Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Once Upon A Time In Herceg-Dalmatia

Far more important to the Big Picture than details of Severina's love life is the proposal, reported in Večernji list today, to turn certain adjacent areas of Croatia and Bosnia into a Euroregion.

The rationale of a Euroregion is to connect municipalities on either side of a border, improve co-operation, promote common interests, and give local councillors something to do. The thriving Alpe-Adria organisation, linking up town halls in adjacent regions of Austria, Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia, isn't a Euroregion itself, but gives the general idea.

As the newspaper presents it, the proposed new Euroregion would include two counties in Croatia (Split-Dalmatia and Dubrovnik-Neretva), and three from BiH (Western Herzegovina, Herzegovina-Neretva, and Herceg-Bosna). The project's main advocate seems to be the Split-Dalmatian župan Luka Brčić, who tells VL that 'Regional connection is a trend in contemporary Europe. If we want to be part of that Europe, of course such cooperation will be inevitable in the future..'

Supporters of the project are reported as saying that the proposal isn't a revival of Croatian Herceg-Bosna but 'an economic and cultural connection with adjacent counties in the Republic of Croatia (RH) '. Although, to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies, they would say that, and reader comments on VL's online edition are predictably ranging from 'IF HERZEGOVINA FELL, WHAT WOULD BECOME OF CROATIA?' to 'We've had enough of Dinaric-Balkan terrorism and primitivism. Dalmatia belongs to the Mediterranean circle of regions, and you'd push us into the BALKANS.'

Whatever the economic and cultural realities of Dalmatian-Herzegovinan transnationalism, so strong is the 'symbolic geography' of Herzegovina in the Croatian imagination - and the contested memories of 1990s nationalist adventurism in precisely these parts of BiH - that, if the idea is more than a filler on a slow news day, it isn't likely to slip quietly under the media radar.

As for Herzegovinan-Croatian 'cultural cooperation, wait until the release of the next Thompson album (portentously titled Bilo jednom u Hrvatskoj (Once upon a time in Croatia)) to hear more than anybody ever needed about that.

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