‘Our state became bankrupt…’
No doubt due to undetected bankrupting radiation, beamed at Greece from an unknown planet hiding behind Pluto. It’s amazing, how that happens. One minute, you’re eating ouzo and drinking olives, and the next – you’re bankrupt! It must happen in some stealthy manner, like male pattern baldness, or the growth of my first wife’s hatred for me.
‘…placing the largest loan…’
They forced us! We didn’t want the money, but they made us take it! We had to! If we didn’t, they said they’d do – well, we can’t quite remember what they said they’d do if we didn’t take their money at once, but it was bad! Terribly bad! We had no choice! We’re victims of Providing Money with Menaces!
– Commenter llamas
… not for Greece, which is screwed regardless of who wins, but rather for the rest of Europe on the basis that cutting a gangrenous limb off is often a good idea.
After all, to yet again use one of my favourite quotes from H. L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard”.
And if ever there was a nation filled with people who deserve to keep getting what they voted for, it is Greece circa 2015.
“Greece versus Europe: who will blink first?” asks the Telegraph. I care not who blinks, or who wins this contest of braggarts. All that matters is that for Greece to be ejected from the Euro would be good for Greece, good for Germany, and a good example for all the peoples of Europe yoked together in this vainglorious folly. Go on Germany, give that Marxist fool Alexis Tsipras a demonstration that your gullibility is not endless. Go on Greece, plough your own furrow and while you are at it give the Eurocrats a demonstration that their most public and cherished commitments can fail. Remember “Black Wednesday”? Far from being a disaster for Britain, that was the day its fortunes began to recover.
As I wrote previously, the city of Sarajevo yesterday commemorated the centenary of the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand with a fairly confused set of events. A member of a not entirely ceremonial royal family and in a sense therefore a political leader was murdered 100 years ago, as was his wife. Neither of them were bad people and the murder was a horrible thing in itself, even without the terrible events that it set off. The city of Sarajevo held events to commemorate this centenary, but there was much ambiguity about what message (if any) were being sent.
Inevitably, the memories of more recent events in Sarajevo were in the air, even if not explicitly spoken about. The assassin Gavrilo Princip was a Serb nationalist and the sides of buildings in Sarajevo are full of holes that were put there by other Serb nationalists for four years during the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996.
However, there are two Sarajevos. The bulk of the city is part of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (not to be confused with the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which it is a constituent entity), and is populated mostly by Bosnian Muslims, with a small Bosnian Croat population also. However, to the east is Istočno Sarajevo (East Sarajevo), which is part of the Serbian Republic (not to be confused with the Republic of Serbia, of which it is not a constituent entity but would probably like to be) and which is populated by Bosnian Serbs. East Sarajevo consists mostly of new housing that was built on the edge of town using international aid money in order to house Serbs from Sarajevo who either fled or where expelled from Sarajevo during the siege. There is no obvious sign that one is crossing the boundary between the two entities when one does, but they are quite separate just the same. Public transport does not cross the border. People from East Sarajevo to not have access to healthcare in the principal hospital in Sarajevo. People from one side do not socialise or work on the other.
If you look more carefully there are differences between what is on the two sides. As I said, the housing in East Sarajevo is mostly new. The housing in nearby neighbourhoods of non-East Sarajevo are older, and the walls of buildings are full of holes where they were hit by shells during the siege. There is a large and new Orthodox Church overlooking the boundary between the two parts of the city. Away from the populated areas but still on the boundary is the base of the EUFOR peacekeeping force. The boundary goes right through its middle.
Although the memory of the siege of 1992-6 was hanging over the events in the historic part of Sarajevo yesterday, allusions were vague. In East Sarajevo, not so much. Public spaces are still being established in that part of town. One of these is a new park. A ceremony was held yesterday to name it “Gavrilo Princip Park”, and a statue of the murderer himself was also unveiled. Thankfully, I suspect, we did not make it to East Sarajevo for that dedication ceremony. However, we did visit the park and the statue today. A few people were posing for photographs with it. Whereas the main commemorating events were deliberately non-provocative, those in East Sarajevo were extraordinarily provocative, and very crude. Also, insane.
Samizdata’s World War 1 correspondent Patrick Crozier and I are presently in Sarajevo, on the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War 1. It has been a slightly peculiar occasion, as nobody – local, or visiting – seems to be quite clear about what exactly is the correct way to commemorate such an event. There are musical events, art exhibitions (mostly only tangentially related to the occasion), conferences, and a vast number of television crews from all around the world looking for people to interview and things to film other than one another, mostly without great success. It has been, a long, hot day, and the journey into Sarajevo from Belgrade (that we made yesterday evening) is a long and tiring one through steep mountain roads, and I lack the strength to write at length now, alas.
However, whatever the correct way of commemorating an event such as this is, my guess is that it does not involve dressing up as the Archduke and/or his wife Sophie and sitting in a similar open car to the one they were riding in when they were murdered on the exact same spot exactly one hundred years earlier.
It was, however, possible to to that in Sarajevo today.
On July 1 next year, Croatia becomes the 28th member of the European Union, and under the terms of the Treaty of Maastricht this new, proud sovereign state – not yet two decades old – must accept the entire corpus of EU law; and she must place her neck in the noose of the single currency. Unlike Britain or Denmark, the Croats have no opt-out. They are now legally obliged to give up the kuna for the euro, and I say, don’t do it, folks. It is not only a mistake. To submit to the euro would be a stunning refusal to learn the grim lessons of recent Balkan history
– Boris Johnson.
Blimey, I can hardly believe I just quoted Mr. Toad. But whilst I share BJ’s sentiments on this, knowing Croatia reasonably well, I suspect there was less opposition to this than one might have expected due to the indigenous Croatian political class being such a dismal collection of pond scum and turds who floated to the top. I think the average Croatian could not see how shifting power away from these wankers could possibly make things worse. And of course they are entirely wrong on that score, as they will eventually discover.
…rather a lot actually.
Michael Totten continued to climb in my estimation after a very good article called The Israel of the Balkans on the interesting parallels between Kosova and Israel.
Michael Totten’s latest bloggage from Iraq is as informative as ever, but the thing that fascinated me most was a brief but interesting discursion into the use of the English word ‘Supermarket’ on a sign in a small town in Iraq.
What struck me about the sign on that store, and on many other stores in Iraq, was the English word “supermarket.” The only people in Saqlawiya who find English helpful are the Marines. And me.
I’ve seen this far beyond Iraq. Even in small towns in Libya – one of the most closed societies in the world – I found store signs in English. The amount of English in a genuinely cosmopolitan city like Beirut is even more striking, though no longer surprising. Beirut, at least, has a huge tourist industry. Imagine how differently you would think about Arabic civilization if small towns in Kansas and Nebraska – not to mention large cities like New York and Chicago – had storefront signs in the Arabic language even though no Arabs live there. Perhaps the word “imperialism” wouldn’t seem so much like a stretch. Of course no one forces Iraqis or Libyans to put English words on their signs, so it’s telling that they do so anyway, and that they did not choose Chinese or Russian.
I disagree with Michael’s use of the word ‘imperialism’ and I think he answers that point himself in the very next sentence. An even more demotic variation on the inexplicable prevalence of English puzzled me many years ago BB (Before Blogging). I spent some time in a few fairly rough parts of Croatia and one can hardly miss the prevalence of racist and sexist graffiti on the communist-era concrete tower blocks. The odd thing is that mixed in with the usually ‘Jebi Se’ varient epithets in Croatian, you will find floridly racist threats or extravagant anatomical references in more or less grammatically correct English. And this in an area that was not exactly a magnet for English speaking tourists, particularly in the middle of the then on-going war.
The huge number of people who speak English in Croatia can be easily explained by the ubiquity of satellite dishes, which is why I often referred to the local Croatian English dialect as MTV English. But that does not answer the question of why in a linguistically and ethnically homogeneous area (such as unlovely New Zagreb in Croatia or Saqlawiya in Iraq), people use written English when there is no commercial or political pressures to do so.
Kosova has declared its independence from Serbia and if ever a people have justification for not trusting the political institutions of another, it is the Kosovars. Perhaps this will, as some fear and other hope, start a wave of reasonable and logical separations… starting with Taiwan maybe?
There is a very interesting article in The Weekly Standard by Stephen Schwartz called The Balkan Front, describing the struggle between Saudi backed Wahhabi Islam and the very moderate Bektashis and Rumi Sufi traditions in various parts of the Balkans.
These are forms of Islam antithetical to the Wahhabis, and they are in the majority in places like Bosnia-Herzegovina (I have gotten drunk with enough Bosnians to know). Supporting them politically, financially and militarily, plus encouraging them to evangelise in areas infested by the Wahhabi pestilence, is surely a strategic move that should be supported by anyone who sees the spread of intolerant radical Islam as one of the major threats to civilisation in the world today.
This is a subject on which the Serbian, Bosnian and Albanian governments, not to mention peoples, should be making common cause. It is in the interests of everyone who wants stability in the Balkans to oppose the presence of corrosive Wahhabi Islam and the Islamo-fascist politics that come with it. Tolerating Saudi money flooding into the region is like someone prone to cancer smoking cigarettes but given the areas fratricidal recent past, perhaps the malign Saudis can do a service by providing the Balkans’ fractious factions with something long needed: a legitimate and loathsome common enemy.
The Balkans have been very quiet for what seems to be the longest time. Or, if not exactly quiet, then so overshadowed by other events that I had almost forgotten about them. Almost. But I have always regarded the region as an occasionally dormant volcano as opposed to a dead one.
In that context, this rather gloomy editorial from the Asia Times is worth reading:
When the outcome of a tragedy is known in advance, it finds ways of occurring earlier than expected. In this case, the fate of 100,000 Serbian Christians who remain in Kosovo may pre-empt the debate over Europe’s eventual absorption into the Muslim world.
The author makes no attempt to disguise his own sympathies so caveat lector.
I sometimes wonder how the last Balkan war would have played out without the NATO (read American) intervention. Very differently I suspect. In the event of another eruption, does the USA have the available resources and sufficient political will to perform an encore?
No doubt Harold Pinter will be sad that his favourite masss murderer and communist/national socialist despot has snuffed it but my guess is that they will be celebrating in the streets in Croatia, much of Bosnia and in more the rational circles in Serbia.
Good riddence to bad rubbish.