Reviews 2012

Peace and Crises Management Foundation

Boris Vukobrat, Elisabeth Kopp, Professor Jean-François Aubert, Professor Alois Riklin, Professor Kurt Rothschild, Professor Vojislav Stanovčić

Vladimir Brašanac

Čigoja štampa Beograd

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Over the course of the XX century the phenomenon of a closed society was the most apparent to us in Eastern Europe and the USSR (but also, certainly, in China and other countries which were a part of the Socialist bloc). Domination of politics over any other sphere of society and state as a mechanism for the separation of powers, along with a powerful and unyielding-to-change ideology, gave birth to xenophobic societies and brought to the fore resistance to any change in terms of lifestyle and bare survival. This also happened in the Balkans, in all the states which came into existence in the aftermath of the disintegration of Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY ). The only difference was that had have nationalism of all sorts – Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Hungarian, etc., instead of a dominant ideology based on specific development models. This was conducive to a desire on the part of every people, every national group for self-determination by marking out first their respective territories, which larger peoples tied to the creation of their own states and political structures. National leaders emerged riding the crest of a wave of aggressive nationalist endeavour to demarcate the borders of their respective territories and skilfully took advantage of popular discontent to take people into war. Once a bullet was fired, there was no way back.

Political elites in all the Balkan states are not changing even though parliamentary elections are regularly held and the entire executive branch of power is elected. Why is this so? Firstly, some leaders (as in Croatia and Slovenia) have been in power for almost 20 years, which means that these are the leaders who have emerged from the paradigm of national emancipation understood in their interpretation as the liberation of people. This was why they were not capable of changing things, regardless of the fact that, say, Slovenia had already joined the EU, while Croatia was on its path of preparations for accession. Secondly, real elections reflecting the interests of societal groups have not been held in any of the Balkan countries. Instead, political structures at various levels are only shifting, thus creating an illusion that there is both political and social life. Thirdly, politicisation of the society has obscured horizons to such an extent (above all in Serbia) that any other different thought and idea is from the very beginning prevented from being realised as an organisation (be it governmental or nongovernmental) committed to exerting some sort of influence because, by its virtue of being different,

it constitutes a priori a danger which would not fit into the already established “personal ID” of the society (i.e. the ruling political elite). Today, nationalist or those forces originating from the democratic opposition changes are winning the elections, and over the years they have been adjusting to the demands coming from below, flirting with nationalism exclusively for the purpose of winning more votes. Hence, all the political parties (just like elsewhere in Europe and in the world) resemble one another. It seems that the attempt to create civil societies in the Balkans by grafting NGO institutes onto the societal structure has failed to bring expected results.

Modern economy is practically non-existent. These are for the most part corporate societies. Many traditional advantages of the region as a whole and of the individual countries, as well as the once thriving industrial production sector, have been devastated. Few are those who are employed, and there are so many unemployed and inactive people. The states in the region survive thanks, above all, to the prudent private sector in the areas of agriculture and services, and international loans which are for the most part drying up. Corruption has permeated the whole of the society – infesting everyone, from the state leadership to a corner shop. Crime is another face of corruption.

Much of what is happening in the societies of the countries in the region is more or less blurred by governing structures’ skilful manipulations of with various types of dangers. These are tested methods which were employed in earlier periods throughout history. If a nation is still under threat from another nation, some large grouping with vested interests or any other external foe, then there are many reasons, and even more mechanisms, for “protection” of the society from such calamities. There is also a mechanism for “protection” from internal dangers originating from those who are prepared to draw attention to flawed actions of the authorities, erratic trend of development, etc. Any criticism, be it internal or external one, is perceived as an attack on integrity. However, this is not only the case with the ruling elite, but, unfortunately, with the society as a whole. The syndrome of fear of changes is deeply rooted in every individual, and in such a situation it is very difficult to find a way for an opening (therein partly lie NGOs’ failures as well).

Due to such a closed nature of the society, hardly anyone dares venture into a meaningful analysis and criticism. And it is necessary. Any further delay hinders new opportunities.

Education fares the worst of all. This is not only or exclusively about the fact that necessary reforms have not been implemented, which they have not. At issue here is that the level of education is critically low. This applies to both teaching staff and, as a consequence, younger generations.

Youth is utterly uneducated, with few exceptions in percentage points. They do not read because no one is making them read; they cannot speak because they do everything in writing; they, however, cannot write because no one is teaching them how to write since you can copy from others with impunity. And yet, the most dangerous thing is that they are not thinking with their own heads. Most often they are young imitators of all sorts of things, gobbling up everything served before them regardless of what it actually is. They are mostly churning out ready-made formulas as definitive truths. Even though, from the historical viewpoint, rebellion leading to changes has been inherent to young people, the modern youth in the region has no such ambitions.

Those who remained awake have very few chances to do something with themselves in such an environment, hence they find a way out most often in the departure from their country. It seems that culture, i.e. oases within it, is in a somewhat better shape. There are still values in this area which have survived (creative feature films, theatre productions, various festivals, some historical TV series, etc.) and which are nourished by a group of enthusiasts. There is, of course, another face of culture – mass culture which is a mixture of everything, both domestic “inventions” and imported trends. Entertainment, however, is the dominant form of culture.

While all the newly created states are perceived as traditional societies based on a semi-patriarchal family and surviving on the observance of some customs (religious ones, for the most part) and the phenomenon of gathering together, it seems that the collapse of the system of values has prompted a general shift in the attitude towards family and relationships within family. Divorce rates, family violence, prostitution and infanticides are on the rise.

Neglect of the dearest ones is becoming increasingly common. These phenomena are not as yet dominant, but the trend is obvious.

Attitude towards faith is another specific characteristic of the societies in the region, regardless of which faith they profess (there is possibly different with regard to the Islamic community). In the early 1990s, religion had a strong influence as a substitute for the ideology which had perished, consisting of a return to old values under the guise of exclusively national characteristics. In times of crises, as a rule, people seek protection for the Church. In this respect, religion and state were allies.

Stabilisation of the countries in the region requires a comprehensive. Programme of reforms. While there is a tendency in place of bringing the parts of the region together, I am of the opinion that it would be better to conduct an analysis and compile a programme for each country on the basis of the results obtained. Why? Too little time has passed since the bad experiences of all sorts of unifications in the Balkans. Today, every independent state on the territory of former Yugoslavia still wishes to affirm its attributes of statehood. Belated process of state-building in the Balkans carries on its shoulders considerable burden in both national and societal terms. This very fact must not be neglected in future efforts to reform individual states (regardless of whether they are members of present-day European clubs).

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