mostar city.jpg
Photograph: Photo by François Philipp, used under CC BY

The international community's High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, has said that the problem of the functioning of the Mostar city government was so serious that its solution could no longer be delayed, warning, however, that no model legalising divisions of the city along ethnic lines would be accepted.

The current situation is untenable, Inzko said in an interview in the Friday issue of the Sarajevo-based daily Dnevni Avaz.

The Austrian diplomat called on Croat and Bosniak political leaders to agree as soon as possible on the structure of the Mostar city authorities in line with a decision the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed back in 2008.

Under that decision, Mostar's then municipalities violated citizens' constitutional rights because their election model enabled municipalities with a smaller number of residents to elect the same number of city councillors as municipalities with more residents.

Leading Croat and Bosniak parties have since failed to agree any new model, and no local elections have been held in the city since.

Municipal elections in the country are to be held in October and there is a danger that the residents of that southern city will again not be able to vote.

Inzko said that the international community did not intend to impose any solutions but that it considered as unacceptable any model that would lead to further divisions.

The international community will not support the division of Mostar. Mostar must remain an integral, coherent, multi-ethnic unit of local self-government with a certain level of authority or government below the city level, Inzko said.

The Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) previously insisted on a city with two "sub-units", but the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) was skeptical about that model, claiming that it would lead to new divisions.

The local branches of the SDA and the Alliance For a Better Future (SBB) on Thursday went public with a proposal of Bosniak parties for the establishment of seven electoral units in Mostar, proposing also that the city's mayor and two deputy mayors be elected directly from among different ethnic groups.

HDZ BiH president Dragan Covic said it was possible that a final proposal for the organisation of the city government would be agreed by April 27 and then sent to parliament for consideration.

Deadlines are now very short because the Central Election Commission is expected to announce the exact date of local elections in early May, after which no interventions will be possible that would change election rules or define Mostar's new structure.

SBB leader Fahrudin Radoncic, who was released from police custody last week after being detained for obstructing justice and who has become politically active again, said that opening the issue of the organisation of the Mostar city government would open a "delicate and traumatic process of dealing with all difficult issues."

After meeting with Covic to discuss, among other things, the issue of Mostar, Radoncic said that the problem of Mostar was only the tip of the iceberg that revealed increasingly difficult problems in relations between Croats and Bosniaks.

"Relations between Croats and Bosniaks have never been worse," he said.

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