Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 088 - (27/08/04)
The omens are good
Three items of good news have come out of Bosnia of late. Firstly, on 22 June
2004, under intense international pressure, the Serb president finally
acknowledged in a televised public statement that 'the nine July days of the
Srebrenica tragedy are a black page in the history of the Serb people'.
A few days later, in the second round of presidential elections in Serbia, the
candidate of Šešelj's Radicals lost to a rival widely regarded as a
'pro-Westerner' and as reform-minded. Just three days after this, following
Bosnia's failure to gain entry to the Partnership for Peace at NATO's Istanbul
summit, the International High Representative, Lord Paddy Ashdown, punished with
political and financial sanctions over 70 prominent Serb Republic officials
accused of aiding Radovan Karadžic and other fugitives from the Hague tribunal.
The first of these events is unquestionably the most important. Confronting the
truth about the war waged in their name between 1992 and 1995 is vital, if
Bosnian citizens are to play their part in making of their country a viable and
democratic state. Yet the Srebrenica massacre, however horrific, was in reality
nothing but a last chapter in a series of horrors, committed in order to
establish an ethnically pure Serb entity.
The election of Boris Tadic to the Serbian presidency is a key event for Bosnia
as well as Serbia. The fear is that the outcome may prove more symbolic than
substantive, especially since the Radicals remain the strongest party in
Serbia's parliament, with 80 of the 232 seats, while their defeated presidential
candidate won 45% of the votes defending an unalloyed Greater Serbian programme.
The coalition government headed by Koštunica remains a nationalist admixture or
cocktail, its planned 'solution' for Kosovo smacking more of war than peace.
Tadic himself may mouth soothing words for Western consumption, but his record
as defence minister gives little hope of a break with the unreconstructed
nationalism that still holds Serbia's political life in thrall.
As for Ashdown's sanctions, welcome as these are, it is difficult to believe
that personnel changes can make much difference, when the problem is
fundamentally structural. Huge amounts of public funds go to sustain the vast,
parasitic hierarchy of bureaucratic apparatuses created by Dayton, which work
not for the public good but for their own interest.
These bodies are clearly not accountable to the people of the country, but only
to the Office of the International High Representative, which may periodically
dismiss individual wrongdoers. But the OHR remains unwilling to admit that
qualitative progress in a democratic direction is difficult, so long as Bosnia
remains the prisoner of ethnic based structures created during the war with the
intention precisely of preventing it from becoming a viable nation-state, but
retained because of the need for peace.
Ashdown sees things differently. Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming
increasingly entrenched thanks to the courage of Bosnian citizens and the firm
and continuing engagement of the international community, in which the U.S. is a
key partner, Ashdown said during a meeting in Sarajevo with the U.S. Secretary
of State, Colin Powell, on August 1st.
The High Representative welcomed the US's continuing role in helping to drive
forward core reforms in the financial, defence and intelligence sectors --
reforms that are necessary to make Bosnia a stable, viable, peaceful,
multiethnic state. These reforms have already made BiH a serious candidate for
the start of Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with the
European Union and an invitation from NATO to join the Partnership for Peace
program was announced by OHR.
The High Representative also briefed Secretary Powell on recent political
developments, and the Secretary of State welcomed the start of the process to
modernise Bosnia's police forces through the Police Reform Commission.
"Building up the recently reformed Intelligence Service (OSA), the State
Information and Protection Service (SIPA) and the Security and Justice
Ministries must be our focus now," the High Representative said. "The
laws are in place, but these must now be implemented. Agencies and ministries
must be staffed and fully functioning, if BiH is to show it is capable of
tackling organised crime and resisting the global threat of terrorism."
The Secretary of State and the High Representative agreed that implementing
these core reforms must not be allowed to fall behind schedule.
Mostar bridge and town rehabilitated
Until the Bosnian war of 1992-95, Mostar was probably the most ethnically
integrated city in all of former Yugoslavia.
But the city became a laboratory for experiments in extreme ethnic cleansing.
The result is that Mostar changed into the most divided town in Bosnia, a
triumph for the Croatian nationalists who, with their Serbian counterparts,
sought to destroy the city and to erase Bosnia-Herzegovina from the map of
The most vivid symbol of that Croatian triumph came just over 10 years ago, when
a couple of well-aimed Croatian artillery shells brought the city's world-famous
Old Bridge, the gravity-defying masterpiece of Ottoman Turk architecture erected
in 1566, tumbling into the fast green waters of the Neretva. The bridge defined
Mostar. Its destruction seemed to augur the city's death.
But today, after years of painstaking work and at a cost of Ł5m, the Old Bridge
stands again, a perfect replica built of the same creamy local limestone, a
single graceful span stretching 90ft (27 metres) across the ravine and suspended
60ft (18 metres) above the river.
In searing heat of more than 40C, princes, presidents and prime ministers from
all over Europe and the Middle East attended the opening of the "new Old
Bridge, whose restoration is being hailed as the start of a happier new era for
Perhaps. But the challenges are daunting. Ever since the war, the Croatian
extremists of west Mostar and the ruling Bosnian Muslim party on the east bank
have connived in the partition of the city, dividing the spoils between them and
confounding all international attempts to reunite the city.
"The life of ordinary people on this artificially divided space has become
absurd," said a report by the international authority running Bosnia last
December. "The situation is unacceptable and unsustainable."
Then earlier this year, Ashdown moved to reverse a process that has left
Mostar in recent years as a Balkan Beirut or Nicosia. In March he ordered the
dissolution of the ethnically divided municipalities and, over the heads of the
local politicians, imposed a new statute defining Mostar as a single unified
A symbolic ambulance crossing the divide was a first fruit of the Ashdown
diktat. In late July, the Muslim and Croat emergency medical services were
merged. That was preceded by a merger of the city's twin fire-fighting services.
And more substantially, the rival city authorities three weeks ago agreed a
single city budget for the first time since the war.
Lord Ashdown's move is one of the most radical and ambitious projects by the
former British Liberal Democrat leader since he took on the running of Bosnia
two years ago. It comes after the failure of several previous international
attempts to undo the division of Mostar.
"This time it's different," said Sanela Tunovic from Lord Ashdown's
Mostar office. "It's imposed. The political parties were not able to agree,
but now it's being implemented."
A Western official who has been in Bosnia for more than five years warns,
however, that the main rival Croat and Muslim parties are manipulating Lord
Ashdown's plan to their own ends. "They've pushed out the moderates and
entrenched the divisions within the city administration. Things are clearly
getting better, but it's very hard with these nationalist parties in
Lord Ashdown's staff talk of reunifying and restructuring 70 city institutions -
everything from rubbish collection to sewerage works to the make-up of the city
council in a town of just over 100,000, whose demographic composition was
thoroughly altered by the war and ethnic cleansing. The pre-war fabric of Mostar
has been systematically unstitched.
The Croats who partitioned and destroyed the city comprised a third of the
population before the war. They drove almost all the Muslims across the river
and then laid siege to the east bank for 10 months in 1993-94. Now they make up
more than 60% of city voters, which helps to explain why their leadership is
more open to the Ashdown scheme.
"The Croats have got a majority now and they think they can control the
councils," said the Western official.
In Bosnia, Lord Ashdown enjoys the kind of absolute powers once exercised over
Christendom by medieval popes. But Mostar's political bosses, a byword in Bosnia
for cronyism and scheming corruption, will still be here long after Lord Ashdown
has retired and the international nation-building teams have moved on.
"Total division is best," said Damir, 34, a Croat betting shop
assistant. "Ashdown's plan will never work. Only on paper, and only through
force. It's better that we have our side and the Muslims have theirs."
In the old Muslim quarter last night, by contrast Lord Ashdown held forth on
Mostar's status as the "keystone" of Bosnia, and Bosnia's potential as
"a bridge" between Europe and the Islamic world. Time will tell who is
Bosnia's leading oil co to get ISO 9001:2000 certificate
Sustained work and planned development of Tesanj's importer and distributor of
oil and oil derivatives Hifa have contributed a lot to the granting of the ISO
9001:2000 quality certificate, seeurope reported recently.
Two group members, made up of importer Hifa Oil and distributor Hifa, are the
first oil companies in BiH to have been presented with the certificate. They
rank among the 100 most successful companies in BiH. Hifa Oil currently supplies
some 400 gas stations in BiH. This year alone, the oil importer will pay over
€32.5m taxes to the state budget.
FOOD & DRINK
Fruit-freezing factory opens in BiH
A fruit-freezing factory opening in Potocari shortly is the result of the first
Foreign Direct Investment in this part of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) since the
1990s conflict, also marking a shift from the region's former reliance on
industry, and benefiting dozens of people in a region known mostly for horrid
wartime massacres, Southern European Times reported recently.
Swedish company Olle Svensson has invested €500,000 in the Bos Agro Food
factory, which will freeze organic raspberries bought from local farmers. The
decommissioned factory is actually the place where thousands of Muslim men were
executed by Bosnian Serbian forces in July 1995. Still, the new, gleaming white
building in the middle of all of this can be seen as a sign that the
municipality may stand a chance for future flourishing times.
"After everything we have been through, we have the right to better
times," said Srebrenica mayor Abdurahman Malkic. "This opens the door
to agricultural production, especially the production of healthy food."
The municipality, in an attempt to attract investment to one of BiH's poorest
post-war areas, donated the land to the factory, which employs about 30 people.
The amount of raspberries and blackberries growing here has increased since the
war destroyed the region's industrial economy. Bos Agro Food intends to buy and
freeze about 1,000 tonnes of berries from some 500 small farmers this year.
They'll export the frozen fruit to Scandinavian countries and central Europe.
"We want to help farmers get started. How better can you do that than by
capitalising on what they can grow and on their know-how," Olle Svensson
marketing and sales director Bo Ahlstedt said.
The farmers Olle Svensson is helping to get started include Muslim returnees to
the area. As of last year, 3,200 Muslims returned to the three area
municipalities, and scores are involved in such small-scale farming. Olle
Svensson General Manager, Armin Glamoc, said the goal was to make it materially
possible for more people who want to return to do so.
They also hope this first investment will get others to follow. Officials have
mentioned that a foreign chocolate producer is interested in the adjacent plot
of land, and said they nourished the hope that Bosnian companies would also open
branch factories in the area.
Head of the Office of the High Representative's economic department said he
believed this business model could work out and wished them "fruitful"
results. "It is an outstanding idea, as the Swedish investor has identified
a niche market, that of organic berries, and has worked its way back from
consumer to producer," said Patrice Dreiski. "The economic situation
will not change overnight. It's a start, but this modest success will set the
pre-requisites for more."
FOREIGN LOANS & AID
EBRD offers financial support to private sector in Bosnia
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said recently it
wants to help Bosnia shift from post-war reconstruction to investment to develop
its neglected private sector and revive privatisation, the Pakistan-based The
News International reported recently.
"Now the time has come to boost the economy, to invest in the private
sector, and this is a challenge we have to face," the paper quoted EBRD
President Jean Lemierre as telling Reuters in Visoko. The bank's total
investment in Bosnia will reach €300m (US$367.9m) by year-end, accounting
mostly for public sector infrastructure projects so far. Lemierre said
investment in private enterprise was needed. "We see the situation today as
certainly better, and we see also a need for change," he said. Lemierre
also warned that the authorities would have to improve the business environment
and simplify a complex administrative system to attract foreign and local
"Investors need a system they understand and which is not too complicated,
which does not create too many difficulties when they want to create jobs and
new activities," he said, adding the EBRD's priority was to support
small-sized companies. EBRD, the development bank for Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union, has extended via local banks over 25,000 loans to micro
businesses and 300 loans to medium-sized companies in Bosnia.
Our analysts and
editorial staff have many years experience in analysing and reporting
events in these nations. This knowledge is available in the form of
geopolitical and/or economic country reports on any individual or grouping
of countries. Such reports may be bespoke to the specification of clients
or by access to one of our existing specialised reports.
For further information email: