Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Petritsch Chides Bosnian Leaders

The international community is losing patience with Bosnia's ineffectual political leaders.
By Janez Kovac

The West's top mediator, Wolfgang Petritsch, has warned that the international community is questioning its commitment to Bosnia because of the slow pace of the peace process.


Petritsch issued his warning on Thursday, May 25, after returning from the two-day session of the Brussels-based Peace Implementation Council- made up of foreign ministers from western countries and directors of agencies involved in the Bosnian peace process.


Petritsch said so-called donor fatigue has started to set in, significantly reducing loans, credits and donations for Bosnia.


Shortages of funds has already affected the repatriation of refugees. UNHCR says it would have to cut down and even cancel some of its projects due to the lack of cash.


"Cash availability is at its lowest in almost ten years, and UNHCR may have to freeze aid implementation agreements with partner agencies if the shortage continues," said UNHCR spokesman Barbara Smith recently.


The funding crisis comes as the repatriation process shows signs of progress. According to UNHCR, the registered number of refugee returning to their homes in the first three months of the year stood at7,377 compared to 1,717 in the same period last year.


Petrisch claimed local politicians bear much responsibility for the country's economic woes." The politicians here are doing a lousy job," he said and warned, "This already very weak economy will run into serious, very serious problems."


Most local leaders, it seems, are more interested in petty political feuding and back-stabbing than proper peace implementation and reconstruction of the war-devastated country.


Bosnian local, regional and state parliaments and assemblies have failed to pass or adopt important laws and decisions for fear of offending some "crucial" interest of one nationalist ruling party or another.


While the three members of the Bosnian joint presidency spent almost four months deciding on a new Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Bosnia struggled with no state government.


The presidency finally agreed to propose an unknown Bosnian Serb economy professor Spasoje Tusevljak.


Against this background, Petritsch announced that the international organizations and agencies in Bosnia would in future focus on the three key issues: a fundamental economic reform, acceleration of the return of refugees and strengthening of the joint institutions.


"The three priorities need to be implemented immediately and without any tolerance for non-implementation," he said. "There is going to be now definitively zero tolerance for all the procrastinations that may be still ongoing in the minds and heads of some of the politicians here."


Petritsch said he would act more decisively when dealing with those who obstruct the peace process, a reference to the new powers granted him to remove unco-operative officials and impose laws.


Only in the past few weeks, Petritsch has dismissed the Bosnian Croat governor of the Livno canton for obstructing the return of refugees and the democratisation process and the head of the federal privatization agency, who was, according to Petritsch's office, slowing down the sale of state property.


"This is an ongoing exercise and I will not hesitate over the next couple of months to use all my powers," Petritsch said.


At the same time, Petritsch has called on Bosnians to get more involved influencing the democratisation of the country. In a national television broadcast he urged them to vote for change in general elections scheduled for later this year.


"You have to help out in all of this. You have to accept that all problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina are your problems as well," Petritsch told Bosnians. "Help in bringing about changes and accept responsibility because the situation can be even worse than it is now."


Janez Kovac is a regular IWPR correspondent


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