Bosnian president talks politics, European Union membership at University

In an address at the University on Tuesday afternoon, the head of state of Bosnia-Herzegovina outlined the politics of his country and its pursuit of joining the European Union.

Chairman of the three-member Bosnian presidency Zeljko Komsic spoke at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science during a day-long stop in Champaign-Urbana. His remarks preceded a roundtable discussion, “Bosnians in the U.S.: Communities, Connections, and Homelands,” which was led by faculty and staff across several departments that study Bosnian culture and politics.

Sponsors included the Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Center; the European Union Center; the University library; and the Slavic languages and literatures department.

Komsic was at the U.N. General Assembly last week in New York, and he remained in the U.S. to travel to St. Louis, Chicago and other cities with large Bosnian communities. He stopped in Champaign-Urbana on his way from St. Louis to Chicago, where he will speak with the Bosnian community there.

His remarks coincide with a developing partnership between the University and BosTel, a Chicago-based Bosnian television station, said Judith Pintar, a visiting assistant professor of Slavic languages and literatures.

She said the partnership will lead to a Bosnian media archive in the International and Area Studies Library at the University. Because Chicago maintains a large Bosnian population, the University’s Slavic languages and literatures department hopes to build a relationship with the community there, she said.

Negotiations to admit the Balkan country into the European Union are at a stalemate because Bosnia-Herzegovina has not met certain political and economic conditions set by the union. According to a European Court of Human Rights ruling, the current constitution discriminates against minorities.

“There is no one way for Bosnia and Herzegovina to enter the European Union,” Komsic said through a translator.

He said the ethnic divides within the country present numerous challenges for governance, which is why Bosnia has not acceded to the European Union.

The three major ethnic groups of Bosnia — the Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats — remain segregated, which is why the presidency of the country includes one elected official from each group. The last census in the country took place over a decade ago, so the exact ethic composition of the country is not available.

In 1995, the country emerged from a three-year civil war, which began when Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in 1992 after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The armed conflict, which crossed ethnic lines, ended after peace negotiations held in Dayton, Ohio.

Ryan can be reached at [email protected] and @ryanjweber.