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News 07 Sep 17

Borders Dominate Agenda of Vucic’s Bosnia Visit

Minor frontier issues between Bosnia and Serbia will be in the focus of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s visit to Bosnia on Thursday and Friday.

Danijel Kovacic
BIRN
Banja Luka
Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik and Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Saturday. Photo: BETAPHOTO/EMIL VAS/EV

The Serbian Member of Bosnia’s three-member state presidency, Mladen Ivanic, said he was keenly awaiting the visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the first Serbian President to come to the country in six years.

“This visit is extremely important. We did not have a visit from a president of Serbia for a long time; the last one was by Boris Tadic. This should be the beginning of a new, and I believe, better, relationship,” Ivanic said on Wednesday.

The Bosnian presidency member said border issues would be one of the most important topics.

“During my last meeting in Belgrade, I agreed on the basic topics for discussion with Vucic during his visit. We will try to open the story up and define where Serbia has an interest in the exchange of territories, to fix some irregularities on the border,” Ivanic explained.

“Some 97 percent of the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia is defined already. It is 3 per cent that is unsolved,” Vucic said on Saturday in Belgrade, while announcing his visit to Bosnia.

That 3 per cent covers four locations.

Two are in the lower Drina River, near the hydroelectric power plants Zvornik and Bajina Basta: the Bosnian village of Strpci through which the railway line from Belgrade to Montenegro passes: and the villages of Medjurecje and Sastavci, which belong to Bosnia but which form a Bosnian “island”, surrounded by Serbian territory.

However, political analyst Tanja Topic said border issues were not the real problem in relations between two countries.

“I do not see this as a stumbling point. There are other problems. The problem is facing the past. But I do not think there will be any talk about that,” she told BIRN, referring to the legacy of Bosnia’s bloody war of 1992-5.

One of the more practical issues between the two neighbours is the planned construction of a motorway to connect Sarajevo with Belgrade.

Turkey has expressed its readiness to part-finance this project, but within Bosnia, there is no agreement as yet on the route, and Ivanic said the issue was not likely to be discussed with Vucic during his visit.

Serbia will meanwhile provide about 5.5 million euros of help to municipalities in the Republika Srpska, the Serb-majority entity in Bosnia, as well as other municipalities in BiH that are predominantly inhabited by Serbs.

Among other Serbian projects in the pipeline are the construction of kindergartens in the towns of Trebinje and Brcko as well as a student home in the town of Vlasenica.

Additionally, Serbia has pledged to give around 4 million euros to renovate the bridge over the Drina between Zvornik and Mali Zvornik in Serbia.

Announcing his arrival on Saturday, Vucic stressed that every visit is important because it brings a new level of responsibility.

But Topic said the latest messages coming from Belgrade and Sarajevo were no different from the messages that people have heard before.

“I expect that after the visit, everyone will be satisfied. But when everything is over, the politicians will return to their trenches and continue with the same, negligent, nationalist, rhetoric,” Topic said.

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