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Divisions undermine Bosnian state

By Paul Moss
Radio 4's The World Tonight

Bosnian national police storming a building
Bosnia's police chief says crime goes untackled despite shows of force

On a training field on the outskirts of Sarajevo, an armed unit from Bosnia's national police force were practising how to storm a building.

Clad in black outfits, they set off stun-grenades and fired their guns, successfully capturing the "war criminal" inside.

But despite this display of commando-style tactics, the force's director was in a gloomy mood.

Mirko Lujic says his country remains unable to tackle its very serious crime problems.

"There are 14 agencies dealing with money laundering and drug trafficking," he said.

"None of these is able to bring people to courts to prosecute them."

Mr Lujic blames the problem on the fragmentation in Bosnia's government.

Organised crime is always connected with the government
Mirko Lujic
Police director

The country is divided into two halves - one for Serbs, and the other for Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), with the latter further sub-divided into 10 separate cantons.

And according to Mr Lujic, it is hard to get them to co-operate, and take on the major-league criminals.

"Organised crime is always connected with the government," he claimed. "That's the problem."

Outside pressure

It was not supposed to be this way.

When the Bosnian War ended in 1995, the country was placed under the rule of a High Representative, an internationally-appointed figure, with executive powers.

The idea was that Bosnia would eventually be able to run its own affairs, and the post would be closed.

But 14 years on, the representative's office is still in place, and this week, the incumbent gave his own damning verdict on Bosnia's ruling class, and their failure to work together.

Valentin Inzko
The undermining of state institutions has continued despite clear international condemnation
Valentin Inzko
Bosnia's High Representative

"Politicians are not interested in doing what is necessary," said Valentin Inzko, a career diplomat from Austria.

"The undermining of state institutions has continued despite clear international condemnation."

Mr Inzko was speaking after a meeting of the Peace Implementation Council, the international body which will make the final decision on when to close the High Representative's post, and leave Bosnia to run its own affairs.

In normal circumstances, Mr Inzko's pessimistic view would have ruled out the post's closure, Bosnia apparently still requiring outside authority to maintain law and order.

But these are not normal times.

Several European countries have hinted that they want the Office of the High Representative closed very soon, and Bosnia forced to take responsibility for its own affairs.

They have been joined by the Obama administration, which sent US Vice-President Joe Biden to Bosnia in May, effectively to read the riot act to recalcitrant local leaders.

"You need to work together across ethnic lines," he ordered them, in a fairly hectoring tone, "so that your country functions like a real country."

Tension remains

But talk like this leaves many Bosnians worried, convinced that theirs is not yet a "real" country that would hold together if the High Representative were to leave.

"The country is still full of arms," warned Haris Pasovic, one of Bosnia's leading theatre directors.

"You have an unknown number of people who took part in war-crimes. The war could easily be reactivated."

War veterans' protest in Bosnia
There are fears tensions in Bosnia could be exacerbated by hard times

There are fears also that Bosnia's poor economic situation could become a source of instability.

Sanin Campara runs a micro-finance business, lending money to small businesses around the country.

"People don't have jobs," he said.

"They become nervous, they become aggressive. You could see the affects on the political situation."

But despite all these problems, there are plenty of Bosnians who do want to see the Office of the High Representative shut down.

Serb politicians in particular, like Igor Crnadak, argue that it is time for him to wave goodbye.

"In can be very frustrating for a politician to know that there is an authority that can say 'I impose this law,' or 'I dismiss this law'.

"We should enter a new phase without the Office of the High Representative."

Mr Crnadak may see his wish come true.

The Peace Implementation Council will meet again in November.

Officially, its position remains that it will not leave Bosnia until the country is stable, and capable of running its own affairs.

But a source close to the High Representative's Office made it clear to the BBC that the pressure to quit remains insistent.

They still hope to be out of the Bosnia by the end of this year.

Hear Paul Moss's report from Bosnia on The World Tonight.



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SEE ALSO
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Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
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21 Nov 08 |  Europe
Karadzic's broken Bosnia remains
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