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Bosnia: Nationalist Gains In Elections Seen As Call For Reform

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations, 24 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Two top international representatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina have called for new commitments to the reform process there, citing the recent electoral gains of nationalists.

The high representative for Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, and UN envoy Jacques Klein told the UN Security Council yesterday that Bosnians delivered a protest vote earlier this month against ineffective and corrupt leaders.

Ashdown said the vote result was more a call for reform than a sign of resurgence by hardcore ethnic nationalists in Bosnia.

"Unlike their counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina didn't punish leaders for delivering too much reform. They punished them for delivering too little and not fast enough. Those elections were a cry for help."

Ashdown said in his first address to the council that he will pursue what he called "painful" economic reforms to restore confidence in international lenders at a time of mounting debt and falling aid. He said, for example, that Bosnia loses $300 million every year in customs fraud and millions of euros each month in sales tax evasion.

"If the international community is to be expected to go on supporting (Bosnia), if the world's taxpayers are to go on building the new hospitals and schools, they must know that they are subsidizing reform, not racketeers."

Ashdown referred in particular to reforming laws on banking and eliminating what he called the "tangle of bureaucracy" preventing single businesses from being established. He said his office has also proposed reforms of state-level sales taxes and of the custom system to boost revenues.

Klein, who is responsible for police reform and restructuring, cited continuing problems in improving the judiciary and the entire legal system. And he said while there has been progress in cracking down on trafficking in women, the problem will not be resolved until local prosecutors and the judiciary take it seriously.

"We cannot afford to have a common criminal space in Bosnia and Herzegovina but many divided and dysfunctional legal and judicial jurisdictions."

Klein was appearing before the council for the last time as he winds up the UN mission in Bosnia. He will transfer the mandate of police and judicial reforms to the European Union at the end of the year.