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Sensemaker: Bosnia

Sensemaker: Bosnia

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Gunmen and a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people and wounded 50 others in an attack on a military hospital in Kabul.
  • Pfizer boosted this year’s revenue outlook for its Covid vaccine to $36 billion, after the US approved the company’s jab for 5 to 11 year olds (more below).
  • Australian police found a four-year-old girl, Cleo Smith, who was missing for 18 days in a remote part of the country. A 36-year-old man is in custody.

Bosnia

Bosnia is facing a “very real” prospect of a return to conflict and “the greatest existential threat of the postwar period”. The assessment is from a report Christian Schmidt, the international community’s chief representative in the country, sent to the UN. It’s based on a threat by Serb separatists to recreate their own army.

The last time they had one, during the 1992-95 Bosnian War, thousands of Muslim Bosniaks and Croats died in concentration camps run by Serb forces. At Srebrenica alone, 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered, an act of genocide unseen since the Second World War.

The background. The Bosnian war was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia. It started when Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats voted for independence in a referendum that Serbs boycotted. The EU recognised Bosnia’s independence, the Serbs besieged the capital Sarajevo, occupied 70 per cent of the country, and killed and persecuted Muslims and Croats to create a Serb Republic.

The war ended after 3 years and 8 months and over 101,000 deaths, mainly Bosniaks, with the Dayton Accords. The peace deal saw Bosniaks and Serbs agree to a single sovereign state, but one divided into a largely Serb-populated Republika Srpska and a Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina populated mainly by Bosniaks and Croats. Serbs and Croat nationalists opposed the arrangement, and Bosniaks opposed the ethnic federal structure that recognised Republika Srpska’s self-governing rights. The tense peace has held since, but is now under threat.

Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader and a Bosniak-genocide denier, said he wanted to leave state-level institutions and the multi-ethnic national army. He has been beating his chest. On 22 October, the Bosnian Serb police held an “anti-terrorist” drill – involving armoured vehicles, helicopters, camouflage, and assault rifles – in an area from where the Bosnian Serb military shelled and sniped Sarajevo during the war.

Dodik’s aim is to secede from Bosnia without a Muslim population, and join Belgrade next door to form a “Greater Serbia”. He’s been working to disrupt and degrade Bosnia’s democracy for years – with the Kremlin’s backing. Just as Russia tried to stop Montenegro and North Macedonia from joining Nato, it openly threatened Bosnia over its ambitions to join the western military alliance, calling it a “hostile act”. Putin considers Dodik an ally, and Schmidt’s UN role as an example of Western meddling.

The UN Security Council will vote this week on whether to renew the mandates of the country’s remaining EU peacekeeping force – Eufor, which is 700 strong – and of Nato’s Sarajevo base. Russia has threatened to block both renewals unless Schmidt’s report is, effectively, dropped. Whichever way the vote goes, the international community needs to intervene, this time, before the violence starts.

“The US, EU and UK must clearly state that the redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans is over and that secessionism will not be tolerated,” Baroness Arminka Helić, a member of the international relations committee in the House of Lords and a former Bosnian refugee, tells the Sensemaker. “Nato must be ready to deploy troops in Bosnia and repel any attempt at endangering peace and security there.”

All we have so far was last week’s visit to Bosnia by Claudio Graziano, the chairman of the EU Military Committee, who said: “I bring a message from all the 27 that there is support for the [unified] armed forces”. Nato has yet to comment.


Belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries

Virginia
Virginia elected Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, as governor. The vote was seen as a test of the popularity of Joe Biden, who won Virginia by 10 points in the presidential election.  While Youngkin made a point of not mentioning Trump during his campaign, his central promise was to reform the state’s schools. He made false claims that critical race theory – which looks at how laws perpetuate racial inequalities, and a red rag to many Republicans – is rampant in Virginia’s schools. In fact, it’s not taught. “This might be a huge wake-up call to Democrats”, Manisha Singh, an analyst, tells the Guardian. “We always play nice when the other party spreads lies. We need to be more aggressive.” The midterms are exactly a year away.


New things technology, science, engineering

Facestop
Facebook said it will be stopping its facial-recognition system in the coming weeks. The tool, which automatically recognised users in photos and videos, was important in sharing content across the platform. But it worried privacy advocates and regulators. The Federal Trade Commission cited Facebook’s facial-recognition technology in its $5 billion settlement with the company over its privacy practices. Facebook reached a $550 million settlement with Illinois, which alleged the company used the technology on its residents without their consent. The decision to drop facial recognition surprised many observers, but it must be placed in the context of these financial penalties – and the series of damning leaks that showed Facebook executives knew the platform caused serious social harm but did nothing about it. Much like an energy company nowadays, Facebook is divesting itself of its toxic, polluting assets.


The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY

Pfizer for kids
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally endorsed Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. The move is expected to control a potential surge of infections as schools remain open through the winter and indoor gatherings become more common. The CDC estimates that every million doses given to 5 to 11-year-old children will prevent about 58,000 infections and 226 hospitalisation in this age group and, by reducing the rate of transmission, a further 600,000 infections overall. Pfizer raised this year’s expected revenue outlook for its vaccine to $36 billion based on the news.


Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics

Gfanz
Gfanz, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, said it has $130 trillion of private money committed to reaching net zero emissions targets by 2050. The coalition – which is composed of more than 450 banks, insurers, and asset managers across 45 countries, and is led by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney – said it could deliver $110 trillion of the money to help economies move to net zero over the next three decades. The dollar numbers are large, but campaigners pointed out that they’re still a fraction of the sums that these financial institutions control. Many still have fossil fuel holdings. The FT reported last month that the banks in Gfanz resisted the International Energy Agency’s most urgent roadmap for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

For the latest from Cop26, just opt in to our daily Net Zero Sensemaker.


Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity

Fraudball
Swiss prosecutors charged Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini – former officials of Fifa, football’s world governing body – with fraud, misappropriation, criminal mismanagement, and forgery. The charges centre on a transfer of £1.6 million that Blatter arranged to Platini in 2011. Platini said the payment was for advice he gave Blatter who was then Fifa’s president. But prosecutors noted that the payment came more than eight years after the termination of Platini’s advisory work. Blatter said the payment was based on a verbal agreement and was delayed because Fifa didn’t have enough money to pay at the time. Both were banned from football for a few years. They’ll now be tried at a court in Bellinzona and are facing prison sentences of several years or fines.

Thanks for reading, and do share this around.

Paul Caruana Galizia
@pcaruanagalizia

Produced by Phoebe Davis and edited by Giles Whittell.

Photographs Getty Images, EPA/Shutterstock