Bosnia: Mostar Faces “Dangerous Strains” Aug 18, 2009 17:23:04 GMT -5
Post by Bozur on Aug 18, 2009 17:23:04 GMT -5
Bosnia: Mostar Faces “Dangerous Strains”
Sarajevo | 28 July 2009 | Srecko Latal
Mostar is facing "new and potentially dangerous strains” due to a political deadlock that has paralysed the city for the past nine months, an international think-tank warns.
“The tensions threaten to poison relations between the leading Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] and Croat parties -- coalition partners throughout the country,” reads the latest briefing note issued by the International Crisis Group, ICG.
In light of the worsening situation in Mostar, local media on Tuesday speculated that Bosnia’s top international envoy, the head of the Office of the High Representative, OHR, Valentin Inzko, could finally intervene and may even punish local leaders in Bosnia's largest southern city.
“Embittered by the mockery, Inzko decides to punish [Mostar] Councillors,” Mostar daily Dnevni List speculated on Tuesday.
Nine months after the 2008 October local elections, the appointment of a new mayor and governing coalition has been blocked by political infighting within and between ruling Bosniak and Bosnian Croat parties.
This situation has blocked the formulation of a new city budget, with most public and communal workers and services left without salaries and funds for four months. The city’s firefighters and other public workers have launched protests, but local leaders have ignored growing public criticism.
“The administration of the city is breaking down, with no mayor, budget or a functioning city council,” ICG warned in its report, published on Monday afternoon.
“The crisis is rooted in demographics, the recent war and a city statute that replicates many of the power-sharing rules that govern the state,” ICG Balkans Project Director Marko Prelec wrote, adding, “It should be a warning for the country.”
During Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, Mostar witnessed some of the heaviest and most destructive fighting. Initial allies against the Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks turned against each other and fought a bitter war-within-a-war for a year. During this conflict, Bosnian Croat hardliners conducted a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against their Bosniak neighbours.
Ethnic tensions lingered in Mostar for years and the city is still seen as a test case for whether Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats can live together.
“Mostar is today Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only truly divided city. Still, healing has begun. Long considered the Beirut of the Balkans, it is today peaceful and bustling. The long-hovering threat of renewed violence has decisively receded,” the ICG report reads.
“The breakdown of Mostar’s internationally-imposed government shows what happens to a consensus system without inter-ethnic agreement,” it added.
ICG suggests that Inzko facilitate a solution consistent with the intent of the disputed statute, but not impose it on the city council. Some local leaders hope this will happen.
Underlining that OHR is expected to close sometime soon, ICG stressed that Mostar is a test for local leaders and the public on how Bosnia’s politicians should exercise their responsibilities without relying on international interventions.
“The leaders of Mostar, like those of the whole country, will have to assume full responsibility for their governance,” ICG’s Europe Program Director Sabine Freizer said in the release, adding: “Bosnians must show political maturity to run their own affairs.”