Bosnia finally gets new government after 16 months

Feb 10, 2012, 7:42 PM

Associated Press

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) – It took 16 months of wrangling, but Bosnia finally has a new government _ a leadership that promised to immediately tackle the country’s economic problems, including its pressing lack of a budget.

In December, the parties that had won the top six places during a national election in October 2010 agreed on how to divide the prime minister’s position and the Cabinet posts. Parliament approved that Cabinet on Friday in a vote of 26-7, with one abstention.

Power in Bosnia is shared by Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats who rotate key government posts, and the delay to form a government and bickering over how to allocate funds have left this poor country without a budget. As a result, state officials have not received their January salaries.

Government officials have said the budget crisis will be the first thing they will deal with on Monday. Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda, a Bosnian Croat and former regional finance minister, said more broadly that he will immediately tackle Bosnia’s economic challenges.

Sixteen years after Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, the unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent, political instability scares away much-needed foreign investment and a massive brain drain has hampered economic recovery.

Hundreds of thousands of Bosnians who live abroad have helped those still in the country by sending money back home. But job-killing financial crises in North America and Western Europe, where most Bosnian expatriates live and work, have forced some to return, jobless, to their homeland.

Bevanda further promised “this year will be the year of the European Union in Bosnia,” meaning his government will focus on fulfilling the conditions for the country to get candidate status for the bloc.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton as well as EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele congratulated Bosnia on the appointment of its government and encouraged it in a statement “to concentrate on the pressing European integration agenda.”

In reference to the lack of a state budget, however, the statement noted, “A sound economic and fiscal policy is an essential prerequisite for the country’s EU integration process.”

The embassy of the United States said the U.S. hopes the new government “will provide serious, productive leadership, putting aside personal differences to find common ground.”

___

Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Bosnia finally gets new government after 16 months