Bosnia’s Envoy Lifts Mostar Budget Siege

resizer121Bosnia’s top international representative has imposed an interim resolution on squabbling Mostar political factions, establishing the basis for the temporary financing of public services and sanctioning city councillors.

High Representative Valentin Inzko’s decision provides much-needed breathing space for Mostar citizens and funds for public services and communal companies which have been left without the means to cover basic costs or salaries for over four months. The crisis is due to infighting within and among ruling Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat political parties.

Since the October 2008 local elections, local leaders have been unable to agree on forming a new coalition to run the city. Temporary financing from the previous Mostar budget ended in March.

This situation brought almost all public services in Mostar to a halt and triggered a wave of public protests and strikes.

A leading international think-tank, the International Crisis Group, ICG, recently warned that the political deadlock in Mostar poses a burgeoning threat to political relations across the country, and stands as a test of maturity for local leaders.

Inzko finally decided to end the budget crisis following a series of meetings with local leaders and representatives of local Syndicates.

On Wednesday afternoon, he announced that he was using his broad governing powers to extend temporary financing to all primary public services.

“In order to ensure that city employees are no longer held hostage by the politicians, I have decided to extend temporary financing, which will ensure the payment of outstanding salaries to 30 September and the almost normal functioning of the city, sports events and similar activities,” a press statement from the Office of the High Representative, OHR, quoted Inzko as saying.

Inzko’s decision also sanctioned local politicians for what many consider their highly irresponsible behaviour. City councillors and political parties will not receive funding until a new city administration is appointed.

“The behaviour of the city councillors in Mostar and their political parties has reached the height of cynicism and is unacceptable,” the OHR release quoted Inzko as saying.

“By failing to elect a mayor and provide the basis for the continued funding of city services, they have inflicted on Mostar city residents unnecessary suffering and aggravation, and placed lives at risk. I see no reason why the city councillors and political parties should be paid if they are not going to do the jobs for which they were elected and those who are indeed working, like the brave firemen, do not receive salaries for months. They are paid to work, not not to work,” Inzko said.

“The council no longer even maintains the pretence of holding sessions and the parties have never engaged in serious negotiations; instead they have sought to blame the City Statute for their own political lassitude. Some councillors have even left for summer holidays,” he added.

“It is now in their own interest to urgently appoint the mayor and adopt the budget in order to receive payments,” the OHR statement read.

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