HDZ forms negotiating team
The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leadership announced Thursday that it had put together a negotiating team for talks with local authorities and the international community on ending its nearly six-month boycott of government institutions.
"We realized this is the moment for a serious political talk with the international community,'' said dismissed Party President Ante Jelavić. "The aim of these talks is to get us out of the present political and institutional crisis."
The crisis has been brewing since the nationalist HDZ started using Croats' fears of marginalization (they are a much smaller ethnic group than Muslims or Serbs) to consolidate the party's hold on power in areas of Hercegovina and central Bosnia. The HDZ boycotted the Muslim-Croat Federation and BiH common institutions following the November elections that brought a non-nationalist ruling coalition to power.
At the beginning of March, they and several smaller Croatian parties declared "Croat self-governance" in three Croat-majority cantons. Thousands of Croatian soldiers left the Federation Army. The international community removed Jelavić as the Croatian member of the BiH Presidency, and moved in to investigate a bank suspected of funding the separatists. All accounts in the bank have been frozen for the past month.
"The consequences of the activities of the unconstitutional authorities, the international community and our own standpoints have generated a deep institutional crisis in BiH, and therefore we believe it is time for a dialogue," said Croatian National Assembly (HNS) leader Marko Tokić at a press conference. He said the HNS wanted constitutional reforms that would ensure the equality of all three peoples. He dismissed recent suggestions to end the crisis, such as implementing a 2000 Constitutional Court decision on constituent peoples or establishing commissions in both entities.
The Office of the High Representative (OHR) stated that it wants a political solution to the crisis but it will not have talks with anyone who has been dismissed or who is engaged in bodies of the Croat self-rule, namely the HNS. A spokesperson said that the OHR has not even received a message from the HDZ about any sort of dialogue.
"Up to now, no one in the name of the HDZ has officially appealed to us with this sort of offer," said spokesperson Alexandra Stiglmeyer in Oslobođenje Friday. She said the continuation of dialogue depended on what the HDZ wants and in what way the party contacts the OHR.
SDP headquarters bombed in Vitez
A bomb destroyed the headquarters of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Vitez Tuesday morning. BH-TV and OBN-TV reported that the bomb had been set near one of the building's windows, and both news programs showed the gutted inside of the offices.
Muslim-Croat Federation President and SDP member Karlo Filipović said the bombing was a "desperate attempt of criminals who want to stop the democratic processes in the country." SDP-Vitez leader Ivo Taraba said the incident was the fourth such attack on the SDP offices in Vitez in the past six months. The SDP is the leader of the non-nationalist coalition that controls the central Bosnian government.
The international community condemned the incident. "This terrorist act, carried out against one of the leading parties in the country, raises concerns that there are extremists at work who are intent on destabilizing BiH by using violence and other undemocratic means," the Office of the High Representative announced in a statement.
Dobrinja returning to normal
The Sarajevo suburb of Dobrinja is returning to normal following last week's protests over an arbitration decision that awarded two disputed areas to the Muslim-Croat Federation. Novi Grad Municipality head Damir Hadžić announced this week that the municipality is opening an information/services office in Dobrinja. He also reiterated that no one will be evicted for 30 days.
Evictions are a legitimate concern in Dobrinja I and IV. Many of the residents of the formerly Serb-held areas are living in Dobrinja apartments that belonged to someone else before the war. Federation authorities said last week that evicting all the illegal occupants in Dobrinja I and IV could open up apartments for 3000 pre-war dwellers. But property issues in Bosnia are a real nightmare—in many cases, people living in other peoples' apartments have no existing pre-war home to go back to, or someone else is living in their original apartment.
Local governments are supposed to be responsible for finding alternate homes for these people. Of course, some people profit from the situation by selling their old apartment and continuing to live in someone else's house, or by renting out their old apartments. Hadžić said these people would not be eligible for alternative accommodation.
The United Nations is offering jobs with the Federation Interior Ministry to about 50 Serbian policemen living in the area. "This would help Sarajevo authorities reach their quota of Serb policemen, and would open slots for Croat and Bosniak (Muslim) policemen in Serbian Sarajevo who want to join the RS (Republika Srpska) Police," said UN spokesperson Douglas Coffman.
ICTY scouts to find Karadžić and Mladić
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chief prosecutor announced this week that she will ask for a special scout unit to locate several tribunal indictees that are still at large, reported Nezavisne Novine on Thursday.
NN wrote that this was prosecutor Carla Del Ponte's response to RS leaders' comments last week on their visit to Washington. RS President Mirko Šarović, when asked why wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić and former General Ratko Mladić had not been arrested yet, was reported to have said, "Tell us where they are and we will arrest them."
Del Ponte is currently in negotiations with the United Nations and NATO on forming the special unit, which would only be tasked with locating suspects, not with arresting them. Del Ponte has made it clear in recent months that she is exasperated by getting the runaround from officials. Yugoslav authorities say they do not know where Mladić is, though he was often seen in Belgrade last year, walking the streets and going to soccer games. RS officials say the same things. The official line of international Stabilization Forces (SFOR) in Bosnia is similar.
"Media reports from Bosnia often go counter to these statements," wrote NN. "Every now and then there are interviews with SFOR soldiers or local residents, and they are positive that they know where Karadžić and/or Mladić are."
The RS has the added stigma of not arresting even a single war crimes suspect, though its officials are required to follow through with this under the Dayton Accords. SFOR has arrested more than 20 suspects since the end of the war, but have been criticized by Del Ponte and others for not taking a more vigorous role in making arrests.
May Day protests
While protesters took the streets in cities around the world on May Day, most Bosnians took to the public parks and nearby lakes to have a roštilj (barbecue) and to knock back a few beers. Both Tuesday and Wednesday were declared days off by the government, and many people took Monday off as well. But most of the people interviewed by BH-TV at a popular riverside park outside of Sarajevo pointed out the irony of celebrating the International Workers' Day when no one has jobs.
The BiH Trade Union did organize a few May Day demonstrations, but they had nothing in common with anti-globalization protests in other world cities. Marchers here protested high unemployment and months-late salaries.
RS railroads to get loan
Republika Srpska railroads will receive KM 40 million (USD 18.5 million) in credits from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to repair railroad stations and to buy equipment, announced RS Railroads manager Sreten Telebak on Monday.
Railroads in Bosnia are slowly getting back on their feet. It has been possible, for example, to go by train from Sarajevo to the Croatian coast for the past two years. Starting 10 June, people will be able to take the train from Sarajevo to Zagreb for the first time since before the war. Other rebuilt lines working this summer will be Banja Luka-Belgrade and a weekend Ljubljana-Doboj line. But the country-wide BiH Railroads Corporation is still fraught with problems, because it is made up of three ethnic-territorial components that often do not work together.
"More than two years have passed since the corporation was established," Telebak told Onasa. "Its functions are minimal even today."
Beth Kampschror, 4 May 2001
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