Friday, October 26, 2007


VATICAN CITY,Vatican (October 26,2007) - An accord designed to guarantee religious rights and freedoms for the Catholic Church in Bosnia formally went into effect yesterday during a special ceremony at the Vatican.

After meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic formally exchanged documents marking ratification of the accord, or concordat, with Vatican officials.

The Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic underlined the importance of the concordat with the Vatican, saying it provides the legal framework for guaranteeing the right of the Catholic Church to carry out its activities in Bosnia.

The Vatican press office reported that during the meeting with the Pope, "consideration was given to questions concerning the implementation of the agreement itself."

The Catholic community's contribution for the peaceful coexistence of the various ethnic and religious groups in Bosnia was also stressed.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, called the occasion "a historic day in relations" between the two states.

The accord with Bosnia "represents a positive development in the consolidation of a rule of law and the democratic principles Bosnia wants to forge its future upon," Cardinal Bertone said.

The finalized concordat will help bolster the country's international image and "will contribute to overcoming the serious problems inherited from the past and building a better future," the cardinal said.

Bosnian bishops have been warning that Catholics in this European nation have become like second-class citizens and, in some regions, are on the verge of extinction.

While the 1995 Dayton peace accords brought an end to the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia, the country's bishops have said the Catholic community is powerless and faces discrimination.

President Komsic, who heads the Bosnian Presidency, fought with the Bosnian Army during the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia and was awarded the Golden Lily, Bosnia's highest military honor. He was the chief municipal official of New Sarajevo before being elected the President Of Bosnia.

In his speech to Vatican officials, the Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic said "we will not forget" the important and urgent calls Pope John Paul II made to end the violence and work for peace.

In speaking with journalists immediately after his private meeting with the Bosnian President, Pope Benedict said the Balkans was a region "with many problems, but also much hope."

The Vatican also issued a statement acknowledging President Komsic had invited the pope to visit Bosnia,a country in which Muslims make up 40 percent of the population, Orthodox 31 percent and Catholics 15 percent.


ROME, Italy (October 26,2007) – The Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic and Italian President Giorgi Napolitano had a meeting in Rome which focused on bilateral cooperation, situation in the region and the EU-related policy.

They agreed that the meeting happened in the best moment possible. The meeting is a sign of dynamic contacts between the two countries. President Komsic invited the Italian President to visit Bosnia and contribute the improvement of dialogue between the two neighboring countries.

President Komsic once again thanked Italy for all the help the country has offered to Bosnia. He expressed pleasure over the successful cooperation, both political and economical.

He informed the Italian President on Bosnia’s view of situation in the region, especially in the sense of the complex situation caused by the Kosovo status issue. The Bosnian President once again emphasized Bosnia’s attitude related to the Kosovo issue and added some elements that have placed an accent to the problem of separating the issue of Kosovo from the political situation in Bosnia. President Komsic added that Bosnia is interested in having Serbia as a good and stabile neighbor, regardless of the final Kosovo solution.

Commenting the political situation in Bosnia, he emphasized that the non-adoption of police reform and measures recently announced by the International Community's High Representative Miroslav Lajcak, Bosnia has been put in a complex situation which can cause instability.

President Komsic expressed his personal attitude and expressed understanding for the actions taken by the High Representative Miroslav Lajcak, for he is of the opinion that the Lajcak’s moves are aimed to help Bosnia’s EU future. He emphasized that a lot more tolerance is needed for the purpose of solving the complex issues of today and emohasized that agreement and consensus are something all politicians should strive for.

The Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic emphasized that there are certain instability elements that have arisen in Bosnia in the past few days. In that sense, President Komsic said that all the domestic factors and PIC members should engage fully in order to make the political situation better.

The Italian President Napolitano agreed with President Komsic’s view of the situation in the Balkans. He emphasized that EU cannot be stabile and safe unless a fluid situation is achieved at the border countries. He added that the time of decising on the Kosovo future is approaching. In that sense, the Italian President stated that any kind of delay causes instability in the region.

He said that Bosnia has made a serious progress in development after Dayton and that the country’s stability should be maintained in order that the multiethnic country becomes one of the models of joint living the EU itself is striving for. He added that no mono-ethnic society is possible in the region.

The Italian President stated that Italy sees Bosnia as a member of the EU and NATO and that the policy of his country is that all its neighbors are joined together in the Euro-Atlantic structures. All the obstacles on this way need to be removed patiently. In that sense, Italy will keep playing an important role in the efforts of the International Community, Napolitano said.

The two high officials elaborated some other issues, including the EU policy priorities in the present stage of development.The Italian President Giorgi Napolitano said that he will meet the Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic with pleasure again.

The closest associates of the Italian President attended the meting, as well as the Bosnian Ambassador to Italy and the Bosnian Presidency’s foreign affairs’ policy advisors, Bosnian President Zeljko Komsic’s Cabinet announced.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 26,2007) – Sweden is to withdraw its peacekeepers from Bosnia next year, the country's military has announced.

The 24-strong Swedish unit is in Bosnia as part of the EU's elite EUFOR force. They will have withdrawn from Bosnia no later than 20th April,2008.

Lieutenant Colonel Mikael Smedin said the withdrawal was a "political decision." He added that Bosnia still requires the presence of international troops, but in smaller numbers.

"The situation in Bosnia is relatively stable and secure now, and the need for military presence is not as great as it was before," he said.

More than 7,500 Swedes have participated in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia since 1993.


NEUM, Bosnia (October 26,2007) – A plenary Assembly of the Bosnian Committee of the International Council for Huge Electrical Systems (CIGRÉ) was held in Neum. The Assembly sent a warning to BiH public about the problems of energy policy in the country.

More than 300 participants from the area of power industry at the Conference think that the non-existence of an integral power policy in Bosnia endangers the overall political, economic and cultural future of the country.

The present difficult situation in the power industry of the country is additionally complicated and deepened by the non-existence of any consultations of the executive political power in the country with the community of experts and scientists in this field on the power industry problems and priorities.

The existing interpretations and proposed decisions concerning the situation and development of power industry as espoused and proposed by some bodies of the current government are totally unfounded from the expert point of view, so that their possible imposition is dangerous and may in the log-run have devastating consequences for Bosnia's future. The present organisation of the electric power sector in the country does not meet the key conditions of the branch for an efficient functioning in this area, so it should be changed.

The fundamental and the first prerequisite for stopping the present destructive processes in the power industry of Bosnia is the preparation of an integral Bosnian power strategy. This is the responsibility both of politicians and experts in this field.

The power reform in Bosnia has been stopped, the participants of the Conference hold, and it is quite clear that it has come into a crisis. This calls for urgent changes. At the state level there are no bodies or institutions that would plan and manage the consolidation and development of the power sector. So the establishment of such bodies and institutions is an essential prerequisite for getting out of the crisis.

The present situation in Bosnia's power industry, with imposition of partial internal and external interests, threatens to marginalize the country in this sector within the instituted Energy Community of the Southeastern Europe. The members of the Bosnian CIGRÉ Committee are ready for cooperation and offer partnership with the responsible protagonists of energy policy in defining optimal short-term and long-term development programmes in this sector.


NOVI VINODOLSKI, Croatia (October 26,2007) – Tens of thousands of persons in the region are considered missing. There are about 13.000 persons to be found. 30.000 persons were considered missing at the end of the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia.

The Bosnian Human Rights Minister Safet Halilovic emphasized at a conference he attended yesterday in Novi Vinodolski,Croatia,that the precondition of the sustainable system of search for the missing persons and identification of the number of the missing persons in Bosnia would be passing of the law on the missing persons, formed at the principle of equality and non-discrimination.

”Law on Missing Persons was an instrument for formation of the Institute for Missing Persons, which is a unique and independent institution, acting in accordance to the Bosnian Law on the Missing Persons”, Halilovic said.

He added that the constitution of the Managing Board, which took place June this year, created preconditions for the initiation of the Institute’s actions.

Significant activities are to be taken in the field of formation of a unique database of the missing persons, which requires additional efforts not only of the Institute for Missing Persons, but also of all other institutions including the International Commission for the Missing Persons.

Halilovic emphasized that the issue of forming a fund for support to the missing persons’ families remains unsolved.

”Situation in the sector is very complex because the issue of forming a family support fund has been halted because of the long process of reaching an agreement with the entity representatives who have the jurisdiction over the social support to the war victims. It is not possible to form the Fund without their consent. Related to the buringin issues, the bosnian Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees has offered concrete solutions to the issue several times but the joint solution remains to be reached in the following few days. We hope that it will bring equal protection to all the families of missing persons in Bosnia”, Minister Halilovic said.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 26,2007) – Cooperation between countries in the region is necessary not only for their European perspective, but also for the creation of lasting peace and stability and achieving economic progress in this part on Europe, was stated at a roundtable titled “Regional Cooperation for Development and European Integration” in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

The Bosnian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights organised this meeting in order present regional cooperation and coordination on the implementation of reforms and European integration processes in the entire region.

Committee President Srdan Dizdarevic reminded that regional cooperation is a precondition for the process of association of countries from the region to Euro-Atlantic structures, but that it also has a direct impact on economic development and progress of all countries.

Dizdarevic stressed that through regional cooperation the EU wishes to see countries demonstrate the ability for cooperation with others and build relations the EU wishes to see between its future members.

Bosnia's Chief Negotiator for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union Igor Davidovic, speaking about the impasse in European integration of our country caused by the failure of police reform, said that this reform is a process that will continue to unfold.

He thinks that police reform in Bosnia needs to be implemented as part f a procedure that will provide enough time and an adequate technocal or institutional framework for the agreement to be achieved.

Davidovic said that participants in the process of police reform were forced on several occasions to reach an agreement in a short period of time and under massive challenges and threats.

He thinks that this is also one of the reasons why all participants in police reform were unable to achieve a concentrated and broad effort towards a compromise.

Davidovic said that not a single part of the region has a perspective outside the EU, primarily due to economic, but also social, political and other reasons.

Participants in the meeting discussed achievements in regional cooperation and European integration and identify remaining obligations in these processes.

They also discussed cooperation on preserving the environment, in the energy sector, parliamentary cooperation and a number of other regional initiatives.

The “Regional Cooperation for Development and European Integration” Brochure was also presented at this roundtable.

The roundtable has been organised in cooperation with the Kosovo Institute for Political Research and Development, the Centre for Institutional Development from Skoplje, the Albanian Institute for International Studies, the Institute for International Relations from Zagreb,the European Movement and Montenegro and the European Movement in Serbia.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 26,2007) – 3.500 potential users have so far applied for assistance as part of the NATO/PFP Trust Fund for taking care of “surplus” members of the Bosnian Armed Forces.5,8 million Euros has been ensured for these purposes.

This was stated at a press conference held in Sarajevo yesterday by the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Bosnia Karel Vosskuhler on behalf of the lead nations of the NATO Trust Fund, together with Head of the International Organisation or Migrations (IOM) Regina Boucault and the Bosnian Deputy Defence Minister Marina Pendes.

They said that activities on social reintegration of professional soldiers and civilians in service in the Bosnian Armed Forces who have been dismissed in the meantime are going in accordance with the planned pace and that 3.261 persons, out of 6.000 dismissed between 2004 and 2006, have so far been covered by certain forms of assistance provided by the NATO Trust Fund.

Ambassador Vosskuhler underlined the importance of this program in the context of defence reform and obligations of BiH stemming from its membership in the Partnership for Peace.

The Ambassador of the Netherlands to Bosnia said that Bosnia has made significant progress in cooperation within the Partnership for Peace and stressed that this is largely a result of the work of the the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Bosnian Ministry of Defence and its officials.

The Bosnian Deputy Defence Minister Marina Pendes confirmed the commitment for the continuation of reforms and thanked Great Britain, the Netherlands and Croatia (the three lead nations of the Trust Fund), the IOM and donor states that by participating in this fund support efforts on the social and economic reintegration of dismissed members of the Bosnian Armed Forces.

Head of the IOM Mission in Bosnia Regina Biocault said that some 1.500 or 50 percent of users of the NATO Trust Fund have been contacted so far and reminded that professional soldiers, civilian officials and staff dismissed between 2004 and 2006/07 were able to apply for assistance.

Assistance is provided in the form of training, expert training, cross training, help in starting small businesses, purchase of equipment, self-employment in the agricultural sector etc.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey have also supported as donors the activities of the Trust Fund.

British Ambassador to Bosnia Matthew Rycroft, representatives of the Croatian Embassy in Bosnia and the NATO HQ from Brussels also attended the press conference in the Bosnian Ministry of Defence.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 26,2007) – Delegation of the European Commission to Bosnia, together with the EU institutions and the Bosnian European Integrations Direction, in cooperation with the EU Infocentres, will organize in this and the following year 22 sessions entitled “Meeting Europe”.

The sessions will be organized in the following Bosnian cities: Banja Luka, Bihac, Prijedor, Modrica, Tuzla, Pale, Gorazde, Mostar, Siroki Brijeg, Livno, Jajce, Rudo, Foca, Neum, Grude, Brcko, Bijeljina, Zenica, Doboj, Trebinje, Bileca and Sarajevo.

The first visit to Bihac took place yesterday.Hungarian Ambassador to Bosnia, Imre Varga, addressed the Bosnian citizens assembled in the Bihac City Hall. Advisor to the Bosnian European Integrations Director Darija Ramljak, also addressed the participants.

Ambassadors of the EU countries and the Bosnian European Integrations Direction representatives will attend the sessions. They will present the topics related to the European integrations processes and the Bosnia’s future in Europe.

"Meeting Europe” is aimed to initiate discussion with the Bosnian citizens and the NGO sector about the European integrations processes and to offer information on the demands that the EU has set for Bosnia on that way.

Mayors of cities mentioned above will sign declaration on Bosnia’s European future aimed to express their wish for Bosnia’s membership to the EU.

The “Meeting Europe” project is financed by the EU and is implemented by the KYODO and Safety Studies Centre NGOs.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 26,2007) - The fact that children in Bosnia often travel long distances to attend school out of their catchments areas with children of their own ethnicity reinforces already present divisions in communities where they live, and also endangers the long-term stability and security in Bosnia, it was said, among other things, in the OSCE Education Report called, “Who Is in Charge of Creating School Enrolment Areas?”

Claude Kieffer, Director, Education Department, OSCE Mission to Bosnia, and Sladjana Curak, Finance and Management Adviser in the same department, presented the Report in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

“Each of the three constituent peoples have their own curricula. On the Bosnian state level there are seven curricula. In many cases, students attend schools only with those of their own ethnicity; in other cases they attend classes that are separated by ethnicity within the same school building. This solidifies ethnic divisions within communities where students live,” emphasized Kieffer.

Children often travel long distances every day to attend mono-ethnic schools. Unfortunately, even parents are guilty for this phenomenon as they want their children to attend mono-ethnic schools, justifying this by saying “that they know what is in the best interest of their children”.

Curak named several examples of children crossing even state borders, solely for the purpose of attending schools with other children of the same ethnicity. Recommendations for what the Bosnian authorities should do in future were also quoted in the Report, but Kieffer believes that BiH institutions will neither accept the recommendations, nor even read the report.