February, 13, 2014
By Boris Dežulović
A couple of days ago, around 2 a.m., my friend Skinny called to tell me joke. He is in the habit of doing that, calling in the middle of the night, from a bar, just to tell me a joke.
The joke goes: A Mostar man is watching TV with his grandma. They’re watching the news and the newscaster announces a story about the Croatian Prime Minister, Zoran Milanović’s visit to Mostar, The newscaster read: “Milanović stated to the press, that the purpose of his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina is to support efforts at lowering tensions.”
– Oh, fuck him! – grandma cursed under her breath. It was just two days ago that they finally raised them by fifteen KM, and now they already want to lower them.
Indeed, not more than twenty days ago, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government had established new coefficients and increased pensions by a fantastic sum of 15 KM, and did so in a meeting right there in Mostar. This past Friday is when the increase went into effect, so that by Saturday morning, the postman brought grandma her January pension, increased by a grand total of 15 KM. And now, already by Sunday, the Croatian Prime Minister hurried to Mostar to support the effort of lowering pensions.
– Tensions, grandma, tensions!
Ah, yes, apologies, tensions. Pensions, tensions, same difference. Indeed, not more than two months ago, Milanović decided to support cutting pensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a desperate attempt to save a couple of hundred thousand in the budget; he cut Croatian pensions for members of the Croatian Council of Defense (CCD) by ten percent, but then, already made it back to compensate for this political misstep by matching the rate of tensions in the Federation with the rate of pensions of the CCD.
The effect would be the same had the Croatian Prime Minister arrived in Mostar, using the same rhetorical facade about the “European path for Bosnia and Herzegovina” and “adaptation to European standards,” that is to say, austerity and belt tightening, had he arrived to lower tensions. No, right, I meant pensions.
In a country in which regional government buildings are on fire; and the political elites interpret such events by means of internal or external conspiracies; and the political underground interprets the same ethnically and nationally; Zoran Milanović comes to lower tensions by a) arriving without an invitation, b) using backdoor channels, c) to visit the Croatian part of the Federation, d) having bypassed the Social Democratic Party’s colleagues, e) all the while explaining how Mostar is, in contrast to Tuzla or Sarajevo, multiethnic, and finally f) rushing to embrace, who else but Dragan Čović himself, empathetically nodding his head before a charred cross in the Croatian Democratic Union’s headquarters in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And all that so that he could, in the end, g) answering Jasmila Žbanić’s justified comment (“Get lost!”), remind her that “Croatia gave her three million kunas for a film that might be seen by a hundred people at most.
In short, Zoran Milanović did not say or do anything different than what Franjo Tudman would have done or said, if he were alive and in power; nor did he send a message to Bosniaks and Jasmila Žbanić any different from the one that Gojko Šušak or Ivan Aralica would have sent. I could be perhaps, politically illiterate – I allow for that possibility, but I am horrified at the thought of what the Croatian Prime Minister would have done, had he arrived to Bosnia and Herzegovina, by some chance, intending to raise tensions.
Imagine, for a second, that, by some miracle, Croats and Bosniaks in Mostar tomorrow reach an agreement; that the city becomes functional, that Airbus buys Soko and opens a new commercial fleet factory; imagine that Mostar’s Aluminij hires ten thousand workers and the Mostar airport becomes a central Eastern European airport; that the European Union declares this city on the Neretva river a cultural capital of Europe; that FIFA organizes a spectacular match between the World team with Messi and Ronaldo up front against a combined team of Velež and Zrinjski; and that they invite Zoran Milanović to the VIP box. This social-democratic political and diplomatic genius would, I swear to God, in two sentences for the press in Mostar, bring the city back to its current sorry state.
That is some serious talent. Milorad Dodik, for example, doesn’t have Miilanović’s type of talent, but he also doesn’t have his types of problems. Not only does Dodik not see Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Europe, he doesn’t see it at all: He openly says that the rebellion in the Federation is a Bosniak gimmick; he openly threatens to forcefully prevent protests in Republic of Srpska; and he openly talks about all of that in Belgrade, with his Milanović – Aleksandar Vučić. And it does not occur to him at all to present it as some “support of efforts to lower tensions.”
That is why Zoran Milanović, a man who tried so ardently to lower tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on one of those rarely-successful peace missions in Mostar, is being cheered by all the tension profiteers: from the Croatian political right wing and Milanović’s bitter arch-enemy Tomislav Karamarko, to the Herzeg-Bosnian founding fathers and bishop, to finally Dodik himself and his Banja Luka secessionist mafia. In short, all of those who live off of war pensions
Of all the war tensioners, the only ones not applauding Milanović are the Bosniaks. Well, at least not openly. They can’t, for fucks’ sake, because Milanović, so vehemently lowering tensions, was the joker in the pack in addition to the other joker – Dodik, if only to confirm their theses how the tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are being increased by Croats and Serbs, in an attempt to destabilize the majority Bosniak areas. That’s apparently why they called their own Milanović – the chief Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Davutoglu, who came to lower tensions by going over to Bakir Izetbegović, who in turn said that “the goal of these protests is to destroy the government in the Bosniak territories,” so that Davutoglu could recommend to Bosniaks not to “fall for the provocations.”
You see, thankfully, we have someone to worry about tensions in this fucked up Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tensions are good; if we didn’t have tensions, people would be, you guessed it, asking for pensions. But this way, pensions as well as salaries, corruption, poverty, hunger, and unemployment – all those reasons for which the cantonal governments were ablaze on Saturday, by Sunday, nobody was even mentioning. Grandma might be deaf, but she is not dumb.
In any case, that Mostar man is watching TV with his grandma. They’re watching the news and the newscaster announces a story about a Republic of Croatia government session, in which they were discussing correcting the coefficient for the pensions. The newscaster read: “Milanović stated to the press that within the austerity measures, it is also necessary to be lowering pensions.”
– Oh, fuck him! – the Mostar man cursed under his breath. It was just two days ago that he was in Mostar, and now he already wants to lower them.