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: 082 - (01/03/04)
Bosnia is still a troubled land. Mirsad Kebo, the Bosnian minister for Refugees, states that there are still one million refugees and displaced persons waiting to return to their pre-war homes, with 17,000 persons still missing since the war.
The 1992-95 war is a living reality. The presence of 12,000 S-For troops attests to that as do the continuing trials and searches for war criminals. Carla del Ponte was last year reappointed Prosecutor for ICTY for a further four years, but lost responsibility for Rwanda tribunal. The proposed replacement of Human Rights Chamber established under the 1995 Dayton Agreement by a Commission with more restricted powers is encountering widespread criticism from human-rights NGOs and activists.
A recent attempt to seize Radovan Karadjic, former president during the war, failed, as he made off at the last minute. Ratco Mladic, his military chieftain remains at large. There is strong suspicion that they are being protected by Serbian security forces in neighbouring Serbia, whose politics have just taken a nasty nationalist turn.
The deserted village
Glamoc is an example of the problems facing Bosnia, an accumulation of aid pouring in (over $5bn to date), but no improvement for the people on the ground, particularly outside the main cities. Glamoc is a small town in western Bosnia, located within a spectacular polje - a broad, level valley - flanked by wooded mountains to the west that provide a meagre living to those working in the local saw mills. The ruins of an old Ottoman fortress overlook the town, which nine years after the Dayton Peace Accords still looks like the war just ended.
Bullet holes and bloodthirsty graffiti, mementoes of the two waves of 'ethnic cleansing' of Glamoc - in 1992 when the town was taken over by Serb nationalist forces and in 1995 when it was taken by the Croatian army - cover buildings in the town, many of which look abandoned.
Now much of the area has been abandoned and deserted. It reminds visitors of The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith,
"Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates and men decay."
Goldsmith was referring to the English enclosure movement, which effectively destroyed the peasantry, the yeoman stock of old England. The war and its aftermath destroyed old Bosnia and its rural habitations, indeed 240,000 of its inhabitants.
Change-over in international forces
The unsettled nature of the country compels the role of The Office of the High Representative, occupied by Paddy Ashdown, and of that of international peacekeepers on the ground.. The S-For force of NATO is due to be replaced in the second half of 2004 by the EU-For in a time-frame that the US has criticised as too soon. The number of peacekeepers would be reduced to 6,000 to 8,000.
Indeed, Richard Holbrooke, the US negotiator of the Dayton Accord of 1995 that ended the 1992-95 war, and Bernard Kouchner, the French head of Medicins sans Frontieres, have doubted the wisdom of the withdrawal of all US troops from Bosnia, which the replacement involves. They note that, unlike Iraq, no US or coalition soldier has lost their lives in the S-For operation. The removal of US forces will contribute to a slackening of interest in Bosnia by the US Congress in their view and a reduction in aid.
But Ashdown is adamantly in favour of the Europeanization of the peacekeeping operation. This chimes in with his strongly pro-EU stance, common to the Liberal Democrats in Britain. Europe's ambition to be heard in the world as on a par with the US is seriously impaired by its lack of a common defence. NATO is rightly seen as dominated by the US, whose defence budget is greater than the combined total of the next nine members, with easily the most advanced equipment. Europe's fledgling rapid reaction force has so far only taken part in small operations in Macedonia and the Congo. Bosnia is seen as the test case. If the EU cannot get its act together here, it will probably be curtains for the whole idea.
US reservations about the EU-For are linked to strong suspicions of the attempt by France and Germany to establish a European defence identity independent of NATO. But Washington seems to have warmed to the idea, particularly if it is under British command, because of its heavy engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Europe has to look serious about this," says Ashdown. "It cannot come in on the cheap. It has to come in as an effective force capable of securing the peace. It has to do it with bayonets fixed and flags flying." The EU would also need to improve its credibility with the local authorities, having stood helpless on the side-lines in the 1992-95 war, which was only ended by American intervention under President Clinton.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Croatian, Bosnian banks sign 2m Euro agreement on export financing
The Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) and LT Gospodarska Bank d.d. Sarajevo on 22nd January signed a framework agreement on export financing, worth 2m euros. This is the first such agreement between the HBOR and a foreign bank. The framework agreement was signed by HBOR management board president, Anton Kovacev, and LT Gospodarska bank d.d. Sarajevo general director, Mijo Misic, HINA News Agency reported.
The overall trade between Croatia and Bosnia in the first nine months of 2003 amounted to US$923m, which is 28 per cent more than in the same period the year before. Croatia's exports to Bosnia accounted for US$739m of this amount, while imports from that country amounted to US$184m. Bosnia is Croatia's second most important export partner after Italy.
MINERALS & METALS
Director of British steel giant tours Bosnian steel company
The owner of the British metal company LNM Group, Lakshmi N. Mittal, recently toured the BHSC Steel company premises, Federation News Agency reported.
The LNM group, which is the second largest steel producer according to the latest data, is one of the companies interested in purchasing a majority stake in BHSC Steel.
The [Bosnia-Hercegovina] Federation government enabled an LNM team of experts to carry out a detailed analysis of the technical and financial situation in the Bosnian-Kuwaiti steel company as a part of preparations to make a bid. The deadline for submitting bids was 31st January. During the tour, the LNM owner did not want to comment on reasons for his visit to Bosnia-Hercegovina, adding that he would speak about them at a news conference in Sarajevo.
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