>Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2000 10:02:53 +0100
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>To: macsunfl at freemail.org.mk
>From: Paola Lucchesi <paola.lucchesi at mail.inet.it>
>>The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based independent
>>non-profit organisation supporting regional media and democratic change.
>>Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, United Kingdom.
>>Tel: (44 171) 713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140 E-mail: info at iwpr.net; Web:
>>The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the authors
>>and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.
>>Copyright (C) 1999 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting <www.iwpr.net.
>>With corruption and self-interest still plaguing the Bosnian political scene
>>and Western aid money on the decline, Bosnia welcomed the year 2000 with a
>>mixture of hope and trepidation.
>>By Janez Kovac in Sarajevo
>>Like virtually everywhere across the globe, Bosnia's central squares were
>>packed with revelling crowds enjoying the celebrations on New Year's Eve.
>>But the singing and dancing crowds were not thronging the streets as a
>>testament to a happy country. Rather the occasion offered a rare opportunity
>>for people to forget their problems and those blighting the country.
>>Amidst the fancy and expensive fireworks organised in all the bigger cities,
>>the loudest bang came from an explosion which damaged the home of Muslim
>>returnee in the Bosnian Croat controlled town of Stolac in southern Bosnia.
>>In the closing weeks of 1999 the Bosnian parliament repeatedly failed to
>>adopt essential import tax legislation, forcing Bosnia's top international
>>mediator, Wolfgang Petritsch, to intervene. On January 1 the government of
>>the Muslim-Croat federation raised fuel prices by 10 per cent, prompting
>>fears that general inflation will follow.
>>"As much as I wish you and your country the best, I cannot help feeling
>>worried," said Petritsch, in an open letter to the Bosnian people published
>>on New Year's Eve. Like many analysts, both local and international,
>>Petritsch said he sees the year 2000 as an important crossroads for Bosnia.
>>>From an optimistic viewpoint for the third year running Bosnia-Herzegovina
>>has registered one of the biggest rates of increase in GDP in the world.
>>Many homes have been repaired and people can now travel largely unmolested
>>around the country regardless of their ethnic or religious origins. The
>>experience of Bosnia demonstrates that reconciliation is not only possible
>>but already taking place.
>>But not all is rosy. From a pessimistic viewpoint the picture is quite
>>different, mostly thanks to local politicians. The increase in GPD and the
>>general improvement in living standards is largely based on foreign
>>donations and loans. The fragile Bosnian economy relies heavily on the
>>millions of U.S. dollars earned from the expenditure of the thousands of
>>Western officials living and working in the country.
>>Rather than investing in the reconstruction and regeneration of Bosnia's
>>shattered industry, money pours into the expansion of an already monstrous
>>bureaucratic apparatus. Corrupt, self-indulgent and incompetent local
>>leaders and ruling parties bicker over trivial matters, constantly feeding
>>ethnic tensions as their only means of clinging onto power. While local
>>politicians make a mockery of the parliament and joint institutions, High
>>Representative Petritsch is forced to use his powers and impose legislation.
>>"Western governments and donors are becoming impatient," Petritsch said. "I
>>appeal to both politicians and citizens to take the growing disgruntlement
>>in the West seriously and to change course." Petritsch quoted specialised
>>international business magazines and publications, which label the country
>>"aid-addicted", and proposed reducing foreign involvement in Bosnia to a
>>basic military presence only.
>>Yet several local and international experts recently warned that already
>>reduced foreign aid, combined with a burgeoning bureaucracy, weak industry
>>and an enormous import-export deficit, could easily propel Bosnia into her
>>first serious post-war economic crisis in the year 2000.
>>Prices and unemployment are expected to rise, triggering inflation and mass
>>civil unrest. Pension payments are seriously in arrears - August payments
>>only reached their recipients in December - prompting angry pensioners to
>>threaten protests unless the situation is resolved.
>>Trade unions have promised more nation-wide strikes, demonstrations and
>>chaos unless pay and working conditions improve in 2000. At present an
>>estimated 50 per cent of Bosnians are unemployed. Average incomes of those
>>people fortunate enough to have a job are around 300 German Marks (DM),
>>while monthly out-goings for an average family are around 500 DM.
>>Impatient Western governments have already started to re-direct aid to
>>Kosovo and the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, Petritsch said in his
>>letter. "What we need now is a radical change," he added.
>>But the ruling Bosnian Serb, Croat and Muslim parties seem either unwilling
>>or unable to make any changes, for better or worse. Frustrated by corruption
>>and the constant obstructions placed in the way of refugees returning home,
>>Petritsch sacked 22 local leaders from all ethnic groups on December 22. In
>>the same month the NATO-led peace force published the findings following an
>>October 14 raid in West Mostar. The operation provided proof that the
>>Bosnian Croat secret service (SNS) was illegally producing pornography,
>>forfeiting credit cards and mobile phone chips, not to mention wire-tapping
>>and monitoring the work of international organisations in Central and
>>Southern Bosnia.
>>Angered by Petritsch's sacking of Bosnian Croat officials and NATO's
>>publication of the damaging evidence against the SNS, the Croatian
>>Democratic Union in Bosnia party retaliated by refusing to accept the
>>dismissals and rejecting legislation recently introduced by Petritsch.
>>Meanwhile the local media are uncovering new evidence of corruption within
>>the Muslim political leadership on an almost daily basis. During recent
>>weeks independent local magazines published articles concerning several
>>state-owned companies run by a party loyalist, which have been financing
>>secret deals with the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA). As yet
>>no formal investigation or legal action has been taken against those
>>At the same time, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
>>(OSCE), charged with overseeing the Bosnian elections, has recently
>>discovered evidence of fraud within the registration process of Bosnian
>>voters living in the United States and Germany. The OSCE believes SDA
>>officials are responsible and have decided to remove up to 15 candidates
>>once the full lists are finalised.
>>The situation is no better in the Bosnian Serb-controlled part of the
>>country. There, the moderate prime minister, Milorad Dodik, has failed to
>>fulfil most of his economic and social pledges and programs, despite
>>generous financial and political support from the international community.
>>As a result, Dodik's government is facing increased public scorn and could
>>easily lose the upcoming local and parliamentary elections to the hard-line
>>nationalist Serb Democratic Party.
>>In their traditional New Year's Eve statements, the three members of the
>>Bosnian tripartite presidency - Croat Ante Jelavic, Serb Zivko Radisic and
>>Muslim Alija Izetbegovic - failed to offer any concrete plans for the coming
>>year. Instead they only offered only vague statements on democracy and
>>ethnic interests.
>>Zlatko Lagumdzija, president of the leading opposition Social Democratic
>>Party (SDP) calls such complacency "a tragedy". And he warns that the
>>situation in Bosnia next year will only get worse - a shift which from which
>>he believes his party, like its counterpart in Croatia, stands to benefit
>>Petritsch also stressed that the situation in Bosnia could be best improved
>>through political change at the ballot box. "By insisting on the rule of law
>>and, ultimately, using the ballot box you can ensure that they [the
>>political leaders] do not get away with corruption, self-indulgence and
>>negligence," Petritsch said in his New Year's Eve letter. Addressing the
>>Bosnian electorate, he emphasised: "The way to a prosperous
>>Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Europe depends on you."
>>Janez Kovac is a pseudonym for a journalist from Sarajevo.
>>- ### -
>>{#} ----------------------------------------------------+[ bcrenglish ]+---