24 January 2015

Applying the Bosnian Model to the European Union

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a broken country. No questions about it. It was broken by the fall of Yugoslavia, but bearing the brunt of the Yugoslav wars and now by the separation into national entities. Its a place where latent conflict still lurks and which hangs together by a thin thread of heavy bureaucracy and legislature which is so prevalent in many lives of BIH citizens.

But there a silver lining. Bosnia is a micro representation of the European Union as a whole, a real life testing bed for European ideas and models. The EU has long and bloody history of conflicts,ethnic cleansing and old grudges popping up after five minutes of talking to a national of another EU country.

With so many languages and cultures living in the same place going about and handling business across the EU its not that easy. Especially the language issue. Lets face it , English is the lingua franca of the world and if you want to hop about the EU the only language you really need is English. It helps to know the local language but how can you expect a single person to be fluid in all the twenty something national languages of the union?

In Bosnia there are three main languages :

  • Croatian
  • Serbian
  • Bosnian
with a small caveat that those three languages are virtually identical. If you are a speaker of any of those three languages you can go and communicate with speakers of the other two languages without much issues. The grammar is mostly the same and the vocabulary is virtually 80% identical. But if I was required to write and speak perfect Serbian or Bosnian I wouldn't be able to. 

The solution is multilingualism. All three languages are equally official.In practice you can get official papers and fill official forms using any script (Cyrillic or Latin) and language of choice. The only caveat being that you need to stick to your chosen form.

On the EU level its a nightmare to work with the local government of the country who's language you don't know. In general you have to provide translations for everything. Its costs money, and its time consuming.

The solution for the Union would be to supplement the local language with English as the official one. You can seamlessly fill forms, sign documents and communicate with either the official local languages or using English.

As Europeans we all still to national oriented, we keep our cultures close and take it to personally anything that could endanger our perceived cultural values. But in order for the union to work we need to transcend our cultural boundaries, egos and national values and be programmatic about how the union works. Our system needs to enable the seamless protocol of ideas, people and business without introducing to much administrative, legislative and procedural overhead. Its bloody difficult just by it self to work on such a scale. We really don't need to make it more difficult.

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