B. The course of the process
POO started in October 1997, almost two years after the war, and at a moment bigger humanitarian organizations (governmental and non-governmental) were already active. In fact the first of them were already leaving Bosnia Herzegovina. The biggest suffering was over but a great emptiness awaiting. The country was still run by those people who caused the war, the country was still completely depending on the foreign policy of it's neighbors and the international politics. Besides that the complete social foundation of the society was wiped out; hundred of thousands of refugees, who live now somewhere else but without the feeling of being home (the so-called displaced persons), hundreds of thousands died, and other are morning about them, hundred of thousands of (mainly) young and well educated people who left the country, leaving behind their parents who now, at old age, must try to take care of themselves, Mafia kind of types and monopolists that try to run and control this small and young country, and specially the feeling among the youngsters who are still here, that this place will never be any good and others will consider them as stupid, undeveloped and barbaric. In other words; a strong sense of inferior complex and, as some people called it 'a victim complex', partly strengthened by the international community which mainly is represented by ambitious people with a huge salary and the freedom to come and go whenever they want.
And with a ruined economy this country should start to walk in line with the international standards. So that can take a while.
And how is the situation now?
Two weeks after POO started in Sarajevo, the national PTT company started their server bih.net. A cooperator of POO was waiting in line and met an older lady from Luxembourg, also representing a second generation humanitarian organization. She said: "The first year after a war there is euphoria, the second year there is hope, the third year there is despair, and it takes eight years before the situation is normalized." We asked her if she new that eight is also the number for endless, and indeed she did.
This report is written five years after the war.
The nationalistic parties also won the last elections and the ideology of nationalism rooted deeply in the society. The country is endlessly divided, and this vicious circle is very hard to break. It is like a cocktail of which the ingredients are separated through several complicated chemical processes. Once separated, a little bit mutilated through these processes, they can not make the same cocktail as they did before.
The Dayton peace agreement in Bosnia Herzegovina supports the deviation of the country, and puts a new ingredient to it as binder, the international community. But also with the power that is bigger than the powers of parliament or president. At the Dayton peace agreements everybody was made satisfied, so now nobody is. The Bosniaks are not satisfied because they see Bosnia and Herzegovina is not functioning as one country, the Croats are not satisfied because they do not have an entity like the Serbs have, the Serbs are not happy because they can not do whatever they want in their entity and all Bosnians together are not satisfied because their history and their future is minimalized.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of which a big part of the people is not educated, or educated with the thoughts of war. Many high educated people left and the peasants, to say it as blunt as this, control the country, so many youngsters, specially urban youngsters, tried to find their luck somewhere else. Sometimes it is said that it is even the aim of the international community to pick the fruits of this young state and so minimize their problem of their situation in which the inhabitants are growing gray, leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina for what it is. But such a thoughts are not important in this report. Whatever, a poll said that 62 % of the people (between 20 and 45) would like to leave the country.
When POO started it was quite difficult for local people to travel through the country. Several actions by the international community, like universal license plates and a single currency, made that traveling is now more or less without any problem.
A big part of the destroyed houses are repaired, although there are also still many locations where this did not happen yet.
A part of the refugees have been able to return, although in the beginning this was not without problems or danger. In some counties the return goes more easy, in others it's more difficult. It must also be said that many refugees do not want to return because they do not want to be confronted with the past, or they do not want to live in a place as a minority.
Privatization is going really slow and seldom with the result that was hoped for; big unprofitable companies still do not work, profitable companies work but the profits go to some people and not to the complete society.
In real estate there is still a lot of unclearness about owners rights. Besides that, many people lost everything they had and the right to buy their house can never be used.
Unemployment is still grief, more than 50%, in some places more than 75%.
On the other side it is inspiring to see many people who put all prejudices aside and try to work as hard as possible to build a life as normal as possible, in which nationalism and fear plays no role at all in the thoughts and actions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a strange land. Everything that happens has an extra dimension, an unexpected side, a complication, an enrichment. The Bosnians did not loose these talents. Sometimes people say: "In Bosnia a surprise is not possible, because everything is possible". But in Bosnia people speak softly. The stories can't cross the top of the mountains and therefor always will return to the society. That is why many subjects are not mentioned, not even whispered about. Bosnia is a country 1/3 bigger than the Netherlands, but if you would take a heating iron and flatten it, it would be three times bigger as the Netherlands.
It should also be mentioned that specially Sarajevo had a facelift which shows the working spirit of the Bosnian people. The city looks in many cases even better as before the war. It is a beautiful town between the mountains.
Bosnian people are aware of the fact that they faced a war that was imported by foreign powers, into Bosnia. Also the peace agreement that followed was dictated by foreigners. Because of that the international politic still has a great influence on the locale situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Think about the NATO war in Yugoslavia, the political changes in Croatia and Yugoslavia (Serbia), the enlargement plans of the EU and the American elections. Because these developments go really fast you could say that the Bosnian people are mainly waiting to see what happens.
In the political scene not much has changed these 5 years, new faces dominate the same old parties. You could say that Bosnia and Herzegovina as state hardly functions because the different parts of the country are mainly working for their self-interest, including the international community. What you get is some kind of mix that curdles, but all sides can continue to work for their self-interest so everybody keeps it like this.
Corruption (including legal corruption) reign supreme. It must be said that also the international community takes it part of the cake. And what happens if you come to Bosnia and with some moralistic arguments, while it seems that this moral does not functions well either; the people will act as they are taught, and morality becomes a habit only used in social desired conversations.
Because POO would very much like to add and support the 'experience of art and culture' in general, and because POO sees culture as an essential part of the daily life, we shall also use one chapter in this report about this subject.
Sarajevo, and Bosnia Herzegovina is a place where great personalities, scientists and artists, came from,. Think about Ivo Andric, Nikola Tesla, Emir Kusturica and many other. Specially poetry and music are used very often and developed widely. Before the war every style of music could be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Gypsy music, sevdalinka, kolo, among others, represent the folk and folkloristic styles but in the same time you could find avant-garde, underground rock music, pop, punk, jazz and so on. All the different people, Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats, Jews, Dalmatians, Istrians, Albanians, Hungarian, all left some of their influences in the music.
The war made life for most musicians impossible; their market was among the first that has disappeared. It became very rare to see spontaneous local music performances. Sometimes there are music and dancegroups but these groups often are closely related to the nationalistic parties, because that's where the money is. You do not see little orchestra's anymore but individuals using a sampler keyboard, often with the most terrible sound quality. Many young musicians left. New music is not good enough to live from, so many talented musicians play old compositions. What is left of the popmusic scene is mainly filled by old 'pre war stars'.
Quite a lot of international artists come to Bosnia and Herzegovina and besides diplomats, people that work for NGO's and journalists they are the most frequent visitors of the bigger festivals.
A number of them play on these festivals and on evenings organized by the international community, a small number of them find their way through the underground scene.
In Sarajevo there is a good climate for festivals; a beautiful filmfestival but also good jazz, dance, theater and music festivals, anything. The only thing that Sarajevo does not have is a place where young people can meet regularly, there is no public concerthall, youthclub or something like that although there is great desire for it.