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CCSDD | Trip to Bosnia 2024
Trip to Bosnia 2024
By Anita Jing-Shin Lin & Daria Lange


CCSDD


Trip to Bosnia 2024
CCSDD
February 13, 2024

Strolling through Sarajevo reveals a city adorned with bullet hole scars, vivid reminders of a past conflict that still demands attention. We started our trip with a tour about the occupation of Sarajevo. What we thought was a normal city tour quickly turned into a personal, deeply moving story told by a veteran, who fought 30 years ago to defend his family and city. We had the privilege of listening to many different experiences, as every person we encountered had a story they wished to share. Our exposure to the Bosnian conflict and conflicts in general had been largely theoretical until this immersive experience in a post-conflict region. Sarajevo's openness unfolded through officials and locals, each contributing a unique narrative that deepened our understanding of the post-conflict sphere and the many still unresolved underlying grievances. We observed the pervasive lack of trust—between neighbors, towards the international community, and in politics due to the destructive cycle of zero-sum games played by many politicians. This firsthand encounter promises to be a significant contribution to our education and professional development.

Engaging with the civil society organization Open Centre offered us profound insights into local activist initiatives advocating for increased visibility and rights for minority groups. During our meeting with the World Bank, we gained a comprehensive understanding of the ongoing challenges in reconstruction projects, backed by concrete numbers and contextual conditions. This interaction not only highlighted the impactful contributions of the World Bank to BiH but also underscored the nuanced dynamics and challenges faced by international organizations when collaborating with local governments. At Al Jazeera Balkans, our experience delved into the intricacies of an international daily newsroom navigating the complex Balkan media landscape. The team's ability to carve out a path that rises above ethnic labels showcased their dedication to transcending divisive narratives.

One of our meetings led us to two seasoned civil servants in the Directorate for EU Integration, who spoke about the challenges surrounding the negotiation screening slated for early March. This milestone is pivotal for BiH's journey into the EU. The Directorate is working tirelessly to inspire the necessary changes and compile the required documents to demonstrate compliance with 14 Priorities laid out by the European Union, a prerequisite for the screening. However, challenges persist, without a clear plan on how compliance can be achieved.

During our stay, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, made an unexpected visit. The question looms: What does the EU have in store for BiH? Will it withhold entry into the screening stage if BiH falls short of meeting the 14 Priorities? Dialogues with the EU delegation and the OHR revealed a strong political will for accession, tempered by lingering concerns about BiH's developmental trajectory. One diplomat aptly described the 14 Priorities as a buffet, emphasizing that comprehensive efforts would significantly enhance BiH's prospects for EU entry.

Engaging in insightful conversations with the passionate OSCE staffers shed light on the pivotal role of education in the realm of transitional justice. While on the surface, we witness harmonious interactions among neighbors, beneath this veneer, Bosnia and Herzegovina bears the wounds of profound distrust, evident in the voting booths. If there is a panacea for the persistent issues plaguing BiH's political landscape—manifested in the imperative Constitutional Amendment that could prompt the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR)—it unequivocally lies in the transformative power of education.

Amidst all these challenges, we witnessed the remarkable resilience of the community. A pivotal meeting for many of us was with Snaga ┼Żene, an organization supporting women and children refugees after the conflict, particularly those who survived the genocide in Srebrenica. Hearing the stories of these women, who actively confronted their trauma and loss, left us with an indelible impression.

While some meetings were frustrating and stories heart-wrenching, we also experienced the warmth of hospitality, the beauty of the country, and, of course, its delightful cuisine. Most importantly, we encountered a sense of hope and pride among the people of BiH, along with strong community initiatives working tirelessly towards a lasting peace.



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