Council of Ministers nominee sparks outcry
The Alliance for Changes, the opposition coalition that has the majority in the BiH House of Representatives, said this week that they do not support the Presidency's nominee for Council of Ministers chair. The Council is the state-level ministerial body, and its leader must be voted in by the House of Representatives.
The Presidency has re-nominated Martin Raguž, a Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) member who has been chair of the Council since fall. Alliance parties see the problem as twofold, in that the HDZ is part of the ten-year-old nationalist leadership that the Alliance is trying to sweep out, and that Raguž won't be confirmed by an Alliance-dominated House of Representatives.
Even parties not involved with the Alliance have announced their annoyance with Raguž's nomination. Both the Serb People's Association (SNS) and Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) criticised the Presidency for nominating a candidate who will in all probability be rejected by the House.
"In this case the Presidency should recognise the existence of the Alliance for Changes and should not waste months proposing candidates that they know will not get a majority," said SNS vice-president Milorad Filipić on Tuesday.
While non-Alliance parties said the Presidency was wasting everyone's time, Alliance parties are angry and accuse the Presidency of trying to hang on to their nationalist parties' power by ignoring the Alliance and proposing a HDZ candidate. Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) president Rasim Kadić said the Presidency had appointed Raguž in order to obstruct the Alliance's programme of changes. The Social Democratic Party (SDP), which leads the Alliance, announced on Wednesday that they would rally the House into demanding that the Presidency nominate an Alliance candidate for Council chair.
HDZ gets another talking to
International organisations warned the HDZ Tuesday to take its responsibilities in Federation institutions seriously.
"We expect the HDZ and its satellite parties to start working seriously, instead of meeting at strange assemblies and adopting strange decisions," said Office of the High Representative spokesperson Alexandra Stiglmayer. This came in response to the decision of the self-styled Croat National Assembly (which does not exist under Dayton) not to recognise the authority of the Alliance for Changes coalition. Assembly vice-president Petar Milić had also said the next step would be to withdraw from the Federation altogether. International officials said the Croat National Assembly is nothing more than a "debate club" and that its decisions carry no legal weight.
Even Croatian officials have said the Bosnian chapter of the HDZ is going too far. Croatian Foreign Affairs Minister Tonino Picula was quoted in Oslobođenje Wednesday as saying that the HDZ was manipulating the nationalist sentiments of Bosnian Croats. "We will talk again with the HDZ leaders in Bosnia and Hercegovina, although I personally think that they are manipulating the naturally strong nationalist feelings of Croats." He also said the HDZ was manipulating BiH Croats' realisation that they are outnumbered in the Federation by the Bosnian Muslims.
Local war crimes trial begins
The trial of six former Bosnian Army soldiers accused of war crimes in the Mostar region during the 1993-94 Croat-Muslim war began in Mostar on Tuesday. The indictment of the six states that out of eight captured Croat Council of Defence (HVO) soldiers, one was murdered, one died from repeated beatings and one had his ear cut off. All six of the accused have pleaded not guilty. Two suspects said on Wednesday that while they were in charge, the HVO soldiers suffered no maltreatment.
While the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has the ultimate authority over trials of war crimes suspects, the ICTY approves of this and other low-level trials. (These charges are relatively low-level when one considers the fact that 200,000 people were killed during the war.) For example, the so-called "Mostar Five" came to trial in November, for alleged war crimes against Muslims.
Croats and Muslims were allies against the Bosnian Serbs in 1992, but fought their own bitter war in 1993 and 1994 in Hercegovina and central Bosnia. Mostar was the scene of heavy fighting, and Croat forces destroyed the town's 500-year-old Ottoman bridge in November 1993. Mostar is still a divided city today, with Croats living on one side of the river and Muslims on the other.
Republika Srpska's new government
Republika Srpska's (RS) Prime Minister Mladen Ivanić, who took office on 12 January, has found a way to get around Western threats to withdraw financial aid if his new government is made up of Serb Democratic Party (SDS) members. Ivanić simply will not say which parties his ministers come from and has also asked them to withdraw from any political party activities.
But local press have maintained that as many as seven of Ivanić's ministers are from the SDS, and it did come to light that Trade and Tourism Minister Goran Popović was also a party member. Ivanić dismissed him and appointed Željko Tadić instead. Ivanić's pick for Refugee Minister, Mićo Mičić, has also come under attack. A Brčko-displaced people association said Tuesday that Mičić was the wartime commander of the paramilitary Semberija Brigade. The association also said he was an SDS member, which Ivanić himself acknowledged this week.
International reaction to the new, allegedly politics-free RS government has varied. Hans Jorg Kretschmer, the European Union ambassador to Bosnia, said this week that the EU was "optimistic" about being able to work with the new RS government. American Ambassador to BiH Thomas Miller, however, told Reuters Wednesday, "We are still very, very concerned about the presence of either declared or undeclared SDS members in the RS government." He said that whether or not the United States would continue to support the government financially was still a "very open question." Miller told independent Bosnian news agency Onasa the same thing.
"I have to be sure that our aid, the money that we give to this country, is wisely spent," he was quoted in Dnevni Avaz. "That aid in this year will amount to between 120 and 130 million dollars."
The US State Department issued a statement this week saying that the total aid for 2001 will be just over USD 110 million, with 80 million going to democracy funding, 20.5 million to peacekeeping operations and 12 million to support refugee returns. The question that remains to be answered is how much of that the United States government will cancel if it is displeased with the authorities in the RS.
BiH soldiers don UN berets
BiH is contributing its own peacekeeping contingent to the United Nations (UN) mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea. Nine BiH soldiers (six from the Federation and three from the RS) will wear their entity army uniforms adorned with both the BiH and UN flags while on their year-long mission that begins in February. UN Head of Mission to BiH Jacques Klein was quoted in Jutarnje Novine as saying the peace mission represents "a new phase in the successful co-operation between BiH and the UN."
Beth Kampschror, 26 January 2001
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