The Brief, powered by BSEF – Gone with the wind

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

There is something fittingly telling about the way the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre will play out on 11 July. For those who don’t know, it’s the biggest single atrocity on European soil since World War Two, where Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered 8,372 Muslim men and boys after overrunning the designated UN safe area in eastern Bosnia.

Because of COVID-19, there’ll be no large gatherings at the site of the former UN camp (Dutch Battalion) at Potocari, and those who do come will have to wear masks. Western leaders will address the commemoration via video link.

And Bosnian Serbs will for the first time stage their own ceremony, organised by a group called ‘Eastern Alternative’, who say this date has to be marked because “this is when attacks on and murders of Serbs from the so-called UN-protected zone stopped”.

So there. The divide between the local Muslims and Serbs remains as gaping as ever, even if life eventually returned to Srebrenica, the way it always does, and the two groups now live side by side.

I was one of the first reporters rushed to the scene, or as close as possible, back in that scorching July, to wait for the first buses with refugees. The human drama that unfolded at a makeshift camp that soon became home to thousands of desperate women and children defies description, as it became clear their men were not coming.

I prefer not to remember how the world, the EU included, stood by and watched as tragedy struck.

I prefer not to remember following UN and local investigators a year later, as they started uncovering mass graves, scattered all over the area to avoid quick detection, filled with decomposed bodies and the sweet, all-pervading stench of death.

And what exactly have we learned in the past 25 years?

a) international justice is slow and erratic, and singularly unable to bring real closure. It took 20+ years to try and convict the two masterminds, Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadžić and his military commander, Ratko Mladić aka the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’. Meanwhile, their cult following lives on, wherever anti-Muslim extremism is en vogue.

b) faced with real violence or armed conflict in its neighbourhood, the EU freezes, like a deer caught in the headlights, because it lacks the proper political and military muscle and invariably gets bogged down in conflicting national interests of its member states.

c) no one really cares, apart from Bosnian people and Balkan scholars.

Because if we really did, we would do our best to prevent anything like this from happening again. But it is happening again, look no further than Syria, Libya, or Yemen.

Incidentally, Srebrenica happened just as we were celebrating 50 years of the end of WWII. Twenty-five years from now, many of us will no longer be around, and even fewer will remember what happened that scorching July in the wooded mountains of Bosnia.

PS. If you have difficulties visualising a field with 8,000 graves, have a look at this aerial video, courtesy of www.dron.ba.


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The Roundup

The EU’s chief negotiator with the UK warned EU businesses on Thursday (9 July) to step up their planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario when the UK leaves the Single Market at the end of 2020.

A Commission report said the EU should consider imposing ‘new obligations’ on major platforms to report their merger and acquisition activities to the European executive in order to avoid a culture of ‘killer acquisitions.’

Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview the bloc’s determination to become a global leader in sustainability will be matched by investments in solutions to deliver on the commitments set out in the EU’s new food policy.

Back at the European Parliament, some MEPs want to push for uniform EU concept on energy storage since energy network of the future will be equipped with a wide variety of storage methods, EURACTIV Germany reports.

Meanwhile in the Council, President Charles Michel’s latest compromise proposal gave more control to member states to facilitate recovery fund deal for the bloc’s 2021-27 budget and offered countries more power in deciding whether to cut EU funding to countries in case of rule of law problems.

EU external and development spending is in line to be the biggest loser from next week’s crunch EU budget summit in Brussels.

Ireland’s Pascal Donohoe won the support of the majority of eurozone finance ministers and will be the next Eurogroup chief, outgoing president Mario Centeno announced.

Look out for…

  • German foreign minister Heiko Maas and defence minister AKK grilled by European Parliament next week
  • EU summit end of next week

Views are the author’s

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