New laws, new court
While political parties and the international community clashed over the preliminary results of Bosnia-Hercegovina's 11 November elections (see Storm Cloud over Bosnia in this week's CER), High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch took the opportunity to impose several new laws on the country, including one establishing a state court.
Up until now, BiH has had no court to address issues like illegal immigration, trafficking in women, inter-entity crime or foreign trade or investment. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), which oversees the Dayton Peace Accords' civilian implementation, explained that such a court would make foreign investors less nervous by offering them a legal institution that would settle investment-related disputes. The BiH Council of Ministers was supposed to discuss the court at several of their meetings but did not, even though a one-million-euro European Union donation earmarked for the court hung in the balance.
"(Petritsch) has looked consistently to the country's political leaders, in a series of emergency meetings in the last few weeks, to take tough but necessary decisions that would have given people, such as investors and pensioners, some sense of security," stated the OHR this week. "He has been consistently disappointed."
Petritsch also amended the pension insurance laws in both entities so that the minimum monthly pensions will be KM (convertible mark) 117 (USD 51) in the Federation of BiH and KM 80 (USD 35) in Republika Srspka (RS). The Federation pension funds in Sarajevo and Mostar will also be merged to make the single fund more efficient.
On Wednesday, Petritsch ordered the FBiH government to reinstate the two financial police officials that entity Prime Minister Edhem Bičakčić had dismissed about a week before the elections. These police investigate tax and other financial fraud, and papers reported that the two officials had been in charge of investigating the FBiH government. The OHR called the dismissals "politically motivated." Petritsch ruled that both Zufer Dervišević and Miroslav Vidović must be immediately reinstated and that their replacements be suspended without pay and be banned from other financial police posts unless authorized by Petritsch.
Šarovič in trouble
BH Press and other news agencies reported that Serb Democratic Party candidate for Republika Srpska president Mirko Šarovič told Moscow's Vremja magazine, "We think of BiH as an autonomous country, but every Bosnian Serb has another wish deep in their heart." He was also reported to have said that if Kosovo Albanians get a referendum on independence, the RS would demand one as well.
Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz said in an editorial, "Šarovič has thus blackmailed BiH: however much Kosovo gets indepence, the same—as the law of equal and opposite forces goes—will also happen with the RS." The OHR stated they would deem him unacceptable for office if he did indeed make such statements. Šarovič's cabinet said he said nothing of the kind and never said anything to compromise BiH's sovereignty.
And in other news...
- Former BiH prime minister and present Party for BiH president Haris Silajdžić told a crowd at an event to promote economic co-operation between companies in Ohio and those in former-Yugoslav countries' that they should not go to Bosnia to do business because of the fragmented economy. He also said the Dayton Peace Accords, the treaty that ended the BiH war in 1995, need to be revised, saying, "It is not a Bible." Silajdžić is part of the BiH delegation in Dayton, Ohio, this week, marking the Accords's fifth anniversary.
- Banja Luka paper Nezavisne Novine Editor-in-Chief Željko Kopanja will receive an award from the Committee to Protect Journalists on 21 November, for his paper's reporting on war crimes committed by Bosnian Serb forces during the war. He received death threats because of the stories and then lost his legs in a car bombing last fall.
Beth Kampschror, 17 November 2000
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