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September 04 2013

Belgrade Philharmonic's Quirky Director is Serbia's New Minister of Culture

Outspoken pianist and conductor Ivan Tasovac is once again turning heads in Serbia, not for his wild grey hair, sharp tongue or bold choices, but for his appointment as the country's minister of culture.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić completed the reshuffle of his government on August 29, 2013 putting an end to two months of negotiations with his coalition partner and deputy prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić. The 18-member cabinet will include 11 new ministers and several independent experts. Among some of the more surprising choices is Tasovac as Minister of Culture. The very opinionated Tasovac accepted the nomination and assumed office on September 2.

Ivan Tasovac at a press conference for the premiere of the film

Ivan Tasovac at a 2009 press conference for the premiere of the film “Age of Stupid”. Photo courtesy of Media Center Belgrade, used with permission.

Tasovac has been the director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra since March 2001. Under his leadership, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra has become one of the most respected cultural institutions not just in Serbia but in other parts of the world. He is very popular on Twitter with about 40,000 followers, and he is admired for his quick wit and vibrant personality in popular Serbian culture. Tasovac in recent years has become very popular among Serbian netizens because of his fearlessness, sharp mind and because he is among those who do things differently, break the rules and bring necessary change to the establishment.

The new minister of culture in recent years has attracted public attention with his unusual, extraordinary approach to promoting the Philharmonic: by introducing pop music to the repertoire and performing classical music and jazz on the streets of Belgrade. The video below shows an impromptu performance in which a part of the Philharmonic Orchestra plays in a downtown Belgrade street strewn with cafes and bars. This was in fact part of a guerrilla campaign under the controversial slogan “Thanks for not coming”, referring to the dwindling attendance of audiences to Philharmonic concerts in previous years. The campaign attracted a lot of attention in the entire country and that season was sold out for the Belgrade Philharmonic:

Some at the time had fierce, critical reactions to the somewhat aggressive form of advertisement. Tasovac recorded a video statement after those reactions and released it to the public on YouTube, for which he received several standing ovations on social networks at the time: 

Reactions, however, are diverse. Some believe that Tasovac will strongly contribute to the development of culture in Serbia, while others are skeptical. Popular Serbian actor, Branislav Trifunović, referring to the fact that Tasovac was being praised by the very politicians he usually criticizes, tweeted:

If Tasovac survives until the end then I can swear that all these people praising him now will soon begin to insult him because he won't be merciful!

As soon as the nomination was made public, online media and social media users began collecting the new minister's tweets in which he criticized, often humorously, the current government and many of its individual members. Igor Lazarević, a management consultant from Belgrade, tweeted one of the popular collections:

Thus tweeted Tasovac:

Others, like user @Schatzglue on Twitter, posed the question:

How will Tasovac continue to spit on the establishment on Twitter now if he will be the establishment too?

Similarly, Twitter user Nikola from the Bačka region of Serbia, wrote:

As soon as Tasovac became Minister of Culture, he handed his conductor's baton to [First Deputy Prime Minister] Vucicu.

Aside from his musical talent and excellence, Tasovac is best known for his rowdy hair and his many fans have always liked that he refused to tame his hair to fit the norm. Many took to that particular feature when commenting on his new position in the new government: Tasovac won't have the same hairdo in 33 days – it will either be standing even higher on his head or he'll be left without any hair!!

I accidentally ran into the biggest condition Tasovac has given [Prime Minister] Dacic to become Minister of Culture.

They're cute :) TASOMANIJA: This is what the government would look like if Tasovac was Prime Minister! – via @telegrafrs

Although the vast majority of users seem happy with the choice, many are still surprised and in disbelief. Jasmina Adamović is sceptical:

Watching the news… Tasovac conducted, while others played. Now he will be playing as others conduct. Indeed life is strange.

And perhaps this tweet by Twitter user @DonDragonson sums up the overall sentiment best:

Minister Tasovac. Well, I've lived to see that too. Amen.

August 29 2013

Serbian National Parachuter Ejected from Team for Disgruntled Facebook Comments

A Serbian national parachuter has been let go from the national team after he criticized officials for leaving the team high and dry at the week-long FAI European Freefall Style and Accuracy Landing Championships in Cheboksary, Russia without accommodation, practice runs and permission to use training materials.

Serbian national team parachuter Aleksandar Cvetković [sr] described on his Facebook profile how he and the rest of the team, not suspecting to be abandoned by their own at the Aeronautical Federation of Serbia, travelled to Russia only to find that the Federation had not prepared or paid for anything. The championships lasted from August 20-27, 2013.

The whole delegation experienced tremendous discomfort during their stay there, to say the least. Their accommodation in the hotel was neither registered nor paid for by officials and the Serbian athletes were finally, after explaining the situation, received at the hotel through the generosity of the championship hosts and with no word from the relevant Serbian Federation or Ministry.

Aleksandar Cvetković - From Russia With Love

Aleksandar Cvetković – From Russia With Love

On his Facebook profile, Cvetković reacted publicly, overcome with outrage and disappointment over the abasement:

Samo da znate sta se desava !!! Presao sam 4000 km i dosao da predstavljam SRBIJU na “SAMPIONATU EVROPE” u padobranstvu. Dosli smo 3 dana ranije da bi smo trenirali i spremili se za sto bolje rezultate ali… Na recepciji hotela se desava prvi sok ! Saznajem da su nas Celnici naseg Vazduhoplovnog saveza poslali bez ikakvog dogovora sa oragnizatorima u vezi naseg dolaska i trenaznih skokova i NARAVNO ni jedan jedini evro nije uplacen za nas i nase ucesce na ovom prvenstvu ! Dobrom voljom domacina smo primljeni u hotel da ne bi smo spavali na ulici…hvala bogu sto su Rusi “nasa braca” a onda sledi porazavajuca cinjenica da ako hocemo skakati trenazne skokove moramo sami placati iz svog dzepa. Naravno dok su danas sve Reprezentacije skakale i trenirale ja sam sedeo na zemlji i sve to posmatrao . Najruzniji i porazavajuci osecaj na svetu dok novaca ima za skupa putovanja ,hotele i poslovne ruckove pojedinih mi sportisti smo osudjeni na ovakve situacije koje se desavaju po ko zna koji put ! TO JE LICE SRBIJE gde se gleda Farma i gde je Ekrem Jevric glavni junak Nacije !!! Sada vi procenite s kakvim motivom i voljom cu ja nastupati i predstavljati Srbiju …

Just so you know what's going on! I have travelled 4,000 kilometers to represent SERBIA at the “European Championships” in parachuting. We came three days earlier in order to train and prepare for better results but … At the reception we received our first shock! I found out that the leaders of our association sent us without consulting at all with the organizers about our arrival and training jumps and, OF COURSE, not a single euro is paid for us and our participation in this championships! Thanks to the good will of the host we have been taken into the hotel so we would not end up sleeping on the street … thank God that the Russians are “our brothers”, then this was followed by the devastating fact that if we want a training jump we would have to pay for them out of our own pockets. Of course, while all the other teams trained and jumped today, I sat on the ground and watched it all. The ugliest and most devastating feeling in the world – while the money goes for expensive travel, hotels and business lunches of certain people, we athletes are doomed to these situations which are happening who knows how many times! THIS IS THE FACE OF SERBIA in which Farma [a low-budget "farm" version reality show similar to "Big Brother"] and Ekrem Jevrić is the top hero of the nation!!! Now you evaluate with what motivation and will I will perform and represent Serbia …

In response to his Facebook rant, this young athlete has received a number of encouraging comments, including numerous condemnations of Serbian authorities, who often seem to forget some of the nation's most successful athletes.

A couple of days later, Aleksandar showed true sportsmanship and sent greetings from Russia with smile:

Ipak ja branim boje svoje zemlje,pa kakva god da je ! Pozdrav iz Chebuksara – Cuvaska Republika ;)

I defend the colors of my country after all, regardless of what it is like! Greetings from Chebuksara – Chuvash Republic ;)

The Aeronautical Federation of Serbia did not cover any of the costs for the national team's participation in the European Championships and, due to this, the team had no opportunity for any training jumps before the competition. Despite all odds being against him, Aleksandar Cvetković finished the competition and ranked 46th out of 65 competitors. His positive attitute and previous public comments on the matter were not well received by Serbian officials, however. That same day, he received news from the national team selectors that his talent would no longer be needed on the national team:

2 2 11 2 2 3 3 3 =28 cm . 46.-to mesto od 65 takmciara, to je moj ucinak na Prvenstvu Evrope. Uz sve muke koje sam doziveo ovde i ovo je odlicno. OBAVESTENJE !!!! Uz svu bruku i sramotu koju sam doziveo ovde obavesten sam od strane selektora da cu zbog svog ponasanja biti izbacen iz REPREZENTACIJE od strane Celnika Vazduhoplovnog Saveza Srbije . Tako da je ovo ipak moje oprostajno takmicenje za Srbiju !! Ziveli

2 2 11 2 2 3 3 3 =28 cm . 46th place out of 65 competitors, that is my ranking at the European Championship. In view of all the trouble I've had to live through, this is excellent. NOTE !!!! After all the embarrassment and shame I have gone through here I have been informed by the selectors that I will be thrown out of the NATIONAL TEA due to my behavior by the officials of the Aeronautical Federation of Serbia. So this is after all my farewell competition for Serbia !! Cheers

Views of Serbians on this issue are perhaps best described in a Facebook comment by Srdjan Mitrović:

Mogu da nam “oduzmu” takmicenje…mogu da nam “oduzmu” pasose…ali ne mogu ono sto imamo…..i nosimo u srcu…..

They can “take away” our contest … They can “take away” our passports … but not what we have ….. and carry in our hearts .. …

August 15 2013

Serbians Fight for Government Funds to Treat Ill Children

A proposal put forward by a citizens’ initiative that would provide government funds for medical care for Serbian children and minors with rare or potentially terminal diseases and disorders was knocked down by Serbian officials yesterday.

At a special round-table session of the Republic Fund for Health Insurance, Serbian officials turned down the idea, to the deep disappointment of the Serbian public and netizens.

Dr. Dušan Milisavljević, one of the organizers of the initiative and president of the Board of Health of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, was present at the session on August 14, 2013 to present the case for children with rare and possibly terminal diseases and their parents. The citizens’ initiative proposes that the government provide funding for Serbian citizens under age 18 for medical treatment outside of Serbia if the treatment these patients require is not available in Serbia, in particular for heart and other vital organ transplantation, something that Serbia is lacking.

Dr. Milisavljević, who is also a tenured professor at the Medical School of the University of Niš, has made this cause transparent and public on social networks and is rallying other citizens both online and offline. Immediately after the round table session, he wrote on Twitter:

The round table of the RFZO [Republic Fund for Health Insurance] has ended with no resolution as to sending children abroad for heart transplantation. There is no sign that regulations will be changed. TERRIBLE AWFUL

— Dusan Milisavljevic (@DusanORLDusan) August 14, 2013

The state refuses to change legislature and take on the responsibility of medical treatment for children abroad [Radio Television Serbia] report @zozast @natasajutro @NataMij

— Dusan Milisavljevic (@DusanORLDusan) August 14, 2013

As national public broadcasting network Radio Television Serbia reports in the video below, government officials cited discrepancies in the proposal that are in contrast to the Serbian Constitution as their reason for refusing to change standing regulations in the medical treatment of children. Namely, the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia states that no patient will receive preferential treatment based on discrimination, including discrimination based on age. Citizens of Serbia, however, seem to be of the opinion that providing funds to save the youngest generations of Serbian citizens, a population that is slowly but surely dwindling with one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, would not be discriminating against other citizens of Serbia, but rather making a decision based on what is right for the nation and its future in general.

A similar and related initiative, dubbed “Zoja's Law” [sr] by the parents of a recently deceased six-year-old girl named Zoja who suffered a three-year-long battle with Batten's Disease, is asking officials to also provide such funds for children with rare diseases, which often go undiagnosed for long periods of time in Serbia. “Zoja's Law”, which is a hot topic on Twitter, asks that a time limit of six months be placed on diagnosing rare diseases and disorders in children, after which the government would cover costs of either sending these young patients abroad for proper diagnosis or the cost of bringing in foreign experts for diagnosis and treatment.

Both initiatives have great support but mostly online for the time being. Dušan Milosavljević continues to talk about the issue at hand online and support seems to be on the rise:

When we talk about medical treatment abroad for children, they [the government] say it isn't possible and cite the Constitution, but when they negotiate for Kosovo? What is more important – for me CHILDREN !

— Dusan Milisavljevic (@DusanORLDusan) August 14, 2013

Snežana Jović, a nutritionist from Serbia, wrote on Twitter:

@Bobana47 It's a shame that @DusanORLDusan doesn't have wider support, the man can't do it alone when he has a gang sitting across from him.. and the media are silent… how to help.

— Snezana Jovic (@snneki) August 15, 2013

Global Voices in Serbian asked Milosavljević for a statement on Twitter as to what the next steps in pushing forward the legislative changes necessary to send children with rare and perhaps fatal diseases, often in need of organ transplantation that Serbia is unable to acquire, abroad for needed medical procedures. He responded in a telephone conversation, listing four very concrete steps to be taken that were much too long for a tweet. Here is his response to Global Voices:

Step 1 – What I have repeated daily for the past six or seven months and what is the pillar of this initiative is a change to the current Regulation (Pravilnik) of the Republic Serbia for medical treatment of patients. This procedure requires just one session during which only one sentence needs to be added to the Regulation – that the state will finance costs of medical treatment, in other words transplantation, for the citizens of Serbia [if the state does not wish to discriminate and limit this to children]. At this session, the Board of the Republic Fund for Health Insurance would bring the resolution to add this one sentence. The current Minister of Health would then have to sign the resolution and send it to the Government for adoption. This is a procedure that would take a maximum of some seven days to accomplish.

Step 2 – Signing contracts with several surgical clinics across continental Europe which would provide transplantation and treatment for our little ones. This model exists and has functioned well over the past ten years with surgical clinics in Padua and Trieste, where many of our children have been successfully treated over the past decade or so.

Step 3 – The education and training of our [Serbian] cardiovascular surgeons in the field of transplantation, a seven- to ten-year process that is necessary, as well as creating conditions in terms of equipment in our cardiovascular clinics, perhaps beginning with a clinic in Belgrade.

Step 4 – Raising awareness and educating citizens on the importance of organ donation.

Milisavljević says that he will continue with his battle with government representatives to make the above quoted four steps a reality in Serbia and also noted on Twitter that Nevena Petrušić, Serbia's Commissioner for Equality, stated the day after the proposal was turned down that:

N. P. pointed out that it is completely incorrect that laws banning discrimination based on age represent a problem in making these changes to the Regulation

— Dusan Milisavljevic (@DusanORLDusan) August 15, 2013

July 30 2013

Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia and Brazil on Winning Streak at Girls’ U18 Volleyball World Championship

As the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) blog reports, the Serbian, Turkish, Slovenian and Brazilian under-18 girls’ national volleyball teams showed outstanding results on the weekend of July 27-28, some with a perfect win-loss ratio. Full stats and results are available and regularly updated on the Federation's website.


July 10 2013

Serbia Rises to Save 600-Year-Old Oak Tree

As a plan to remove Istanbul's Gezi park sparked a mass uprising in Turkey in recent weeks, the people of Serbia were faced with a similar fight. A planned highway was set to destroy a 600-year-old oak tree in central Serbia, but after days of protests, the government seems to have bowed to pressure and modified the construction project to save the oak.

In late June 2013 [sr], news broke that the government had secured 340 million euros [about 435 million US dollars] in loans and another 700 million euros [about 895 million US dollars] are expected for the construction of Corridor 11, a long awaited and strategically important portion of highway to run through central Serbia.

But Serbians soon learned that the highway would run straight through the location of a 600-year-old oak tree in the village of Savinac near Gornji Milanovac. Reaction against the plan was immediate, with people revolting on social networks and soon organizing protests in Savinac and online.

Aside from being a marvelous natural treasure and historically significant, there is also a superstition among Serbs that cutting down an oak tree will bring tragedy, even death. The elderly in rural Serbia will say that oak trees, considered a greatly respected natural phenomena in these parts, are simply not to be toyed with. Had government representatives and those in charge of the highway construction known that this particular oak tree was in the way of Corridor 11, they may have found a solution for it, but according to Minister of Urbanism and Construction Velimir Ilić, their “attention was not drawn” to the matter previously.

Social networks in Serbia were soon ablaze with hundreds of protest messages from citizens under the hashtag #hrast (#oak) on both Twitter and Facebook.

"In hrast [oak] we trust" became a popular banner held by many at the protest in Savinac and shared on social networks; photo courtesy of Institute for Sustainable Communities - Serbia Facebook fan page.

“In hrast [oak] we trust” became a popular banner held by many at the protest in Savinac and shared on social networks. Photo courtesy of the Institute for Sustainable Communities – Serbia Facebook page.

Minister Ilić was quick to react to the outcry against the cutting down of the oak tree that began on social networks and soon spilled into Serbia's mainstream media. He stated that he would find a solution [sr] to have the 600-year-old, 40-meter-high, 7.5-meter-wide, massive tree moved to a different location. Online tabloid Telegraf was among those who questioned this solution and spoke to experts about it:

Da bi se taj hrast, te veličine bezbedno iskopao, to zahteva veliki posao, veliki broj radnika i veliki prostor, odgovarajuću mehanizaciju. Teorijski je moguće, ali niko nema to iskustvo, te verujem da bi iskopavanje hrasta bio i njegov kraj. To je sve besmisleno. U zemljama koje drže do sebe takvo drvo bi se “uklopilo” u ambijent – kaže botaničarka Vasić.

This oak tree of this size, to be removed safely requires great work, a large number of workers and a large amount of space, with adequate equipment. Theoretically, it is possible, but no one has that experience, thus I believe that the removal of the oak would be its end. It's all nonsense. In countries that stand by their own, a tree like that would be “included” in the setting – says botanist [Olja] Vasić.

While the minister and other government officials sought different solutions to the problem, citizens organized protests around the tree in Savinac. In the last days of June, citizens began gathering around the tree to save it, joined and led by the likes of Serbian poet Dobrica Erić, who originally is from the area, and non-government organizations such as the “Green of Serbia”, in a protest dubbed “The Oak Must Not Fall”.

"Green of Serbia" activists gather around the 600-year-old oak tree in Savinac; photo courtesy of Insitute for Sustainable Communities - Serbia Facebook fan page.

“Green of Serbia” activists gather around the 600-year-old oak tree in Savinac. Photo courtesy of Institute for Sustainable Communities – Serbia Facebook page.

The protests lasted until the first weekend of July 2013. Meetings were held at the Ministry of Urbanism and Construction as well as at Prime Minister Ivica Dačić's cabinet to discuss the matter, after which Minister Ilić made a public statement on July 9 that the oak tree would be preserved. As daily tabloid Kurir reported [sr]:

“Asfalt će biti potpuno odvojen jednim betonskim armiranim nosačem, tako da asfalt ne ošteti žile, a ni žile asfalt. Na taj način će se izbeći moguća oštecenja auto-puta”, rekao je Ilić.

“The asphalt will be entirely separated by a reinforced concrete beam, so that the asphalt doesn't damage the roots, nor the roots the asphalt. This way, possible damage to the highway will be avoided,” Ilić stated.

Both the highway and the oak tree, centuries older than many nations, are of great importance to Serbia. While the highway promises a much needed logistical solution to a region of Serbia that is plentiful in agricultural and manufacturing businesses, the citizens of Serbia have shown that they are not willing to make a sacrifice of this size.

Blogger Zoran Sokić, in reference to the oak tree that shook Serbia, recounts his childhood in the mountainous woodlands of central Serbia, pointing out the importance of three trees that made a difference in his childhood and coming of age and concludes:

Mogu samo da kažem da će se u mom kraju slaviti čovek koji tu dovede auto – put i pominjaće ga na slavama i okupljanjima u lokalnim kafanama, nakon branja malina, bar deset narednih vekova. Stara je lokalna priča, verovatno koliko i taj hrast u Savincima, da smo pravo slepo crevo, da komunisti nisu dali da tuda prodje pruga jer je četnički kraj, da će se sva omladina odseliti ako ne dodje put … Slažem se. Ali sa druge strane, ne bih dao ni jedno od ova svoja tri drveta ni za tri auto puta ili tri pruge.

I can only say that, in my hometown, the man who brings the highway will be celebrated and mentioned at slavas [celebration of the family saint among Serbian Orthodox Christians] and gatherings at local cafes after picking raspberries, for at least the next ten centuries. Old are the local tales, probably as old as that oak in Savinac, that we are a dead end street, that the communists didn't allow the railway to pass here because it is was a Chetnik area, that all of our youth will move away if the highway doesn't come – I agree. But, on the other hand, I wouldn't give any of these three trees of mine, not even for three highways or three railways.

June 30 2013

June 20 2013

Anti-Government ‘Babylution’ Protests Gain Momentum in Bosnia

People in Bosnia-Herzegovina are crossing the country's deep ethnic divides by the thousands to protest together against the government's failure to remedy a lapse in the law that is preventing newborns from being given an identity number and, by extension, travel papers and healthcare.

The protests, which began on June 5, 2013 and have been dubbed “Babylution”, were sparked by the story of a gravely ill three-month-old girl, Belmina Ibrišević, who at the time could not leave the country to get the stem cell treatment abroad that she needed, even though her health was critical and necessary treatment could not be provided in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Days later, the unrest intensified following the news of one-month-old Berina Hamidović [sr] who died the Institute for Mother and Child [sr] in Belgrade, Serbia of sepsis after the medical treatment she needed was delayed.

The young girl could not leave because of the country's failure to pass a new law on ID numbers after the old law expired in February. Thanks to this legal gap, newborn babies only receive a temporary number which impedes them from receiving travel documents, which would be necessary to seek medical treatment abroad.

Protesters began speaking out against lawmakers’ inaction under the hashtag #JMBG, which stands for the Unique Master Citizen Number. On June 6, demonstrators gathered in Sarajevo and blocked the Parliament building, refusing to allow politicians and foreign guests inside to leave the building and demanding the urgent passing of the Law on Unique Master Citizen Numbers.

Suad Baručija posted a video on Youtube of supporters arriving from Zenica to join the Sarajevo protesters, in which they are heard chanting “We want change!”:

On Twitter, the news quickly spread under the hashtag #jmbg, as those present at the peaceful protest or nearby transmitted the events of the evening live. Director of Communications at International Center for Transitional Justice Refik Hodžić (@ledenik1tweeted a picture of a person leaving the Parliament building through a ground-floor window:

@ledenik1: #BiH parliament staff escaping through windows the building surrounded by protesters instead of joining them. #jmbg

Twitter user Irma Plavčić (@Irma_A_Pclarified the reasons behind the protest:

Od borbe za ljudska prava i #jmbg,preko krsenja istih,medjunarodnog skandala do unistenja prilike za ulaganje kapitala.Sve za 1 dan #BiH

@Irma_A_P: From the battle for human rights and #jmbg, the violation of those, international scandals to the destruction of opportunities for investment capital. All in 1 day #BiH

A video on YouTube posted by Cyber Media Technology titled “We want JMBG!” summarizes the first days of the #JMBG protests:

The following day, protests stopped briefly [ba] in Sarajevo and the Parliament building was no longer blocked by citizens standing guard out front. But those involved in the protests created the website JMBG for everyone! [ba] with this message:

Mi smo građani i građanke ove zemlje – roditelji s djecom, studenti i studentice, domaćice, radnici i radnice, nezaposleni i nezaposlene, penzioneri i penzionerke, bez obzira na pripadnost etničkoj ili religijskoj skupini, ili bilo koji drugi status, te nam je zajednički interes da se poštuju prava svake osobe, a prije svega djece. Obraćamo se svim građankama i građanima, koji/e žele da žive u državi u kojoj političari i političarke rade svoj posao i izvršavaju zakonske obaveze. Državi u kojoj su nacionalni i stranački interesi sekundarni, a u prvom planu je dostojanstven i siguran život građana i građanki.

We are the citizens of this country – parents with children, university students, housewives, workers, the unemployed, pensioners, regardless of ethnic or religious groups, or any other status, so it is in our common interest that the rights of every person be respected, those of children above all. We address all male and female citizens who wish to live in a state in which politicians do their jobs and complete their legal obligations. A state in which national and partisan interests are secondary and the dignified and safe lives of citizens are primary.

The website also details the demands of citizens regarding legislature related to Unique Master Citizen Numbers and the creation of a fund for the treatment of threatened categories of the population.

Even though baby Belmina's parents eventually managed to get her across the border for treatment, the death of one-month-old Berina Hamidović due to this bureaucratic obstruction to her medical treatment, as Bosnian news outlets reported [ba], further fueled protests.

Citizens throughout the region paid their respects to the little girl, while the story shook with tremendous strength and speed Berinda's birth country of Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring Serbia where she died. From that moment on, the situation escalated quickly: from minute to minute on social networks, web portals and blogs, bitter citizens organized for protests, united and calling for support anywhere they could get it.

#JMBG is among the first to show the power of the new Facebook hashtag feature, while the JMBG fan page already has close to 23,000 fans on this social network.

The protests in Sarajevo continue, now under the name “Babylution” - a peaceful revolution that managed to bring over 10,000 people into the streets on June 18 with the support of public figures [sr] and musicians from the former Yugoslav republics who have expressed their grief and revolt.

Citizens are invited to attend the peaceful protests every day beginning at noon until demands are met.

Babylution in Bosnia

Protesters in front of Parliament. Photo by Almir Panjeta, courtesy of “JMBG za sve” Facebook fan page.

Zoja BB (@skejtas) on Twitter shared a picture of a gathered crowd:

@skejtas#JMBG protest today was huge. Hope ‘they’ feel the pressure…

Protester Davor Stanković (@Dastkodescribed the evening:

Veče za pamćenje. Bez mrlje i najmanjeg problema. Umoran sam, ali bih uz ove ljude ostao koliko god je potrebno. Borba se nastavlja! #jmbg

@Dastko: A night to remember. Without a stain or any minor problem. I am tired, but I would stay with these people as long as necessary. The fight continues! #jmbg

Editor Nenad Memić (@NenadMemicadded to the description:

@NenadMemic: Around 10,000 people at a protest concert for #JMBG in #Sarajevo tonight! Spread the good vibe! :)

Once an identification number, #JMBG has now become a hashtag, a meme, and a call for revolution in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Politicians have been given a deadline until June 30 to pass the law and create a solidarity fund for those who need medical treatment. Should Bosnia's Parliament fail to meet this deadline, citizens have vowed, among other actions, to organize the first Facebook hashmob [cr], a novel concept described as a hashtag-driven flashmob.

Until then, the “Babylution” continues.

June 19 2013

June 02 2013

Serbian High-School Students Trade Prom for Charity

As proof of the awareness and understanding of economic hardship that young people have today, a graduating high school class from the town of Pirot in southern Serbia made a deeply responsible and humane decision.

Back in October 2012, the 4th-year students of Pirot High School (Pirotska Gimnazija) calculated that they would have to spend some 500 Euros on average to buy dresses, suits and everything that goes with that for their graduating prom. They decided this was far too much to spend on one night that wouldn't mean a lot to them in the future. Together, and with the support of their teachers, parents and others, they vowed to wear plain black (for the boys) and white (for the girls) T-shirts to their prom and to give the money they would have spent to three children with disabilities in their community instead.

The graduating class of Pirot High School in front of their school on the day of their graduation.

The graduating class of Pirot High School in front of their school on the day of their graduation. Photo courtesy of “Tvojih pet minuta sjaja – Nečiji ceo život”

They named their event Your Five Minutes of Glory – Someone's Entire Life and set out to raise funds for Predrag Potić, a 12-year-old with cerebral palsy, 1-year-old Mateja Lazarević who has had seven surgeries so far, and Čeda Tošić, a five-year-old who also suffers from cerebral palsy and, after a recent surgery, has begun to walk.

The exemplary graduates explain [sr] on their Facebook page [sr]:

Није нам било лако, нарочито када су одмицали дани и схватали озбиљност овакве организације. Настала је, истовремено, као жеља да се помогне некоме и бунт против кича који је захватио наше друштво. Новац је сакупљан уплатама ученика и запослених у Гимназији, захваљујући донаторима[...] као и неких добрих људи, и сакупили смо 310 000 динара.

It wasn't easy, especially as the days went by and we realized the gravity of this kind of organization. At the same time, there was a desire to help someone and a rebellion against the kitch that has taken over our society. Money was collected through donations from students and employees of the [Pirot] High School, thanks to donors [...] as well as some good people, and we have collected 310,000 Dinars [approx. 2,800 Euros].

Serbian online media and social networks are, of course, overflowing with awe, respect and salutes for the extraordinary graduating class of Pirot High School. As Mondo webportal reports [sr], the graduates held a small ceremony at their high school on Friday to deliver the funds they raised to the three boys, Pedja, Matej, and Čeda, after which they proudly walked, hand-in-hand and in pairs, down the town's main street in the black-and-white T-shirts they promised they would wear to their graduating prom. A donor helped them have special T-shirts made for this occasion, with “Your Five Minutes of Glory – Someone's Entire Life” printed on them.

Applauded by so many in Serbia and other countries, the students remain humble and intend to continue their humanitarian efforts. In the same post from June 2 on their Facebook page, they say:

Нажалост нисмо успели да сакупимо планирану суму од 500 000 динара, али смо успели да измамимо сузе Матеиним родитељима, свима присутнима у свечаној сали Гимназије, па и нама самима… А касније смо се ипак сви смејали. :)

Пробајте и ви, измамите неком осмех, не боли. Не сматрамо себе неким великим људима, хуманитарцима, пуно је таквих који то заиста и заслужују. Ово је далеко одјекнуло(то нам није био циљ, нити смо се надали томе), али ће се заборавити генерација 1994 пиротских матураната. Верујемо да ће нас се некад сећати, уз осмех, само Матеа, Чеда и Пеђа, остало нам није ни битно.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to raise the planned sum of 500 000 Dinars, but we succeeded in bringing tears to the eyes of Mateja's parents, all those present at the Event Hall of the high school, and to our own eyes… And later we all ended up laughing. :)

You should try it too, bring a smile to someone, it doesn't hurt. We don't consider ourselves great people, humanitarians, there are many who truly deserve [to be called] that. This has echoed far (this was not our goal, nor could we hope for it), but the generation of 1994 from Pirot High School will be forgotten. We believe we will only be remembered sometimes, with a smile, by Mateja, Čeda and Pedja, we don't care about the rest.

One-year-old Matija with his mother at the ceremony in Pirot High School. Photo courtesy of  "Tvojih pet minuta sjaja - Nečiji ceo život"

1-year-old Mateja with his mother at the ceremony at Pirot High School. Photo courtesy of “Tvojih pet minuta sjaja – Nečiji ceo život”

The students who believe they “will be forgotten” also invite high school students from other Serbian cities to join their cause and follow in their footsteps. They have already become an Internet meme in Serbia and word is spreading fast to neighboring countries as well. User Leteći medvjedić on the Serbian meme site Vukajlija has created a poster [sr] on this site that is being shared massively on Facebook and Twitter. The poster shows a photo of the graduating class of Pirot High School walking down the main street – and this caption:

Oni su položili – ispit zrelosti

They have passed – the test of maturity

More photos and posts are available on their Facebook page and Twitter account.

May 25 2013

“When a Burglar Enters Your Home”: Debating Serbia's Self-Defense Law

This is the case that has united Serbia: Saško Bogeski [sr], who killed burglar Vlada Manić in his home in Belgrade on Tuesday, was arrested immediately and ordered by a judge yesterday to be held in jail on remand for 30 days. According to the authorities, Bogeski had allegedly crossed the line of what is known as “necessary defense” [sr] in the Serbian law.

Serbian netizens are demanding urgent amendments to the Penal Code of the Republic of Serbia [sr], which defines “necessary defense” in such a way that makes it extremely difficult to prove, while interpretations frequently play against the attacked individuals.

Twitter user @zmiroljub resonated [sr] the opinion of most netizens following this case:

Ovog coveka treba javnost da podrzi. Da je provalnik pobio njegovu porodicu, to bi bila samo vest na naslovnoj Blica…

This man needs public support. If the burglar had murdered his family, it would have just been a news item on the front page of Blic [a Serbian daily]…

Many netizens, such as Twitter user Biljana Lukic, sound overwhelmingly disgruntled and sarcastic [sr]:

Kad vam upadne provalnik u kuću, budite ljubazni, pokažite mu gde držite vrednosti i nadajte se da ćete preživeti. Ako se branite, robijaćete.

When a burglar enters your home, be polite, show him where you keep your valuables and hope that you will survive. If you defend yourself, you will serve prison time.

User @web_neki_tamo writes [sr]:

Ako mi upadne provalnik prvo ću da ga pitam šta ima od oružja, da ne bih slučajno uzeo nešto što je jače od njegovog.

If a burglar drops in, I'll ask him which weapons he has first, so I don't accidentally grab something more powerful than what he has.

Similar laws are in place in most countries of the former Yugoslavia, while most other European countries often interpret “necessary defense” in a wider sense and such cases often proceed without trial and are not viewed as criminal acts.

An online petition in support of Bogeski [sr] has been launched, and over 8,100 people have already signed it. In the petition, Bogeski is described as a well-known philanthropist and a committed activist for the rights of marginalized groups. He is the president of an NGO that stands for the promotion of ethical values in private and public lives of individuals. During the war in Bosnia, he worked in a Bible school and helped displaced individuals and those with special needs. He was also part of the team that brought Nick Vujicic, a Serbian-Australian motivational speaker born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs, to Belgrade. He has had no prior misdemeanors or criminal charges. The killed burglar, on the other hand, was a multiple offender with over 50 prior criminal charges for offenses that included robbery and armed robbery.

In the Serbian society, there is an ongoing debate related to whether or not there was justified cause for “necessary defense” in cases similar to Bogeski's. In the Blic daily, attorney Nebojša Perović explains [sr]:

U ovakvim slučajevima sud se dosta oslanja na nalaz veštaka. Pitanje je u kom stepenu je smanjena moć rasuđivanja i u kom stepenu je prisutan efekat straha i besa. Vrlo je teško proceniti koliko napadnuti može da kontroliše svoj postupak i u kom trenutku on brani sebe i porodicu.

In cases such as these, the court relies heavily on the assessment of court experts. The question is to what extent the power of judgement was diminished and to what extent the effects of fear and rage were present. It is very difficult to assess how much the attacked individual was able to control his acts and at which point he was defending himself and his family.

The signing of the online petition and the activism present on social networks certainly won't solve the issue, but they nevertheless show that citizens are taking a stand when faced with this problem.

Arguments of self-defense are very difficult to uphold in court cases in Serbia, and cases in which the court has acquitted those accused of manslaughter are extremely rare, even when self-defense was obvious to an average person. The best-known example in the former Yugoslavia is that of the famous actor Žarko Laušević, who was tried for the 1993 double murder that he committed while defending his own life, the life of his brother and others present at the scene. Laušević was pardoned after serving some 5 years in prison, the larger part of a longer sentence given by the court.

Many citizens are now appealing [sr] to the Minister of Justice, Nikola Selaković, directly on Twitter with the request that the state protect citizens with amendments to the existing laws:

Poštovani @selakovicnikola može li se ikako inicirati promena u Zakonu koja bi zaštitila privatni posed? [...]

Respected @selakovicnikola is there any way of initiating amendments to the law that would protect private property? [...]

At the time of writing this post, Minister Selaković has not yet responded to users on Twitter.

The investigation of Bogeski's case is still in progress.

May 24 2013

In Croatia and Serbia, Mixed Feelings About the EU

As Croatia prepares to enter the European Union officially on July 1 of this year, and Serbia awaits to finally receive a date to begin talks about EU entry, citizens of both countries express mixed feelings about EU integration.

Some young Croatian citizens are looking forward to being able to seek employment in EU countries and to the economic benefits some say the EU promises to bring. Twitter user @tash from Zagreb says [en]:

@EszterLzr haha i know, bad timing for EU and here ppl have mixed feeling ab it..and i just want to be able to go to work somewhere else

Others, like Aleksandar Holiga from Zagreb, look forward to traveling with more freedom to other EU countries [en]:

Flying to London tomorrow. For the last time ever required to fill that form and speak to immigration officer on the non-EU airport booth.

Pro-EU and anti-EU Croatian citizens are having spontaneous street debates in Zagreb on the eve of the 2012 European Union referendum. Photo by Marin Tomaš, copyright © Demotix (14/01/12).

Pro-EU and anti-EU Croatian citizens are having spontaneous street debates in Zagreb on the eve of the 2012 European Union referendum. Photo by Marin Tomaš, copyright © Demotix (14/01/12).

The majority, however, seems to be taking entry into the EU with a grain of salt. Goran Saravanja, a Croatian economist who blogs for Vecernji List daily, begins and ends his thoughts on the matter with simple, objective conclusions in a post titled “Facing Change: Croatia in EU” [hr]:

Prosječna osoba neće primijetiti veliku razliku u svom svakodnevnom okruženju na dan pristupanja Hrvatske EU. No, važne promjene nastupit će ubrzo. [...] Pristupanje EU samo po sebi neće automatski poboljšati kvalitetu domaćih institucija, kao ni razne politike niti njihovu provedbu. Ukoliko želimo da nam rast bude konstanta, nezaposlenost smanjena, a izvoz povećan, mi sami moramo provoditi reforme i (ne samo) ekonomsku politiku na kvalitetan način.

An average person won't notice a large difference in their everyday surroundings on the day of Croatia's entry into the EU. However, important changes will come quickly. [...] Entry into the EU in and of itself won't automatically improve the quality of domestic institutions, nor various political standpoints or their execution. If we want our growth to be constant, our unemployment lowered, and exports to grow, we must implement reforms ourselves and (not only) economic policy in a quality manner.

While Mr. Saravanja lists many of the benefits and opportunities that EU membership will bring Croatia, Zarko Plevnik in an editorial for Glas Slavonije [hr] (Slavonia is a Croatian region) questions how Croatian products will fare in the EU market because most are “unprotected”:

Gledajući i slušajući vijesti iz Hrvatske o tome kako svaki dan pronalazimo neki novi problem vezan uz naš ulazak u Europsku uniju, između ostalog, nameće se pitanje – što smo mi zaštitili od naših proizvoda prije ulaska u EU?

Watching and listening to the news from Croatia about how every day we encounter a new issue related to our entry into the European Union, among other things, the following question arises – what have we protected [trademarked] of our products prior to entry into the EU?

An article on the same site, titled “And This Is the European Union,” shows a picture of Greek farmers giving away fresh vegetables to their “class allies” [hr], or, rather, government employees.

Most social media users from Croatia seem to be skeptical about the benefits of EU membership.

Twitter user @ruzniuzorak says [hr]:

smorena sam ko europska unija

I'm bummed out like the European Union

User @nxyassa from Croatia comments [CRO]:

Glupost nema granice evo naprimjer EUROPSKA UNIJA

Stupidity has no limits [borders] for example the EUROPEAN UNION

User @cromarko from Zagreb quotes an article and adds his own opinion [hr]:

“Najvece priznanje ulaska RH u EU je sastanak s kraljicom”. Priznanje hah, sve sto cu reci je Sjeverna Irska! #freeireland #oneireland

“The greatest acknowledgement of [Croatia's] accession in the EU is a meeting with the Queen.” Acknowledgement hah, all I will say is, Northern Ireland! #freeireland #oneireland

In Serbia, social media users, bloggers and many journalists are just as skeptical. Considering the recent history of Serbia and Croatia, one might wonder at the lack of perhaps expected envy that might come from Serbia towards Croatia, as Croatia enters the EU, while Serbia is still on hold and waiting for talks on membership. Serbs, however, seem to be much more concerned with their own fate.

Twitter user @na_preporciju from Serbia says [sr]:

Evropska unija nam se pokakila na demokratiju i slobodu,
a naši Slepci ne znaju da povuku vodu.

The European Union pooped on our democracy and freedom, while our Blind Men don't know how to flush.

User @m2aja echoes [sr] what many Serbs are saying:

Britanc žele da napuste Evropsku uniju, a Srbija bi da ide…

Britons want to leave the European Union, while Serbs want to enter…

Even users like @luminous_pg from Montenegro, which began EU accession negotiations a year ago, view EU-related matters [sr] sarcastically:

Muče vas bolovi u vratu? Imate problema sa zglobovima? Zaboravite na vaše neprilike, uskoro ulazimo u EVROPSKU UNIJU!

Neck pain bothering you? Have problems with your joints? Forget all your troubles, we're entering the EUROPEAN UNION soon!

User @na_preporciju also comments [sr]:

Kad uđe Hrvatska Evropska unija zaključava vrata – od robijašnice.

When Croatia enters, the European Union will close the door – of the work camp.

Some, like the Beograd Cafe blog, see positives economic opportunities for Serbia in Croatia's entry into the EU [sr], reporting from the recent “CEFTA After Croatia's Entry Into EU” trade conference, where all of the regional countries’ representatives met to discuss the Central European Free Trade Agreement:

Ulazak Hrvatske u EU doneće Srbiji niz prednosti, kao što su dominantan položaj u CEFTA regionu i povećanje suficita u razmeni sa okolnim zemljama, a očekuje se i više investicija…

The entry of Croatia into the EU will bring Serbia several advantages, such as a dominant position in the CEFTA region and a larger sufficit in trade with surrounding countries, while more investments are also expected. [...]

A blog from Bosnia and Herzegovina also writes about the subject [bs] in a post titled “Due to Exiting CEFTA, Croatian Companies to Move Production to Bosnia and Herzegovina?”.

In general, both in Croatia and Serbia, people seem to have an “it is what it is” attitude about the European Union in general. Perhaps the tweet of one user, @Darac42, sums it up best [hr]:

Da da, bit ce taj EU hard landing za hrvate.. niti ne zasluzujemo bolje..

Yes, yes, that EU will be a hard landing for Croats.. and we don't deserve better..

March 13 2013

“Ten Years Without Zoran Djindjic”: Serbia Honors Slain Politician

Zoran Djindjic, the first democratically elected Serbian Prime Minister, was shot to death on March 12, 2003. On the tenth anniversary of Djindjic's assassination, thousands of people marched in Belgrade to honor his memory.

Author and political activist Jasmina Tešanović paid tribute to Djindjic on the Huffington Post blog:

[...] He was the most important Serbian politician of the 20 century, who managed to step into the 21st, who toppled Milosevic, who was eventually killed by state mafia resisting his progressive steps toward a modern Serbia.


Djindic was a very popular man. Even people who didn't agree with him liked him. His enemies thought well of him. His murderers, too.

Where are these people now, what are they thinking, what about their future and conscience? I don't think it is a matter of a democratic party, his family. Not even of politicians and philosophers who are swearing on his grave using his words. It is a matter of all of us who gained a part of our civil identity in Serbia thanks to his political courage.

We can say all we want to say, in favor or against his politics, but thanks to him, history advanced in big steps forward — and without him, history limps and crawls back into the dark.

On the German Marshall Fund's blog, Djindjic's former Senior Foreign Policy Adviser Ivan Vejvoda wrote this:

Ten years ago today, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated by a sniper at the entrance of the cabinet office in Belgrade, marking a tremendous blow to the fledgling process of democratization in Serbia. While the conspirators, including the sniper, were condemned in a court of law and are serving long prison sentences, the identity of those who ordered his killing remains unknown.


Vehemently opposed to Slobodan Milosevic’s regime during the period of Yugoslavia’s bloody civil war, he eventually won a peaceful election in 2000. He was the chief architect of a victory in which political parties, civil society, a democratic media, and — notably — the student movement Otpor all played key roles.


A decade later, Serbia finds itself exactly where Djindjic wanted it to be at the end of 2003, showing the extent to which his assassination slowed Serbia’s democratic reforms. [...]

Kiran Mohandas Menon wrote this on

In the two years in which he led Serbia, Zoran Djindjic strengthened its democratic and economic structure, cracked down on organized crime and ended its international isolation, with his pro western policies aimed at European integration.

An often controversial figure, Djindjic also initiated and strengthened cooperation with the International Crime Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and handed them Slobodan Milosevic. It was brave acts such as that which cemented Djindjic’s status as arguably the most important and respected figure in modern Serbian politics. It would also cost him his life.


In February 2003, Djindjic escaped an attempt on his life when a truck tried to crash into his car on a Belgrade highway. However a month later, on the March 12, 2003, Djindjic was fatally shot by a member of the Zemun clan, one of Serbia’s most notorious mafia groups, while standing outside the Serbian government building. Zoran Djindjic was 50 years old at the time of his death. His funeral drew tens of thousands of mourners, bringing the nation to a standstill.


A decade since his tragic death, Zoran Djindjic’s vision and memory have inspired and guided the people of a nation.

Below is a short documentary [sr, with English subtitles] directed by Aleksandar Mandić – “Ako Srbija Stane” (“If Serbia Stops”) which features “a collection of edited speeches given by Djindjic on a speaking tour in Serbia shortly before his death”:

A photo from Djindjic's funeral was posted [sr] on March 12 on the Facebook page devoted to the slain politician, with this caption:

March 12, 2003. The day when Serbia stopped! – Zoran, thank you for the vision!

Nearly 6,000 people ‘liked’ this post, nearly 1,400 shared it, and over 330 commented on it. User Petar Stantic wrote [sr]:

12.03.2003. Everything stopped… and began to slowly move backwards… Zoran, thank you for that little bit of a hope, and for a vision…

On Twitter, @AnjaKosanovic shared this photo [sr] from the memorial march, #SetnjaZaZorana (“A Walk for Zoran”):

@Ketyly91 (Katarina Pavlovic) re-tweeted @AnjaKosanovic's photo and wrote [sr]:

Zoran Djindjic lives through all the people in this column [#WalkForZoran] [...]

@MajaVidenovic wrote [sr]:

Today I am walking for Zoran. For the land he wanted and created. For what I deeply believe in! [#ZoranDjindjicLives] [#WalkForZoran]

@mali_uli (Ana Milovanovic) wrote [sr]:

[#WalkForZoran] According to my quick estimate, some 30,000 people are taking part in today's walk.

More photos from the Walk For Zoran were posted by @milosdjajic (Milos Djajic) and @DankoRunic (Danko Runić): here, here, here and here.

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the event.

In his tweet, @BorisTrivan alluded [sr] to the economic situation in Serbia, whose unemployment rate was 22.4 percent in October 2012:

Djindjic would have been especially happy that thousands of people do not have jobs, so they have time to go for a walk…

Predrag Azdejković [sr], a Serbian LGBT rights activist and editor of [sr], addressed his post [sr] on his B92 blog to the Serbian politicians who walked at the head of the column on March 12, ex-President Boris Tadić among them:

After the Walk For Zoran, I have just one question. Do you have no shame? I'm posing this question to the individuals in the front row of this fashion show.

Many people are saying that Serbia would have been better if Zoran Djindjic had not been murdered. I'm asking the charlatans from the front row whether they feel any responsibility for the fact that Serbia is no better ten years after his murder? Do you have no shame because of that? You are incompetent, and I think Djindjic is turning in his grave! Are you ashamed because, while you were in power, those behind the murder were not found and the political background was not brought to light? No. You're only ashamed because you're not in power.

But it is important that everyone today is having fun as [the first deputy PM Aleksandar Vučić], who once attached the sign for [a boulevard named after Ratko Mladić, accused of committing war crimes and on trial in the Hague], today lay the wreath for Zoran Djindjic. Nice, have fun, but I cannot. I am frustrated by the so-called Djindjic's successors, who are not even a pale copy of him, but a bunch of political losers! How can you not be ashamed!

March 12 2013

Serbia's First Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend in Belgrade, March 22, 2013.
Logo by official website


February 20 2013

New e-Journal Highlights Balkan History and Archaeology

The inaugural issue of Haemus Journal, an academic e-journal devoted to the history and archaeology of the Balkan Peninsula, also covering a wide range of related interdisciplinary topics, was published recently. It follows the principles of Free and Open Access and publishes its content under a Creative Commons license.


Haemus journal Vol.1 (2012)


February 10 2013

Bureaucracy and Motherhood in Serbia

Marija Janković's photo of her 3-month-old baby sleeping peacefully next to the 52 medical and administrative documents has received 942 ‘likes’ and 826 ‘shares’ on the Facebook page of Status Magazin [sr], a Belgrade monthly, and was awarded the first prize in a photo contest run by the publication. It took Janković one year to collect all this paperwork in order to be eligible for one-time financial aid from the Serbian state. Facebook user Tanja Plava commented [sr]:

And this is only the beginning :)

February 08 2013

Protesting Cyrillic, “Collectivising Guilt” in Croatia

Balkan Anarchist weighs in on the protests against the use of the Cyrillic script in Vukovar‘s public spaces:

[...] I believe that we, decent and honest Serbs, should be ashamed of what was done in the name of Serbdom during the '90s and condemn it all unequivocally! And I also agree that it's wrong that most Serb war crimes suspects have yet to be apprehended; it should not stay like that any longer. However, it's one thing to seek justice for serious offences that were committed in wartime, and a completely different thing to deny every sign of another culture and language in peace time, just because some dispicable members of that community did something horrible to you or a loved one. [...]

January 29 2013

“The Un-European Union”

GV Author Filip Stojanovski, on his blog Razvigor, has translated into English a mock story [sr] by, “the Serbian equivalent to The Onion,” about the UK striving to join “the Un-European Union”:

The Council of Ministers of the countries of the Un-European Union stated today in Skopje that a long road lies ahead of United Kingdom in order for it to join this international organisation. […]

The Macedonian translation of the story is here.

December 13 2012

Presenting the Balkan Minorities

Face the Balkans subjects of stories

A screenshot of the Face the Balkans website.

Fifteen young journalists from six different countries have produced a series of personal stories about representatives of the minorities (in a broad sense) from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia. The stories are available in English, German, and French on the Face the Balkans website.

November 17 2012

Croatian Senior Generals Acquitted of War Crimes

Eric Gordy of East Ethnia comments on this Friday's UN appeal court's judgment acquitting Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač of war crimes:

[…] Some people are delighted with the judgment and other people are outraged, with divisions following predictable political lines. The appeals chamber itself is no less divided. The five judges on the panel made most of their decisions by a 3-2 vote. […] So consensus about the law and the facts of the case is not any greater among the members of the appeals chamber than it is in the public. This gives us a result that does not settle controversies, but keeps them burning for a good long time. […]

November 08 2012

Racism in European Football: Will New Rules Help?

The last weeks of October 2012 saw racism rear its ugly head again, in the European Leagues, particularly in England, affecting both the Premier League clubs and players, as well as the national one too. Many have wondered whether the major football bodies UEFA and FIFA will act as some have been trying to do like the Football Association (FA) in England.

To give us a perspective into the racism issue, ArsenalNews chronicles various incidences of racism that have taken place in different countries:

Racism is a major issue in our world nowadays, even the beautiful game is filled with it. Players, officials and fans are all targeted, some may be targeted because of them being on the opposing team and some individuals are even targeted by their own fans. Below are some football related racist incidents and acts that happened all around Europe.

In February 2011, Roberto Carlos signed a contract with Russian Premier League club Anzhi Makhachkala. The following month during a game away against Zenit, a banana was held near Carlos by one of the fans as the footballer was taking part in a flag-raising ceremony.

In November 2008, Middlesbrough’s Egyptian forward Mido was subjected to Islamophobic chanting from a small number of Newcastle United fans.

In March 2012, a 29 year old Arsenal fan was arrested after being caught racially abusing Newcastle United player Cheik Tiote by SkySports cameras.

The most talked about incident in the 2011/2012 season was when England captain John Terry was caught on tape allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Few days ago Queens Park Rangers faced Chelsea, Ferdinand refused to shake hands with Terry before the start of the match.

While it may have affected the various national leagues, it seems that international games are not immune to these incidents with the most recent one in Serbia when the Under-21 England team played the Serbian Under-21 on October 16.

Here is a video uploaded by youtube user SaintOrthodox of the incident that ensued in Serbia in the match between the Under-21 England and Serbian national teams on 16 October 2012:

Football Philosophy tells us in the blog-post Racism in the Balkans: A Problem That Will Just Not Go Away:

The disturbing scenes in Serbia this week have once again drawn attention to the issue of racism in football, particularly in this part of the world, where an unhealthy political culture of hard-line nationalism and ethnic prejudice in the region over the past decades has bred violence and bigotry on the terraces.

There is little doubt that the problem of racism, accentuated by periods of aggressive ethnic nationalism in the Balkans, remains a significant problem for football. This is a problem that UEFA and the football authorities appear unwilling to address, in the hope that it will fade out of public consciousness. Their actions to this point in dealing with Tuesday’s despicable incidents have only added weight to this claim.

Lester Hollaway in his blog-post What Rio can learn from non-League football reflects on the English footballer's refusal to wear a Kick It Out t-shirt, a campaign driven by an awareness programme under the same name:

Football has always been a game built on the grassroots and, on a day when a handful of highly-paid Premiership players headed by Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand postured over racism, it was refreshing to witness non-league Sutton United remind us what is good about the game.

First, they were picking on the wrong target. Any criticism about light punishments for racism – for example in the cases of John Terry or Luis Suarez – must go first and foremost to the football authorities and then to Premiership clubs themselves. Kick It Out are merely a pressure group without power, and one that has consistently been calling for tougher penalties for many a year.

The PFA (Professional Footballers Association) in the UK on 24 October gave a 6-point proposal to curb the issue including the so-called Rooney Rule as highlighted by FootyMatters:

The PFA’s plan calls for:

  • speeding up the process of dealing with reported racist abuse with close monitoring of any incidents,
  • consideration of stiffer penalties for racist abuse and to include an equality awareness programme for culprits and clubs involved,
  • an English form of the ‘Rooney Rule’ – introduced by American football’s National Football League in 2003 – to make sure qualified ethnic minority coaches are on interview lists for job vacancies,
  • the proportion of black coaches and managers to be monitored and any inequality or progress highlighted,
  • racial abuse to be considered gross misconduct in player and coach contracts (and therefore potentially a sackable offence),
  • not losing sight of other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Asians in football.

Ademir to Zizinho wrote a lenghty post about Why English football doesn't need a “Rooney Rule”:

The idea of introducing a “Rooney rule” might seem a panacea to cure football of its current ills. Yet in reality it would simply paper over the fundamental flaws which beset the entire process of appointing managers. England does not just lack a reasonable number of black managers within the football league, it lacks a sensible method of unearthing managers of talent, regardless of their ethnicity.

Rather than a requirement to interview members of ethnic minorities, a far more inclusive amendment would be to interview prospective managers of any race who had not previously held a professional position. That would not only open up the field to members of all ethnicities, it would end the “old boys’ network” that sees failing managers bounce around from club to club based on a long past playing career. Sadly in their attempt to take control of the media agenda, the PFA have instead latched on to another half-baked idea that will benefit nobody.

It's truly about time that the major governing bodies in the game of football took decisive action against this act that smears the beautiful game of football. It has no place in sport in this time and era as the game is truly global as represented by the players playing in most leagues in Europe and other successful leagues.

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