Best columns: Europe
A state riven by ethnic mistrust
Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin
La Libre (Belgium)
“Can Bosnia-Herzegovina still be considered a state?” asked Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin. The 1995 peace deal that ended the country’s three-year civil war created a complicated political arrangement to prevent another flare-up of ethnic violence. It split Bosnia into two entities, a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb republic, and established an unwieldy three-member presidency of one Bosnian Muslim, one Bosnian Croat, and one Bosnian Serb. Last week, the Serb entity stopped cooperating with the federal government, furious at the decision by the presidency’s Muslim member to appeal a 2007 U.N. court ruling that cleared the nation of Serbia of genocide during Bosnia’s civil war. The International Court of Justice found only one act of genocide, the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces, and said Belgrade was not directly responsible for it. Bosnian Serbs say appealing the ruling against their wishes is a violation of the peace deal. They say they will consult with Belgrade on a response, which indicates that they still see their allegiance as due not to Bosnia but to Serbia. Indeed, last month, Bosnian Serb units of the federal Bosnian Army participated in banned celebrations of the Serb republic’s national holiday. If the “strangely paralyzed international community” doesn’t intervene, the country could break apart.
Litigiousness will ruin our walks
The Irish Times
Walking the “sublime Irish countryside” is one of our greatest pleasures and tourist draws, said John O’Dwyer. So we mustn’t spoil the practice by allowing landowners to be sued whenever hikers injure themselves. That appalling precedent was set last year, when hiker Teresa Wall was awarded some $42,000 in damages after she tripped and fell on a boardwalk in the Wicklow Mountains. Landowners promptly closed their property to walkers, as the landscape “blossomed with ‘no access’ signs.” Fortunately, the High Court overturned the decision last month, noting that Wall had failed to look where she was going. But property owners aren’t reassured. The ruling leaves open the possibility of litigation if walkers are paying attention but, say, a stile breaks underneath them. Perhaps landholders will “now abstain from improving trails,” fearful that anything they build can be used against them. The law should be amended to relieve them of responsibility. Remember, we are allowed to walk this land only because of the “goodwill of landowners,” most of whom are small farmers. They already risk their crops and livestock by letting tourists cross their property. “To expect them to also carry the cost of insurance against the accidents of recreationalists is a step too far.”