News 21 Mar 12

Bosnian Ex-Soldiers Stage Sleep Protest Over Pensions

Several hundred retired Bosnian soldiers slept out on the streets of Sarajevo, demanding that the government start paying their pensions.

Elvira Jukic

Hundreds of former soldiers from all three formations that fought in the 1992-5 war, and who afterwards joined the united armed forces, are demanding that the authorities pay their long overdue pensions.

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

Sarajevo: Former soldiers slept on the street / AP Photo

The protesters remained overnight sleeping on the streets with only those blankets they could find during the day. Many 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; the country is not paying their pensions.

  They want the Council of Ministers to solve the issue at its Wednesday's session after getting word on Tuesday from Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda and the Finance Minister Nikola Spiric that their pensions will be the first item on the agenda.

“They've said they will ask other ministers to cut their budgets and so find the money for our pensions,” one ex-soldier told the media.

The Council of Ministers said it will inform the men gathered in front of the government building about the result of any decision.

Some former soldiers say they will go on hunger strike if they are not satisfied with the decision.

Two years ago Bosnia's state parliament changed the law on 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 they have not received anything.

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

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