Saturday, 29. October
City Museum of Ljubljana, 12.30 – 14.30

  • Gordan Bosanac, Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
  • Jelena Vujović, cultural worker, Montenegro
  • Žarko Trajanoski, researcher and activist, Macedonia
  • Nebojša Jovanović, theoretician, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Dunja Blažević, SCCA Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Moderator: Lana Zdravković, Peace Institute, Slovenia

Jelena Vujović is currently working as the Senior Adviser for the Slovene banking group NLB in Podgorica, Montenegro. She studied English and Italian language and literature at the University of Montenegro. Her MA in international relations is concentrated on ‘borders’ of contemporary Berlin.

Vujović promoted cultural and civic activities to the Montenegrin public as the spokesperson for the Montenegrin National Theatre for a numerous of years. As the communication manager and translator for several non-governmental organizations she also concentrated and assisted promotion of regional publishing integrations (NGO Open Cultural Forum) as well as the social inclusion over the means of art and culture (NGO Punkt). Her permanent interest remained with translation of contemporary literature and socially engaged essays which were published in Ars – Magazine for Literature, Culture and Social Questions, and the daily newspaper Vijesti. She worked as the editor in Gest – Magazine for Theatre and Cultures.

The Future of the SEE Region between Economic Crises and EU Accession Prosperity

If asked about the future of the region and its own country, an average inhabitant of the South-Eastern Europe region would say the future of his/her country is within the European Union but only if the EU survives by the time it becomes recognized member of this “great European family”. On the one hand, it may sound naive and unacceptable but it represents the notion and overall feeling about the potential to imagine their own future, on the other hand, it explains how the EU wants to be perceived or how it communicates its own objectives, as the enlargement of the EU to the SEE region is one of them. Despite its naivety and lack of understanding in creating “the bigger picture” the given answer tells about the insecurity and fear, which are the key constants that shaped recent and not so recent history and politics of the Balkan countries, which strongly influenced all spheres of social undertakings. Thus, the fear, as a huge obstructer creates the state of self-imposed limbo, which as such, still gives opportunity for the retrograde forces as nationalisms, negative ideologies, negligence, lack of social unity etc. to survive and influence the present and future developments.

Despite the EU rhetoric created by the EU bureaucrats, which is quite clear about the future of the EU, and its long-term objective of enlargement to the region of the SEE, the EU politics was and it still is self-cantered and indifferent to “the Other”, to the non-member. The sense of empathy and crucial understanding as well as learning the real circumstances given in the SEE region, which were being traumatized by the post-wars and transitional illnesses and crises, were lacking. However, the EU understanding of the SEE region is still shaped by the prejudices which in turn created the politics based on imposing and patronizing measures and directives that additionally intensify local insecurity, unpreparedness and lack of ability to take responsibility for its own future.

The idea that stood behind the creation of the European Economic Community in the beginning had primarily been to pacify Germany. Over the years, not any other but economic bondage made the EU more coherent and stable. For the first time in its history the EU faces the economic instability and crises which questions the stability of its very foundations. Nevertheless, does this whole new situation will show that rescuing and understanding “the Other” is the only way the EU to prevail, and to finally question its own identity either in the “old” or “new” Europe? Does this going to help the SEE region to strengthen its social and cultural forces and potentials to promote integration, either regional or European, as the best direction for the creation of its future identity and confidence?

Žarko Trajanoski is a human rights activist, prominent columnist, and researcher (topics: human rights, gender, sexuality, and identity politics). Currently, he is a consultant in Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities as well as a member of the Executive board of Foundation Open Society Institute, Macedonia.

“EU-isation” or “Antiquisation” – A New Macedonian Question or False Dilemma?

Disappointingly, Macedonia is still a candidate country without the date for negotiations with EU while Croatia’s date for entering EU is foreseen for 1 July 2013. What turned wrong, bearing in mind that Macedonia signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with EU (as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) on 9 April 2001, six months before Croatia? However, the signing of the agreement did not prevent the armed conflict that escalated during the summer and was terminated with the Ohrid Framework Agreement (August 2001). The Framework Agreement, signed by EU mediator as well, was intended “for securing the future of Macedonia’s democracy and permitting the development of closer and more integrated relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Euro-Atlantic community”. Neither use of the constitutional name was an obstacle during the signing the Framework Agreement (backed by EU), nor use of the UN reference on 16 December 2005, when “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was granted with the candidate status after the successful implementation of the Framework Agreement.

“EU-isation” of the country was slowed down by the ethno-nationalists who came in power in 2006 and started the process soon after called “antiquisation”. At first, the government building was transformed into an archaeological museum, exhibiting the continuity of seven millennia Macedonian history. The capital’s airport was renamed after Alexander the Great (as well as the highway towards Greece), and the Skopje city stadium was renamed “Philip II of Macedon”. After the Greece denied Macedonia’s access to NATO in 2008, the nation-building reforms of the Macedonian ethno-national identity superseded the EU-reforms of Macedonian state institutions. Ancient Macedonian nation building had reached peak with the long-term project “Skopje 2014”, which includes dozens of large statues (including the grand statue of Alexander of Macedon on Bucephalus guarded by his phalangists, worth about 10 million euros), several buildings in neo-classical style, a triumphal arch, a historical museum of the IMRO (the International Macedonian Revolutionary Organization), archaeological excavations on Skopje fortress, state-sponsored Orthodox church, etc.

The disturbing political messages from Brussels and EC recommendations were distorted by the political propaganda of state-sponsored media that supported the process of branding the new Macedonian nation (“ancient Macedonian style”), as a “struggle for the constitutional name and identity”. Surfing on the waves of the ethno-national “struggle” (legitimized by the ideology of “Ancient Macedonism”), the ruling party is constantly fabricating external and internal enemies of the state on daily basis (Greece as arch-enemy; critical journalist and columnists as “domestic traitors” and “foreign mercenaries”). However, after the tight victory of the ruling party in the early elections in June 2011, the EU representatives underlined only “the importance of the government taking steps to ensure good neighbourly relations“, mostly ignoring the undemocratic processes within the country (silencing the judges, threats toward the critical journalists and closure of the critical media, blackmailing the public administration employees, propaganda attacks on NGOs, taking party control over all independent regulatory bodies and state institutions, etc.). Twenty years after the independence and ten years after the Ohrid Framework Agreement, while pretending to implement necessary reforms for entering the EU, the ruling party is inventing new traditions and designing a brand new (Ancient) Macedonian nation, simultaneously destroying the democratic institutions, silencing the critical media, and suppressing the political opponents and public critics. The ethno-nationalist obsession with the ancient past is jeopardizing the democratic future of the country.

Nebojša Jovanović holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and an MA in Gender Theory from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary and is a doctoral student at Central European University (Department of Gender Studies), where he is writing his thesis on the cinema of Bosnia and Herzegovina during socialism. He works as an adjunct lecturer, teaching psychoanalysis and film theory, at The Centre for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies of the University of Sarajevo.

His articles have been published in publications: Springerin, Vienna; Sarajevske sveske, Sarajevo; PlatformaSCCA, Ljubljana; Reč, Beograd; Agregat, Ljubljana; Borec, Ljubljana; Hrvatski filmski ljetopis, Zagreb. He is also author of the: “From a trauma to the Trauma”, in The Real, the Desperate, the Absolute, ed. Marina Gržinić (Galerija Sodobne Umetnosti Celje, Celje 2001);  “Yet Another Effort, Intellectuals, If You Would Become Amnesiacs! Against Post-Yugoslav Liberal Conformism”, in Leap into the City: Chisinau, Sofia, Pristina, Sarajevo, Warsaw, Zagreb, Ljubljana, ed. Katrin Klingan & Ines Kappert (relations, Berlin / DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag, Cologne 2006); “If I were an Artist: An Instructive Postmodern Bosnian Fairy Tale”, in Contemporary Art and Nationalism: Critical Reader, ed. Minna Henriksson & Sezgin Boynik, MM-publication & Missing Identities project, Prishtina 2007).

Bosnian Blot: A Cautionary Tale

While the most of the ex-Yugoslav republics are already part of EU, or on their way to become its members, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains to be the only part of „Yugosphere“ (Tim Judah) that still does not fulfil not even elementary premises for applying to EU. My contribution will map out what I see as the most symptomatic political and social antagonisms and blockages that not only impede the process of Bosnian integration to EU, but the very functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state.

Despite being the political Clochemerle ever since the end of socialism, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains the paradigmatic geopolitical space that prompts us to redefine the very notion of “border”. Far from being a line or barrier that separates two (or more) different entities, border is also a zone of interconnection and exchange that also connects entities, softening their supposed differences. I will argue that it is precisely this definition of border as a connexion zone should be activated if we are to oppose the segregationist and, ultimately, anti-European politics that still keeps Bosnia and Herzegovina in its grasp.

Dunja Blažević, director of the University of Belgrade’s Student Cultural Centre Art Gallery in Serbia from 1971 to 1976, later took over as a director and head of programming at the same Centre from 1976 to 1980. In 1981 she began to produce and direct the TV programme, called TV Gallery, dealing with new developments in art and author’s video (the title is homage to Garry Schum) which was regularly broadcasted on Belgrade Television and on the National Network until 1991. From 1991 to 1996 she lived in Paris, France and worked as an art critic, curator and independent producer. Since 1996 Dunja Blažević has been a Director of Soros Centre for Contemporary Art in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2000 changed the name in – Sarajevo Centre for Contemporary Art – SCCA).