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“We need a new idea that’s not just going to be an evocation of something that used to be” is one of the conclusions of the moderator Danilo Koprivica on the conference about regional stability, which was held on 9th of June in the Cultural Center of Novi Sad.
“Unfortunately, in these regions in the past years two processes have been taking place: one, which renews communication, somewhere in the depths of society, carried by the people who meet and have a common life, relations that were being established for a long time… but on the other hand it appears to me that a part of societal and especially political elite is diligently working on making that as hard as possible” notices Ivo Visković, a professor on the Faculty of Political Sciences. He is not alone in thinking this: “We carried the verbal wars from the nineties onto our internal political front, and this front then turned into an ideological or parapolitical dispute, into an ideological front”, explains the historian Tvrtko Jakovina.
“There’s something that we could mark as truth, and our ideas about that truth” says Dragoljub Kojčić, a political philosopher. “We can and must agree about hard facts such as dates, participants, treaties and agreements, but when it comes to value interpretations, that’s a nesting place of possible disagreements and often leads to conflict. If we keep insisting only on our own interpretation of the past and cling onto our subjective viewpoint, we can hardly make ground for the future, because a value interpretation of history is always subjective”
“We had a much more complicated transition in the Ex-Yugoslavian regions than there has been anywhere in the world. It had five aspects: a political aspect, economic aspect, the breaking apart of the state and creation of new ones, a change of identity – wherein thousands of people became something else than they were before the year 1990” explains Dejan Jović, a professor on the Faculty of Political Sciences. “And the fifth aspect of that transition was going from peace to war and from war to peace. War doesn’t come from nowhere. There are people who want war, those who work on war, who prepare for war, there’s people who live off of war long after it’s over, that don’t allow the war to end, to ever fade from memory, because they live from it. Without it, they are nothing. Because of it, they are everything”. He also brought to question the tendency of political elites towards stability: “If we live in a society of injustice, inequality, if we live in a society in which the government is compromised, in which there’s a rule of violence, where there’s no protection of individual rights, no democracy… maybe we don’t need stability”. Jović also notices a trend of justifying autocracies as well as the birth of “stabilocracies” “where political leaders claim that for the sake of stability they must remain on power for twenty, thirty years. If they’re not on power for that long, their countries will fall apart and stray”.
“If we base our future on the reconciliation of the political elite, we’re doomed” concludes Draga Šoć, former minister of justice in the Government of Montenegro. “Political hypocrisy has never eluded the Balkans, but has never been so brutal, so bald and upfront as it is today. Ex Yugoslavia was made on a European principle back in 1918, which is: a state should gather people that speak the same language… Today we have an abundance of languages: Not as a result of real distinctions, but as a result of forcing differences. The result of that, ladies and gentlemen, is that Njegoš has recently been translated to Montenegrin”.
“As long as society, primarily by way of culture, doesn’t overcome the clearing of grounds and forces the political elites we can’t hope for a better outcome” considers Kojčić. “The thing that’s going to connect us in the realm of culture are Severina and Ceca”, added Šoć. “Whatever relation we might have towards that music, it’s a fact that people who can’t sit at the same table will go on to sing the whole repertoire of Severina Kojić and Ceca Ražnatović… and those same people will afterwards be enemies again”.
As a potential solution to maintaining peace on the Balkans the majority of them sees the European Union: “European folk have set the world ablaze twice in the twentieth century in such a bloody way that it made Europe the darkest continent. European Union was made out of the conclusion that European people cannot be trusted when it comes to war and peace”, explains Jović. “It’s irrational to think of it as the only solution. In my opinion it’s the best solution, but I’m aware that we need to consider plan B and C, and avoid plan D”. Jakovina shares that opinion: “We can at least buy some time of stability, and in the meantime try to think of a way to find connectors and not insist on boiling our history down to a past of dying, victims and counting the dead – but never with the aim to solve any of it. It’s not about who got which end, it’s about the fact that we have similar problems which we could solve together”
Muharem Bazdulj, former minister of defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina Selmo Cikotić, anthropologist Božidar Jezernik, the director of a sector in the National bank of Montenegro Marijana Mitrović Mijatović were also participants in the conference. This is the first in line of many conferences, which would be organized annually and tackle similar issues.
This text was written as a part of Divided Past – Joint Future project and it does not represent nor reflects attitudes and viewpoints of the European Union, its institutions and bodies. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the text lies entirely with the author.