A surprise visit from President of Bosnia!

We had 2 planned visits today – first, with Elvir Camdzic, the chief foreign policy advisor to Bakir Izetbegović, the Bosniak President of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH).  

The presidency of BiH is a tri-partite entity, with one Bosniak (or Muslim), one Serb, and one Croat.  All 3 are elected at the same time and serve for a 4-year term, collectively.  All 3 people serve as “President” for 8 months at a time, on a rotating basis.  The current ‘troika’ of presidents was elected in 2010. 

The politics of BiH are so complicated that even in planning our visits with speakers we have to work around the politics.  Should we meet with advisors to all 3 different presidents?  Even those advisors recommended against that – saying that such collective discussions with foreigners (like us) just doesn’t work.  So, we were very happy to have time with Mr. Camdzic. 

We were only about 5 minutes into our 90 minute meeting and the door is pushed open and in marches the president himself! Bakir Izetbegović, Bosniak President of BiH! 

President Izetbegović, who also is the son of BiH’s first President, Alija Izetbegović, came in and spent enough time to ask who we were, where we were all from in the US, and take a bunch of pictures together.  I’m waiting to get some of those so I can post them here!

After that whirlwind visit, we got back to detailed conversations with Elvir.  Topics included constitutional reform (or lack thereof), EU accession and the “carrots and sticks” being used to push BiH toward the EU in the future, and BiH youth as the hope for future integration (or re-integration) of the various ethnicities and ideologues. 

After this meeting, we quickly made it to the BiH Parliament building, for our next meeting – with the Parliamentary committee leaders responsible for constitutional change.  Again, it was very clear that there will be no real change to the “Dayton Constitution”, i.e., the BiH constitution as implemented in 1995 when the Dayton Accords put a halt to the massacres and genocide and horrors of the Bosnian war. 

The 2 MPs we met are Sefik Dzaferoic, the Bosniak representative, (man on Left, above pic) and Lazar Prodanovic, the Serbian representative (man on Right).  The meeting was great due to both men’s honest assessments, their friendly disagreements, as well as their agreements.  Again, we had a thorough discussion on a wide range of topics.  It was important to hear the disagreements and diverging perspectives.  Students got to ask a lot of questions and we had nearly 2 hours with these men.

And finally, tonight I started a “dinner with the prof”, so I can get to know the students better by going out in small groups (4-6) and so they can have me to themselves, outside the confines of the bigger group (of 22 students).  My first invitation came tonight and it worked great.  I look forward to the next dinner out!  (all these are “Dutch treat”, of course)


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