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August 10, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 253
Interview: Hasan Muratovic

Bar Closer Than Ploce

by Radenko Udovicic

Hasan Muratovic was born in 1940, in Olovo. He graduated engineering in Ljubljana, completed his post graduate studies in Sarajevo and obtained a Ph.D. in Belgrade. He is now Professor of organization and analysis of information systems at the Electrotechnical faculty in Sarajevo.

Since 16, June 1992 he is also a minister in the Bosnian government. During the four war years, he survived six cabinet reshuffles as the Minister for relations with UNPROFOR, and served under three prime ministers. After the resignation of Haris Silajdzic in February 1996, he became the prime minister. According to local polls, he is one of the more popular politicians in Sarajevo (A poll carried out by Radio 99 puts him in fourth place after Izetbegovic, Silajdzic, and Lagumdzija). He was once thought to belong to the so called soft wing of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and many thought he will deflect to Silajdzic's party. However, it was revealed recently that his name is the first on SDA's list of candidates for the next parliamentary elections.

"Vreme": At the recent meeting in Belgrade, the Bosnian state delegation signed a number of agreements with representatives of FR Yugoslavia. Has the Bosnian government begun with the implementation of those agreements.

Muratovic: We began with the implementation straight away. As far as economic cooperation is concerned we already held a number of meetings. Our companies are ready to put into practice all that has been agreed. As far as passports are concerned and their validity in the visa-free regime, I think that already functions quite well. That particular agreement stands. Therefore, citizens can travel to and from Yugoslavia without any special procedures. We will attempt to put into practice the most important parts of the economic agreement. Our aim is to repair the Belgrade-Zvornik-Tuzla railway line as soon as possible, and thus reach the port of Bar. We must have an alternative port, especially for Tuzla, since it is easier to reach Bar from Tuzla than Ploce. The chemical industry in Tuzla can not exist without the railway line.

It has recently been said that there ought to be no problems with the implementation of the agreement between the two states apart from potential obstruction by the Republic of Srpska, which does not look favourably upon the normalization of relations...

To be honest with you, we do not anticipate such problems since it is necessary for the Republic of Srpska to open up towards the Federation. We already signed one agreement with the Republic of Srpska regarding financial transactions. However people who trade with the Republic of Srpska still tend to pay cash, so the system is not working yet. We believe the economic exchange will soon begin to accelerate. This is certainly in the interest of people from the Serbian entity, and so is the trade with Yugoslavia.

The elections are approaching. Both the Croatian and the Serbian side claim that the status quo suits the Bosnian Government and that this is why it is insisting that all conditions are met before elections can take place...


The elections are approaching. Both the Croatian and the Serbian side claim that the status quo suits the Bosnian Government and that this is why it is insisting that all conditions are met before elections can take place...

It is in the interest of the Bosnian government for the elections to take place as soon as possible. According to the Dayton agreement, the state of Bosnia Herzegovina can not be constituted before the elections are carried out. Most authorities in Bosnia are illegal because they were created during the war. Besides, the mandates of most authorities ranging from local to state governments have expired. Local authorities are in the hands of people who came into power during and because of the war. Serbs, that is the Republic of Srpska can not participate in the government before the elections. Therefore, the elections are of great importance to us. They are necessary and we are doing everything to enable them to take place although the conditions for fair elections are non-existent. We can not carry out an election campaign on the territory held by the Serbs or the Croats. Also, preparations for the elections abroad are not going too well, but we still want them to take place since that would lead to the inauguration of a state based on the peace agreement.

Most people say that it would be pointless to try and forecast the results. I will nevertheless inquire about what you think will happen after the elections. Will Bosnia manage to overcome all of its internal and external difficulties?

The world will never again allow for the borders of Bosnia to be altered. Five years of war failed to change a single border even an inch. That is a proof that the world will not allow forceful changes of borders in Europe. We will definitely enter the European Union. Maybe even NATO, and thus make the security of Bosnia rock solid. Bosnia's internal political life will have its own serious problems. I expect great problems, first in constituting the Federation, since there are bound to be minor conflicts between areas controlled by the Federal army, and those controlled by the Croatian defence army (HVO). However, it is inevitable that eventually the pro-Bosnian forces will win. Herzegovina will continue, probably indefinately, to rely heavily on Croatia, but that was always the case, even under Socialism. The rest of the Croats are of pro-Bosnian orientation and they will certainly remain loyal to the state and take part in parliamentary life. As far as the Republic of Srpska is concerned, it too is bound to obstruct the functioning of the Presidency and Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina. That will cause great difficulties. Until the second election, all decisions will be reached with great difficulties. However I believe that the second election will take place very soon. According to the Dayton agreement in two years time, although I believe it will happen sooner.

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