Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 121 - (27/06/07)
The uneasy peace
Bosnian Serb politicians were blamed for whipping up ethnic intolerance in the
run-up to the October poll last year in the Serb Republic (RS), and for playing
on national differences to win votes. The victory of the more moderate Alliance
of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) over the more nationalist Serb Democratic
Party (SDS) was predictable. But analysts say both resorted to playing the
ethnic card in order to secure votes from RS's largely nationalist electorate.
This has aggravated an unfortunate legacy of ethnic strife. No Balkan
geopolitical entity is more mired in history than Bosnia, alas.
Despite the ten years that have passed since the end of the 1992-5 war, and
the millions of euros and dollars invested in attempts to return refugees to
their homes, the two entities that make up Bosnia-Herzegovina remain as
ethnically polarised as ever. While the Federation is home to most Bosniaks and
Croats in the country, the overwhelming majority of inhabitants in RS are Serbs.
This leads to tension, especially in summer, as now, when many Bosniaks and
Croats living outside RS or outside Bosnia-Herzegovina come back to RS to visit
their former homes.
Last summer, these temporary returns have also coincided with an election
campaign. 'Politicians are opting for the tried and tested course of instigating
national intolerance in order to improve their chances in the elections,' Srdan
Puhalo, a social psychologist, told Balkan Insight at the time. Puhalo said
politicians resorted to this approach in the absence of offering any other more
mundane solutions to the problems posed by a generally poor economic situation.
'Once again they are going for national homogenisation. The only question is
which party will be most successful at this,' said Puhalo.
Zvonko Tarle, of the Croatian Cultural Centre, in Banja Luka, said some
nationalist politicians were still trying their utmost to stop the return of
refugees to RS. 'The politicians have been preaching national intolerance for a
decade since the war,' he said. 'These provocations, which are neither prevented
nor condemned by the local officials, serve to secure the status quo and prevent
any positive developments in the field of ethnic coexistence.'
Hardliners return; Ashdown's mistake?
Political analysts say the situation has been worsened by the return to the
political stage of a group of hard-line nationalists, who were earlier excluded
from politics. Relenting on this issue may have been the biggest mistake of the
previous High Representative, Paddy Ashdown.
He and his predecessors used the extensive powers granted them by the
international community to force numerous Bosnian Serb hardliners from office.
The most often cited reason was alleged activities against the 1995 Dayton peace
settlement and instigation of confessional and national hatred. At the end of
2005, however, Ashdown ended the ban on a number of such politicians, some of
whom are now re-entering politics and taking part in elections.
One striking returnee to the political stage is Predrag Lazarevic, former leader
of the Serb Party for Republika Srpska (SSRS). In 2000, international community
representatives banned his party from the municipal elections after SSRS refused
to remove from office its leader, who was accused of violating election rules
and instigating ethnic hatred. Lazarevic returned to the political stage last
year as a member of the Radical Party of Republika Srpska (SRS), using the
opportunity to air his hard-core opposition to the concept of a multi-ethnic
state, which he has described as 'an empty word, a story for children'. He
openly opposes the existence of united Bosnia-Herzegovina, proposing a
'Scandinavian-ized' Balkans in which 'there will be one state for each nation'.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is home to three nations, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
Lazarevic advocates a division of territory along ethnic lines, involving
'nations living next to each other, because living with each other has
inevitably resulted in bloodshed at regular intervals'.
Puhalo said Lazarevic's political ratings were always high on the right of the
Serbian political spectrum and had gone higher since he joined the Radicals.
Analysts like Puhalo say such divisive political options are attractive to young
people in RS. 'It is a generation that sprang up during the war and developed
when nationalism was at its peak,' he said. 'Unfortunately, they can easily
switch from words to actions,' he added, referring to recent incidents against
Youth the key; a sombre prospect
Aleksandar Trifunovic, director of the Buka media project in RS, fears that
nationalism among the younger generation in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be hard to
combat. He hopes that it will not go any further than written or verbal
provocations directed against other ethnic communities. 'The young generation is
the key obstacle to the revival of coexistence in Bosnia-Herzegovina,'
Trifunovic told Balkan Insight.
A straw poll taken by Balkan Insight on the streets of Banja Luka suggests
Trifunovic's pessimistic description of the youth scene is based on reality.
Mirjana Avdalovic, a student at the philosophy faculty in Banja Luka, said what
she called 'mixing of the nations' ought never to have been allowed after the
war. If Bosnia -Herzegovina had to be a single state, each nation ought to have
been given a territory of its own within it, she went on. 'We cannot live
together and we should not have allowed Bosniaks and Croats to come back to
Republika Srpska and build mosques... It is only causing frustrations among
Serbs,' she concluded. Stanimir Nježic, a technician, agreed. 'Every nation
should live separately, which is why Republika Srpska should break away from
Bosnia-Herzegovina,' he said.
Infighting stalls reforms in Bosnia
Nevertheless, RS Prime Minister Dodik is keen to keep things together. The
alternative to strife and disunion is entry into the EU, he says. But this is
stalled by political infighting.
There will be no progress on police reform, a vital condition laid down by
Brussels, until politicians in the Federation accept the Serbian entity.
"They can think whatever they want about Republika Srpska but until they
accept it, there will be no agreement, even if Bosnia has to stand still for a
hundred years on its path to the European Union," the prime minister told
Police reform is an essential step for Bosnia's possible admission to the
European Union. For the US-brokered peace agreement that ended the 1992-1995
Bosnian war left the country divided into a Bosnian Serb mini-state and a
Muslim-Croat Federation, with each having their own government and police.
Haris Silajdžic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian Presidency and other Muslim
leaders in the Federation have stepped up their demands for abolition of RS
since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) based in The Hague, Netherlands,
ruled in February that Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide in July 1995 when
they overran the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, killing up to 8,000 Muslim men
Dodik was especially outraged by the latest calls of Silajdžic for the
abolition of Republika Srpska. During his recent visit to London, Silajdžic
asked British diplomats to support the abolition of the Bosnian Serb Republic
"because it was created through genocide."
"We have no intention of talking to Silajdžic about any issue as long as
he continues to claim that the police in Republika Srpska committed genocide.
That is a lie and this must stop," Dodik said and added that the ICJ
verdict did not incriminate institutions in Republika Srpska, but individuals
and groups of individuals.
Silajdžic responded on Bosnian television, saying that Dodik should divert his
accusations to the ICJ in The Hague as it was the ICJ that said that
institutions, the police and the army of Republika Srpska committed genocide.
"I will continue to talk about genocide and remind everyone that the
results of genocide cannot be acknowledged and have to be eliminated,"
At an open meeting of the UN Security Council in May, the international
community issued a tough warning to Bosnian politicians to stop nationalistic
rhetoric and start essential reforms or else EU membership will remain a distant
Iran stresses bolstering economic ties with Bosnia
A pariah to the international community, Iran, is far more welcoming and
sensitive to Bosnian needs. Iranian Foreign Ministry Director General for
Central and Northern Europe, Ali Baqeri, in Sarajevo on June 10th called for
expansion of trade and economic ties with Bosnia. Baqeri made the remark during
a meeting with Bosnian Minister of Trade and Economic Relations Slobodan Puhalac.
The Iranian official said grounds have been prepared for participation of
Bosnian companies in Iran's economic affairs. Establishment of a joint economic
committee between the two countries as well as Iran-Bosnia Joint Chamber of
Commerce would help boost bilateral cooperation in various economic fields.
Puhalac, for his part, stressed the importance of promotion of bilateral
economic ties and called for final conclusion of an agreement on trade
preferential tariffs between Tehran and Sarajevo. The Bosnian minister welcomed
Iran-Bosnia joint investment in a third country.
Sarajevo's Global Payments signs a deal with VABA Bank
Global Payments Inc, a world leader in electronic transaction processing
services, recently announced that its Sarajevo-based, wholly-owned subsidiary,
Global Payments Europe d.o.o. Sarajevo, has reached a five-year agreement to
provide comprehensive payment card processing services to VABA Bank dd,
Sarajevo, New Europe reported.
VABA Bank dd, Sarajevo is a newly established bank in Bosnia Herzegovina, after
its parent bank, VABA Banka, Varazdin, Croatia, acquired the assets of
Ljubljanska banka, Sarajevo.
Global Payments Europe Sarajevo will provide the bank with a complete array of
card processing services including authorisation, card management, fraud
monitoring and prevention, card personalisation and Point of Sale (POS) terminal
network management, Fars news agency reported. Ismet Kumalic, senior executive
of VABA Bank dd, Sarajevo said, "With Global Payments we have a recognised
partner with worldwide references and a reputation for providing high quality
services. Global Payments' strong regional presence and experience in the card
business is a great competitive advantage for us. Global's expertise will help
us create added value for the Bank and our clients. We see this agreement as an
important part of our business success in this dynamic market."
Mustafa Bektic CEO of Global Payments Europe, Sarajevo said he was happy with
the agreement with VABA Bank which represents the first agreement with a new
banking client signed to retain its services since Global Payments acquired the
assets of Diginet d.o.o.