9 February 2014, 12:24

Bosnian canton premiers resign amid violent protests

Bosnian canton premiers resign amid violent protests

The head of the Bosnian Sarajevo canton, Sead Causevic, has announced his resignation after massive anti-government rallies swept Bosnia and Herzegovina. The announcement came in the steps of media reports that said the premiers of cantons Tuzla and Doboj were also going to step down. The Voice of Russia talked to Yelena Guskova, Director of the Contemporary Balkan Crisis Research Center with the Russian Academy of Sciences, who commented on the reasons behind the public anger.

The outbreak of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina made some experts think that Europe faces a Ukrainian-styled “maidanization.” Do you agree with this comment?

No, I can’t agree with that. All demonstrations appear to be spontaneous. People are unhappy with their standard of living: workers are being sacked, unemployment has surged to 40 percent. I’m speaking about Muslim-dominated areas. Remember that Bosnia and Herzegovina is made up of essentially two separate entities: a Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina populated by Croats and Muslims, and the Republika Srpska with a predominantly Serbian population.

Well, protests have been largely contained to the Muslim territories, that is to the Federation, although they have been upheld in a handful of Serbian towns. It is a very remarkable phenomenon, because what we actually see now is the entire country rising in protest over the ruling authorities and economic situation.

The 1970s were marked by infightings, whereas today these two ethnic groups have a common problem to solve, and these demonstrations have highlighted the dangers of the current economic situation.

Now, who will want to make use of these protests is another matter entirely. We must closely watch the reaction of international organizations, in the first place, and different countries, and social movements who may try to profit from the Bosnian turmoil.

Some demonstrators in Sarajevo said that a “Sarajevo Spring” was in the pipelines. It is a viable scenario. The thing is that the current regime in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been frowned on by a few countries, including the United States. They have long been waiting for a chance to redraft Bosnia and Herzegovina to exclude Republika Srpska, and now it looks like this opportunity has presented itself.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been going through economic hardships for a long time now. It’s worth noting that the median salary in Bosnia is just 420 euro, which is the same as in Azerbaijan. But Azeri are not in the streets yet.

This figure isn’t correct, they are actually paid much less on average than that. In any case, the scale of protest rallies has more to do with whether the average citizen has any work prospects, rather than with just a pay level. Your estimate might be true if we talk about the median salary across the entire population. But the problem is that half of the population is out of jobs, and they don’t know what to do about it. There’s a huge outward migration, young people are fleeing Bosnia and Herzegovina, because they have little prospect of finding a good job. This sentiment has been simmering for a long time now. Besides, social networks are becoming more and more instrumental in spreading dissent.

I must stress that Sarajevo police were too hard on demonstrators. A lot of young people have been cruelly beaten up and put under arrest. Sarajevo media reported many victims among police troops, but peaceful protesters were hurt too.

These protests must alert the Bosnian government to the problems it has been shelving all this time, but also warn the European Union of a crisis that has been mounting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that they finally turn their eyes on the country.

Voice of Russia

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