Isarajka

This little story is ANCIENT (it won the third prize at an essay contest organised by the East West Institute in January 2002), but most of the problems addressed here remain unresolved. The EU visa regime (problem number 2) is an exception to that. A bit muddled towards the end (I was young), this was before we even started talking about the whole constitutional change issue. Happy reading!


Beriz
is a taxi-driver and a murderer. Three years ago, he shot a colleague to death. Beriz was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Only two years later, Beriz was released, and today Beriz can be seen driving customers around Sarajevo again. His luck had been to be acquainted with someone who knew the judge charged with his case.

Belma is a 4th-year student selected by an international students’ association for participation in a summer university organized in Italy. Belma has collected all the necessary papers and is waiting for five hours in front of the embassy to apply for her visa. She is refused.

Brane is 65, but looks like 75. Before the war, he worked as a car mechanic in the TAS factories, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the former Yugoslavia. Unshaven, and ruddy, Brane now receives a monthly pension of 35 Euros and lives off what he finds in the garbage containers in his neighbourhood.

Bojana used to live in Sarajevo before the war. In 1992, her family moved to a village on the other side of the front line. Unfortunately, Bojana happens to belong to the ethnic group, representatives of which had been shelling and shooting at Sarajevo citizens for more than three years between 1992 and 1995. Today, Bojana has to fight her way through daily life by selling greeting cards on the streets of a small town which is not her own.

A socially responsible Europe without borders is something Bosnian people can only dream of. Bosnia today is afflicted by a large number of divides, cutting across the social tissue along ethnic, socio-economic and other lines. Innumerable political, social and economical problems are crying out for relief. Countless measures need to be taken in order to alleviate Bosnia’s many interrelated problems.

To fight corruption in the courtroom, and more generally speaking, impunity, appeal mechanisms should be installed, enabling citizens to plead for revision of certain decisions and court orders. Those citizens should have the right to special protection while their cases are under appeal. Such mechanisms would put pressure upon judges and other public authorities to assure full accountability and lawfulness of their decisions. Impunity for those who committed war crimes or other offenses remains at the source of many of Bosnia’s problems today. It prevents the emergence of trust and keeps citizens stuck in their anxiety-driven ethnic voting patterns.

Drastic changes in EU visa policies are needed. Enrolled students holding all necessary documentation should be exempted from applying for a visa. At the same time similar measures need to be taken by the Eastern European countries with regards to EU citizens.

One of the most crucial problems in Bosnia is its moribund economy. With the help of foreign investments or loans, factories and agricultural companies, which stopped working during the war, need to be quickly restored. Through massive advertising campaigns, citizens should be made aware of the quality of Bosnian products. Also, they need to understand that they should be buying locally made products since that would create jobs. Sarajevo used to be famous for its dairy products; today Bosnian citizens buy milk from Slovenia. Likewise, most cars come from Germany, cream-cheese from Hungary and honey from Croatia.

Ethnic tensions were the cause of the wars in the Balkans. Bosnia must eliminate discrimination on ethnic grounds, assuring equal access to education, employment, housing and political office for all citizens. NGOs should continue to try building confidence among people of different ethnic backgrounds, possibly by creating interdependence between those people and having them rely on each other. This could be achieved through the implementation of joint projects, where representatives of different ethnic groups have no other choice but to cooperate for the benefit of the project.

Citizens’ participation in decision-making and representation of all sectors of society is another must on the Bosnian to-do-list. Young people, women, elderly and demobilized soldiers often do not have a voice. Closely related to citizens’ participation is good governance and accountability of the government to its population. Creation of voter education programmes and NGOs tasked with monitoring government activities would alleviate this problem.

A sense that the government is really concerned with its citizens’ needs and concerns would also help to reduce the brain drain, which is yet another Bosnian and, more generally ‘Ex-Yugoslav’ problem. Better perspectives for employment and education as well as equal chances for all ethnic groups would certainly make potential emigrants rethink their decision.

With all those measures in place, Bosnia will have a chance. Beriz will have to go back to jail and be required to pay life-long indemnities to the young wife of his victim. Belma will be able to travel throughout Europe, and Brane will no longer eat from the garbage cans. Bojana will return and make a sustainable living in her own town, and her children will never know about the hardships their parents had to live through. By the way, the four characters are all real people; only their names have been changed.

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