Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 099 - (26/07/05)
Bosnians spurn Straw's plan for reconciliation
There was a report in The Guardian (London) on July 1st of a misconceived (and
abortive) initiative by UK diplomats to arrange a declaration of mutual
forgiveness on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.
It was written by Ian Traynor from Zagreb.
British attempts to use the tenth anniversary of the worst war crime in the
former Yugoslavia to unite all sides in the wars in mutual forgiveness have
collapsed, receiving an angry rebuff from the Bosnian Muslim leadership. The
Foreign Office had been quietly circulating proposals in the Balkans, suggesting
the leaderships of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia should issue a common declaration
of 'reconciliation and apology' in Srebrenica, where Serbs conducted a minutely
planned massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males 10 years ago.
World and regional leaders gathered at Srebrenica to mark the 10th anniversary
of the worst crime in Europe since the Holocaust. The mass murder, which was the
climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war, is the sole officially decreed act of
genocide in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
British diplomats appear to have badly misjudged the local mood, floating the
notion of a common declaration aimed at healing wounds which, in the case of
Srebrenica, remain fresh for the tens of thousands of relatives of the dead,
many of whom have yet to locate their loved ones' remains.
'This is completely unacceptable,' said Edin Dilberovic, foreign policy adviser
to Sulejman Tihic, the co-president of Bosnia and leader of the Bosniak or
Bosnian Muslim community. 'Srebrenica is the wrong place at the wrong time for a
declaration of reconciliation and forgiveness. Srebrenica is special. It was a
real, organised massacre. [The British] can't be serious.'
Officials in Bosnia and Croatia ascribed the proposal to Jack Straw, the foreign
secretary, and said it had been floated a few weeks ago by British embassies in
'There's no formal proposal by Straw,' a British source responded. He said the
inter national focus on the town during the anniversary made it an ideal
opportunity for 'a statesmanlike initiative'. 'We have encouraged the countries
to consider a range of initiatives' aimed at promoting trust and cooperation,
the British source said.
A senior Croatian official said he had been surprised when told of the idea.
'There are only two parties who could and should apologise in Srebrenica - the
Serbs and the Dutch,' said Tomislav Jakic, foreign-policy aide to President
Stipe Mesic of Croatia. Dutch peacekeepers stationed in Srebrenica in 1995 have
been criticised for abandoning the Muslim enclave to the invading forces of the
Bosnian Serb commander, General Ratko Mladic.
Mladic has been indicted for genocide and has been on the run from international
justice for 10 years, along with his co-indictee, Radovan Karadzic. There was
much talk in the lead-up to the anniversary that Mladic could surrender or be
arrested and sent to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague; but of course it did
'The [British] idea is that everyone should apologise to everyone else ... It's
misrepresenting what happened,' said Mr Jakic. A Bosnian official said the idea
was 'grotesque'. Srdjan Dizdarevic, the head of the Helsinki human rights
committee in Bosnia, said: 'This is absolutely stupid, totally unacceptable that
on the 10th anniversary there should be forgiveness for everything.'
In recent days both the Serbian parliament in Belgrade and the Serbian caucus in
the Bosnian parliament have refused to adopt or have vetoed declarations
denouncing the Srebrenica massacre. However the reformist Serbian president,
Boris Tadic, attended the commemoration in Srebrenica despite the opposition of
the relatives of the victims.
The Viceroy of Bosnia
There is one British figure who is having more success with his Bosnian
initiatives than the UK foreign minister. This is the International High
Representative (IHR) in Bosnia for the last four years, who has been Paddy
Ashdown. More strictly he should be known as Lord Ashdown, being a citizen, as
he is, of the last country on Earth to confer entitlements to nobility on its
most distinguished subjects.
Once of course Britain ruled India and Ashdown is rather in the mould of British
Empire builders of old, except he is not the viceroy of British India, but of an
international responsibility, the confederation of Bosnia-Herzogovina (B-H). B-H
is divided into two entities, the Bosnian Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and
the Croat-and Bosniak-dominated Federation, the latter itself bifurcated.
He is a highly thoughtful man, who has indeed distinguished himself by sacking
local dignitaries whenever there is a whiff of corruption.
He is an action man, a former commando, who tours the country constantly and is
the first IHR not to rely just on English, like his Swedish and Austrian
predecessors, but to learn Serbo-Croat.
Bosnia needs to restructure its police, EU says
His latest scheme concerns the vital matter of policing. It is vital if the
new state is to hang together. But it is also vital for its hopes of joining the
As soon as Bosnian politicians reach agreement on police reform, the European
Commission will consider opening talks on a stabilisation and association
agreement with Bosnia, a European Union Official said in Sarajevo. Head of the
EU Commission Directorate for Western Balkans Reinhardt Priebe said the EU would
insist on police reform in Bosnia, with the aim of putting the
ethnically-divided police forces in the country under singly state-level
Bosnian Serb officials had withdrawn from Bosnian political parties'
negotiations, where final details about the new, state-level police should have
been reached. Bosnian Serb negotiators refused to support the new police
structure that would create police regions ignoring administrative border
between Bosnia's two ethnic entities - the Muslim-Croat Federation and the
Srpska republic.Max Weber, the German sociologist, defined the state as 'an
entity enjoying a monopoly of force in a given territory.' What better way to
describe what the Bosnian Serbs are trying to reconstruct in their part of B-H.
But Ashdown is staying firm. He has rebuffed Bosnian Serb objections to police
reforms by presenting his detailed plans for an ethnically united police force
for post-war Bosnia. Bosnia is the only country in Europe that does not have a
state-level police apparatus.
The new police force will be divided into nine regions, plus one central force
and one strictly for the capital, Sarajevo. According to the plan, these forces
will ignore entity boundaries and sometimes cross entity lines. 'The proposed
plan is a huge improvement over the current fractured and fragmented situation.
It will also mean huge cost savings from today's overstaffed and inefficient
set-up,' Ashdown said in a statement.
He is taking his cue from the EU's experts here. As we have seen, the EU has set
police reform as a key requirement for Bosnia's further progress towards the
Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the first step towards EU
membership. EU leaders believe that the disunity of the police force in Bosnia
has both failed to prevent and potentially fostered organized crime, graft, and
human and drug trafficking in the country. The Chief of the EU Police Mission (EUPM)
in Bosnia, Kevin Carty, said the existing police forces in Bosnia did not have
the capacity to fight crime, while Ashdown's proposal of nine new cross-entity
regions would create a police force with better coordination and resources.
'Bosnia is a transit [route] for drugs smuggling and human trafficking.
Criminals are not limited by [entity] borders, therefore, the police should not
be limited by entities,' he said in a statement
For now, the plan does not discuss the possibility of abolishing the entities'
separate interior ministries, a decision that Ashdown has left up to the B-H
state parliament, which has been considering the issue for two months. The idea
is that if the separate entity ministries can work together in the redefined
police force, across entity lines, there may be no need to disband the
ministries in favour of one state ministry.
The RS government had resigned in December 2004, in protest over Ashdown's
proposed police reforms - reforms they view as being tantamount to the end of
the Bosnian Serb entity. The complete proposal will be sent to the central
government and parliament for discussion. It is likely that Bosnian Serb
representatives in those institutions will reject the proposal.
EUFOR to fight organised crime
The European Union Force will help Bosnian authorities fight organised crime
in addition to peacekeeping measures in Bosnia-Herzegovina, EUFOR Commander
Major General David Leakey said in Sarajevo on May 24th. "Organised crime
is a serious problem in this country. It operates within a framework of parallel
structures which cheats the government out of big sums of revenue," Leakey
EUFOR's main objective is to "strengthen the capacity and capability of
Bosnia-Herzegovina's law enforcement agencies to make them stronger and more
effective" in addition to clamping down on crime networks and "help
change attitudes to crime and corruption." Some crime networks in Bosnia
have been siphoning funds to persons indicted for war crimes and helping them
evade justice, Leakey said. EUFOR would not be doing the work of the local
police or a tax collection agency, but would instead back Bosnia's law
enforcement agencies in fighting organised crime and corruption, he added.
Ivanic for more self-rule
Bosnian Foreign Minister, Mladen Ivanic, announced recently that local
institutions should replace foreign ones as regards the administration of the
country, hri.org reported.
According to Ivanic, foreign institutions should have to stop being responsible
in for determining the course of the country's economy. Until foreign
institutions stop interfering, foreign investors will not invest in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, he said, adding that Bosnians have not seen any improvement
in their standards of living for at least a decade.
Bosnian railway set for reform
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will approve a 140m
Euro (US$170m) loan this year to revive Bosnia's railways sector, according to
One main condition for the release of the funds was that the central parliament
passes a law reforming the muddled railway system. The law has since been
passed. The law allows for the creation of an infrastructure management company
and a railway regulatory body. Both will supervise passenger and freight
operations in the two separate rail companies of Bosnia's two autonomous
regions. The restructuring plan will see the rail services being privatised
while the state remains in charge of the infrastructure. The project will be
co-financed by the EBRD and the European Investment Bank (EIB).