Welcome (back) to Sarajevo
Can a city in Europe be considered an emerging market? It can when it still suffers from a brutal civil war that ended less than 20 years ago. Sarajevo was at the heart of that war and still struggles to emerge from it. This quick blog-entry comes between some field research and a lecture. I’ve been doing both, off-and-on here, since the mid 1990s; hence, the double entendre of the title, which plays off the film, Welcome to Sarajevo. That’s not a bad film, I might add; especially if you are not familiar with the political and military events and ethnic cleansing that bludgeoned Sarajevo and the entirety of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the category of recovering or emerging market. Below, I share some quick observations on my first day back to Sarajevo, since 2009.
Flight from Munich was full: among the passengers were German (and other EU) businesspersons; policy wonks; many “Bosniaks” that have resettled in Chicago and are returning to visit family or to vacation; interestingly, a high school orchestra from San Jose, California, which will perform at the State Theatre; yours truly. We symbolize trends and sources of hope: foreign direct investment, peace and reconciliation with the past, cultural rebirth, and hope through education, outreach and EU/global integration. A Turkish airlines plane was moored in the jetway next to our arriving Lufthansa plane. The Turks also are investing heavily here.
Lots of construction and new buildings noticed on ride from airport; no apparent master plan, if it exists, for urban development. Old Sarajevo – the “Turkish” and “Austrian” sections – remains a big draw for tourists and locals. Lots of promotion for cultural events – concerts, galleries, etc. the city is very much alive. Clear presence of the ubiquitous global brands is obvious. The new — and trendy, localized, and swank – McCafé, for example, has opened and is popular. So swank and local, in fact, that I opted to go global and local at this McCafé, for my morning Latte. Lots to feel good about, on several measures.
This quick glance suggests that Sarajevo is indeed a (re)emerging market: emerging from the war and emerging from the unique model of socialism and self-management that was found in Yugoslavia. Friends however inform me the political apparatus remains dysfunctional at best and fundamentally corrupt at worst, which stifles Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This problem is considered to be a greater threat to sustainable well-being than are tensions among Bosniaks (Muslims), Croats (Roman Catholics) and Serbs (Orthodox Christians). The dysfunction retards the country’s efforts to join the EU. Yes, the EU has its own dysfunctions, but the overarching model – inclusion, high standards, transparency, accountability and so forth – are beacons for forward thinking Sarajevans. Talking to people in the streets and at the University of Sarajevo ( http://radiosarajevo.ba/novost/116922/profesor-shultz-iz-chicaga-treba-vremena-za-oporavak-zemlje), membership in that club – or the changes required to join it — remains the true measure of whether this country truly has re-emerged.