Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 103 - (28/11/05)
EU says BiH ready for stabilisation agreement
The European Union should begin talks with Bosnia-Herzegovina on a stabilisation
and association agreement, a European Commission spokesperson has said.
Such a pact is seen as a decisive step towards later negotiations on
Bosnia-Herzegovina's possible EU entry. The Balkan state was credited with
having made considerable progress in implementing reforms which the EU had set
out in November 2003 as conditions for a stabilisation and association
Nonetheless, Bosnia's cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in
The Hague could be "substantially improved," the commission noted. The
EU has insisted that all suspected war criminals be handed over to The Hague,
particularly fugitive former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko
If the EU council of ministers gives its assent for the opening of talks, BiH
will be the last of five targeted Balkan states to enter into closer association
with the 25 member bloc. The EU has already signed stability and association
pacts with the Former Yugoslav republics of Macedonia and Croatia and is talking
to both Albania and even Serbia and Montenegro about similar agreements.
2bn Euro donation goes missing
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has no concrete data on the amount of foreign
donations that have been allocated to BiH so far, Banja Luka's daily Nezavisni
Novini said, adding that an estimated 2bn Euro aid money went missing, Makfax
"A representative of the Foreign Trade Ministry said roughly 5.5bn Euro has
been donated to BiH. However, information released for the public says the
estimated foreign donations are put at 3.5bn Euro," the local daily quoted
Tihomir Gligoric, head of commission tasked to specify the amount and spending
Three Serbs sentenced after war crimes trial
In a welcome shift of heart, a Bosnian Serb court found ethnic Serbs guilty
recently of war crimes. It was the first such verdict since the end of the
province's war from 1992 to 1995.
The county court in the capital of the Serb-run part of postwar Bosnia sentenced
three Serbs, all former policemen, to a total of 55 years in prison for
murdering Muslim civilians, a judicial official said. "Banja Luka's county
court sentenced former policemen Dragan Radakovic and Drasko Krndija to 20-year
jail terms each," said the official. "The third ex-policeman, Radislav
Knezevic, was sentenced to 15 years in prison," Krndija was sentenced in
The men were found guilty of killing six Muslims, including two women, in the
northwestern town of Prijedor in March 1994.
Farewell, Sarajevo by Paddy Ashdown
As he steps down as the de facto ruler of Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown tells Ed
Vulliamy of the Guardian that it has been 'frightening to have so much power' :-
Lord Jeremy "Paddy" Ashdown has not yet packed his bags, and has still
to find a buyer for his beloved lakeside house. But in his heart, he is ready to
go now. The international community's high representative to Bosnia Herzegovina
- whose powers have been likened to those of a colonial governor of yore - is
moving on. His successor is about to be announced; he has promised to bring his
wife, Jane, home to Britain in time for Christmas.
Ashdown sits back and draws breath before describing his three and a half years
in office in Bosnia: "It's been knackering, carpet-chewing, frustrating,
depressing, wonderful and a huge privilege," he says. "There's been
nothing like it in my long life - as a soldier, politician, diplomat or
businessman. I can't imagine what the pattern of my life would have been without
It's a sunny autumn day in Sarajevo as Ashdown gives the Guardian his
valedictory interview. When he talks over his time here, he speaks with a raw
emotional vigour and direct honesty for which politicians are not generally
known, and for which one remembers him during the days of war in this region.
"But I shall go home now," he says. "You have to know when your
time us up. I knew that with the Liberal Democrats, and I know that now, in
It is exactly a decade since the hurricane of violence that engulfed this
country abated, uneasily - exactly a decade since organised mass rape, the
burning of millions from their homes and the enforced deportations that came to
be called "ethnic cleansing" finally ceased.
Unlike his three predecessors in this office, Ashdown's history in Bosnia goes
back to the opening months of that war, and the night I first met him, on August
7 1992. The ITN journalists Penny Marshall and Ian Williams and I had just
forged a way into the infamous concentration camps at Omarska and Trnopolje, and
Ashdown, then Liberal Democrat leader, had flown out as soon as he heard about
it. He summoned us to his room at the Hyatt Hotel in Belgrade late at night;
next morning, he went to the camps, to see for himself.
For all the outrage of those days, the war dragged on for another three bloody
years, and when Ashdown took on the role as high representative, he said:
"I am here because I think it was a terrible sin of the west to allow those
years of war." Indeed, with the Bosnian Serb architects of mass murder -
Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic - on the run, wanted for genocide, it
is easy to forget that during those three years of savagery that he unleashed,
Karadzic's hand was eagerly clasped by western diplomats beneath the chandeliers
of London, Paris and Geneva.
Throughout that time of international complicity, there were few - very few -
voices calling for cogent intervention. And there was only one British
politician who kept on coming back to Bosnia, each time returning to London to
lambast the government for its resistance to intervention. Ashdown accused
foreign secretary Douglas Hurd of "using humanitarian aid to blackmail the
victims of aggression into capitulation", and prime minister John Major of
calculated inaction over the Srebrenica massacre.
"We who came here saw what was happening - you did too - that this was far
more than a war in a faraway place. This was a moral imperative, a terrible
vision of the future," he says. "The generous way of putting it is
that we were not ready for this. The less generous way is to say: 'How was it
possible to return to the politics of appeasement of the 1930s?'"
Finally, after limited bombing of the Serbs, the war was halted by the
international community just as the Bosnian and Croatian armies were turning the
tide, and a peace forged at Dayton, partitioning Bosnia into two
"entities", the "Republika Srpska" and a precarious
Muslim-Croat "Federation". "It was a superb agreement to end a
war, but a very bad agreement to make a state," says Ashdown. "From
now on, we have to part company with Dayton and try to build a modern democratic
state, for which I have tried to lay the foundations."
Ashdown was appointed high representative to Bosnia by the Peace Implementation
Council (PIC), a consortium of powers and signatories to Dayton, in May 2002.
He came, he now says, "because Bosnia is under my skin, and still is. It's
the place you cannot leave behind. I was obsessed by the nightmare of it all;
there was this sense of guilt, and an anger that has become something much
deeper over these last years. I love this country, I love these people, though I
can't say I love their politicians. People are always nicer than politicians,
but here, you can mark that difference up a hundredfold."
Ashdown assumed an authority which has been compared to that of a medieval pope.
He enjoys - and has used - sweeping powers to issue decrees, sack politicians,
judges and whomsoever he wants. "This is in a sense an anachronism,"
he says, "power that should make a liberal blush. And looked at from the
outside, I suppose it is legitimate to see it that way; it is frightening to
have so much power. But actually that is not what my job has been like, and it
would be a foolish high representative who worked that way." Ashdown has
been criticised for "absolutism", but the reality, he says, is that he
operates under tight diplomatic constraints and accountability to that
capricious body he represents, the so-called "international
community". "I am formally accountable to the steering board of the
PIC," he says - principally the governments of the USA, UK, France, Germany
and Russia - "and I meet with nine ambassadors from the PIC every week. I
have to have the (national) capitals' broad agreement with what I do. Sometimes,
if I have 70% of them behind me, I'll go ahead with a decision. Once, I even had
an embassy threaten to cut off diplomatic relations with me. I am also," he
adds, "responsible to the Bosnian people. If I pass a decree that is
refused, my authority is gone like the morning dew."
Ashdown's first break with his three predecessors - competent, professional
bureaucrats - was one of style. He left the stockade of the "international
presence" in Bosnia to look local politicians in the eye, hold "town
hall" meetings all over Bosnia and sleep on the floors of refugee camps
with Jane at his side.
Treading on shards, then, between the "international community" and
three wary ethnic populations, Ashdown set out to create a unified state which
could find its way into the European Union - something the Muslim-Croat
Federation was desperate to do (poignantly, they included the EU's starry flag
in theirs), while the instinctively separatist Serbs - who doggedly identify
with Serbia, not Bosnia - were ready to contest all efforts. "My first
job," says Ashdown, "has been to do the best thing for the Bosnian
people. Not for the Serbs, the Bosniaks [Muslims] or Croats, but the people as a
whole. My second job has been to try to use my power to create institutions of a
modern state that could enter the European Union, and there was very little
time. The door was closing, and I wanted to get Bosnia through before it
To get Bosnia in, he had to establish a state-wide military, and a state-wide
unified police command (to which the Bosnian Serbs have only recently agreed).
There was more; the list of what are called "benchmarks set for integration
into Euro-Atlantic structures" is a long one. Since May 2002, Ashdown has
supervised the establishment of a Bosnian judicial system, including a new
chamber to try those newly accused war crimes, and referrals from The Hague. He
has welded together a single-state intelligence structure under parliamentary
oversight, a unified customs service, and an expanded council of ministers.
There have been dictates on education, public services, and the terrain Ashdown
calls "civil society" - the people as a social organism, able to
express itself democratically. And yet: "The greatest failure," he
says, "is that although we have created institutions, we have not created a
Ashdown's reforms have ploughed on - "very fast, perhaps too fast" -
but Bosnia remains a scarred, divided country, its wounds far from healed.
The word "reconciliation" has been bandied about by outsiders since
almost the first days after the war; the idea that those whose lives have been
shattered by persecution should somehow "forgive and forget" and move
on. But before reconciliation, you need reckoning. And reckoning means the
perpetrators of crime admitting and coming to terms with what they have done -
with all the judicial implications of that. This is why Ashdown announced, when
he took the post, that he would put "justice first".
Since then he has assailed the rampant criminal and political networks that
entwine racketeering with protection of those indicted by The Hague - markedly
the still-fugitive Karadzic and Mladic. Ashdown's sacking of tainted figures in
high office began within weeks of taking over, proceeding to the dismissal, last
year, of 59 senior officials and politicians of the Bosnian Serb structure, for
their involvement in the protection of war criminals, and Karadzic in
particular. "I was told there would be riots in the streets," Ashdown
says, "but there were no riots. People do not want politicians they know to
The purge is not complete, however. In many municipalities, the murderous
authorities remain intact. There are people employed in the state security
apparatus about whom serious wartime allegations have been made, in one instance
involving a former interrogator in the Omarska camp itself who now holds high
office. "Politics is compromise," says Ashdown. "What one has to
do is respect legal procedure. If The Hague says to me they have evidence
against someone, I will remove them. But I cannot be governed by innuendo, by
what someone says to me about person X or person Y."
Another attempt at reckoning came when Ashdown tasked the Republika Srpska to
establish a commission into the Srebrenica massacre, which duly repeated the
well-worn lies that only hundreds had died, mostly fighting one another. Ashdown
was furious, and ordered the commission to go away and try again. Accordingly,
last year, in an unprecedented and unrepeated document, the Bosnian Serbs
admitted "that between July 10 and July 19 1995, several thousands of
Bosniaks were liquidated in a manner that represents a serious violation of
International Humanitarian law".
But Srebrenica, however infamous, was merely iconic of so much other unspeakable
violence over those three years, especially in 1992, in places whose names the
world has forgotten, if it ever knew them. Srebrenica was but a coda to three
years' carnage, deportation and rape from the Drina valley in the east to the
camps to the west. "If I have regrets," says Ashdown, "they are
that we could not do more like the Srebrenica commission. This country is about
history, and unless the Serbs in particular - although terrible things were done
by the Bosniaks and Croats too - come to some understanding of this history, we
cannot build a stable state. The major burden of guilt is on them, and they have
to acknowledge it, just as the Germans acknowledged it."
For all Ashdown's attempts to bring about reckoning at official level, it
progresses slowly on the ground. The worst crimes - even when there have been
convictions at The Hague - remain widely denied or justified, or some
nonsensical blend of the two. A pivotal moment of Ashdown's tenure was to
rebuild - physically, symbolically - a replica of the iconic old bridge at
Mostar, destroyed by Croats during the siege of Muslims in 1993. But the Croats
have mocked Ashdown's school reforms, with what amounts to apartheid - Bosniak
Muslim children segregated from their Croatian counterparts in both learning and
"I can create institutions," says Ashdown, "But I can't rewrite
the chips in people's heads. It works both ways: there are victims of tragedy
who come to me who have experienced grief of such magnitude that they cannot
reconcile, however much people say to them 'forgive and forget' - they can't,
and if I were them, I don't think I could either. Likewise, I cannot change the
mentality of those who committed the crimes, or the fools who followed them.
"But what I can do is establish the expectation of retributive justice.
Have we done that? No, in all honesty I can't say that's been done. But we have
come close, only 10 years after the war. We are not there yet, but I'd be
disappointed if in two years' time there was not some movement towards truth as
a precursor to reconciliation. 'Truth and reconciliation' are always combined,
but I would split them: I don't think Bosnia is ready for reconciliation, but I
do think it is ready for truth."
Ashdown said two years ago: "We have invented a new human right here - the
right to return home after a war." The precarious return - mainly by
Bosniak Muslims to rebuild the razed towns and villages from which they were
"cleansed" is one of the phenomena of present-day Bosnia. "It's a
miracle," says Ashdown, "that 10 years after a war in which 250,000
people were killed - one-sixteenth of the population - and two million
displaced, that one million of them have gone home. But there are problems: many
of them are old and face extreme hardship. What we have to do is to make their
livelihoods viable, get them the proper prices for their produce, try and make
them stay rather than do what is anyone's right to do, sell their property and
Ashdown's branch office has been particularly energetic over the return around
Srebrenica, and Ashdown himself stayed with some of the returnees - "a way
of paying homage to the sheer courage of those people who have come back".
One family with whom Ashdown stayed is that of Hasib Huseinovic, who, along with
his fellow villagers of Suceska, high on a mountaintop above Srebrenica, rebuilt
their incinerated village from nothing. When I went to visit Huseinovic in deep
winter, he explained that he had come back in part because he hoped his missing
son would come walking back across the newly planted field.
This summer, however, at the Srebrenica anniversary commemorations and burials
of hundreds of dead, Ashdown and Huseinovic met again. "I was with Hasib,"
says Ashdown, "when his son's coffin, number 84, was passed over the heads
of the crowd. I helped Hasib fill in the grave"
More than a hint of a tear appears in his eyes. "Sorry," he says.
"I'm not very good at this bit ... refugees ... God, I've seen enough
refugees for one lifetime."
Ashdown's tenure has been one long illustration of John F Kennedy's refrain that
you cannot please all the people all of the time. Although he is warmly
respected and eagerly greeted wherever he goes, mention of Ashdown's name makes
hardline Serbs and Croats bristle with resentment and bile. More surprisingly,
though, Ashdown has aroused hostility and disillusionment among the Bosniak
intelligentsia whom he had presumed to be his allies. "Paddy Crashdown,"
reads graffiti near his office; he has been accused of inconsistency, of playing
God. Ashdown has the misfortune to be a long way down the line of brazen foreign
presences in a city and country weary of comfortably-salaried
"internationals" - many of them, unlike Ashdown, emotionally detached,
career-hopping to the next blighted destination.
"Maybe it's legitimate criticism," says Ashdown, "though it can
be hurtful. Maybe I haven't paid sufficient attention to the people with whom I
would have a natural affinity as a liberal, and they feel let down by that. But
it's not my job to be popular - I'm goal-driven; my job is to get results. And
mind you," he adds, "I've had much nastier things said about me in the
British press than in the Bosnian press."
Ashdown says his job "was to try to ensure that the office I have held does
not continue to exist. And, by the end of next year, it will cease to
exist." His successor, due to be announced within 10 days from a shortlist
of four, is intended to be Bosnia's last high representative.
So what next for the prizefighter of British and Balkan politics, still only 64,
whose quintessence is restlessness? He could easily make a career fixing
international crises. Or he could go back into national politics; the Liberal
Democrats are said to await his return with a mixture of great expectation and
trepidation. "What my future will not be is active politics in the Liberal
Democrat party," he says.
"But I do have huge plans for my garden. I really need a rest." It
sounds plausible for a moment, but as one leaves Ashdown's office, into the
autumn sunshine and straight across a bridge on which two lovers - one Serb, one
Muslim - were famously shot dead by a Serbian sniper during the war, it is hard
to imagine this tempest of a man spending the rest of his years pruning English
AVIATION & SPACE
System to control own air space in 2008
Under a recently adopted state strategy for development of air traffic, Bosnia
and Herzegovina will take control of its air space in 2008 which could bring it
some 13 million Euro a year in fees, ANSAmed reported.
Since the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war, neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro
and Croatia helped Bosnia control its air space because Bosnia lacked the
adequate equipment. The strategy paves the way for talks with the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for a 12 million Euro financing to
complete the project.
Egyptian exports to Bosnia-Herzegovina rise
Egyptian exports to BiH have more than tripled in the first nine months of the
current year reaching US$5m as compared to US$1.5m during the same period last
year, BiH Ambassador to Egypt, Radomir Kosic, said, Portalino reported.
He said that Egypt's imports from Bosnia and Herzegovina dropped from January to
September to US$6m. Last year they registered US$10m. Bosnia exports timber,
woodworks, electrical appliances, household utensils and car spare parts to
EBRD grants 70m Euro loan for railway
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development EBRD will grant Bosnia a
70m Euro loan to modernise its railways, ANSAmed reported recently.
The loan will have to be repaid in 15 years, including a 4-year grace period, at
an interest rate of roughly 3%. The railways upgrade project is expected to be
completed by June 2009.