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News 10 Feb 14

Serbia, Croatia Meet Bosnian Leaders to ‘Calm’ Unrest

Serbian and Croatian leaders met top Bosnian politicians on Sunday, calling on all sides to peacefully resolve the problems that led to several days of protests and unrest in Bosnia.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
 Photo by Beta

Serbian government vice president Aleksandar Vucic held a meeting on Sunday in Belgrade with Milorad Dodik, president of Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska, and Mladen Bosic, president of the second-largest political party in the Serb-dominated entity, to discus the ongoing unrest in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Serbia as a signatory country of the Dayton Agreement [which ended the 1992-95 war] is interested in the stability of the region and is advocating resolving conflicts peacefully and in a democratic way,” Vucic said at a joint press conference held after the meeting.

“There is no need to resolve problems by setting fire to public buildings and beating police officers,” Vucic added, arguing that “people on the other side ofthe River Drina [in Republika Srpska] are always interested in the opinion of Serbia, which just wants stability.”

Over the last several days Bosnia and Herzegovina saw widespread unrest as protesters clashed with police and burn government buildings, leaving scores injured and arrested, mainly in the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while minor protests took place also in the Republika Srpska towns of Banja Luka and Bijeljina.

According to the president of Repubika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, the aim of the protests is “also to destabilize Repubika Srpska and further involve the international community” in the country's politics.

“The chaos in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t stop, institutions don’t function there, and these ongoing protests show that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot survive internal challenges and that it doesn’t function,” Dodik said.

Opposition leader Mladen Bosic said that “Republika Srpska will not change the government on the streets, but in elections.”

“The protests are violent and they all look like what occurred in Arab countries, the events we know as the Arab Spring,” Bosic said in Belgrade, adding that it was good that the Belgrade leadership asked its counterparts from Repubika Srpska to jointly tackle the current problems in Bosnia.

Meanwhile Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic visited Mostar, a town in Herzegovina, where Croats are in the majority, saying that he came to call for the peaceful resolution of the unrest.

“I came here to calm the situation,” said Milanovic, adding that the protests are result of the incoherent policy of European Union, which doesn’t know what to do with Bosnia.

Asked by reporters why he came to Mostar and not the capital Sarajevo, Milanovic answered that "it is closer" to Croatia.

“This country doesn’t have a chance unless it starts to adopt European standards. What Bosnia and Herzegovina has now is nothing,” he said after meeting Vjekoslav Bevanda, president of the Bosnian Council of Ministers.  

They jointly visited the local government building in Mostar that was partly destroyed during protests on Friday.

“Thank god that clashes in Mostar didn’t erupted in an ethnic way, as this town is full of wounds from the past,” Bjevanda said.

After the 1992-95 war, when the city became a battleground between Bosniaks [Muslims] and Croats, Mostar was constituted as a city of six municipalities, which was designed to avoid the permanent division of the city into two ethnically-separate communities.  

Most Bosnian roats see Mostar as their “capital”, since they are now the majority, and if they had more power in the city, they believe it would bring them a step closer towards forming a third, Croat-dominated, entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Both Serbia and Croatia are signatories of 1995 Dayton Agreement which ended the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Background

The ‘Bosnian Spring’ Starts With a Bang

The Bosnian protests are the result of years of corruption, economic decay and in-fighting among ethno-political elites, but it is far from certain that they can bring real change.