Enough already. I've been reading some of what the commentators have to say about Bosnia following the Daily Telegraph's article saying that Bosnia 'on brink of new civil war'. It seems that everyone is saying that Bosnia is about to fall apart. As I type there are big high level talks going on in Sarajevo where very important people are trying to get the politicians to agree to some small constitutional reforms. These are apparently not going very well (Bosnia's crucial talks hit a snag) and the only thing that everyone agrees on is that they are not going to adopt the reforms that are being suggested. Good to know it is possible to have everyone agreeing on something. The Bosnian Muslim leaders are predicting a return to violence within the year if things continue as they are. The Foreign Affairs magazine agrees, with headlines that proclaiming The Death of Dayton (the peace agreement that ended the conflict in 1995).
None of this makes for good reading. But as I read it, I can't help but feel that I am reading about somewhere else. It just doesn't seem quite possible that this country that is on the brink of collapse is the same country as the one that I am living in. People are going about the day to day life without too much worry. They are used to the posturing of politicians and the international community and see it as being another episode of political bang drumming and chest beating, making themselves look strong and powerful, particularly against the bullying of the international community. There isn't any talk of people stock piling goods (which did happen when Kosovo declared independence as people genuinely were worried about what the effects would be here). In fact, no one seems to be paying that much attention to the politicians at all.
Day to day life is carrying on. People are still tending their gardens, going out for a drink in cafes, buying music and listening to concerts, watching the football, doing all that, well, normal stuff. Stuff that everyone in Europe does. They moan about the economy (which is a mess) and the bureaucracy (don't start me on it) and talk about how cold it is for the time of year. It just doesn't feel like a country on the verge of conflict. I agree with the one positive article that I have seen about Bosnia from the European Stability Initiative, who point out that whilst Bosnia is a long way from perfect it has made enormous strides over the last couple of months. It seems that this wave of pessimism about Bosnia is becoming self perpetuating.
I can't see how Bosnia will return to war. There is no appetite for it all amongst the general population, who fully know how damaging it can be. I can't see how Serbia or Croatia would have the inclination to back it. That is not to say that there won't be violence, I think a flare up somewhere is a possibility, but to spread to full on conflict, I really don't think it will happen.
But I am reminded of a coffee I had not so long ago with a man who had recently returned to his home close to the Serbian border. We were sitting by the Drina river, enjoying a long afternoons sunset, with people swimming and canoeing beside us and fisherman just a little further upstream. It was pleasant, warm and the atmosphere was happy. He was talking about the war in 1992. 'You have no idea.' he said 'One day we were sitting here with our neighbours, drinking coffee just like we are today. The next day we were at war. We had no idea it was coming.'