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Bosnia & Herzegovina: New Blogs by Public Figures

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Western Europe, Bosnia Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, International Relations, Politics, Travel, War & Conflict

For my first roundup of the Bosnian blogosphere, I am introducing a couple of interesting new blogs that have emerged in the past few weeks, showing the growing interest in blogging and in the Web 2.0 in the Balkans.

Zeljko Komsic [1], a Bosnian Croat, is one of the three members of the Presidency of Bosnia & Herzegovina [2] (BiH), which is composed of a representative of each of the country's three constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats, as laid out in the Dayton peace agreement [3] of 1995. The three members take it in turn to hold the Presidency's rotating chairmanship for eight months at a time. Komsic, who is currently the Chairman of the Presidency, was elected in October 2006 along with Haris Silajdzic, a Bosniak, and Nikola Radmanovic, a Bosnian Serb.

A few days ago, in the face of the growing popularity of blogs, Zeljko Komsic decided that it was time to have his own blog to talk about his daily life as a President. As it was to be expected, the launch of Predsjednikov Blog (The President's Blog) [4] has caused quite a stir in BiH amongst bloggers and internet users in general.

In his first post, Komsic introduced himself [5] to his fellow bloggers:

Blogeri, kako ste?

Prvo da se zahvalim prijateljima iz portala Sarajevo-x.com na pomoći i ideji da otvorim blog. Nadam se da ću koliko-toliko biti redovan bloger, ali stvarno je sve do mojih obaveza. Nastojat ću u ovoj komunikaciji da budem što manje oficijelan i što više jednostavan i precizan. Unaprijed se izvinjavam svim blogerima ako na neke komentare ili pitanja ne odgovorim odmah, ali stvarno nije do mene već do obaveza od kojih ja većinu i ne zakazujem sam, već ih zakazuje moj Ured.

What’s up Bloggers!

I wanted to thank my friends from the Sarajevo-x.com portal for their help and their idea about creating this blog. I hope that I will be somewhat of a regular blogger but it really depends on my other commitments. I will try to keep my communication less of an official one but more simple and precise. In advance, I want to apologize to all bloggers if I am not able to immediately respond to their comments or questions. Please understand that that is not my fault but it is due to my many commitments, most of which are driven by my Office.

In this first post, Komsic also described his day as a President, offering his reflections on the situation in education in BiH in a very frank and open manner:

Za početak, šta da napišem??!!

Da, jučer je bila sjednica Predsjedništva BiH na kojoj smo odbili prijedlog budžeta BiH, te isti vratili na doradu i popravke Vijeću Ministara. Ja sam lično bio protiv prijedloga budžeta jer, i pored mog prethodnog zahtjeva, u budžetu nisu ni uvrštena ni planirana nikakva sredstva i izdaci za nauku, istraživanja, razvoj i poljoprivredu. Mislim da bez takve vrste investiranja BiH ne može naprijed. Nevjerovatno zvuči podatak koji sam saznao prilikom posjete Univerzitetu u Krakowu, a to je, da taj Univerzitet otvara nove istraživacke centre između ostalog i za Nano-tehnologije, a koliko se sjećam investicije su oko 150 miliona eura. Ne zaboravite da se ovdje radi samo o jednom univerzitetu. Mi smo u poređenju s njima izgleda jos u srednjem vijeku, a to izgleda neki u ovoj državi neće da shvate.

So, how should I start??!!

Yesterday we had a meeting of BiH Presidency members in which we rejected the budget proposal for BiH, and we sent it back for corrections and additional work to the Ministers’ Council [of BiH]. I was personally opposed to the budget proposal because, in spite of my initial request, the budget did not contain or plan for any expenditures for science, research, development and agriculture. I believe that without those investments, BiH cannot move forward. It sounds incredible that, as I learned during my visit to the University of Krakow, that the university is opening new scientific centers, including those dedicated to nano-technology research. If I remember correctly, those investments are around 150 million euros. Keep in mind that we are talking about only ONE university here. Compared to [Poland], we are stuck in the middle ages, which some in this country do not want to understand.

The extremely casual and conversational tone of The President's Blog has been quite a shock for Bosnians, who have shown his excitement leaving over 400 comments in the first post with mostly positive feedback (such as “Congratulations Mr. President. This is an excellent move” or “Thank you very much for trying to build a single face for Bosnia and Herzegovina. We need that so much, as much as we need to go down the road of reconciliation, equality and a better life”). Quite remarkably, so far Komsic has been keeping his promise of updating his blog regularly.

The President's Blog comes about a month after The Ambassador's Diary (Ambassadorov Dnevnik) [6], the blog in Bosnian language by the British Ambassador to BiH, Matthew Rycroft. As the blog Bosnia News pointed out [7] at the time, his blog was unusual from the start:

Unlike other blogs in Bosnia, the arrival of this one was announced from the British embassy's press office with a statement from the Ambassador Rycroft saying that he had started his blog as a way not just of presenting his impressions about diplomatic experience in the country but also as a way of interacting with the Bosnian citizens. “This blog will be the place for me to express some of my impressions, thoughts and observations about Bosnia, Europe and the global future in general… the world was never as connected as it is now,” concludes the Ambassador in the first post on his blog.

Rycroft's blog may be unusual, but it's not the only one by a representative of the British Foreign Office, which started its own blog platform a few months ago and hosts, among others, the blog of David Miliband [8], Secretary of State for Foreign and Commeonwealth Affairs. Paraphrasing Miliband's post [9] on things that need to happen in the world in 2008, Rycroft posted his own list [10] of things that need to happen in BiH in 2008:

1. Signing the SAA [Stabilisation and Association Agreement] with the EU through meeting the four conditions – police, [ICTY [11]], broadcasting and public administration – and going on to prepare for the next step in the journey towards EU membership, candidate status.

2. Fulfilling the conditions to allow OHR [Office of the High Representative [12]] to close.

3. [Radovan Karadzic [13]] and [Ratko Mladic [14]] facing justice at the war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

4. Starting a reform of the Dayton constitution to make the state more functional, as it needs to be to get closer to joining Europe.

5. Improvements in education standards and proper implementation of the higher education laws to allow full recognition of students’ diplomas across Europe.

On Jan. 17, Rycroft posted a video [15] of an interview that he gave last summer, in which he voiced his opinion on the Yugoslavian wars and on the current situation of the transitional Bosnian politics:

Nationalism and ethnic tensions still exist today but it's not manifested in military or security terms, but in political terms. It's there on all three of the main sides. […] When it comes to election time, most people tend to vote for the party that they think will best defend the interest of their particular people. […] The vast majority of people are not really interested in politics, they are not really interested in ‘carrying the war by other means,’ which is what a lot of the nationalists are trying to do, they just want to get on with their normal lives, with jobs, with prosperity, with the family around them… And there is a huge disconnect, bigger than there is in other countries, between the political leaders and the population as a whole.

You can see the whole 10-minute video below:

Hopefully, Zeljko Komsic's blog will contribute to bringing politics closer to the people in BiH and will inspire other major politicians to follow, bridging the disconnect that Rycroft is talking about.

On a different note, there's another new promising Bosnian blog, launched recently by Tim Clancy, the trailblazing author of the first Bosnia and Herzegovina guidebook [16] published after the war. Clancy, who has lived in BiH since 1992, decided to start the blog Pure Intent [17] only now, because of a rather heated discussion [18] on Balkan politics that he had been involved in on the blog of British journalist Neil Clark.

In his first post [19] on Jan. 21, Tim Clancy wrote this about his need to start blogging:

The thing that has happened to me here, during my long stint in the Balkans, is a powerful conflict aversion-attraction syndrome. The conflicts here, as horrible and morbid as they have been, have offered me the most precious lessons and experiences of my life. I have never felt the full-tilt of emotions as I have here, whether it be anger, pain, joy, sadness, or triumph. The problem is though, the war has carved the heart out of so many. There is an intense tendency here to ‘Bush’ things to death – meaning if you're not with us, you're against us. Everything is warlike, including dialogue. That intimidates me, I think. And has created a strong aversion to engaging in dialogue (aka conflict) – because so often the result is simply that we are at further ends of the table than when we started.
(…)This mad place called Bosnia, a place i have grown to love and hate in equal proportion, has taught me at least one thing. To keep asking myself who I am. For that i am eternally grateful. So i have set up a new blog for myself. Mask off. I throw my proverbial cards on the proverbial table. Welcome to the monkey house friends!

Thanks to Dinko Lakic [20] for the translations from Bosnian to English.