WELCOME to part two of the first edition of Insights this year, focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following Dr Dževada Šuško’s exploration of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 500-year history of peaceful, and often courageous, Jewish-Muslim coexistence; in this issue, Ambassador Vanja Filipovic warns of the dissolution of peace in the Balkans.
The timing of Ambassador Filipovic’s contribution is pertinent and evokes conflicting feelings. Whilst only last week Bosnians celebrated their 30th anniversary of independence from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a few days earlier the world watched in disbelief the start of a gruesome and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia. For many Bosnians who survived the 1992-1995 aggression by Serb forces, the terrible tragedy in Ukraine now is a grim reminder of their war and suffering.
The raging war in Ukraine serves as a stark reminder that as conflict is waged, so, too must peace be forged through the protection and defence of hard-won national and international agreements – such as those made at the end of the Bosnian war. Such agreements are critical to the existence of necessary values of the rule of law, tangible human rights, and cooperation in a diversely populated democratic nation such as Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ambassador Filipovic echoes international observers’ disappointment by raising the alarm over threats posed by the breakaway of Serbian and Croatian groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina. By drawing attention to internal and external factors that have contributed to the gradual erosion of shared governance and legal frameworks that have helped sustain peace in the region, the Ambassador forewarns of the dissolution of peace in the Balkans. He concludes that two possible paths remain for Bosnia and Herzegovina: one leading to the benefits of further democratic development and the other ending in segregation, divisiveness, and uncertainty.
Responsibility lies squarely with the international community to unequivocally condemn the deliberate undermining of peace agreements by nationalist secessionist forces, along with all conflict and oppression – no matter where in the world it occurs. History is replete with testaments of the tragic consequences of silence and inaction – whether it be aggression against Ukrainians, Uyghurs in China, the Rohingya in Myanmar, Syrians, Palestinians, or countless others.
The history of human conflict teaches us that war does not happen spontaneously, nor does it occur in isolation. There is always a series of fissures that weaken relations and preclude war, always with regional, and sometimes global consequences. The future peace of Bosnia and Herzegovina remains uncertain; but as Ambassador Filipovic argues – the soul of Europe depends upon it.