Bosnia’s National Anthem Remains Lost for Words

MPs have little faith that their country’s national anthem will get lyrics any time soon, despite the launch of a fresh initiative on the subject.

MPs from Bosnia’s main parties have dismissed claims that the country – which only got a national anthem 19 years ago under a decision made by the country’s international de facto governor – could soon get lyrics to accompany the tune.

“There is really no text at this moment about which representatives of the three peoples in Bosnia could agree. Consequently, there is no text that parliament could support. I think this initiative is condemned to failure,” Momcilo Novakovic, an MP from the People’s Democratic Movement, said on Tuesday.

He spoke after parliament’s constitutional-legal committee passed an initiative for the country to get lyrics for the national anthem to parliament on Monday. The initiative was launched by Sarajevo’s cantonal assembly.

Bosnia is one of a few countries in Europe, together with Spain, whose national anthem has no official words.

In 1999, Bosnian authorities adopted the song Intermeco [Interlude] written by Dusan Sestic, a Bosnian composer living in Banja Luka. But they failed to agree on words to go with the anthem.

Barisa Colak, Bosnia’s Justice Minister, from the ranks of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, said an agreement on words could emerge in the end. “I am not optimistic but it is not impossible,” Colak said on Tuesday.

A parliamentary commission in 2009 accepted lyrics written by Sestic and Benjamin Isovic, which ended with the rousing invocation: “We’re going into the future together.”

But the text immediately triggered a row in public because it did not mention either of the country’s two entities, or its three main ethnic groups, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The country’s state parliament never approved the lines, either.

Semsudin Mehmedovic, an MP from the main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, who unsuccessfully launched a similar initiative in 2016, says he no longer feels optimistic about its chances, given the general political climate.

“As this is an election year and we have very poor political relations, I’m not very optimistic, but it’s worth trying,” Mehmedovic told the press, referring to general elections due in October.

Aleksandra Pandurevic, an MP from the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, the only member of the constitutional-legal committee who voted against the initiative, said on Tuesday that the previous failed attempts to agree on lyrics were one reason why she had refused to pledge her support for the initiative this time.

“This initiative is nothing more than a circus. We have already tried to reach a text for the anthem, and everything has turned into a farce. This time it will be the same,” Pandurevic said.

Public pressure is not much of a factor, as few people in Bosnia feel much attachment to their national anthem. Lack of words is one of the reason for this.

Analysts say the difficulties in reaching a consensus on the words for the anthem reflect the fact that the country remains fragmented by opposing nationalist standpoints.

“They could agree if they wanted to. The text of the anthem is not such a big problem – but it is suitable for ethnic manipulation,” political analyst Srdjan Puhalo told BIRN.

However, he has his own solution. “We should use a lyrics from the famous Bosnian poem Emina,” he said.

“It is a 116-year-old love song about a Bosniak woman from the western side of the town of Mostar, which today is largely inhabited by Bosnian Croats, written by a Bosnian Serb author [Aleksa Santic]. Perfect,” Puhalo concluded.