News / Europe

    Turkey: No Time to Waste Fixing Bosnia

    Anti-government protesters block Alipasina street holding banner that reads "EU help," Sarajevo, Feb. 11, 2014.
    Anti-government protesters block Alipasina street holding banner that reads "EU help," Sarajevo, Feb. 11, 2014.
    Reuters
    Regional power Turkey called on Wednesday for urgent political and economic reforms in Bosnia after the worst bout of social unrest in the impoverished Balkan country since its 1992-95 war.
     
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotuglu made his appeal during a visit to Sarajevo as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets for a second week over unemployment, corruption and political inertia in the former Yugoslav republic.
     
    Some members of the European Union, Bosnia's chief sponsor, have said the protests are a wake-up call after years of political stagnation rooted in a labyrinthine power-sharing system created under a 1995 peace deal.
     
    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to visit Sarajevo next week amid calls from some in the 28-nation bloc to accelerate Bosnia's integration.
     
    "Today is the day to act in Bosnia and we must not wait any longer," Davutoglu said.
     
    "Bosnia urgently needs international aid in the form of a new package of political and economic reforms."
     
    Bosnia, whose central government has limited powers, is made up of an autonomous Federation dominated by Muslim Bosniaks and Croats and an autonomous Serb Republic. It has a three-member presidency with a representative from each major ethnic group.
     
    Turkey is particularly influential among the Bosniaks, who are driving the protests. Much of the Balkans, including Bosnia, spent five centuries under Ottoman Turkish rule.
     
    Suspicion and anger
     
    Bosnia's Orthodox Christian Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats often view Turkey's role with suspicion, believing it supports Bosniak hopes for a greater centralization of power in Sarajevo, something they oppose.
     
    Fueled by anger over factory closures in the former industrial hub of Tuzla, protesters last week set fire to government buildings in the city, in Sarajevo and two other towns, fighting with police in an unprecedented outburst of social unrest.
     
    Several hundred people were injured, most of them police.
     
    The violence has subsided and, though persistent, the protests are now small.
     
    The crisis has already brought down four of 10 cantonal administrations in the Bosniak-Croat Federation and protesters are now calling for the resignation of its government.
     
    The turmoil has exposed deep social discontent over the state of the economy, unemployment of more than 27 percent and a broken, unwieldy political system — set down by the 1995 Dayton peace accord — that has served to perpetuate ethnic divisions.
     
    "The Dayton peace agreement was of outmost importance for it helped end the war but it is obvious that it now hampers the functioning of the country," Davutoglu said.
     
    British Foreign Secretary William Hague also called on Wednesday for a "renewed effort" by the EU to help Bosnia.
     
    Bakir Izetbegovic, a Bosniak who shares the country's rotating presidency with a Serb and a Croat, said Ashton was expected to come to Sarajevo with EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule. Bosnia hopes eventually to join the EU and NATO.
     
    Trying to harness what has so far been an apparently spontaneous outpouring of anger, informal protest leaders were due on Wednesday to establish a Citizens' Assembly to channel their demands.

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    Comments
         
    by: Popeye
    February 15, 2014 4:50 AM
    Hmmm, this is a mostly Bosniak protest, not Serb, not Croat. They want to use chaos to achieve their goals of unified Bosnia under their control. That is the main reason behind these protests, you won't see protests in Republic of Srpska or in cities with Croat majority.
    In Response

    by: Bob
    February 18, 2014 7:58 PM
    I agree with Popeye 100%. This is a pure Muslim protest that wants to centralize Bosnia. They have been trying to do this from the moment they tried to leave Bosnia without Serb support in the early 90s before the war started. Hell its the reason the war started. I dont believe that we will have another war on our hands, but they muslims (or Bosniaks, what ever they are called now) need to understand that Rep of Srpska is not going anywhere.
    In Response

    by: Mel from: UK
    February 16, 2014 8:41 PM
    Popeye, your statement is so wrong and untrue! People have had enough of false promises, poverty and discrimination. Of course there were protests in predominantly Serb and Croat run areas although not as massive and destructive. Why? They live quite good in comparison.

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