Bosnia presents a terrifying picture of Europe’s future

by Igor Štiks

[T]here is one big difference with the riots seen in other European cities, and this is where Bosnia speaks directly to Europe’s current predicament: this is not a rebellion of discriminated and ghettoised groups, territorially contained on the outskirts of big cities. It is a rebellion of the whole population that has been subjected to economic impoverishment, social devastation and political destitution. In this, Bosnia is an image of Europe’s future: ungovernable populations, exhausted by austerity measures and left to their own devices after the collapse of remnants of the welfare state – a state with no prospect for growth, run by elites of dubious, if any legitimacy who deploy heavily armed police to protect themselves against ordinary citizens.

However, Bosnia-Herzegovina today sends yet another image. Throughout the country popular assemblies – or plenums – have been established, and an especially laudable example is the Tuzla plenum, which has become so significant that it is now in a position to make appointments to local government. We are talking about ordinary people who are desperate and angry but at the same time determined to struggle for a better life in spite of all the institutional obstacles. They are not merely shouting slogans about what democracy should look like but are putting participatory democracy into practice instead.

Bosnia is showing us scenarios of unrest in other European cities, but also a way out, through the struggle of its citizens for social justice, equality and democracy. In fact, Bosnia is offering an image of what Europe must become in order not to sleepwalk again into a disaster as it did a century ago, when the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo marked the beginning of the first world war. Europe didn’t listen then just as it did not follow the image that Sarajevo’s Olympic flame was projecting in front of my window in 1984. Will it fail to understand the message Bosnian citizens are sending now? Will Europe engage in putting down this flame only to see it erupting in some other corner of the continent, very soon, when it might be too late?

Read the whole article on The Guardian