Thursday, August 14, 2008


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (August 14,2008) - The Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic stated that his visit to China was very successful and useful for Bosnia.He delivered the following speech,after returning from China:

"The visit to China was a success, particularly for the topics we have opened in the economic field and we can expect an increase in economic cooperation between Bosnia and China, as well as the larger Chinese companies’ investments in Bosnia.

First and foremost, I would like to mention the Bosnian Olympians in Beijing. We visited them in their building in the Olympic village, and I am pleased to say that there was a very positive, optimistic and utterly team atmosphere in our camp.

These fellows and a girl, as well as their trainers and the Olympic Committee leadership are best representing Bosnia in Beijing. Our athletes are motivated and I am hoping for some good results.

Even though the Olympic Games were the cause for the visit, the majority of our time was used for diplomatic and economic activities. On the first day, we visited HUAWEI, the biggest company for telecommunication equipment production in the world. We were particularly interested in its work on the so-called e-government projects in over 40 countries.

These projects mean networking all data in a country, at all levels of authority, and influence the significant reduction of administration, expenses, life improvement of citizens and an all-level productivity increase.

Simply put, for acquiring an identity card, a passport, a driving license or any other document, for getting married or registering a child’s birth, the Bosnian citizens have to go to 3 to 7 different locations, obtain the same or even more documents, and pay tax for each document in amount of 2 Bosnian Marks at least. By establishing the e-government system, all those documents will be stored in the central system and available, if needed, at all levels of authority, from municipal to state organs, including the diplomatic and consular missions of a country.

The HUAWEI representatives, already with their office in Sarajevo, are willing to visit Bosnia and make a public presentation representing all details of such a project in Bosnia, including the level of savings and ancillary propitiatory thus achieved. We also talked about the potential financial participation of the government of China in such a project, which had supported many developing countries in those projects.

During the meeting with the Chinese Economic Chamber management, we were focused on the fact that Bosnia has great electric energy potentials and 60% of those potential are currently unused. Bosnia is therefore among the greatest potential energy exports in this part of Europe, and Chinese companies could significantly participate in infrastructural building for those purposes, for which the Chinese Economic Chamber representatives expressed their interest.

In reference to the diplomatic activities, I had an opportunity to talk with Chinese President Hu Jintao and we both expressed our satisfaction with the overall relations. President HU expressed China’s interest in cooperation enhancement, especially in the economic field.

Considering that there were heads of states and governments of over 80 countries present in Beijing, we took an opportunity to talk with other countries’ leaders, including from the countries of the region, and I would like to stress out my meeting with Brunei Sultan Darussalama, Hassanal Bolkiah, who I have invited to visit Bosnia and we agreed that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs would undertake activities to carry out that visit.

I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to mention certain allegations that occurred in some Bosnian media, which were particularly upsetting because they were about the flag of Bosnia, as one of the symbols of its statehood.

On the first visit day, a public radio-television service issued a release stating that the raising of our flag was being “delayed due to Haris Silajdžić”. After that, we heard claims that “Bosnia is the only country whose flag will not flutter at the beginning of the Olympic Games that start on Friday.”

This completely incorrect and unproven information initiated a series of articles and announcements, so one daily newspaper issued “In Beijing, the last flag raised was of Bosnia” and “it is a true scandal, since all other countries raised their flag at the top of the mast three days before the beginning of the Olympic Games”. Another medium also claimed that “Bosnia is the only country in the world whose flag won’t be fluttering on the mast in the Olympic village in Beijing during the Summer Olympic Games opening”, “shame is the mildest word that can be used for what has happened”, we “made a “circus” thus showing all flippancy to the world in relation to the raising of the state flag.”

Those are very serious statements and what is disturbing is the fact that no one bothered to verify them, even though the PBS service that I have just mentioned had a reporter in Beijing.

Therefore, I will lay out the facts. the Bosnian Olympic Committee representatives decided to ask for the ceremony delay so the Bosnian Presidency Chairman could attend the act. Virtually all Heads of States visiting Beijing, witnessed those ceremonies and the Bosnian Olympic Committee representatives believed that Bosnia should also be represented. Considering that we were first scheduled for Wednesday, when our delegation in Beijing had not been completed yet, the Olympic Committee representatives asked for the delay. Anyway, you can check it out with our Olympians, which was their wish.

As for the claim that Bosnia was the only country, whose flag was not raised after the Summer Olympic Games opening, the fact of the matter was that the flag-raising ceremonies of even fifty countries took place on the same day. That was the biggest number of ceremonies in a day at these Olympic Games, representing a quarter of the countries participating in Beijing. (If anyone is interested, the list of countries is here, in Chinese and English).

It is simply absurd that no one, including the media whose representatives were in Beijing, bothered to verify the statements of this kind and gravity. It is particularly upsetting because a member of my delegation, immediately upon his request, received a confirmation from the organizer that Bosnia was not the only country whose flag was raised that day, but was one among fifty of them and there was a special media attraction that day because of the such a large number of countries. We have issued press releases on two occasions, however that was ignored both times by the media that had issued the false information.

This is such a serious topic because it is about the flag of Bosnia and our Olympians. Public broadcasting services have a special obligation in relation to those topics, to check their resources and information thoroughly, and to issue only the facts, not the allegations harmful to Bosnia."


BRCKO, Bosnia (August 14,2008) - The Brcko District Supervisor Raffi Gregorian issued yesterday a Supervisory Order regulating the conduct of religious education and the employment status of teachers of religion in Brcko District public schools in line with freedom of religion and other State-level obligations.

The Order recalls that Bosnia is a secular state and that the Bosnian Constitution guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion as fundamental rights but does not establish an official religion or religions of Bosnia.

The Order acknowledges the agreements that Bosnia has concluded with the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church . The Supervisor is of the opinion that the education related provisions of these agreements should, in the absence of a similar agreement with the Bosnian Islamic Community, by analogy also apply to teachers and classes of the Islamic religion in Brcko District.

Supervisor Gregorian expressed gratitude to the leaders of the three major faith groups in Brcko District for bringing to his attention, both personally and in writing, the need to better define the status of religious instructors and education in the District’s public schools, and that such definition should lead to improvements in the provision of voluntary religious instruction.

By his Order, teachers of religion will henceforth be able to obtain indefinite-term contracts, and have the same status, rights and obligations, including the professional qualification requirements, as any other teacher under Brcko District laws.

Supervisor Gregorian expressed his confidence that religious communities and teachers of religion are committed to promoting and fostering the multi-ethnic character of the Brcko District and aware of their responsibility to educate pupils to accept and respect all religions and non-believers in the spirit of tolerance and conciliation.

Nevertheless, the Supervisor expressed concerns over a tendency that has emerged in Bosnia generally, and in Brcko District specifically, whereby religious instruction classes as a voluntary subject in public schools have increasingly taken on the character of an obligatory subject, as noted by the near one hundred percent attendance rate in such voluntary classes in Brcko District public schools.

Moreover, by providing taxpayer funds and making available free-of-charge public school premises for the purposes of religious instruction for only certain faith groups, the current arrangements for voluntary religious instruction risk imparting to those certain faith groups characteristics of official religions to the exclusion and detriment of other faith groups or non-believers in a manner that may be discriminatory and thus subject to legal and constitutional challenges and call into question freedom of religion and conscience in Brcko District.

“The existing arrangements for voluntary religious education must not create a financial and political dependency relationship between government and faith groups that could then lead to eventual subjugation of one to the other, to the ultimate detriment of both,” the Supervisor said.

Therefore, the Order emphasizes that religious classes in schools will continue to be on a voluntary basis, subject to the express free will of parents or legal guardians of pupils and encourages offering of suitable secular subjects as an elective alternative to religious instruction. Until such an alternative is offered, religious instruction classes can only be held either as the first or last period of the academic day.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (August 14,2008) - According to data by the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) Bosnia is part of a group of countries that have the lowest prices for energy sources, fuels, electric energy and gas in Europe. According to this data Bosnian citizens paid the least for gas and electric energy in Europe in June 2008.

The price of electric energy for households in Bosnia amounted to EUR 0.061 per kilowatthour, followed by Bulgaria with EUR 0.068, Greece and Latvia with EUR 0.073 per kilowatthour, while Italy and Denmark were the most expensive countries with EUR 0.234 and EUR 0.235.

In June one kilowatthour of gas cost EUR 0.033 in Bosnia, the same as in Lithuania. In Latvia gas cost EUR 0.024, in Estonia EUR 0.045, in Bulgaria EUR 0.041, while it was the most expensive in Sweden and Denmark with EUR 0.152.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (August 14,2008) - Bosnia may increase Value Added Tax (VAT) to compensate for income lost from customs after the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, the Bosnian Deputy Finance Minister Fuad Kasumović said.

In only one month, since the SAA came into effect, forcing Bosnia to reduce or abolish customs for some EU goods, income from customs has fallen by 10-20 per cent, Kasumović was quoted as saying.

“In the coming months, we will continue reducing or abolishing customs for other EU goods, which means further reduction of income,” Kasumović told the Banja Luka daily, Nezavisne Novine.

The minister said raising Bosnia’s flat 17 per cent VAT tax is one option for Bosnia when it seeks to compensate for the reduced income.

Kasumović admitted that this would have negative effects on ordinary people and businesses, which are already suffering from fast-rising food and fuel prices on the global and regional markets.

Because of this, an increase in VAT would only be a quick fix. A more long-term solution would be cuts to Bosnia’s huge and inefficient administration, Kasumović concluded.

Any attempt to increase VAT tax would certainly trigger public unrest. Many experts believe the 17 per cent VAT tax – introduced three years ago – is already providing ample funds for Bosnia’s administration. Some politicians and officials have proposed reduction of the tax rate, or introduction of a differentiated VAT for different products.

Any such move looks unlikely months ahead of October local elections. Also, any changes to the current taxation system can be introduced only after thorough analysis and preparation.

In reaction to the statement by the Bosnian Deputy Finance Minister Fuad Kasumović that the Bosnian government will increase direct or indirect taxes to make up for the loss in revenues from customs duties resulting from implementation of the provisional agreement with the EU, Bosnian trade unions, consumer protection associations and employers’ association expressed their strong opposition to any increase in direct taxes or VAT yesterday.

The head of the Bosnian Employer’s Association, Alija Remzo Bakšić, said that the government’s move was logical and expected, but warns that the introduction of new taxes would stifle development and employment. He proposed that excise duties should be introduced on high-tariff goods instead.