Sunday 21 December 2014

Archduke shooting marked in Bosnia

Published 28/06/2014 | 14:22

A couple walk past a poster of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, in the Bosnian town of Visegrad (AP)
A couple walk past a poster of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, in the Bosnian town of Visegrad (AP)
People look at a mosaic depicting Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian-Serb nationalist who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 (AP)

Artists and diplomats have declared a new century of peace and unity in Europe in the city where the first two shots of the First World War were fired 100 years ago.

On June 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, where he had come to inspect his occupying troops in the empire's eastern province.

The shots fired by Serb teenager Gavrilo Princip sparked a war, followed decades later by a second world conflict, costing 80 million European lives in total.

On Saturday, Austria was represented in Bosnia not with military might but by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performing works of European composers reflecting the century's catastrophic events.

The programme concluded with the joint European hymn, Beethoven's Ode of Joy.

Visiting the assassination site on Saturday, Sarajevan Davud Bajramovic, 67, said that in order to hold a second of silence for every person killed just during the First World War in Europe, "we would have to stand silently for two years".

The continent's violent century started in Sarajevo and ended in Sarajevo with the 1992-95 war that took 100,000 Bosnian lives.

The splurge of centennial concerts, speeches, lectures and exhibitions on Saturday were mostly focused on creating lasting peace and promoting unity in a country that is still struggling with similar divisions as it did 100 years ago.

The rift was manifested by the Serbs marking the centennial by themselves in the part of Bosnia they control, where performances would be held re-enacting the assassination.

For them, Princip was a hero who saw Bosnia as part of the Serb national territory at a time when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The same idea inspired the Serbs in 1992 to fight the decision by Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats to declare the former republic of Bosnia independent when Serb-dominated Yugoslavia fell apart. Their desire is still to include the part of Bosnia they control into neighbouring Serbia.

French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levy said Europe owes Bosnia because it "stood idly by" as Serb nationalists bombed besieged multi-ethnic Sarajevo for three-and-a-half years.

Mr Levy started a petition on Saturday among European intellectuals requesting the EU to "pay Bosnia back" by promptly giving it full membership in the European Union because it defended European values by itself 20 years ago.

"What Europe will gain from Bosnia is part of its spirit, part of its soul," he said, referring to efforts of some Bosnians to preserve the multi-ethnic character of the country and resist national division.

Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic said he considered going to Sarajevo but gave up after realising he would have to stand beside a plaque depicting Serbs as criminals.

Karl von Habsburg, the grandson of the last Austrian emperor Charles I, was also attending the ceremonies.

"We need united Europe and one thing is for sure: Europe will never be complete without Bosnia," he stated.

Press Association

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