BiH, Federation get new government
Bosnia and Hercegovina's central government is made up of non-nationalists for the first time in ten years, confirmed Božidar Matić, the Alliance for Changes candidate, last Thursday. The Alliance-led BiH House of Representatives gave 22 votes for Matić, three against and ten abstentions. Matić's proposed Council of Ministers was confirmed with 22 for, 12 abstaining and one against. The House's five Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) members walked out of the session right before the vote, saying that the session was unconstitutional and a violation of the House's rules.
Jutarnje Novine listed Matić's priorities as establishing an independent judiciary, continuing privatisation, reforming the fiscal system, finishing payment system reform and bringing in foreign investment. Dnevni Avaz wrote that Matić's next step would be to come up with an economic recovery program and to appeal to the other levels of government to synchronise themselves with that program.
"Only the beginning of the job is finished," he told Avaz in an interview, referring to the Alliance's multi-week struggle just to get its candidate before the House for a vote. "For me, it was the most difficult when we were taking over these existing conflicts—the abstention of the nationalist parties gives us a presentiment that (our work) could be difficult in the near future."
Matić's cabinet does not contain a single representative from the three main Croat, Muslim or Serb nationalist parties—the HDZ, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) or the Serb Democratic Party (SDS)—who have dominated all levels of Bosnia's government for the past ten years. Ministers instead come from reform-minded parties from all over the country.
"The concept of this Council of Ministers is complete access to economic and every other development of BiH, in which processes it will be the leader," said new Foreign Affairs Minister Zlatko Lagumdžija in Avaz. Other ministers said they expect progress and pragmatism within the Council. The sole woman on the Council, Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Azra Hadžiahmetović, said, "I expect that a better time will come for BiH citizens."
As for those in the House that voted against the new government, the papers listed one member each of the Republika Srpska Socialist Party, the SDA and the SDS. HDZ members did not even vote. Public opinion must be increasingly apathetic, as the front pages of Banja Luka's Nezavisne Novine and Sarajevo's Oslobođenje announced Friday, "Central government without SDA, SDS and HDZ."
International organisations overseeing Bosnia's post-war efforts to build the nation hailed the election of the new government. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch advised those parties that were not represented in the Council to support the new, reform-oriented BiH government. The European Union expressed hope that this would be the reform-oriented government that BiH needs five years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords.
The Federation of BiH, one of the two entities that make up post-war Bosnia, got its new government Friday, when the upper house of the Federation parliament, the FBiH House of Peoples, convened with 56 of its 80 members present. BH Press reported that the no-show members were all from HDZ, mostly from the cantons of Hercegovina-Neretva, Livno and West Hercegovina. The House nominated SDP member Karlo Filipović for Federation president and BiH member Safet Halilović for vice-president.
Rape considered "crime against humanity"
Three Bosnian Serbs were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Thursday, in a landmark case that BH-TV said was the first in which rape was considered a crime against humanity.
Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković received 28, 20 and 12 years, respectively, for the rape and sexual torture of Muslim women and girls in the southeastern Bosnian town of Foča in 1992. The tribunal previously considered rape under the category of war crimes, sentencing Bosnian Croat Ante Furundžija to ten years in July 2000 for such crimes.
Mostar mayor resigns
Longtime Mostar Mayor Safet Oručević resigned this week, saying that by stepping down he would aid the town's unification. Oručević, a Muslim, was mayor for the past seven years. His Croat vice-mayor, Nevin Tomić, will now become mayor, and the Mostar City Council appointed a Muslim, Hamdija Jahić, to the vice-mayor position Thursday. Such ethnic balancing is seen as a necessity in this still very divided town, which was the scene of heavy Croat-Muslim fighting in 1993 and 1994. Unlike many urban or semi-urban areas in Bosnia, much of Mostar is still destroyed, and Croats and Muslims live on opposite sides of the Neretva River, which flows through Mostar.
RS teachers' strike ends, sort of
A weeks-long teachers' strike in the Republika Srpska (RS) ended Tuesday, but teachers agreed to work only part-time in order to continue their protest. The strikers were demanding their salaries, which are months late, and that the RS government cover the cost of classroom materials. Their demands have not been met, but the Branch Education Union has realised that there is no point in disrupting students' learning when the RS government is too broke to pay teachers' salaries.
Beth Kampschror, 23 February 2001
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