Izetbegović to retire
Alija Izetbegović, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina, announced this week that he will retire after his mandate expires on 12 October 2000. His withdrawal from the Presidency was expected for some time due to his age and ailing medical condition.
Izetbegović, who will turn 75 in August, said that his hope of preserving the "dream of a united, prosperous and democratic" BiH would not end with his retirement from office. Rather, he said, the dream will be carried forward by the "patriots of Bosnia and Hercegovina."
Izetbegović was elected the first president of BiH in 1992, the same year the country declared its independence from Yugoslavia. (BiHPress)
Presidential elections in the offing?
Izetbegović's announcement prompted widespread speculation that the other two presidency members, Bosnian Serb Živko Raišić and Bosnian Croat Ante Jelavić, would have to resign pending new elections. Members of the international community's mission to BiH are saying in private that they would welcome the men's resignations, calling them "obstructionist" in the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords.
Silajđić slams presidency election process
Meanwhile, president of the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (SBiH) and former Bosnian co-premier Haris Silajđić delivered a written statement to BiHPress denouncing rumors that he was seeking the Presidency.
Silajđić said he would refuse to run, noting that "I have always strongly supported consistent respect for the BiH Constitution in all its segments, and an election for the vacant [position on the Presidency] will not be carried out in accordance with the Constitution."
"According to the Constitution," he claimed, "members of the Presidency are to be elected by a direct general vote. However, the election for the vacant position will be carried out by a vote in the BiH Parliament. So, a new member of the presidency will not be elected by the will of citizens, but will depend on the existing relations between political forces in Parliament."
Silajđić stressed that the manner in which Izetbegović would be replaced was only the latest "revision of the Dayton Agreement, has been carried out in practice already with serious costs for the reintegration of BiH, its integrity and statehood." (BiHPress)
Tusevljak new premier
In other political news, Spasoje Tusevljak, an obscure Serb economics professor claimed by some to have had close ties to the Milošević regime despite his lack of party affiliation, was elected Bosnia's new full prime minister.
His election drew criticism from Bosnian Muslim and Croat political parties and the international community alike. The former denounced his alleged ties to the Belgrade regime, while the latter decried his relative inexperience in politics and management. (Oslobodjenje)
Ex Serbian "Panther" gunned down
Ljubiša "Mauzer" Savić, former commander of the elite Army of the Republika Srpska "Panther" unit and one time head of the RS Police Authority, was assassinated in Bijeljinja this week.
Savić apparently stopped his jeep to pick up an elderly woman and was shot three times by unknown assailants who had followed him in an unmarked vehicle. Savić was killed instantly, and the attackers fled the scene in the direction of Ugljevik in a civilian vehicle.
According to officials, police responded quickly to the shooting and, despite having established roadblocks, were not able to catch the attackers.
Police sources speculated that the Savić hit was carried out by professionals, noting that all rounds fired hit Savić, while the elderly woman he had picked up was unharmed. Motives for Savić's murder remain unknown, and no group has claimed responsibility for the assassination. (Oslobodjenje)
First Muslims back to Srebrenica area
Approximately 80 Bosnian Muslim families returned to a small village some 17km from Srebrenica last weekend, marking the first large return to the area since Serbian forces massacred thousands of Bosnian Muslim men under the eyes of Dutch UNPROFOR troops in 1995. (BiHPress)
Trade talks with Zagreb
Meeting in Zagreb this week, Croatian and Bosnian officials ironed out "95 percent" of a new agreement to enhance trade relations between the two nations.
Experts from both sides are due to meet again this week in Banja Luka to hammer out an agreement on the few outstanding issues, hoping the deal will go into effect on 1 January 2000.
Both sides are scrambling to reduce recent drops in trade that saw Bosnian exports to Croatia drop some 50 percent in the past year, while Croatian exports to Bosnia have fallen 16 percent in the same period. (BiHPress)
New Federal Customs Agency
BiH's new Federal Customs agency was inaugurated as the federal government's news organization at a ceremony held at Sarajevo International Airport on Tuesday.
The first group of 85 agents will operate at the Sarajevo airport, where they will be assisted by police officers from Sarajevo Kanton. Eventually, some 3000 agents will operate 240 border checkpoints.
BiH Presidency Chair Alija Izetbegović was present for the ceremony, and said the federal customs agency will play an essential role in promoting the nation's development and prosperity. In particular, he noted that the agency's establishment met one of the requirements for World Trade Organization membership.
UN representative Jacques Paul Klein said that the primary role of the customs agency will be the prevention of smuggling and corruption.
He continued to say that "due to illegal shipments and smuggling of various goods, we are loosing hundreds of millions in convertible marks and this country needs those funds. Having a professional customs agency contributes enormously to the prevention of illegal immigration, weapons proliferation and drug smuggling."
Slavisa Vuković will head agency, while Tomislav Mihalj and Muhamed Mesić will be his deputies. (Oslobodjenje)
Central bank to get EU cash infusion
The Central Bank of Bosnia-Hercegovina (CBBH) will receive EUR 1.6 million from the European Union as an investment to improve the nation's current banking system, EU and CBBH representatives said at a press conference in Sarajevo this week.
"With this project in place, CBBH will operate efficiently while transactions for clients will take less time," said Per Madsen, director of the EU's EUBAS investment project.
Madsen continued to say that part of the project is devoted to the training of bank personnel, who will receive instruction in areas ranging from credit analysis to accounting. The training is to be provided by a team of banking professionals from Western European countries. (BiHPress)
Ibrahim Sejfović, 9 June 2000
BiHPress - the news agency of Bosnia-Hercegovina
Oslobodjenje - Sarajevo-based independent magazine