During the Bosnian war, Europe betrayed Bosnia but also itself and it is now paying the price for it, renown Bosnian writer Abdulah Sidran said he told the French President during a recent lunch in Paris at which he addressed the rise of the right on the continent.
Abdulah Sidran, whose poetry, novels and screenplays for movies earned international recognition such as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, talked to N1 about his recent trip to Paris where he had lunch with Emmanuel Macron and took part at a session hosted by intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy.
He told N1 on Monday that he broke the diplomatic etiquette with his extremely long speech but that he had something to say to the French President.
“I have accused Europe of betraying Bosnia,” Sidran said.
The extreme right is gaining ground in Europe and “the question is - when did Europe allow itself this to happen? I began my speech at the lunch with Macron by saying that Europe is now paying the price for the mistakes it made between 1992-1995 in my country,” Sidran said.
He explained to his hosts that they had allowed in his country something they have never allowed anywhere else to happen - for the losers to participate in the post-war government.
“And with that, you have betrayed the basic principle of the French Revolution, which at that time stood for class equality. Applied to our time and example, we are talking about equality in applying standards. You are not applying the same standards. You are applying different standards to Bosnia,” he said.
As Bosniaks, “we feel the same as in 1992-1995, when the arms embargo practically only applied to us, while the other two peoples (Serbs and Croats) had open doors. And today the principle of equality is being breached again - one of the peoples is not allowed from moving forward,” he said.
Sidran said that he ignored gestures that called him to shorten his speech and that he spoke for a long time - so long that it became nearly uncomfortable since the lunch had a protocol. But Macron still asked him to stay a while after the lunch.
“I did not know that at some point President Macron, a wonderful young man, proposed the idea of the urgent acceptance of six candidates into the EU by forming a ‘B’ group which would be allowed to meet softer standards and Europe would help them move forward faster,” Sidran said.
“I said then: ‘You have brought us into an impossible situation - Europe escapes us in its development by three days every day, and how can we catch up?” he asked.
When asked to what extent Bosnia’s citizens are to blame for Europe betraying them, Sidran said that the system in place in the country was not set up by Bosnians.
Bosnians cannot be blamed “if our normative act is the Dayton Peace Treaty which we did not put together according to our own will and which legitimized all those elements that are bringing the country towards the destruction of the state," he said.
"I am a Bosniak and I am not ashamed of it. I am a Muslim and I’m not ashamed of it, but that identification is not important to me, I never lived off of it,” he added.
“We are to blame for what came after the Dayton agreement - bad governance, illegal or with many impermissible criminal acts,” Sidran stressed.
Asked whether fear is the prevalent feeling in Bosnia, he said that “fear is produced by the legislature which the "ruling oligarchy" wrote for itself.
"People have no rights today, there is no way to protect ourselves from private employers (...). Special laws were created for those employed by the state. They protected themselves with that ‘three-headed monster’ which we call constitutive peoples, which is a lie,” he said, referring to Bosnia’s power-sharing system designed for its Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
Fear has encroached itself into society, he said, adding that journalists may not write anything that the owner of the media outlet they work for does not agree with.
“The concept of freedom in journalism and in every other sphere is an illusion, something that does not exist, something that cannot exist in a system like this one," he concluded.