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EU's Mostar Administrator Leaves Post

  • Roland Eggleston

Munich, Apr 1 (RFE/RL) - The retiring European Union (EU) administrator in Mostar, Hans Koschnick, says he gave up his post because he is disillusioned with the attitude of European diplomats. Koschnick left his post today, three months earlier than planned.

In an interview published today by the Munich newspaper, "Suddeutsche Zeitung," Koshnick said the turning point was the February 17 Summit in Rome. The summit was convened after Koshnick was attacked in his car by Croats angry at his plan for re-unifying the Moslem and Croat areas of the city. Koshnick has said previously local Croat police stood by without interfering when shots were fired at the car. Koshnick was eventually rescued by western European police stationed in the city.

The Rome summit included the foreign ministers of the "Contact Group" countries, and the Presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. After two days of talks, the leaders agreed on a new unification plan for Mostar, which made some slight alterations to Koshnick's arrangement to satisfy the Croats. The Muslims won a key point in that freedom of movement was guaranteed in the city, even for males of military age. Muslims and Croats accepted the formation of a joint police force.

In today's interview, Koshnick says: "the contents met my wishes absolutely. In particular, the approval of a joint police force for which I had struggled so long. It was good. But, even so, it was clear at the moment the document was accepted that I would go. And the diplomats in Rome knew that."

The summit had failed to accept one of Koshnick's central demands -the dismissal of local Croat politicians whom, he says, had done nothing to stop the campaign against the European Union administrator. In particular, Koshnick sought the removal of the leader of the local Croat administration, Mijo Brajovic, who had rejected Koshnick's plans for the city as a "gift to the Muslims," and called for protests against it.

Koshnick said he had believed the Summit would ensure the removal of Brajovic. Instead, says Koshnick, the Croat left Rome pleased with a plan which met many of his demands.

"It was a signal that the attacks had paid dividends for the Croats," Koshnick says in today's interview. "My problem is that the European negotiators accepted people as negotiating partners, who had incited the people in Mostar against me and my colleagues."

He is particularly critical of the German members of the "Contact Group," and of Italy, which is the current chairman of the EU. He complains that apparently nobody in Germany's delegation considered whether it would be possible for him to continue working with the local Croat politicians who remained in power.

"I am not speaking only for myself," he said. "There were other colleagues in my car for whom I was responsivble." The "Suddeutsche Zeitung" reports some of Koshnick's closest colleagues are leaving Mostar with him.

According to Koschnick, the American negotiator, Richard Holbrooke, was critical of Germany's attitude. He says the Muslim mayor of east Mostar, Safet Orucevic, was so angry he announced his resignation before leaving Rome.

The "Suddeutsche Zeitung" quotes an unidentified close colleague of Koshnick as saying: "The Rome summit sacrificed the Administrator to keep the peace process in Bosnia alive."

Koshnick expressed satisfaction with the agreements in front of the television cameras in Rome, but a few days later he announced his resignation as Administrator in Mostar. His term officially expired in July, and there had been some discussions within the EU of extending it to the end of the year.

Koshnick will now be replaced by a Spaniard who, like Koshnick, has wide experience as the mayor of a large city. (Koshnick was mayor of Bremen; the Spaniard was mayor of Valencia).

The "Suddeutsche Zeitung" concludes the interview with a comment on the situation in Mostar since the Rome summit.

"The barriers between the two halves of the city have been removed, and Croat and Muslim police conduct joint patrols," it says. "Theoretically the city is re-united.Anyone can go where he or she will. However, two months after the barriers fell there still appears to be an invisible border. Practically, only women and children trust themselves in the other part of the city - and often, only to shop. Afterwards, they quickly return to their own side. It is still an exception for Croats or Muslims to go to the other side simply to see how things are."

According to the newspaper, the joint police patrols have accomplished little. "recently there have been new cases of Muslims being driven out of the Croatian-controlled western part of the city," it said. "The Administration registers three or four cases a week." the newspaper also reported that a Muslim woman returned from shopping to find all her goods thrown into the street by a Croat who had occupied her apartment. It said the Croat-Muslim police had done no more than note down the particulars of the case. They told her they could not do more.