Paying the price

The recent opening of the new Greece-Bosnia and Herzegovina Friendship Building in Sarajevo by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, after it was rebuilt virtually from scratch with funds from the Hellenic Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB), was not given much attention due to the catastrophic fires in Greece. Before the war, the 24-story building housed the offices of Bosnia’s federal government and during the siege of the city was under almost permanent fire from the paramilitary units of Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his general, Ratko Mladic, entrenched in the hills surrounding the city. Athens wanted to underline its wish to be part of the international effort to rebuild the former Yugoslavia and at the same time to heal the breach in relations between the two countries arising from Greece’s pro-Serb stance during the war. Underneath the warm reception given to the Greek prime minister, there was a sense of suspicion, if not disapproval, surrounding the visit. For Muslims and Croats, who form the majority of the country’s population, Greeks had taken the side of the Serbs and are therefore among the enemy. So it came as no surprise that a Bosnian journalist questioned the Greek prime minister about Athens’s reaction to the prosecution of Greek mercenaries who took part in the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, nor that eggs were thrown at the site after the ceremony. Unfortunately, it appears that we Greeks are still paying for our unrestricted support for Serb nationalism during the Yugoslavia crisis. Our fondness for (former Serb leader Slobodan) Milosevic has made us the enemy of the Muslims, the Croats, the Albanian Kosovars and the Slav-Macedonians – that is, all the other peoples of the southwestern Balkans. Was it worth it?