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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 15:57 GMT
Bosnia hides scars of division
By Mike Sanders
BBC News

With most of the Nato troops simply swapping badges to transform themselves into the new European force Eufor, Bosnians are not going to notice much of a change.

Their concerns lie elsewhere.

Bosnian girl

Western leaders are fond of saying that Bosnia-Hercegovina has come a long way in the nine years since a war which claimed a 250,000 lives.

The deaths of 10,000 people in the three-year Bosnia Serb siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serbs who invaded the supposed UN safe haven of Srebrenica are etched on the world's memory, but each community has its own remembrances of infamy.

Cajoled into a grudging resumption of co-existence by the Dayton peace accord, the Muslims, Serbs and Croats now share a fractured nation.

The former Nato Secretary-General, Lord Robertson, said Thursday's transition was more significant for Bosnia than for the EU.

"Nine years after Srebrenica, when people said Bosnia would never become a nation state, we've got a nation state, a functioning central organisation and the trappings of a modern European nation state," he said.

"And, we've gone down from 65,000 outside troops to 7,000 EU troops today."

But the scars are all too evident, not just on the charred and pockmarked buildings.

Problems face the thousands of refugees who return to Bosnia
Some $5bn (3.7bn euros or 2.5bn) has been pumped into the Bosnian economy since the war; analysts say most of it has been squandered.

Unemployment is running at 40%, and petty corruption is rife - a fistful of convertible marks hastens access to doctors, officials, and essential paperwork.

The Muslim and Croat officials who run their federation from Sarajevo tend to look to their own ethnic interests, and the federation jockeys for power in the greater federation with the Serb Republic, where there is still considerable support for the fugitive wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.

Before the war, Bosnia had the highest rate of inter-ethnic marriage in the former Yugoslavia.

Nowadays Muslims, Serbs and Croats hardly ever intermarry, and schools in the three communities teach their own history.

The problem of the two million refugees displaced by the war remains as intractable as ever.

About 10% have returned, but for the rest are caught up in a chain of occupancy, as refugees have moved into other refugees' houses across the region.

The EU's Special Representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, is among politicians calling for a new Dayton accord to build the nation. But for many, the wounds run too deep to contemplate that.

EU force starts Bosnian mission
02 Dec 04 |  Europe
Ashdown calms nationalism fears
13 Feb 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
22 Sep 04 |  Country profiles


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