The EU integration process is currently underway in B&H. The EU integration process necessitates a series of reforms in any aspiring EU country in order to conform to the EU acquis, and the process of Europeanization carries with it a more civic and inclusive ‘identity’ while retaining national sovereignty. Thus, what impact do you think the European integration process has on building a sort of common ‘European’ identity among B&H citizens?
Mirnes Kovac: Of course Bosnia is European country in every sense except in terms of being part of EU as supranational union. We all have multiple identities as to belonging to this or that religion, ethnicity or nation… Of course Bosnia as a nation has capacity to build its own common Bosnian identity that will encompass all, but also, that will not endangered any particularistic ethnic identity. We witnessed recently during the visit of Pope Francis that common Bosnian identity is viable. We all can work and function here when there is a common sense and political will. I think the visit of Pope at least showed that in Bosnia there exists hope that building a normal country is really possible. We just need to get rid of these obstacles from inside and ask the EU to help curb those that are coming from outside. Of course the economic and political processes are twin brothers here and the status quo in politics can only be unlocked by fostering economic potentials. This country has enormous natural resources and can be one of the best places to live in Europe. Its European identity is simply intrinsic in its history and society, and even more I think that Bosnia can be leading example of EU multinational and multirelgious experience.
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will pay a visit to B&H on the 9th of July. What do you expect from the Merkel’s visit?
Mirnes Kovac: I expect that Chancellor Merkel will demand concrete action and moving forward from Bosnian politicians according to proposed German-UK initiative. Also, having in mind the messages we heard at the latest G7 meeting Angela Merkel will engage to try to secure that Bosnia does not become the playing ground for Russian geo-political games. It is clear that Russia is trying to divert the attention from Ukraine and its aggressive politics in the Eastern Europe by mingling into Balkans. I am sure the EU and US had already saw what problems this can cause especially in the Balkans.
Once you said that after 2006, the international community gradually reduced its influence on Bosnia: “The profile of the high representatives appointed by the EU got weaker and weaker. This is because they wanted Bosnians to devise their future themselves. However, this transition was too early.” Can you elaborate more?
Mirnes Kovac: The so called “International community” or better to say US and major European powers should first help Bosnia to create and reform this unsustainable “Dayton structure”, to help Bosnia become normally functioning state and then leave this country to go further. Great powers should help the processes of reconciliation happen properly not by forgetting the past, but through facing past, attaining the justice and moving forward. Those processes did not occur and we can now witness the recurrence of old evil demons of nationalistic aspirations. Its not enough just to have newly born democrats that were once hardcore nationalists in rhetoric, such was the case with current leaders of Serbia Nikolic and Vucic. They should prove by their deeds that the change in their approach indeed happened. The empty words are not helping if they still support secessionist policy of Dodik in Bosnia.
There is a misunderstanding between the concepts of secularism as an ideology and secularism as the separation from the state, religion and politics. One of the preconditions for true democracy is the separation of politics and religion, but not necessarily that the society has to be secular. Would you agree? Is this case in BiH? Can you say for the Sarajevo Times, can we expect political Islam to get on force in the next five years?
Mirnes Kovac: Bosnia and Herzegovina is secular state and the “secular state” doesn’t imply that a country must have “secular society”. There are various ways and modes of practical political secularism in societies. Religion and politics should be separated but because of specific nature of Bosnia and the fact that here we have major world religions mixing – we should have a society that is sensible, very sensible toward religious practice. As for “political Islam” that concept is in itself contradictory. Of course I understand what do you mean. The political theory and practice that is based and inspired in any religious values is not by itself problem. The problem is whether these theories and practices are developed to the degree to offer authentic challenge in a democratic contest. I personally think that so called “political Islam” globally does not have that potential developed. As such it does not have successful implementation in political practice in any majority Muslim country, and therefore it does not have real chances either here in Bosnia.
What is your opinion on the recognition of Kosovo by B&H? Can the recognition of Kosovo be expected soon, taken into consideration high officials’ attitudes from the Republic Srpska?
Mirnes Kovac: Bosnia should recognize Kosovo but since internal political relations it will not happen until Serbia does this. In many ways this case is the proof that Serbia still controls and influences processes within Bosnia and US and EU should be aware of it. The new democratic rhetoric is just smoke-screen for very dangerous political ideologies that still have potential to burst out in this region.
Mirnes Kovac is a journalist and political analyst based in Sarajevo. Mr. Kovac has MA in international relations at the University of Sussex in the UK. He deals with the monitoring and analysis of political processes in the Middle East and the Balkans.
Interview by ZejnaS.Y