Berserkistan Navigator EUís Mostar Chief
Recommends Extending
Mandate Beyond July

By Davor Huic

The Mostar Vote MOSTAR, Bosnia, July 2 (Reuters) - The head of the European Union mission in Mostar will recommend extending its mandate after local elections brought rival nationalists to power in the divided city, a spokesman said on Tuesday. He said the EU administrator, Ricardo Perez Casado, wanted the mandate extended beyond the July 23 expiry date after the EU-sponsored elections.

Antagonistic Muslim and Croat parties split the vote in Sunday's elections, the first of any kind in Bosnia since the 1995 end of ethnic war and a trial run for countrywide balloting scheduled for September.

Citizens voted for a single city council under an EU plan to reunify Mostar. But the result raised the spectre of a stalemate that will cement partition -- the goal of separatist Croats ruling the city's western half. Analysts said that may have influenced a decision by Casado to ask EU governments to extend the two-year-old mandate.

"Mr Casado will recommend to the EU an extension of the mandate ... The goal (will be) helping solve economic problems, reconstruction of the city, and return of refugees (to suitable) accommodation," said EU spokesman Dragan Gasic.

A European Commission source said Casado won unofficial backing from Brussels on Monday for such an idea.

"It is not quite clear yet what would be the legal basis for a new EU mandate in Mostar once the city assembly is set up and the new mayor elected," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. EU ministers are expected to consider the suggestion around the middle of the month. One of the main EU agendas, Gasic said, would be trying to bring back thousands of refugees expelled from their homes on both sides of the line during the 1993-94 Croat-Muslim war.

Nationalist forces who carved out separatist entities in Bosnia during the war have blocked war refugees from regaining homes where they would now be in a minority, a major violation of the 1995 Dayton peace treaty.

Casado met the mayors of east and west Mostar on Tuesday to congratulate them on the peaceful, orderly conduct of the elections and expressed hope that new joint institutions will be formed soon. The joint 37-member municipal assembly is supposed to hold its first session and elect a mayor two weeks after final official results are announced by the electoral comission, expected by Wednesday or Thursday.

According to unofficial returns released on Monday, the SDA party of Bosnia's Muslim-led central government led the opposing Bosnian Croat HDZ by a three percent margin.

Gasic said the pro-unification SDA will, according to unofficial projections, obtain a 19-18 or 20-17 edge in seats. But even in the latter case, Gasic said, the SDA will be in no position to decide on key issues, including the city's budget, without the consent of the HDZ.

"The estimate is that there will be no classical majority-opposition relationship. It would not be politically feasible in a town where the electorate is physically divided along ethnic lines," Gasic said. "The SDA and HDZ will most probably be forced to form a (kind of) grand coalition and cooperate on questions of joint interest," he added.

The united city assembly and its executive body would be in charge of Mostar's budget, economy, infrastructure, airport and railway station. District councils would have jurisdiction over schooling, culture, sport and religious activities.

To learn more...
Berserkistan, July 1 · Muslims in Narrow Win over Croats in Mostar Elections
Berserkistan, July 1 · Mostar Holds Peaceful Post-War Elections

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