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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: 070 - (21/02/03)
A major factor in Bosnian politics is that Greece has assumed the EU presidency for the first six months of 2003. As the scene of the bloodiest of the wars that marked the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia is always going to be high up on anyone's list in Athens of places to watch.
The Greeks have indicated their desire to leave an imprint on EU affairs by drawing attention to the crying needs of the Balkans, with Bosnia as a top priority and Macedonia another given their potentially explosive population mix.
Amnesty call for human rights stand
"The past is a foreign country," said English novelist L.P.Hartley. Well in Bosnia it isn't; it's a very present reality. Not only did 240,000 people die in the 1992-95 wars, leaving distraught relatives behind and grieving spouses and friends, but upwards of a million people were displaced, many of whom have not returned home, while the maimed and disabled are a visible reminder of the terrible conflict.
The appalling crimes committed at the time cannot be just ignored if there is to be a new nation created again. A truth and reconciliation process is required, but that means the truth before reconciliation becomes possible.
The European Union Police Mission (EUPM) set to become operational in Bosnia-Herzegovina, must give high priority to investigating human rights violations during last decade's ethnic conflicts, human rights watchdog, Amnesty International said recently. In a report issued before the official inauguration ceremony of the police force in Sarajevo on January 15th, attended by Javier Solana, EU high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Amnesty said it was "seriously concerned about the apparent lack of a human rights strategy for Bosnia-Herzegovina on the part of the international community." "As long as impunity for crimes of the past persists in the country, true respect for human rights remains elusive," Amnesty's EU Director, Dick Oosting, said.
The EU's new Greek presidency must ensure that EUPM responds to the "quest for justice by thousands of people in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Oosting said. The human rights watchdog called for the establishment of a human rights department in the Bosnian police mission's organisational structure. It also said it wanted specific measures to address the lack of local police investigations into human rights violations and said the EU police mission must support and supervise that task.
More generally, Amnesty urged the EU's Greek presidency to "confront the world's worst human rights crises by placing a higher priority on human rights imperatives." The presidency must also work to guarantee human rights protection in the drive against "terrorism" and "illegal immigration," Amnesty insisted.
Solana later inaugurated the EU police Mission in Bosnia. (EUPM), which actually began operations on January 1st. The EUPM is part of a new phase of police implementation in Bosnia. The EU is taking over from the UN as the organiser of the international community's efforts in Bosnia to keep the peace, which since the Dayton Agreement of 1995 has been done under the aegis of an international High Representative, always a European as it happens, a Swede, an Austrian and now Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK.
There are lessons to be learnt here for Iraq, where the Americans have indicated that they want Europeans to take over much of the nation-building, soon to be required.
Agreement on Sarajevo Regional Development Agency signed
The agreement on the establishment of the Sarajevo Regional Development Agency, (SERDA), has been signed in Sarajevo. SERDA is a limited liability company that should contribute to the creation of an economic atmosphere, new jobs, and development of the region, Bosnian Serb Television has reported.
The agreement was signed by Predrag Lasica, mayor of Srpsko Sarajevo, Denis Zvizdic, prime minister of Sarajevo Canton, and the heads of 20 municipalities from the area.
Ambassador says Turkey wants to invest in Bosnian economy
Turkish Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Melek Sina Baydur, said at a meeting with Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency member Dragan Covic in Sarajevo that Turkey would like to improve cooperation with Bosnia-Herzegovina by investing in its economy, SRNA News Agency has reported.
The Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency said that the two officials had agreed that a prompt ratification of the agreement on free trade would help strengthen the market economies of the two states.
Baydur relayed greetings from Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezera and announced that companies importing from Bosnia-Herzegovina would be exhibiting at a fair in June this year.
Covic said that the Presidency hoped the construction project of the main pan-European motorway - the VC8 corridor - would pave the way for investments by Turkish firms in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
High Representative assesses privatisation in Bosnia as only partly successful
The process of privatisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina can be assessed as partially successful, given that the process has not yet covered companies of strategic interest, whose sale is expected to yield the most important financial results, HINA News Agency has reported.
This is an estimate of the economy department of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Sarajevo, released in the latest issue of the OHR's business bulletin on 4th February.
Until the end of 2002, the two entities - the Croat-Muslim Federation and the Serb Republic - managed to sell 40 per cent of state-held stock in various companies, mostly in small and medium-sized firms. The privatisation was mainly conducted with certificates, i.e. voucher privatisation. All of this poses a question about the possibility of a long-term survival of these companies as most of them need fresh capital for the revival of production.
In the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 260 out of 1,064 small and medium-sized companies have so far been privatised, and in the Serb Republic 129 out of 276 (47 per cent).
The OHR warns that in the Croat-Muslim entity only 17 of 56 companies, labelled as strategic, have undergone ownership transformation. In the other entity, only four strategic companies have been privatised.
The basic reasons for such a situation, according the OHR, are a lack of interest of foreign investors, high debts, outdated technology, slow negotiations and excessive red tape.
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