Mostar's Political Currency Tied to Hard Cash,
the Political Power of President Tudjman
The western Herzegovinians want to become a part of Croatia and Croats want to become a part of Europe. That's the assessment of a senior diplomat in the racially-torn city that has become a political football between Croats and Muslims.
The key to putting Mostar back together may not lie in the battered remains of one of Europe's most beautiful cities, but in Zagreb, with Croatia's president Franjo Tudjman.
The European Union and the United States are leaning heavily on Tudjman to rein in Herzegovina's Croats who want to keep the western part of Mostar as their "capital" despite commitments in the Dayton peace agreement to bring Muslims and Croats back together. But that will not be easy.
Mostar Croats were responsible for the violent rejection of a compromise EU proposal on the municipal boundaries, seeing the creation of a jointly-administered central zone as a first step towards losing their grip over the hub of the town. But reining in Herzegovina Croats may be a difficult. They have a powerful lobby with crucial leverage on Tudjman, just like the Europeans. "Tudjman has found himself caught between a rock and a hard place," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Tudjman owes them a favorr. They came to his rescue when it was difficult in 1991," he added.
Many Croats from Herzegovina, the cradle of hard-line Croat nationalism in Bosnia, fought as volunteers in Zagreb's war of independence from the former Yugoslav federation. In addition, Tudjman's victory in Croatia's first free elections in 1990 would have been difficult without hefty financial backing from rich Croat emigre groups in the United States and Europe, many of which are led by Herzegovinians.
"There is a close connection between the organized crime centered around the Siroki Brijeg cartel, Mostar police and the (Bosnian branch of the) HDZ," said the diplomat. "They are determined that Mostar will be a Croat center in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in contrast to the number of decisions on unifying the city which were signed on their behalf."
Bosnian Croats, who made millions of dollars smuggling fuel to Bosnian Serbs and levying illegal taxes on Bosnia-bound goods, do not need to bow to Tudjman for cash. Rich Bosnian Croats bought into Croatia's privatization program, snapping up state-owned hotels and businesses and securing political backing from the right wing of Tudjman's ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), political analysts say.
"The federation effectively depends on Mostar. If it falls apart here I can not see it working elsewhere," he added.
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