Fast food and war criminals. These are Bosnia’s two big stories this week. Sarajevo opened the country’s first McDonalds on July 20, the same day as the arrest of the last major war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague.
Goran Hadzic is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including involvement with the massacre of nearly 300 non-Serb men and boys in the Croatian town of Vukovar during the 1991 Croatian-Serbian conflict. While I applaud the arrest of this man, it is no secret that Serbia has finally “captured” him to assist with its courting of the European Union during the accession process. According to the New York Times, Serbian Present Boris Tadic proclaimed that the arrest meant the completion of Serbia’s “legal [and] moral duties.” So that is that? Time to move on and forget what happened less than a generation ago?
I don’t believe that Serbia should have to continually sit in the perpetrator’s seat – it is neither good for regional relations nor the identity of the Serbian people who generally had nothing to do with the acts of vicious war criminals. But a government should never be finished with its “moral duties.” Victims from all sides and all countries must live with their losses, not to mention the destroyed economy, infrastructure, and social welfare system, so it seems counterproductive for the Serbian to simply put a lid on it because they’ve turned over one war criminal to the Hague.
A good friend of mine works with a Bosnian Diaspora organization called the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Upon the arrest of Hadzic, she sent out a press release that most succinctly expressed concerns I have seen throughout Bosnia. “While Serbia has fulfilled its international obligation by capturing Hadzic, it must now open a new chapter and focus on the truth and reconciliation process within the region in order for sustainable peace and prosperity to occur.”
So as the last major war criminal was turned over to the Hague, thousands in Sarajevo lined up proudly to have their first Bosnian-based Big Mac. “We’re a normal country now!” proclaims a taxi driver in the Financial Times blog on the opening of the fast-food chain. So many things make me sad about this sentence that I could write an entirely different blog that might depress myself and my readers, so I will let you determine the most disturbing aspect of such a phrase for yourself. The major concern about the McDonalds for me though, is the sudden influx of Foreign Direct Investment. On the whole, the opening of McDonalds signals that the market is ready for increased FDI; I worry that large foreign entities bringing in millions or billions of dollars will increase political corruption and decrease local ownership of the Bosnian economy.
For a country whose politics are run almost completely on ethnic-based nepotism, more money can only further divide the government and its citizens. Even cell phone numbers here are ethnically divided – three companies owned by the three major identity groups have turned giving your phone number into an ethnic exercise (I own a 066 number, which means I own a “Serb” number). With the way the current system exists, new and copious amounts of money cannot simply be divided equally…. some will win and some will lose out on those profits, and most likely it will fall upon ethnic lines. I, rather pessimistically, imagine that money from FDI will benefit top-level officials and their own ethnic group lackeys, while local Bosnian businesses from all identity groups will be unable to compete.
This week’s news does not provide a sunny outlook, but interesting and a little odd nonetheless. It seems like the war defines everything, even penetrating the opening of McDonalds. Only now, after nearly two months in the country, can I see how the media and public narrative still revolves around 1992-1995. The international news doesn’t help this case at all – the only time I see Bosnia mentioned in any international coverage is when a story recalls death, genocide, and bombs. I know that Bosnia hold more, but for now I can’t help but think: “you want fries with that [war criminal]?”
Posted By Julia Dowling
Posted Jul 23rd, 2011