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: 079 - (01/12/03)
Bitter memories of conflict
The Muslim Bosnians are grieving over the death of Alija Izetbegovic, their former leader who was also a former president of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation. He withdrew from political life in October, 2001.
Among tributes was one by former US president Clinton, who had just visited Potocari to join in the commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Moslems in 1995, in which 8,000 people were killed by Bosnian Serb militia. The Bosnian Serb leader at the time, Radovan Karadzic, who ordered it, and General Ratko Mladic, who implemented it, are still at large. Until they are arrested and sent to The Hague, there will be a running sore in the body politic of the federation.
History is a present reality in Bosnia. There is a pressing need to draw a line under the war, which saw 240,000 people die and one and a half million left homeless.
Money for war crimes court
The international community is pledging $21.9 million to establish a war crimes court in Bosnia to lighten the load of the UN Yugoslav tribunal in The Hague, due to finish its work in 2010.
The US will give $9.4 million to support the new War Crimes Chamber, which will operate within Bosnia's state court system and prosecute low-level offenders from the war of 1992-95.About $38 million will be needed for the first five years. The court is due to open in 2004.
As the UN tribunal strives to handle dozens of cases in just three court rooms, the special court in Bosnia will meet a deadline for concluding all trials by 2008 and appeals by 2010. The tribunal's president, Theodor Meron, has warned that the deadline is optimistic, with 17 suspects still at large and more indictments expected.
Ashdown to the rescue
The International High Representative (IHR) in Bosnia is the former head of the UK Liberal-Democratic Party, Lord Ashdown. He is familiarising himself with the grave problems of the nation under his rule and learning Serbo-Croat to add to his Chinese. His military experience as a commando is lending him an authority which helps to ensure the peace, sustained by the presence of 12,000 international peace-keepers, troops from many countries.
He has his critics, however. In a scathing critique of seven years of Western efforts to turn Bosnia into a liberal-democracy a new report by the think tank on Balkan affairs, The European Stability Initiative (ESI), based in Berlin and Sarajevo, singles out Ashdown for rebuke for turning Bosnia into 'a European Raj,' deploying the methods of the British in India in the nineteenth century. They say that the sweeping powers vested in the Office of the High Representative are enfeebling the state, discouraging local political initiative and entrenching a culture of dependency. "You can't create a stable democracy by these authoritarian methods," says Gerald Knaus, director of the ESI and one of the report's authors. "There's a fundamental flaw in the system."
The criticism is more of his office, than of Ashdown personally, although he is accused of making greater use of his untrammelled powers as 'a benevolent despot.' On average he has been imposing 14 decrees per month since taking over in May, 2002, compared with four in 1999. His spokesman John Braithwaite, says that the correct number is 11.
The main contention is that there are no checks and balances on Ashdown's powers and no accountability, either nationally or internationally. The Office "can dismiss presidents, prime ministers, judges, and mayors without having to submit its decisions for review. It can veto candidates for ministerial positions without publicly to present any evidence. It can impose legislation and create new institutions without having to estimate the cost to the Bosnian taxpayer. The IHR is not accountable to any elected institution at all."
While theses draconian powers might have been necessary in the immediate aftermath of war, they are now excessive and stultifying of local democracy, the report claims. Greater powers need to be exercised by elected Bosnian politicians.
Ashdown's officials concede that his sweeping powers "stunt the political development of the country," but opinion polling undertaken by his office has shown that there is broad support for his powers to force the pace of reform.
One particularly controversial use of them has been to accelerate judicial reform. There was a large-scale purge of judges and prosecutors by his predecessors last year. Ashdown is trying to create a depoliticised, impartial and competent judicial system. Mr Braithwaite said that Bosnia's own politicians are too venal and corrupt to be entrusted with the job themselves. The controversy is likely to go on. At least nobody is denying that there is a forceful ruler in Sarajevo, intervening in a hands-on manner in even routine economic and political decisions. Afghanistan could do with that and perhaps the Central Asian state will be seen as an eventual arena for the British administrator's talents.
Saudi Arabian investor to build five-star hotel in Bosnian capital
The Foreign Investment Promotion Agency of Bosnia-Herzegovina [FIPA] announced on 5th November that an investor from Saudi Arabia will be constructing a five-star hotel in Sarajevo, HINA News Agency has reported.
The announcement said that the team of experts of Saudi Prince Al-Walid Bin-Talal Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Sa'ud informed FIPA that a decision had been reached to purchase the building known as "Jajce kasarna."
This building, built on the commanding heights in the old part of Sarajevo, served as a military barracks for decades.
In the course of the last war this building was badly damaged so the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation Defence Ministry decided to sell it.
Saudi Arabian investors looked into the possibility of acquisition and decided to buy it.
Former Yugoslav premier promotes power plant construction projects in Bosnia
Pre-war Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Markovic, said on 3rd November that he was in BiH [Bosnia-Herzegovina] to promote hydro-power plant construction projects and their use in exporting energy from BiH, Onasa News Agency web site has reported.
"I am very pleased that a group of people from BiH have turned to me and asked me to work on the project," Markovic told a news conference in Sarajevo, held ahead of his meeting with the BiH authorities on 4th November.
"I am not making any offers, but am expecting to hear offers. Somebody has to officially offer me something, so that I could state whether I am ready for the appointment, and in what form," Markovic elaborated.
He took the opportunity to remind the reporters of successful projects in BiH he had taken part in before the war by agreeing on projects on behalf of the Rade Koncar company from Zagreb, especially with regard to the construction of hydro-power plants on the Neretva River in Herzegovina.
According to Markovic, the amount of the investments to be negotiated during his present visit to BiH ranges between 700m and 1bn euros, while the construction of hydro-power plants near the towns of Ustikolina, Vranduk, Konjic, Vrpolje and Glavaticevo are expected to be completed within four years.
He went on to say that Italy and the United Kingdom, and also some world and European institutions, have already shown interest in the project.
Speaking about his appointment as the last prime minister of the former Yugoslavia and the economic successes he achieved in the period, Markovic said he doubted an identical concept could now be carried out in Bosnia. "I believe it would have to adjust to the current conditions in BiH. There are no two countries where you can apply identical programmes," he noted.
The former SFRJ [Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] prime minister also said that in the early 1990s he had intensive talks and cooperation with [former Bosnian president] Alija Izetbegovic, and could not possibly evaluate his conduct negatively and bring into question his charisma.
IMF to withhold loans if Bosnian Serbs insist on pension increase - Ashdown
High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, reiterated on 11th November in Sarajevo that because of the decision adopted by the [Bosnian] Serb Republic authorities on increases in pensions and wages of civil servants, coming into effect on 15th November, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would not grant US$17m worth of credits to BiH, Onasa News Agency web site has reported.
"This decisions represents a 'lethal' danger for financial stability and the European future of BiH, since the RS has not the funds it pledged at its disposal," Ashdown told reporters in Sarajevo
Implementation of this decision would breech the agreements BiH concluded with the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union, and BiH would become the first country which failed to meet conditions of the stand-by arrangements.
All this could, according to Ashdown, leave BiH without hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid and investments, and it would be very hard to re-establish cooperation with the IMF.
The Office of the High Representative called on the RS Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic and the RS Government to rescind this decision and to try and find a more rational solution, since they are not capable of fulfilling their promise and to raise funds for viable and long-term implementation of the decision in question.
Ashdown said that he was aware of difficult position of employed persons and pensioners in the RS, but that such a situation could not be overcome by decisions without back up.
Should the RS Government fail to rescind the announced decision, Ashdown stated that he would use his authority, but would not reveal in which way.
RS Prime Minister Mikerevic held talks with British Ambassador to BiH, Ian Cliff, saying that the decision on increase in pensions and wages in the RS would not jeopardize the macroeconomic stability of
Bosnia ready to cooperate with Croatia in building Corridor Vc
The Bosnia-Herzegovina Council of Ministers on 6th November formulated the final text of a reply to the Croatian government's letter of intent dated August 2003, in which it expressed readiness to finance and draw up preparatory documentation for the construction of a section of the Corridor Vc, 330 kilometres of which goes through Bosnia, HINA News Agency has reported.
The Bosnian government confirmed the country's interest in Croatia's bid and moved for a meeting of experts to detail all technical and financial issues.
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