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Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of sovereignty in October 1991, was followed by a referendum for independence from the former Yugoslavia in February 1992. The Bosnian Serbs - supported by neighboring Serbia - responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas to form a "greater Serbia." In March 1994, Bosniaks and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement creating a joint
Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 21 November 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties signed a peace agreement that brought to a halt the three years of interethnic civil strife (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995). The Dayton Agreement retained Bosnia and Herzegovina's international boundaries and created a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government. This national government is charged with conducting foreign, economic, and fiscal policy. Also recognized was a second tier of government comprised of two entities roughly equal in size: the
Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska (RS). The Federation and RS governments are charged with overseeing internal functions. In 1995-96, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force
(IFOR) of 60,000 troops served in Bosnia to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement. IFOR was succeeded by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force
(SFOR) whose mission is to deter renewed hostilities. SFOR remains in place at a level of approximately 21,000 troops.
Update No: 071 - (27/03/03)
The Bosnians are alarmed at the news of the assassination of Serb Premier Djindjic in early March. Could something similar happen in their confederation?
Probably not is the answer. One advantage of having 20,000 peacekeepers on the spot is that it makes life difficult for gangsters and rogue elements, linked to former security forces as often as not, Djindjic was widely hated by many close to the old regime and dispatched, their hero Milosevic to the Hague. Nobody played an equivalent role in Bosnia, indeed the top war criminals in the former Bosnian Serb administration have still not been apprehended and are at large.
Having a terrible civil war which killed 240,000 and displaced one and a half million people at least makes one wary of violence for a generation of two, excepting those settling scores.
Ashdown to the rescue
Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, is now the International High Representative in Bosnia; a wise choice for he is doing a good job. As an ex-commando he understands the mentality of Bosnian para-militaries and as an ex-party leader how to give firm leadership. He is indefatigably stumping the country to explain the need for order and reform, with ongoing relocation of refuges and consolidation of democracy. The job is a demanding one, but he's proving his worth.
New business initiative
The obvious way forward is to improve the economy. Ashdown has enacted 50 amendments to the commercial legislation of the country to aid business initiatives. This move was concerted with the business community, organised in the Bulldozer Committee, which Ashdown established to shake things up in November.
The common theme, as Ashdown told a press conference in Sarajevo, was that "many of the problems faced by Bosnia-Herzegovina's businesspeople are actually caused by legislation, not solved by legislation."
An example of counterproductive legislation was given by Bosnian businessman Tomislav Grizelji who said that under current law "an employer that wants to build any kind of building in order to extend its business has to pay a fee for the maintenance of an atomic bomb shelter."
According to Ashdown none of the proposed 50 amendments "involves a change to legislation that would diminish safety standards or diminish product quality control or diminish the basic requirement which all business people must fulfil." Together with members of the Bosnian business community, Ashdown called on Bosnian authorities to apply the changes in the next 40 days.
The Iraqi end-game
Ashdown's style of governance, with his consultative Bulldozer Committee, is a possible model for how the US could run Iraq. The setting of the Dayton Agreement in 1995 was an American show and one that has stood the test of time.
There is a case for the US to emulate itself in Iraq, setting a tripartite or quadripartite entity (Kurdish, Sunni, northern Shi'ite and southern Shi'ite segment). Likely to be a more difficult and prolonged operation, the Americans could do worse than ask Ashdown's advice on how to run it.
Tracking down Karadzic and company
The US, NATO and Ashdown are engaged in a man - hunt for Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb war leader, and his accomplices. Karadzic has vowed that he will never be caught. He certainly has powerful protectors. Indeed, according to the Muslim vice president of Bosnia, Adil Osmarovic, Karadzic continues to control the Bosnian Serb government in Banja Luka in north-west Bosnia.
The methods being employed in the operation include blacklisting his supporters, raiding offices, sacking officials and cutting off his money supply. NATO peacekeepers raided the regional Bosnian Serb parliament near Sarajevo, confiscating documents and computers.
Ashdown sacked Milovan Bjelica, the mayor of Pale, a Bosnian Serb stronghold where Karadzic's wife and daughter live. Bjelica is a close associate of Karadzic. He and another intimate of Karadzic, Momcib Mardic, ex-police chief, were banned from entering the US, which has frozen assets of a bank and an oil company they control. The EU is likely to follow suit.
The US ambassador to Bosnia, Clifford Bond, told journalists in Sarajevo: "these people and their companies have provided Karadzic and other war criminals with financial assistance." A senior official of Ashdown's team met with Bosnian Serb bankers as part of the strategy to throttle the complex support network of the fugitive miscreant. "He informed them of the measures the international community was taking against key individuals whose criminal activities were supporting indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic," said Ashdown's office.
Actually, it is highly unlikely that either Karadzic or other wanted war criminals, notably his former war chief, General Ratko Mladic, are hiding in Bosnia. They and their like would fear seizure by the peacekeeping troops. Mladic is thought to be in Serbia, where he is being protected by close allies in the Serb security services. He has been sighted brazenly abroad in Belgrade.
Karadzic has probably gone to ground in his native Montenegro. Indeed, there are indications that he is, or at least was, in the Ostrog Orthodox monastery in the republic. Western peacekeepers cannot of course enter either Serbia proper or Montenegro.
Both men have eluded capture for seven years, being wanted for genocide by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Its chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said on March 6th: "I am tired of asking for the arrest of Mladic, Karadzic and 19 other fugitives."
The new government in Serbia following the assassination of premier Zoran Djindjic in mid-March, may make it easier to track down Mladic. The new premier, Zoran Zivkovic, was interior minister beforehand and has vowed a massive campaign against rogue elements in the security forces complicit with gangsters and war criminals. The capture of Mladic would be a feather in his cap.
Karadzic may well prove far more elusive. Montenegro is itself still a rogue state, suitable for an arch-rogue like Karadzic to survive for a long time. He is not Osama bin Laden with a US$25m price on his head. But one can be sure that there are NATO and EU security forces that would regard his arrest as the crowning glory of their careers.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Bosnia, OPEC sign investment protection accord
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Minister for Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Mila Gadzic, and the general director of the Fund for International Development of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC], Y. Seyyid Abdulai, signed in Sarajevo recently an agreement aiming to improve and protect investments between Bosnia-Herzegovina and OPEC, SRNA News Agency has reported.
"The agreement creates a legal framework for economic cooperation, and guarantees free transfer of money," Mila Gadzic said after the signing ceremony and urged OPEC countries to invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina's economy. The agreement is valid for 10 years, with a possibility of extension...
New pharmaceutical plant in Bosnia
Serbia's largest pharmaceutical concern Hemofarm opened one of its biggest plants in the Bosnian Serb capital of Banja Luka recently, extending the company's production facilities to Bosnia-Herzegovina, New Europe reported.
Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, joined Bosnian Serb President, Dragan Cavic, at the ceremony to open the Hemofarm facility in Banja Luka. According to reports, the Hemofarm Company, based in the Serbian town of Vrsac, together with the Banja Luka-based Cajavec Holdings, invested €9.3m in the new facility.
The new Hemofarm plant in Banja Luka is expected to increase the low export capacities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, producing more than 300m pills per year for both the domestic and international market.
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