Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
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: 084 - (29/04/04)
Imitating South Africa?
There is a positive development under way in Bosnia. There is to be within a year a commission that will investigate the causes of the war that killed 200,000 Bosnians or more in the conflict of 1992-95. It will take the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa loosely as its model.
A rich irony is that the main initiator of the idea is a Jew, Jacob Vinci, the member of a race which is deemed so divisive in the Middle East. But in Bosnia of the Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims, a prominent Jew is reckoned a fair arbiter among them. He is director of the Bosnian Civil Service Agency.
It is not easy to see how he will achieve his goal. The task is enormous. Finding and interviewing the witnesses in a divided, mountainous country will be very tough. Then there is the problem of securing popular support for the project.
Some people fear that this kind of inquiry will let off people who committed terrible crimes in the name of reconciliation. But Finci said all Bosnians needed to examine their role in the war.
"Everyone feels that they are victims, but no one is able to take responsibility," he said.
The hearings, he said, would be painful. But it is better to take a bitter pill now, he added, "than to live for 30 to 40 years in hate, and then have a new war."
He and several other religious leaders came up with the idea for a commission in 1997, two years after the war ended with the signing of the Dayton agreement, which has left Bosnia divided into a Serbian republic and a Muslim-Croat federation.
A law to create the commission is now before Parliament; whether or not the nationalist politicians who dominate will vote for it is a big question.
Finci believes that 80% of those testifying would be victims and that the experience would serve as "psychotherapy for the victims." Others testifying might include minor perpetrators, decision makers in the conflict and representatives of local news organisations whose inflammatory role during the fighting, he said, has yet to be put under the spotlight. Punishment of serious war criminals will be left to the courts.
Critics say reconciliation will be hard without adequate punishment first.
Bosnia is undergoing a double transition: from war to peace, and from communism to a democracy and market economy. This is causing enormous problems. Crime, both common and organized, are much worse than ever before. Errant nationalist forces are still rife.
In the view of David Harland, former head of UN civil affairs in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the signing of the Dayton Agreement, "We were both too hasty and too slow. In our haste to construct a quick exit, we blessed flawed elections that legitimated the nationalist extremists who had led the country to war four years earlier. At the same time, we were slow to stabilize security on the ground. Even after the war ended, ethnic cleansing continued.
A hundred thousand Serbs were removed from Sarajevo after the war ended - largely by their own nationalist leaders. Many of them ended up in the homes of Muslims earlier expelled from Serb-held territory further east. We did almost nothing to stop that, ensuring that the eventual return of refugees would be that much harder.
We were slow to address the question of law and order, especially the criminal justice system. While we dithered, organized crime sank deep roots. We then watered those roots by channelling generous aid funds through local crime bosses. Worst of all, we allowed a culture of impunity to develop. To this day, the most wanted men in the country, Radovan Karadžic and Ratko Mladic, remain at large."
EU suspends procurement project in Bosnia
This context doubtless helps explain why the EU suspended a public procurement project after Bosnian Serb authorities decided not to accept proposed legislative reforms. This has considerable symbolic significance.
The €1.5m project, according to deputy delegation head Renzo Daviddi, was aimed at "establishing an efficient, effective and modern legal framework for Bosnia's public procurement system fully in line with the EU legislation." The government of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Srpska Republic, refused to accept the reform of the procurement system, which is not consistent with the EU rules. The Serb authorities, Daviddi said, justified their decision with a fear of losing their national sovereignty within the multiethnic country.
The Bosnian Serb authorities had proposed a number of amendments that would "change deeply the spirit of the proposed reforms and would not be compatible with the European standards." The project for public procurement, according to Daviddi, would set a framework that would regulate public procurement in Bosnia-Herzegovina "for which the amount of €300m to €400m is being spent annually at all administrative levels."
The project was also to set Public Procurement Agency and Procurement Review Body to monitor the procurement process, gather information and ensure compliance with the procedures and regulations of the law. "The mismanagement of public procurement that the current legislation allows is a major cause for corruption and mismanagement of public funds in this country," Daviddi said in Sarajevo. "I wonder what kind of interests are against the introduction of a transparent system in public procurement. I leave this question open and you can reply the way you like," said Daviddi commenting on the Bosnian Serb authorities' decision.
Moody's rates Bosnia at B3
Moody's Investors Service has awarded Bosnia and Herzegovina a B3 credit rating with a positive outlook, the first time the Balkan country's creditworthiness has been assessed, The Financial Times reported recently.
"The key factor underlying the rating action is the progress that has been made by the country since its formal establishment in 1995 following the Dayton Agreement that ended a protracted regional war," Moody's said.
"The transition from war to peace has been accomplished and reconstruction is well under way."
Moody's highlighted the introduction of a united monetary and banking system in 1997 and a new taxation system this year as the multi-ethnic country's achievements.
But the agency said: "The quality of macroeconomic data and the extent of the underground economy remain a problem."
It also said bad governance and a prevalence of arrears are plaguing state enterprises, hampering privatisation.
Bosnia's rating is well below those of its neighbours Slovenia, which is about to join the European Union, and Croatia, which has said it is seeking EU membership. Slovenia and Croatia both have investment grade ratings.
"In Bosnia, the transition to a market economy began much later because of the war and the country's ethnic diversity," said Sara Bertin-Levecq at Moody's.
But the agency launched Bosnia's rating with a positive outlook, saying a stable currency (the convertible marka is pegged to the Euro) and low inflation boosted the state's creditworthiness.
The government is also seeking a settlement of domestic claims resulting from frozen currency deposits, war damage and government spending arrears.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Bosnian premier, Bulgarian Speaker discuss trade, NATO, EU accession
The chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Council of Ministers, Adnan Terzic, and the Republic of Bulgaria National Assembly chairman, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, said recently in Sarajevo that they were satisfied with the political relations of the two countries and endorsed the formation of a business committee to promote trade, the Bosnia-Herzegovina Council of Ministers' information service said, SRNA News Agency reported.
The Bulgarian official reiterated his country's promise to fully support Bosnia-Herzegovina's requests for joining the Partnership for Peace [programme] and the start of negotiations on signing the Stabilization and Accession Agreement with the EU.
Chairman Terzic congratulated Bulgaria on its recent full NATO membership and pointed out that this was good news for the whole of the region.
The readiness of both countries to fully cooperate in the region was emphasized at the meeting, which would positively influence a change in the region's image and ensure prosperity for all countries in the region.
Bosnia received 34.4m Euro in privatisation revenues
According to a report provided by the Bosnian government, revenues from privatisation in Bosnia reached 34.4m Euro last year, New Europe reported.
The nominal value of the state-run capital privatised last year was estimated at 110m Euro. As of December 31st, 2003, the privatisation of 100% of a total of 960 companies was completed, accounting for 66.2% of the set target. The ownership of three out of the 56 strategic companies changed hands last year, the nominal value of the three companies being estimated at 41m Euro. The government also conducted inspection of the implementation of 434 sales contracts in the entity and after established irregularities, cancelled 17 privatisation agreements and started cancellation procedures for another 18.
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