EU urges politicians to listen to BiH citizens

13/02/2014

Citizens want governments composed of expert, non-political, uncompromised members.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 13/02/14

photo

Policemen guard a federal government building while Bosnian citizen rights activists block traffic at one of busiest intersections in Sarajevo on Tuesday (February 11th). Hundreds of people continued to protest in Sarajevo this week, demanding politicians at all levels of government resign. [AFP]

EU officials called on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) politicians to start resolving the state's economic problems, and said the demands made by citizens in the ongoing protests cannot be ignored.

"Politicians now have the opportunity to listen and hear the demands of citizens, and thereby demonstrate their responsibility for a brighter future for BiH. I invite the leaders of BiH to seriously analyse the demands of citizens and address them. This is their role and their moral duty," Tanja Fajon, a member of the European Parliament, told SETimes.

As protests in the country move into the second week in Sarajevo and other cantons, citizens are holding fast to their demands for technical governments composed of expert, non-political, uncompromised members. Their demands also included transparent government spending, an audit of privatisations and the suspension of government commission payments.

"We already achieved the first goal, the resignation of the government. The new people should be non-political, and lead Tuzla until the October elections. This government should be required to submit weekly plans and reports about its work to fulfil its proclaimed goals," Aldin Siranovic, the organiser of the Tuzla protests, told SETimes.

In last week's riots, the largest in BiH since the 1990s conflicts, more than 300 people were injured and several state institutions were burned down, including part of the building that houses the tripartite state presidency.

The protest resulted in the resignations of four of the 10 cantonal governments, two mayors and a police chief.

Zijad Djekic, 32, a protester in Sarajevo, has been jobless for eight years. He said citizens' demands are fully justified, and that particular attention should be paid to reviewing suspicious privatisations.

"Billions have gone into suspicious privatisations, and we still do not know where. Judicial authorities must urgently examine all suspicious privatisations. After that, the status of thousands who were left without work after the privatisations will also be easier to resolve," Djekic told SETimes.

Some politicians said citizens' demands are justified.

"Authorities should start to resolve the accumulated problems immediately. I fully understand the anger of citizens, and I can say that it is completely justified. For years, authorities have been saying one thing and doing another. The social status of many citizens is desperate and they are angry at politicians, especially when it comes to privatisation. But once again I must say that destruction is not a solution," Mirsad Djonlagic, an MP in the Federation of BiH parliament, told SETimes.

However, after the riots calmed, some politicians began levelling accusations at one another along ethnic lines, accusing each other of political instability and conspiracies.

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik said the violent demonstrations in FBiH have shown that RS is "a better part of BiH."

"The chaos from the FBiH will not be transported to RS. BiH cannot survive, and it's slipping towards breakup," Dodik said at a press conference last week in Belgrade after meeting with Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Dragan Covic, the leader of BiH's strongest Croat party HDZ, said the unrest has been used for "brutal attacks" on state institutions. In an interview with Nezavisne Novine newspaper, Covic said the attacks were directed solely at the cantonal institutions in the Bosniak-majority areas of the federation, and that attempts had been made to direct the unrest at the Croat-majority areas.

FBiH Prime Minister Nermin Niksic said he will not resign "until someone better comes to this place."

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In light of politician's responses, experts said they have little faith that things will change.

"The demands of the protesters are very specific. It is a model of direct democracy where politicians immediately correspond to the citizens. The essence of the demands is the seizure of the enormous power that the political elites in BiH have. All the stories that politicians told after the riots are just an attempt to cut off the blades of social unrest and bring back the [status quo]," Enver Kazaz, a professor of politics at the University of Sarajevo, told SETimes.

Correspondent Bedrana Kaletovic in Tuzla contributed to this report.

Will politicians in BiH work to meet citizen demands? Why or why not? Tell us what you think below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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