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Balkan Report: February 11, 1998

11 February 1998, Volume 2, Number 6

A Busy Week. Recent days have seen the top representatives of the international community impose a new Bosnian flag on the joint parliament and suggest changes in the new joint passport. The proposed travel documents will no longer have any reference on the cover to the entity from which the bearer comes. International officials have also warned the mayor and police chief of Croatian-held Stolac that they face sacking if acts of violence against returning refugees and other Muslims do not stop. But Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim leader and member of the joint presidency, was less than enthusiastic about opening Sarajevo, which has become home to thousands of rural Muslim refugees, to returning Serbs and Croats.

Meanwhile, the new moderate leadership of the Republika Srpska received a grudging pledge of cooperation from the hard-liners in Pale. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, for his part, paid his first visit abroad -- not to Russia or Greece, but to Germany. His second stop was Austria. His choice of destinations reflects the realism and pragmatism of the Banja Luka leadership and their recognition of where the wealth and power in the region are. His opening to Bonn and Vienna also indicates a fundamental shift from the anti-German and anti-Austrian line found in Serbian propaganda of 1991-1995. Dodik's initiative, furthermore, stands in contrast to a dispatch by Belgrade's official news agency Tanjug on February 8. True to the spirit of 1991-1995, Tanjug accused Kinkel of meddling in Balkan affairs with the aim of expanding German influence in the region.

Bosnian Croats Call for a United Bosnia. And in Sarajevo, delegates to the convention of the Croatian National Council (HNV) adopted a resolution on February 7, in which they called for a united, democratic, and secular Bosnia. The HNV urged the unconditional return of all refugees and the removal from office of all officials who have prevented refugees from going home, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Jacques Klein, a deputy to the international community's Carlos Westendorp, told the HNV that the international community may change Bosnia's electoral law to increase the chances for smaller, non-nationalist parties like the HNV to get elected.

Representatives of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and of the Croatian authorities in the Bosnian government did not attend the convention. But some Croatian opposition leaders, such as Stipe Mesic and Vlado Gotovac, were present. The HNV represents the moderate Croats of Sarajevo and central Bosnia, while the HDZ is dominated by the more nationalistic Herzegovinian Croats.

"Wars Come and Go, but People Remain." Also on February 7, Serbian rock star Djordje Balasevic sang for some 10,000 enthusiastic people in Sarajevo. It was the first concert by a major Serbian performer in the Bosnian capital since the war began in 1992. He donated $85,000 from the proceeds to a fund for Bosnian mine victims.

Members of the audience came from all republics of the former Yugoslavia, including from both halves of Bosnia. Balasevic's lyrics stress themes of peace and ethnic tolerance. He told RFE/RL that he hopes that his message will encourage like-minded people. Balasevic added, however, that "a song can easily be drowned out by a mortar."