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news 24 Sep 14

Bosnia Leaders Trade Accusations with US Diplomats

Days after two US officials accused Bosnia's ruling politicians of neglect and corruption, the Foreign Minister has hit back, accusing diplomats of misinformation and favouritism.

Elvira M. Jukic

The Bosnian Foreign Minister and Social Democratic Party leader, Zlatko Lagumdzija, met the Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy, Nicholas Hill, on September 23, to rebut charges of neglect and corruption contained in a recent blog post by two senior US officials.

The meeting came after the two US officials in Bosnia used a US embassy blog post to accuse politicians of being inactive in reconstructing the country after the devastating floods in May - and of being corrupt and neglectful.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday flatly rejecting the accusations of corruption and of misuse of donor money.

It claimed that no foreign donor money had been “paid into the accounts of any institutions of the state or of the entities, so donor money coud not have been mused or used to fill budget holes”.

Lagumdzija told Hill that the claims were false, adding that donors should be more open about how donations were being distributed.

“Anyone serious, including Bosnian and American officials, has an obligation to publicly say, instead of making general assessments, which institutions or politicians - with their full names - have not acted transparently,” the Foreign Ministry stated. 

US officials in Bosnia have been accused of supporting certain political parties in the election campaign and of singling out Lagumdzija's Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the government.

The US embassy on Monday defended the recent blog posts, arguing that Bosnia's elected authorities need to do more in response to the devastating floods.  

“The goal of the post was to express our concern for the wellbeing of victims left largely to fend for themselves with winter approaching,” the statement said.

“The post has generated a great deal of discussion and debate from all sides on this important topic,” it added.

“We believe that the political establishment — at all levels, in and out of power — needs to do a better job to work together to address the myriad problems caused by the historic floods,” it continued. “We do not support any particular candidate or party.”

At a recent SDP gathering, Lagumdzija told supporters that the diplomats who criticized the Federation entity government, headed by the SDP, were not being helpful to citizens.

“Diplomats have... asked why isn't 500 million euro being given to people,” Lagumdzija said. “We have told them this is a lie...and whoever says a lie, we will tell them to their face that it is a lie, and that you can't treat this country like it was your protectorate.”

Other members of SDP have dismissed the blog post of the US embassy as the work of "low-ranking diplomats".

The EU delegation to Bosnia said on Tuesday, meanwhile, said it had been wrong of Finance Minister Nikola Spiric to say that the July Donors Conference had only a demonstrative character.

“The first part of that donation – the 42-million-euro EU Floods Recovery Programme – is currently underway,” the delegation said.

“It is being implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and IOM and is addressing needs from the BiH Recovery Needs Assessment. The EU is in action helping people in BiH – not waiting.

“The money of EU citizens, donated in solidarity with BiH, is right now rebuilding schools, health centres, municipal buildings and welfare centres,” it added.

“It is helping the most vulnerable families to reconstruct their homes. It is helping to restart local economic activity."

Spiric, a member of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, the ruling party in Republika Srpska, had claimed that Brussels was “awaiting the election results before helping the citizens in BiH”.

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