Mostar Croats Refuse to
Quit City Council Boycott
‘We really shouldn't give in this time, whatever the price.’
—Ante, a 25-year-old former soldier
By Zoran Radosavljevic
MOSTAR, Bosnia, July 30 (Reuters) - Bosnian Croats, struggling to preserve an ethnically-divided Mostar, said on Tuesday they were determined to resist Western demands to end their boycott of a newly elected city council.
European Union officials in charge of overseeing the reunification of the city, now divided into Croat and Muslim sectors, have strongly criticised Croats for failing to respect the results of the first post-war poll held on June 30. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) boycotted the first session of the new city assembly, complaining of irregularities in polling. Votes from abroad gave control of the Mostar council to the Muslim-dominated Party of Democratic Action (SDA).
The European Union said unless the HDZ rejoined the council by August 4 it would end its two-year-old interim transitional administration. The deputy international High Representative Michael Steiner said the EU was also prepared to use NATO troops and international police to enforce the new council's authority.
Five days ahead of the deadline, Mostar looked calm and people on both sides went about their usual business in the scorching summer sun. But Croats in the the city's west were happy to stop and vent their frustrations with the latest turn of events. "We really shouldn't give in this time, whatever the price," said Ante, a 25-year-old former soldier.
The Croats' stubborn refusal to accept the election result has fanned fears of a renewed Croat-Muslim conflict. Josip, 35, a Croat refugee from the Muslim stronghold of Zenica in central Bosnia dismissed such concerns. "Europe will not withdraw from here because they don't want another trouble spot," he said. "Perhaps they will reach some kind of a formal agreement with the Croats before the deadline, but the reality is -- this part of town is ours and the other is Muslim and that's it."
The United Nations and other international observers say Croats expelled hundreds of Muslims from the city's west during 1993, and pounded the Muslim east for almost a year, in their attempt to turn Mostar into the capital of an independent Croat state. Most Croats feel the latest Western demands are the last straw in a long series of humiliating blows, caused by European misunderstanding of the complex events in former Yugoslavia.
"Europe hasn't approached the problem properly. They treat us as if we were some savage African tribes, killing each other. So for them it is easiest to do and say whatever keeps the peace, even if someone is suffering in that peace," said Toni, 50, a maths teacher from West Mostar. "Unless the world really delves into the heart of the matter there won't be a good solution and things will be solved by war. I will be the first to take up arms and fight," he said.
He said many of the staff in his school were Muslims.
"The Muslims keep saying they are being expelled and harassed here. But if that is so how come many have stayed here and the others keep trying to come back," he said. "I think the only solution is if they all crossed to live on the other side. Then we would know what belongs to whom and we could start talking about some issues we have in common," he said.
Berserkistan, July 25 · France Blames Zagreb for Stalement in Mostar
Berserkistan, July 24 · EU Attempts to Break Croat Boycott of Mostar City Council
Berserkistan, July 22 · Croats to Boycott Newly-Elected Mostar City Council
Berserkistan, July 15 · EU Appoints New Mostar Envoy
Berserkistan, July 12 · Final Mostar Tally Gives Muslim Party a 5-Seat Edge
Berserkistan, July 10 · Croats Threaten to Resign Over Mostar Election Results
Berserkistan, July 7 · Mostar’s Elections Valid Says European Union
Berserkistan, July 1 · Muslims in Narrow Win over Croats in Mostar Elections
Berserkistan, July 1 · Mostar Holds Peaceful Post-War Elections
Berserkistan · Mostar, A Tale of Two Cities by Jim Bartlett
Berserkistan · For Peace in Mostar, Follow the Money Trail to Croatia
Mostar: Before and After its Devastation A site by Dubravko Kakarigi
Benvenuti in Guerra Gavino Paddeu chronicles Mostar's fall
Building in a War Zone European Union Helps to Reconstruct Mostar
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