Comment: Time to Stop Dithering in Bosnia
BIRN Balkan Insight
Under the unsure hand of the outgoing international High Representative Schwarz-Schilling, Bosnia and Herzegovina slid backwards from meeting the requirements for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU. On police reform, positions have moved further apart. On constitutional reform, differences have hardened since a year ago.
Now the decision has been made to extend the Office of the High Representative (OHR) for one further year, what can be expected? Western diplomats do not expect a return to the interventionism of Schwarz-Schilling's predecessors.
IN DEPTH: Auditors Lambast Culture of Corruption in Bosnia
BIRN Balkan Insight
14 09 2007
A culture of corruption, rampant waste and poor accounting condemn Bosnia to life in the economic slow lane. A major source is Bosnia's top-heavy government and over-extensive bureaucracy. The executive at state level comprises around 50 institutions and has a budget that in 2006 was up 64% in a year.
More money is said to be spent on the institutions of government themselves than on the social and economic programmes they run; about 65% of the state budget goes on official salaries, which are high by Bosnian standards. Some staff in state institutions are employed without contracts and in jobs that no one had accounted for.
A large amount of state money also disappears on various state commissions, of which about 70 were set up last year alone. One commission ran up a bill of 150,000 euros last year even though its activities amounted to no more than five meetings.
Moreover, millions are said to be embezzled in the public sector. Public procurement is one of the main sources of semi-legal or illicit revenue for civil servants and officials, says Transparency International.
Bosnia: Finally, movement
ISN Security Watch
Just a couple of weeks into his mandate, Bosnia's new international envoy Miroslav Lajcak is winning praise from the international community, as he gets creative and forces Bosnian Serb and Muslim nationalist authorities to take responsibility.
He suspended 36 Bosnian Serb police officers and ordered the Bosnian Serb authorities to investigate members of their own police force, while ordering the Bosniak state security minister to begin deporting Muslim mujahideens whose citizenships have been revoked - and sign the orders to do so himself. In the past, the respective authorities preferred to allow the international envoy to make such unpopular decisions for them, ensuring that their voters would blame Western powers rather than them.
Lajcak's predecessor Christian Schwarz-Schilling, originally scheduled to be the last high representative, decided to hand over major decision-making power to the Bosnian authorities, but that led to a year and a half of political deadlock and a reinvigoration of nationalist rhetoric. On the other hand, the previous envoy Paddy Ashdown was criticised for wielding too much power: most progress was made during his mandate, but only with a great deal of arm-twisting.
Bosnia: Ethnically-mixed schools face problems
12 September 2007
In Tomislavgrad, Herzegovina, Croat first-grade pupils have had to quit school since their parents do not allow them to attend classes together with Bosniak pupils. It's no isolated incident; 54 schools in the Bosnian Federation are split into two sections, so that Croat teachers and pupils function are segregated from their Bosniak companions.
Bosnian Croats in Last-ditch Fight against Education Reform
BIRN Balkan Insight
A new Education Law brings international recognition for Bosnian university degrees, but it's criticized for both jeopardizing ethnic rights and not going far enough.
Bosnian Croats want to axe the "unconstitutional" law, while students say it just cements the disunity within higher education. But the international community welcomed the law as a breakthrough after a three-year deadlock.
After the war, higher education was left to be regulated by entity laws, and within the [Bosniak-Croat] Federation, responsibility was devolved to each of the 10 cantons. Now, Bosnia has eight publicly-funded and at least five private universities compared to only one in 1992, but their education is expensive, ineffective and internationally-unrecognized.
The law took over a year of arguments to be made, but says education expert Lamija Tanovic, the law finally adopted is worse than any of the previous 15 drafts.
Bosnia begins long journey to EU
The EU and Bosnia have initialled a pre-membership agreement, starting a process that could lead to the country joining the EU.
The ceremony went ahead after a deal on Bosnian police reform that met the EU condition that Bosnia's ethnically divided police forces be merged.
Last week, Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders averted a constitutional crisis after agreeing on new voting rules to strengthen the central government.
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