News 02 Apr 12

Bosnia Vows To Find Cash For Ex-Soldiers' Pensions

After days of protests in front of the government building, Bosnia's PM promises to find money in the 2012 budget to pay ex-soldiers' overdue pensions.

Elvira Jukic

Bosnia's Council of Ministers unanimously decided to guarantee money in the 2012 budget to pay the overdue pensions of ex-soldiers who have been staging a sleep-protest in front of the government building in Sarajevo for 12 days.

Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda said after the government session on March 30 that ministers were obliged to include the ex-soldiers' pensions in the new budget for 2012 that is still to be finalized.

He also said they will also ask parliament to change the law regulating the retirement of ex-servicemen.

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 failed to allocate pension money for the early retirees. To pay the pensions for 2010, 2011 and this year, the state government will have to find some 15 million euro.

“Pensions will be payed according to the law from when it became valid [in 2010] to March 31, 2012,” Bevanda confirmed on Friday. “The money will be transferred to entity pension funds to be paid out,” he added.

Bevanda said that from April onwards the rights of retired soldiers will be regulated by a change to the law. This means that Bosnian soldiers will no longer retire on pensions at the age of 35.

The Defence Ministry is to consult the governments of Bosnia's two entities, the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb entity Republika Srpska, on ways to change the law.

Bevanda said there will have to be cuts in other areas to ensure money for the ex-soldiers' pensions and they could be made by lowering salaries of civil servants.

Referring to the possibility of a public service strike if their salaries are lowered, Bevanda said that such warnings were coming from all sides at the moment.

“Things that were not done over the past three years cannot be solved by the new government in a month,” Bevanda said.

Meanwhile in front of the government building around a thousand Bosnian soldiers were still protesting, urging ministers to come out talk to them. Three of them later met Bevanda in the afternoon and were informed about the government's plans.

In spite of that many ex-soldiers decided to stay in front of the building and continue the sleep-in protest though others said they would go home.

The ex-soldiers, from all three formations that fought in the 1992-5 war, and who afterwards joined the united armed forces, started their joint protest on March 20.

Meanwhile, as the 2012 budget is still not ready, the government adopted another decision to continue running state institutions on so-called "temporary financing", the system by state institutions have been run for more than a year.

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