Worrying developments in Bosnia

[Updated version with links]

Last week I edited the draft of a report in which the author had written of "deteriorating political trends" in Bosnia. The donor wanted to have this changed to "worrying political trends." Whichever it is, it's for real. Until recently, for example, I'd have been inclined to dismiss calls for a referendum on independence for RS -- the miserable statelet ("entity") the Serbs carved out of Bosnia by killing, raping, looting, and shelling -- as mere campaigning. (Bosnians will vote for central and entity parliaments on 1 October.) The SNSD, a nominally moderate party with good links to the RS business community and a history of antagonism towards the RS' "natural" government party, the SDS of Dr. Radovan Karadzic, wanted to prop up its nationalist credentials, on this reading, and that's certainly part of the story -- but not all of it. RS prime minister and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik is very close to certain circles in Belgrade -- the very same circles that pay a lot of money to Washington lobbying firms to place well-written and superficially reasonable op-ed pieces in U.S. papers, pieces that nonetheless are full of threats if one reads between the lines -- and it's obvious to assume that he's not doing this for purely opportunistic, or indeed domestic, reasons (unless one has a rather big house). Indeed, after spending years denying that what happens in Kosovo would resonate in Bosnia, Western diplomats are getting *really* worried at the precedents they're setting in Kosovo.

But it's not just the Kosovo repercussions. Police reform -- a key prerequisite to conclude the first association steps with the EU -- is stalled, with the Serbs very openly obstructing talks. The international proconsul has announced he'd close shop by end of June 2007, so all they need to do is sit him out. The Serbs are now also second-guessing the distribution key for fiscal revenue and are being difficult on a number of other fronts.

Perhaps there's really no point in trying to keep them inside Bosnia if they really don't want to be there, as folks like David Chandler and Robert Hayden have long argued? Aren't they just a millstone around the necks of those who want to build a *real* state in Bosnia, and not just a conglomerate of self-ruling ethnic territories?


What dread hand? & What dread feet?

What mysterious force persuaded the basketball player and would-be businessguy Vlade Divac, once the court had cleared the way, to suddenly abandon his plan to become the first private operator of the resiliently state-controlled Večernje novosti?

Akcija planiranja

According to the indictment issued by prosecutors against some of the (less highly placed) people who aided in harboring the fugitive Ratko Mladić, he shifted hiding places several times between 2002 and the end of 2005, but was hanging out principally in a series of rented apartments in Novi Beograd. This was, naturally, entirely unknown to DB, the police, landlords, neighbours, and to the mother of one of the conspirators who was dragged over to cook for the genocide indictee, who no doubt had quite an appetite.

All this should change utterly now that the government has adopted something called an "Action Plan." Nobody seems to know quite what this is, but the most vocal members of the government appear to be quite happy about it. Apparently it amounts to an effort to reproduce the success that the Croatian government had not too long ago in overcoming political barriers to continuing negotiations with the EU without actually arresting Ante Gotovina. Except that there are a couple of key differences. One is that eventually, Gotovina was in fact arrested: there was a shift from "action plans" to action. By contrast, responsible figures like interior minister Dragan Jočić continue to deny that planning to engage in action involves any obligation to act at all. Another is that, at least according to some reports, one of the preconditions for "action" is restructuring the state security services, which provided the base for Mladić's power at one point, and which (despite the existence any indictments of people with no rank or official position) facilitated his flitting about thereafter. People who have tried to touch these structures of power since the regime that operated through them appeared to have left power in 2000 have found themselves the targets of aggression and violence.

But not to worry: anybody who stands in the way will have to face prosecution by the special prosecutors for organised crime. Except there will be a couple of difficulties here, as the court to which this prosecution office brings cases is about to be abolished, and the prosecutor seems to be getting rid of prosecutors who actually want to bring cases at impressive speed.

Update: Politika continues its series. How did Mladić come to be under the protection of the real estate traders of Novi Beograd? Delivered by an agent of the military security service in 2002, apparently. Politika's journalist Milorad Vesić stops just short of saying that the agent in question, who is not charged in the indictment, is Radomir Ćosić.



So the story appears to be: the folk-pop figure personality Severina Vučković makes a guest appearance on a television station in Kragujevac, in the course of which she receives as a gift one of the legendary "Yugo" cars from the Zastava factory. This leads her commercial sponsor, the Croatian representative of Mercedes Benz (or Daimler Chrysler, I presume?) to announce a lawsuit against her. No doubt the competitive pressure is difficult for MBZ to bear. Leaving aside whatever differences in quality, comfort or reliabilty that may exist between the product from Stuttgart and the product from Kragujevac, there does not seem to be much question which company's directors have a better sense of what makes for good publicity.

Update: TV 9 in Kragujevac says it ain't so, that Severina did not ask for a car, the station did not contact the factory, and the factory did not provide one. They do, however, invite people to support a campaign to raise funds to buy a car for the use of the safe house for women and the center for children who are victims of violence in Kragujevac.

An update on dining in Belgrade

Just some quick notes on places we have tried in the last couple of months:
Restoran Oskar: This was the discovery of the season for us, traditional dishes perfectly prepared, and a good selection of domestic wines. They made best sarme we have tasted, with Montenegrin hard cabbage. In Dorćol, ul. Braća Baruh below Dušanova.

Restoran Čubura: I came here one day with my student and we were thrilled by the fanstasticity of it. A few days later Mrs Ethnia went with some friends and was disappointed. Go figure. On Vračar, gradić Pejton.

Restoran Porto: Good fresh fish, fine service. However, be warned that it is obscenely expensive. Go only if somebody else (preferably, somebody against whom you bear a grudge) is paying. ul. Francuska, way off in the industrial zone.

Kafana ?: Amazingly enough, this year is the first time that we tried the food at this landmark spot. They offer up good classic roštilj, and they have renovated the toilets probably for the first time since opening. ul. 7. jula, between the bankers and the theologians.

Čobanov odmor: It's a takeout place, but you can get sandwiches in a freshly baked lepinja, goatsies, sheepsies or piggies with kajmak. Darn good, even with the folk styling. At Crveni krst, ul. Žarka Zrenjanina.

Kafana Proleće: Hardly a discovery, but we have noted again that this low-priced standby is still pretty darn good. It may well be the only remaining normal place in the central part of town. Preko puta Instituta za sociološko i kriminalističko istraživanje.

Pietro dell'oro: Italian šminka, owned by some sports figure or another. The design is excellent, the food is okay, and the service is on the level of "you should be happy just to be here." Admire from afar. Vračar, ul. Save Kovačevića.
The classics have remained classic, and we have at least not encountered any places that used to be good which have turned bad. Though we have no doubt that they exist.