Sarajevo and the eternal betrayal of Europe

Sarajevo and the eternal betrayal of Europe
Sarajevo and the eternal betrayal of Europe

The EU summit in Slovenia on Wednesday could not have been clearer: the five former Yugoslav countries and Albania, which have been knocking on Brussels for twenty years, will have to wait a long time. And most of all Bosnia with its capital Sarajevo, last on the list. The Bosnian president was not even able to obtain an indicative date for joining the Union.

Other than “center of the world”, “martyr city”, “Jerusalem of Europe”: Sarajevo and its half million inhabitants, victims from 1992 to 1996 of a siege of 1,452 days, longer than Stalingrad and Leningrad, not the we do not even want in memory and compensation for the 100 thousand dead of the war, 80% civilians.

Serbian leaders Mladic and Karadzic are serving life sentences for genocide. But how long will the inhabitants of Sarajevo, pariah of Europe, have to pay for sins that are not theirs?

Not even in 1914 the Bosnian capital had much to do with Gavrilo Princip, the Serb who caused the First World War to break out by assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria who was visiting there.

The real conflict was actually between Serbia and Croatia, which the heir to the Hapsburg throne wanted to raise to the third kingdom of the empire, on the same level as Austria and Hungary. And few remember that the Austrians used Croatia not only against Belgrade, but also against us. After the cession in 1866 of Veneto and Friuli, in fact, Vienna persecuted the Italians of Istria and Dalmatia, fearing their irredentism and favoring the Croatian subjects.

Over the centuries, therefore, Sarajevo has found itself in spite of itself, only for its geographical centrality, in the midst of continental conflicts that have damaged it. In 1699 it even razed to the ground, together with the elegant minarets erected by the Turks its founders 200 years earlier. Author of the massacre, an Italian: Prince Eugene of Savoy, leader in the pay of the Austrians, angry because the Ottomans in the city had killed an officer.

Then the Turkish empire returned, and until 1878 Bosnia represented a wedge on the maps beyond the Danube: it was surrounded by the Serbian kraine, bastion territories that Venetians and Austrians used to defend Christianity.

Even today the city of Sarajevo is located on a border fault. On the one hand the Orthodox Serbs, on the other the Catholic Croats. And in between the Muslims, majority in the city as in all of Bosnia. Which is divided into three, with three presidents of different nationalities that rotate every eight months and jagged internal borders, full of enclaves and small pockets of ethnic and religious minorities who escaped the massacres of war.

This is the fragile balance that worries and pushes Europe away. Sarajevo’s variety, diversity and cosmopolitanism represented its richness: synagogues were built near mosques and Catholic and Orthodox churches. Even the Yugoslav dictator Tito loved Bosnia because he hoped, despite the latent Serbo-Croatian fratricidal hatred, that his new communist man would spring from that melting pot. Instead, it was two Pol Pots that Sarajevo suffered in half a century: in the 1940s, Ante Pavelic with the fascist Croatian Ustasha who exterminated Muslims, Jews and Serbs; and in the 1990s the Serbian executioners of Srebrenica, the massacre of eight thousand male Muslims that caused the US air raids on Belgrade and then the Peace of Dayton.

In between, the only moment of glory and happiness: the unforgettable 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics.

Yesterday, 7 October, was the 450th anniversary of Lepanto, the victory of Venetians and Austrians against the Turkish fleet. No one has commemorated it, except Camillo Langone sul Foglio and the right-wing ‘lepantists’, nostalgic for the holy wars. Instead, Chechen guerrillas and Hezbollah came to fight the jihad in Sarajevo in 1992-96 with Saudi money.

Chinese funding is coming in today. In the absence of the European Union, which does not come because its latest enlargement in the Balkans (Romania and Bulgaria, 2007) was one of the causes of Brexit. Sarajevo is still an indirect victim of the political conflicts of a continent that expels it.

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