosnian Serb war-crimes suspect still at large
By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS, July 14 (Reuters) - A plan to end EU visa requirements for Serbians but not for Bosnian Muslims who suffered at Serb hands in the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia will deepen ethnic divisions in the Balkans, critics said on Tuesday.
Of course, no one suffered at Bosnian hands, certainly not the Serbs whose heads the Bosnians used for soccer balls nor the Croatians whose necks were severed slowly with a knife by Bosnian units during the war.
The Green group in the European Parliament termed the planned announcement, days after the 14th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, “hypocritical and morally abject”.
Christian Schwarz-Schilling, a former international high representative for Bosnia, called it “a mockery and a blow against all European values”.
The main European value being self-deception, including that ubiquitous refrain about “8,000 men and boys.”
The executive European Commission plans to unveil on Wednesday a proposal to allow citizens of Serbia, as well as those of Montenegro and Macedonia, to travel to the European Union without visas from the start of next year.
It says a similar proposal covering Bosnia and Albania could follow in mid-2010 — once they meet EU standards.
…Schwarz-Schilling, a former German minister and high representative in Bosnia from 2006 to 2007, told the German newspaper Bild it was “an incredible political blunder” to exclude Bosnia, a country NATO, the United States and the EU had taken military action to defend.
Bosnia’s best-selling daily Dnevni Avaz said the EU was sending a dangerous political message by rewarding Serbia, a country it said was still sheltering war-crimes fugitives.
“Does it mean the European Union (with some honourable exceptions) has never been interested in punishing war crimes committed in Bosnia and the Balkans?” it asked.
“How come a legal system that is sheltering the worst war criminals is eligible for the EU and Bosnia is not?”
Hmm, that’s a tough one. Let’s think hard. Thinking, thinking, thinking…Ah, I think I may have an answer. Perhaps what makes Bosnia different from Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia is all those mujahedeen holding Bosnian citizenship? I wonder why those irrational Europeans might be squeamish about having unrestricted travel for mujahedeen — or the Wahabbis who are gaining ground in Bosnia and beating on gays? I mean, it’s not like there will be different passport types to distinguish Bosnian Wahabbis from Westernized Bosnian sluts. Then again, those lines are blurring rapidly, as Mountain comes to Mohamed. Of course, Europeans worried about having their throats sliced is just “discrimination.”
…Citizens of the former Yugoslavia used to be able to travel visa-free to Western Europe until Yugoslavia’s break-up in the 1990s. Of the ex-Yugoslav states, only Slovenia is an EU member, but neighbouring Croatia already has visa-free status.
And of course no one suffered at Croatian hands either, not the Serbs or Bosnians held in Croatian concentration and rape camps, nor whoever’s ears those were on the Croat’s necklace mentioned toward the bottom of this article. But why bring up non-Serb crimes and confuse the public?
A silly boy named Tobias Heider, a research student at Berlin’s Free University, wrote the following bit of brainwashed pabulum for some outfit called “The European Voice”:
By Tobias Heider
…The [European] Commission’s position on Albania is understandable: it has not transformed its system as much as Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have. So too is the reluctance about Kosovo, since not all 27 member states have recognised Kosovo as a state. But why should Bosnia and Herzegovina not benefit from visa liberalisation?
Again, let’s think hard on that one.
…The reality is that a decision to allow visa-free access is fundamentally a political act. Certainly, the political motivation in the case of Serbia is clear: before Serbia’s parliamentary elections in May 2008, EU foreign ministers indicated that they would reward a pro-European vote with a visa-free regime.
That political rationale was sound. In Bosnia’s case, though, the EU’s politics is bad.
Morally, the symbolism of the new visa regime could barely be worse: three days ago, thousands of people mourned the slaughter of 8,000 or more Bosniaks killed at Srebrenica.
This will worsen attitudes towards the EU. [Translation: Even more of those “secular” Bosnians will “suddenly” turn toward the East, not the West.] Many Bosniaks will see this as the EU repeating mistakes it made in the war — helping political extremists to legalise and institutionalise ethnic division in Bosnia.
Huh? Oh, he tries to explain:
In spring 1992, a European Community peace conference led to José Cutileiro and Peter Carrington proposing constitutional reform in Bosnia based on three ethnic cantons, a move accepted but later rejected by Bosniaks, who wanted to preserve a unitary and multiethnic system.
He’s calling the secession from Yugoslavia by fundamentalist Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic — who wanted Muslims, Serbs and Croats to all live under one Sharia roof — “preserving a unitary and multiethnic system.”
…[The West’s] policy in Bosnia can only be effective if its carrots and sticks are credible.
It’s interesting that valuing credibility of the carrot-and-stick policy only arises now, in reference to Bosnia, when the West has been famously offering carrots to Serbs and hitting them with the stick anyway after they comply. The example of EU ministers following through with the promised visa-free status as a reward for Serbia’s pro-European parliamentary elections marks just about the first time that Serbia got the promised carrot. And this happened mostly thanks to the absence of any influence by a Serbophobic U.S. in the visa matter.
Politically, the reasoning for the EU should have been simple: Bosnia does not warrant different treatment from its neighbours, and Bosniaks should not be treated differently from Bosnia’s Croats and Serbs…
Little Tobias is free to cling to his illusions. But maybe, just maybe, his fellow Europeans have a bit more experience of Serbs and Bosnians, making them slightly more qualified to sort them out. Maybe Europeans know what Bosnian tourists are like. My friend Svetlana relates an experience she had at a Vienna hotel:
When we were checking out of our hotel, the owner popped up to confirm we were Serbs (she had our passports with her) and we looked at each other thinking: here we go, now we’ll have to explain why did we rape and kill everybody in former Yugoslavia and we just said Yes, bracing for an attack, and she started to shower us with praises for being sooooo “clean”, soooo nice etc… One of the receptionists, seeing how surprised we were, explained they had a lot of Yugoslavia Muslims staying there and the groups of men ruined their rooms, some were even cleaning the mud from their boots with the drapes. But being that the German and Austrian media were soooo anti-Serb (and still are), I think the owner had simply formed a horrible opinion of Serbs to begin with and was grateful we didn’t rape and kill anyone in her hotel; at the same time, being told over and over that “poor Yugoslav Muslims” are being exposed to “genocide” by the ugly Serbs, she didn’t expect them to behave like pigs in her clean and safe little hotel.
And an American reader named Nancy relates her Bosnians-in-Middle-America experiences:
My husband and I helped to re-settle hundreds of Serbian refugees in our city and even helped them start one of their Churches too. But at least 2 years before that, we had helped some 15 Bosnian families; they came at least 2 years before the Serbs. I am now ashamed to say I even set foot in a Bosnian home/hovel/apartment, but we had no idea what we [were] up against at the time. Just “dumb ol’ American do-gooders”!!
There were no Serbs here then and to tell you the ABSOLUTE truth, we had not followed the civil war over there for many reasons. The first being that we were just surviving ourselves at the time due to serious finacial conditions in our lives. Right before we were approached by a local Church group to help re-settle Bosnians, our LUCK had changed for the better and we wanted to “make a difference” in some refugee’s life.
OH! GOLLY!! BOY! Did we get an education about Bosnian Muslims and IT WAS NOT PRETTY.
Anyway, it is an involved story. But, let me conclude with this…we stopped helping any refugees for awhile after our Bosnian experience. So when the agency BEGGED us to help some Krajina Serbs we did so with great concern!! However, the Serbs we met turned out to be some of the best folks we had ever met. I found they were very clean and decent people and saw how hard they would work to get things for their families. My husband and I and our daughter who had just moved back home from NYC, enjoyed their company and we all remain friends with many of them.
When I pressed Nancy for some details, she offered the following:
My entire immediate family and many friends were involved in helping re-settle refugees from various places in the world. My bad experiences with Bosnains were mainly related to the abuse of very young children (aged 2, 4 and 6) who were left unattended for hours at a time while the mother was out with other Bosnian women (also mothers of small kids) shopping for food and other things. It was not as if there [were] no sitters available. The apartment complex, which was a part of the re-settlement program, had a short term day care center for kids under 10 just for refugee residents. Granted there was a 3 hour time limit, but those Bosnians did NOT want to leave their kids with NON-MUSLIMS!! So to heck with them!! They ate pork, ham and drank beer so what’s up with playing the NON-MUSLIM card in regards to child care?
My daughter and one of her boyfriends were threatened by Bosnian men when they brought foodstuffs and a table over for some of the “lost boys from the Sudan” who lived in a “mixed” refugee apartment complex. My daughter was asked WHY she was helping “niggers”????? She was told if they ever came back something might happen to their car. See, Bosnians are like thugs. It is all for them and nothing for anybody else.
Another lady was followed by a Bosnian man and shouted at, as she was bringing candy and toys to a mixed Croat/Bosnian family’s kids. She went back but would pick up the family down the block and take them some place for outings and shopping.
The list is endless actually…
No Serb, or Croat for that matter, ever threatened us after we started helping them. But, the agency did not place the Serbs with the Bosnians most of the time.
The Serbs and Croats never asked me for money for cigs, beer or just money as “gifts” as did Bosnian Muslims.
I know one Bosnian muslim man, a young fellow, who had many problems with other Bosnian muslims. He was a follower of that other Bosnian politician. The one who was a moderate, the Serbs tell me… he was named [Fikret Abdic — the actual moderate who was sabotaged by the West]. Anyway, the young man hung around with Serbs all the time.
Let me once more point out the irony in the common push by the former Yugoslav republics to be part of the EU — after declaring war on each other in order to not be part of something bigger, but to establish their own ethnically pure statelets. There are currently 27 nations that are EU members. When I asked a Jewish man from Kosovo, named Branko, how many nationalities make up Yugoslavia, he answered “27.”
This is not nostalgia for old communist Yugoslavia, especially coming from an anti-communist. It’s merely a point about irony and futility. Once Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo are formally EU members and have all the goodies that go with that, the EU will suffer Yugoslavia’s fate, only on a grander and bloodier scale. Might as well let Turkey join the party.
In closing, I go back to Svetlana to underscore this point, and the inversion that articles like the two visa-related items above perpetuate:
Of all the bad things one can say about Serbs, one thing no one can deny is that Serbs are extremely egalitarian as a nation — to their own detriment, as it turns out. This is part of the reason why the accusations of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” are so incomprehensible and hurtful to us… Why would we want to “purify” Croatia and Bosnia and Kosovo of Croats, Muslims and Albanian Muslims, when we have no such thing anywhere in Serbia, and we never had it? I played as a child with Hungarians, Romanians, Croats, Jews, Armenians and who knows who else — we were all an entirely carefree bunch and no Serbian parents of most of us who are ethnic Serbs gave a rat’s ass of who’s who there! I studied with Greeks, people from Africa and every ethnicity from the region; my parents gave their bedroom to a Yugoslav Hungarian girl (from Vojvodina, at the north of Serbia) who could barely speak Serbian, because my father got somehow acquainted with her father, heard his daughter wants to study in Belgrade but they had no money to rent her a room, so I had to teach her Serbian, put up with her moods (she was manic-depressive and a complete neurotic) and “translate” parts of her medical books into less difficult words she could understand… And all of a sudden, Serbs are Nazis everywhere and can’t stand anyone else around them! Give me a break!
And, interestingly enough, all those “democrats” that formed their banana republics on the territory of former Yugoslavia, like Slovenians and Croats, have somehow ended up with entirely ethnically pure states (Bosnian Muslims have tried to do the same with their “minority” Serbs, but failed), while the “genocidal” Serbs are the only ones who have preserved the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity and have the most multicultural and multi-ethnic country on the entire Balkan Peninsula. And the only one with over 1.5 million refugees from all the regions of former Yugoslavia, of all ethnicities and faiths.
Check out the reaction of Bosnian politicians and religious leaders to being excluded from visa liberalization:
The Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) religious leadership and media and many European officials and politicians warn that the EU’s visa-liberalisation plan could lead to the radicalisation of Muslims in Europe and seriously destabilize the entire region.
“Bosniaks feel squeezed into a corner from which they do not see a way out. In this situation, outbursts of aggression are a wholly normal reaction,” Sead Numanovic, editor of prominent Sarajevo daily, Dnevni Avaz, wrote in his Tuesday column.
“European hypocrisy cannot be understood,” the leader of the influential Bosnian Islamic Community, Mustafa Ceric, said during the interment of identified remains of Bosniak war victims near the western town of Prijedor on Monday.
Both comments reflect ongoing public criticism, across the region and in Europe, of a visa-liberalisation plan presented by the European Commission (EC) last week. The EC suggested to the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament that the bloc’s visa-free regime be extended to Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, while excluding Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Most critiques of the plan have focused on the fact that Serbia was offered visa-free travel whereas Bosnia was not, although both countries were at a similar stage in fulfilling EU requirements.
While EU officials tried to portray the plan as a purely technical issue, many local and international commentators alleged it was more a political tool that showed the EU’s ignorance with regard to Bosnia and bias towards Serbia.
While most local media in Bosnia stressed that the main responsibility for their country’s failure to acquire the visa-free status lies with local leaders, they all claimed that Serbia was offered incorporation in the plan purely in order to boost Serbia’s pro-western leadership.
The criticism was intensified by the fact that exclusion from the visa-free regime will almost solely affect Bosniaks, since most Bosnian Croats already have Croatian passports and most Bosnian Serbs can easily obtain Serbian passports.
Public sentiment in Bosnia holds that the new visa plan rewards the aggressors and punishes the victims, a feeling exacerbated by the timing of the EC announcement which was made only days after the fourteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.
“After everything that you have seen, now you tell us from Brussels that we cannot go to Europe with visas,” Ceric said in his Monday address. “Now you have rewarded our killers.”
The visa-liberalisation plan has seriously divided both the regional and European political scenes and has triggered a number of public petitions demanding changes. Germany’s Social Democratic Party, SPD, has launched a challenge in the Bundestag.
Fears have been expressed in the domestic media and by international officials that the visa recommendations plan could lead to the ghettoisation of Bosnian Muslims, triggering a hardening of their positions and promoting long-term instability in the region.
“There needs to be a fundamental critique of the [EU] Balkan policy of the last five years,” an EU official told Balkan Insight.