News 22 Mar 12

Bosnia's Ex-Soldiers Declare Hunger Strike

Several hundred retired Bosnian soldiers continued their protest by sleeping out on the streets of Sarajevo and starting a hunger strike that will last until the government starts paying their pensions.

Elvira Jukic

After a cold Tuesday night spent on the streets, the former Bosnian soldiers felt they had no alternative except to declare a hunger strike on Wednesday, hoping that this would force state ministers to include their pensions in the 2012 budget.

Hundreds of former soldiers from all three formations that fought in the 1992-5 war, and who afterwards joined the united armed forces, took to the streets to demand their pensions.

Some of them were unable to continue the protest and ended up in the emergency room in Sarajevo.

One of the former soldiers told local media that one man had cardiac problems, another pneumonia and that two were feeling sick. Many other former soldiers barely made it through the night.

The sleep-in protest started on Tuesday, March 20, in front of the state parliament and ministries in the center of Sarajevo.

Many men came from outside Sarajevo, both from the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, and the mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation entity.

The ex-soldiers, many of them former foes in the 1992-95 war, share the same problem in that they have barely enough money to live on.

At the beginning of their protest they demanded that the Council of Ministers enter their pensions into the 2012 budget that was to be announced on Wednesday.

The state government did not discuss the budget, and this prompted the ex-soldiers to start the hunger strike they had threatened the day before. 

The Finance Minister, Nikola Spiric, will hold a press conference later today where he is likely to address ways of solving the problem of pensions for retired soldiers.

Two years ago Bosnia's state parliament changed the law regarding the armed forces, obliging men over 35 to retire and promising them pensions if they did so. The aim was to rejuvenate the army and bring in more youngsters.

But parliament has since failed to allocate pension money for the early retirees. Some 2,000 soldiers who left the army have said that they have not received anything.

To pay the pensions for 2010, 2011 and this year, Bosnia's state government will have to find approximately 15 million euros.

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