Đinđić in Sarajevo
Bosnia and Yugoslavia will strengthen economic ties, announced Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić and BiH Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdžija on Tuesday. Đinđić is the first Serbian prime minister to visit Bosnia since war broke out in 1992.
"Our common goal is that the region in which we live will be attractive to foreign investments," Đinđić was quoted in Oslobođenje Wednesday. "That people can invest their own money without uneconomical risks. Our task as politicians is to bring uneconomical risks to a minimum. And the biggest uneconomical risks are political instability, corruption and crime, with which we in this region today are unfortunately well-acquainted. We agreed that the competent ministries are stepping in the direction of co-operation, and at the end of each month they will announce the results of their work."
Though Đinđić has always been an opponent of former FRY President Slobodan Milošević, his views towards Bosnian Serbs during the war were not as confrontational. Newspapers printed pictures of him at a barbecue with wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić. Liberal Democratic Party Vice-President Hamid Čustović sarcastically suggested to Onasa News Agency before Đinđić's Monday visit that the authorities should once again welcome him with a barbecue.
Zagreb-Sarajevo train service resumes
On Sunday, 10 June, reporters from most Bosnian media were aboard the first train since April 1992 to set out for Zagreb from the Sarajevo train station. Conductor Mladen Jović from Doboj told Nezavisne Novine (NN) that the actual passengers on the train numbered only 16, eight of whom were from Sarajevo. "He claimed that the passengers behaved correctly, as if everything was like it used to be," the paper reported.
The several passengers interviewed in the article were happy that they could once again travel by train. Going by bus has been the norm since the war ended, but it is uncomfortable and painfully slow. The Sarajevo-Zagreb bus ride, a 417-kilometer (258-mile) trip, takes 10 to 12 hours. The train is much faster.
Amir Dedić, who often goes to Tuzla from Banja Luka, said it was "phenomenal" that he could make the whole journey by train, instead of a combination of bus and train. Tomislav Ljevar, from Banja Luka, told the paper that he was happy to finally be able to take the train to where he is now living in Sunja. "(My) impressions are excellent," he said. "The train is excellent. The seat was comfortable, and the people were kind."
The NN reporters left no stone unturned in their report, even making sure the public would know how much the essentials of any journey—drinks—would cost on the train. "Prices in the bar are proportional to your thirst. Coffee costs one mark, beer two and a half, and so does štok (brandy)," they wrote.
The resumption of the Zagreb-Sarajevo train coincided with the formal beginning of the Sarajevo train station's reconstruction. The USD 1.5 million project, paid for by the Saudi Arabian Fund for Reconstruction and Development credit to the Federation of BiH, will give the station a much-needed facelift. It should also make train travel from Sarajevo more appealing.
The station has been a charred ruin for years, with its once-spacious interior looking more like the inside of an abandoned warehouse than a place from which to begin an exciting journey. Service to the Croatian seaside town of Ploče resumed in 1999, but war damage in and around the station made departures a bit unsettling. No word in the paper about when the project will be finished.
Foča prison camp bodies discovered
An anonymous letter led officials to a mass grave containing bodies of victims of the Foča prison camp this past Sunday. State Commission for Missing Persons Amor Mašović told NN that the letter said 80 of the 400 Muslims who had disappeared after being taken to the camp would be found in the pit near Foča. As of the paper's writing, the body of one man had already been identified by a credit card found in his wallet.
"We received an anonymous letter that was sent five months ago from—at least how it was signed—a Serb from Foča," Mašović said. "In the letter, it was written what happened, and I must take this opportunity in the name of all of us, and the families of the missing, to thank this man who made a huge human gesture."
"Many people are afraid, because witness protection still does not exist in BiH," said International Commission for Missing Persons President James Kinsey. "However, everyone can anonymously get in touch with our commission or the American embassy in BiH. Of course, protecting this sort of witnesses is on our agenda."
The Foča prison camp was created after local Serbs took over the town in April 1992. A camp commander, Milorad Krnojelac, is currently on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
New cornerstone date set for Ferhadija Mosque
The new date for laying the cornerstone for a medieval Banja Luka mosque destroyed during the war is 18 June, according to an Onasa report in Jutarnje Novine that cited sources close to the Republika Srpska (RS) government. The last attempt (7 May) to lay the cornerstone for a new Ferhadija Mosque ended in chaos and violence, as more than 1000 Serbs rioted, stoning the participants and setting the buses that brought them ablaze. One man died from injuries sustained in the incident.
The paper said US Ambassador to BiH Thomas Miller insisted on this date, because he wanted the cornerstone laid before his imminent departure from Bosnia. UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) spokesperson Alun Roberts said the date had not been officially announced. He did, however, say that members of the city government, the international community and local and international police had met this week, and that the Banja Luka police have promised to come up with a security plan in time for an IPTF inspection.
Security is also a concern for the cornerstone-laying ceremony on 11 July for a memorial to the thousands of Muslim men massacred by Serb forces when the town of Srebrenica fell in July 1995. The memorial, which will be built in nearby Potočari, was decided on last year at the fifth anniversary of the massacre. The spot is in the RS now, and given what happened in Banja Luka (and a similar incident in the RS town of Trebinje) last month, everyone wants a guarantee that there will be no violence.
Memorial advisory group member Sadik Selimović told Dnevni Avaz that SFOR has promised to place troops on the ground "who will react in the case of even the least incident."
And in other news...
- Croat Presidency member Jozo Križanović replaced Serb member Živko Radišić as the chair of Bosnia's rotating three-man presidency on Thursday 14 June. Bosnia's Constitution dictates that the three presidency members serve a collective two-year term and that they rotate as the leader of the presidency every eight months. Serving in the presidency with Križanović and Radišić is Muslim member Beriz Belkić.
About 10,000 people clogged the streets of Sarajevo Wednesday night after local team Željezničar, or Željo, won the BiH Premier League title following a 0-0 game with Zenica's Čelik. The maniacs, as Željo fans are called, partied in the streets late into the night, chanting Mi smo Željini, Željo je naš ("We're Željo's, Željo is ours"), and generally making a ruckus.
As of this writing, Željo was gearing up to play bitter crosstown rival Sarajevo for the BiH Cup Final, which will determine who goes to the European League of Champions. In a town where often the first question people ask you is "Are you for Željo or Sarajevo," Friday night's game should be intense.
Beth Kampschror, 15 June 2001
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