Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 109 - (29/06/06)
The spectre of independence cast by Montenegro
It is hardly surprising that the independence of Montenegro is having
repercussions elsewhere in the Balkans, especially in neighbouring Bosnia.
Within a week of the declaration of Montenegrin independence on June 3rd (the
vote in favour took place in the referendum on May 21st), the Bosnian Serbs
began to talk of having a referendum of their own on whether they remain within
The problem is any such referendum would likely to be won by the pro-secession
camp. Indeed, it is a near certainty that it would. There is no love lost
between the Serbs and the other two peoples of BiH, the Croats and the Moslems,
after the appalling events of 1992-95, known to all.
But any break-up of BiH would have a disruptive impact on what remains of
Serbia, encouraging Kosovo to go down the same route and perhaps even the
Albanians in Macedonia. This at any rate is what the international community
Russia joins EU, US against referendum calls of Bosnia Serbs
The Russian government has rejected the latest referendum calls of Bosnian
Serbs for the Serbian entity of Republika Srpska (RS) to split from the country,
the office of international envoy said.
In this they are joining the EU and the US, who do not want to see any further
splintering of the Balkans. The RS would in all probability then join up with
the now truncated Serbia, some consolation to the Serbs in their loss.
With everyone else against the idea, it is imperative to see what the attitude
of Belgrade is the prospect, which has yet to be made clear.
Schwarz-Schilling urges BiH Parliament to enact key laws before October
Lawmakers should "waste no time" in adopting legislation to
improve people's lives and meet EU requirements, High Representative Christian
Schwarz-Schilling said in his first major speech to a BiH institution.
Schwarz-Schilling, has called for penalties to be imposed on Serb
parliamentarians who are boycotting lately the work of Assembly
Elected leaders must set aside personal agendas and engage in serious political
bargaining, said the BiH High Representative. "I will not take decisions
for those who do not have the courage to take them," he added. Christian
Schwarz-Schilling, the EU's special representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH),
said on 24th May that lawmakers in the country's central parliament were acting
in "bad faith," by letting opportunities to pursue reforms slip by. He
urged MPs to use the time until the October general elections to pass key
legislation needed for improving the lives of citizens and for meeting EU
"You should waste no time in taking decisive steps to improve the
situation," Schwarz-Schilling told the parliament in his first major speech
to a BiH institution since taking office at the beginning of February. "The
next 100 days -- the last of this particular parliament -- will offer you many
opportunities to do so."
The veteran German politician, who also serves as the EU special representative
in BiH, noted the need for reforms in the education sector -- in particular, a
Higher Education Law that would harmonise standards and foster opportunities for
the country's young people to study in Europe.
"I urge you not to hold the youth of this country back any more," said
Schwarz-Schilling. "The future of this country depends on them. They are
watching what you do -- do not let them down."
In the economic arena, Schwarz-Schilling listed three measures, which he said
could bring "significant economic progress" -- the law on obligations,
the salary law and the creation of a central banking supervision system.
Further reforms are also needed in the judicial sector, including changes aimed
at strengthening the judiciary and ensuring the continued successful transfer of
cases from The Hague tribunal, he said.
He also stressed that two major reforms -- of the country's police structures
and broadcasting system -- are essential to the "very fabric of this
society" and to the success of BiH's talks on a Stabilisation and
Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU.
Referring to lawmakers' recent rejection of a key constitutional reform package,
Schwarz-Schilling assured parliament of his willingness to play an active role
in helping achieve progress in this area. "Your responsibility does not end
with the "no" vote -- that is just the beginning," he said.
"Democracy does not stop when something is rejected."
Assuming his post earlier this year, Schwarz-Schilling made it clear that he
views his role as an assistant, adviser and advocate to BiH and its politicians.
Addressing lawmakers, he stressed that he was not planning a change in action,
particularly when it comes to the planned phase-out of the Office of the High
Representative next year.
But he also cautioned that he would not allow lack of responsibility and
political courage -- "a darker side of political life" that he had
witnessed in BiH in recent months -- to "overshadow what is good and
positive in this country".
Freeze of constitutional talks until October
The leaders of the main political parties of BiH's three ethnic entities
agreed to postpone the talks on the failed draft constitution package, until
after parliamentary elections due in October.
The agreement was made following consultations between representatives of the
six major BiH political parties of Bosniaks (Bosnia Muslims), Croats and Serbs,
and the International envoy Schwarz Schilling. Local politicians agreed that it
would be impossible to expect any breakthrough on the constitution deadlock
before October, and argued that as the pre-election campaign has started it is
better to freeze the issue until later this year.
Amendments agreed by main political parties supported by US and EU, failed to
have the support of two-thirds of the delegates of the House of Representatives
of BiH's parliament in April.
The new proposals are aimed to create more efficient institutions in the country
and at the same time to allow easier negotiations for better ties with EU and
NATO, of both of which BiH aims to become a full member.
As well as the political parties the majority of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)
citizens are also in favour of the constitution reform package. The latest
research conducted in April by International Republican Institute (IRI) on the
sample of 1550 citizens of BiH shows that 53.5% support the proposed changes of
the constitution, while 26% are against.
Among those who participated in the survey, 60.6% of Bosniaks (Bosnia Muslims)
support constitutional changes, while 50.3% of Croats are in favour and 44.9% of
The history of public violence in BiH is unfortunately matched by a high scale
of domestic violence too, aggravated no doubt by the events of 1992-95. The
following bleak account makes this evident:-
Bosnia's new battlefield is indoors
By Sabina Niksic
She survived the war but 31-year-old Maida came close to losing her unborn child
in what experts say is a new Bosnian battlefield - inside the home. The victims
are both women and children in this traditionally patriarchal society still
smarting from the legacy of the bloody 1992-95 conflict triggered by the
break-up of the old Yugoslav federation.
''Police statistics on family violence indicate an alarming increase in the
number of such cases,'' said Saliha Djuderija, a legal adviser with Bosnia's
ministry for human rights and refugees.
In the first three months of this year, there were 50% more cases of domestic
violence recorded - according to police, court and help hot-line records - than
for all of 2005, she said.
Post-war Bosnia is a ''high-risk country'' thanks to a 40% unemployment rate,
one of Europe's highest, post-traumatic stress and inadequate social services,
Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of Europe's poorest countries and next to Macedonia,
ranked the poorest of the former six Yugoslav republics.
While there are no precise figures, an NGO working on the issue, the Foundation
for Local Democracy (FLD), estimates that domestic violence affects more than
half of Bosnian society. ''According to our recent research, 60% of women are
exposed to family violence, mainly by their husbands,'' according to FLD member,
Lejla Mujkic, who said the survey covered 7,200 women.
And the abuse ignores Bosnia's still strong ethnic divide, hitting all groups -
Muslim, Orthodox, Serb and Croat.
It was not before she endured long months of physical, verbal and sexual abuse
that Maida gathered courage to escape from her husband.
Seven-months pregnant at the time, she waited for the early morning hours to run
away from her ''home prison.''
It was winter, but she was so frightened she might be caught that she crept out
of the apartment barefoot, carrying her boots in her hands.
''I knew I had to escape ... a few days before he hit me so hard that my jaw
broke. I had to run away because of the baby,'' Maida recalled.
In the months prior to her flight, Maida's husband assaulted her on a regular
basis, threatening to kill her if she tried to leave.
Since they shared their home with his family, Maida was never alone, always with
what she called an ''escort''.
''They did not beat me, but someone always followed me. I could not go to a shop
or even the toilet without being followed.''
Maida and her child, a 21-month-old toddler, now live in a Sarajevo safe house
for victims of domestic violence, which the FLD opened five years ago.
She no longer sees herself as a ''person without identity'', and hopes to get a
job soon and find her own apartment for herself and her son.
''We passed good legislation for prevention of and protection from domestic
violence, but we face many problems with implementation,'' Djuderija said.
Three years ago family violence was finally designated a criminal offence in
Bosnia, under pressure from NGOs. It now carries a sentence ranging from fines
to 10-years' imprisonment in cases where the abuse resulted in the death of the
Mujkic echoed Djuderija's views.
''We have good institutional mechanisms, but they are not applicable due to the
lack of funding and to some extent good will,'' she said, noting that ''all
shelters in Bosnia are run and financed by the non-governmental organisations.''
Old perceptions of family violence as a private matter remain strong in Bosnia's
patriarchal society despite growing media attention.
''Most people, particularly in rural communities, believe that what goes on
inside a family is a private matter, and a lot of women are reluctant to change
things due to their patriarchal upbringing,'' Mujkic said.
A recent countrywide survey by Sarajevo-based Institute of Criminology and
Security Studies showed that nearly 40% of Bosnians believed that men had the
right to treat their wives any way they wanted, while a majority said women had
to obey their husbands.
Many women decide not to persecute their abusive husbands because of their
economic dependence, Mujkic said.
''Out of 500 cases, only two or three end up in court,'' she said.
Victims are also reluctant to take their cases to court because of drawn-out
legal procedures that usually end up in mild sentences.
World Bank sees economy as expanding
Bosnia-Herzegovina's economy continued to expand strongly in the first quarter
of 2006 at a rate of about five per cent, the World Bank said in Sarajevo in its
economic newsletter for Bosnia, Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa) reported.
According to the report by the World Bank Country Manager in Bosnia, Dirk
Reinermann, industrial output "rose strongly, as mining and metal
production expanded strongly, benefiting from higher prices for exported
metals." The World Bank also noted narrowing of the current account
deficit, explaining it with "a temporary drop in imports and a strong rise
in exports." "The merchandise trade deficit narrowed to about 550
million Euro (US$707 million) during the first quarter from 700 million Euro
(more than US$900 million) a year earlier," the World Bank's report said.
Introduction of value added tax (VAT) in Bosnia at the beginning of this year,
the report said, helped the creation of the current economic situation in the
ENT, HT Mobile ink 2.1 mln Euro deal
Ericsson Nikola Tesla (ENT) signed a contract in Mostar with Bosnia and
Herzegovina's operator HT Mobile communications (new name for former Eronet)
worth 2.1 million Euro, which calls for the expansion of the mobile network,
delivery of new base stations and radio links and an upgrade of BSC and OSS, the
news portal reporter.gr reported.