Bosnian Serb Leader Spurns American Ambassador at Death Camp Memorial

President of Republika Srpska entity Milorad Dodik refused to shake hands with the American Ambassador to Bosnia, Maureen Cormack, at a ceremony marking the liberation of a WWII death camp in north-western Bosnia.

The ceremony at Donja Gradina memorial, the execution grounds of Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia, was attended by numerous local and international officials. RS leader Dodik shook hands with the guests, but skipped Ambassador Cormack.

The entity president and leader of SNSD was blacklisted last year by the US State Department for his actions that violated the provisions of 1995 Dayton peace agreement. Dodik identified Ambassador Cormack as the person responsible for the American financial sanctions against him.


Religious Leaders Set to Honor War Victims Together

Members of Bosnia’s interfaith council will visit sites were atrocities were committed during Bosnian war on Monday, April 24, said the council’s current head, Bishop Grigorije of the Serb Orthodox Church. The council officials will convene at Sarajevo’s Jewish Municipality and head out to pray at Kazani, Križančevo Selo, Kruščica and Korićanske stijene. Prayers for the victims at those sites will be led by Bishop of Grigorije, Cardinal Vinko Puljić of the Catholic Church, Boris Kožemjakin of the Jewish community and Husein Smajić of the Islamic Community.

Bishop Grigorije said it was a very important and difficult step, but they wanted to send a message that they bow before every victim and condemn every crime: “It is time that we all sincerely feel ashamed of what has happened between us.”

Fire Reduces Mostar Supermarket to Ashes

A supermarket in Mostar burned to the ground, according to the eyewitnesses. However, there were no casualties reported as the customers and employees were evacuated. Firefighters were still trying to put out the fire Saturday evening as the local roads were cleared for traffic.

Employees of the Bingo supermarket just outside Mostar were reported rushing to fight the flames that broke out in the cargo area. They were soon joined by Mostar firefighters, but the fire spread quickly to the entire supermarket. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

Ambassador Wigemark Opens 2017 Bike Expo

Marking the Earth Day, traditionally celebrated on 22 April worldwide, Head of EU Delegation and EU Special Representative Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark opened the 2017 Bike Expo in the National Museum in Sarajevo. The Bike Expo is an all day event promoting cycling as a healthy lifestyle and one of the key ways of protecting the environment. It includes activities such as the exhibition dedicated to the 130th anniversary of the Sarajevo’s first cycling club, films about cycling and exhibition of bicycles – modern and classical ones.

“Earth Day is an important date that reminds us of how we can all contribute to a better environment. Cycling is indeed a great way to protect the Earth”, said Ambassador Wigemark.

“I would like to thank the National Museum and all other organizers for making this event happen and for shedding light on the longstanding tradition of cycling in Sarajevo.”

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Ambassador Wigemark also highlighted that cycling was an important factor in tourism promotion and that an enabling cycling environment in any city was a precondition for sustained interest in that regard.

“I hope Bike Expo will as of now be a recurring event, and that the EU would be in position to support it”, he said.

EU Envoy Urges Lawmakers Not to Waste “a One Billion Euro Opportunity”

The European Union’s envoy to Bosnia criticized the lawmakers in national parliament for refusing to vote on a set of tax laws that would unlock an International Monetary Fund loan in urgent procedure. Commenting on the Thursday vote in the House of Representatives of the Bosnian Parliament on the set of laws on excise duties, Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of EU Delegation and EU Special Representative, said: “Yesterday’s voting makes it harder to improve the country’s infrastructure, attract foreign investment, and create more and better jobs.  At a time of economic uncertainty across BiH and the region, this is a one billion euro opportunity that should not be so easily thrown away.  I would urge all political actors not to slam the door shut on much needed investments and reforms. BiH cannot once again be left behind and lose time on its path to the EU, while the rest of the region is moving forward.”

Parliamentarians rejected urgent procedure for the disputed set of laws which would raise excise taxes for fuel and pave the way toward another installment of a much-needed IMF loan. The package is among the last unfulfilled requirements and contains draft laws on amendments to laws on excise duties, on payments to a single account and allocation of revenue, on the indirect taxation system and on deposit insurance banks. It forms a significant part of the Reform Agenda 2015-18, which aims to bring the country closer towards European Union membership.

However, for citizens, it means increasing the price of a liter of fuel by 0.15 KM, which will pose an unwelcome additional burden on farmers.

The money raised that way should be used to finance road construction.

Six Artists Add Works to Atomic Shelter Collection

The fourth and second-to-last biennial of contemporary art opened on Friday at the atomic shelter built by communist Yugoslavia just outside the town of Konjic. The vast shelter, known as the Atomic War Command (ARK), was built from 1953 to 1979 in utmost secrecy and it could have accommodated hundreds of Yugoslavia’s top military and government officials for up to six months.

The biennial opening ceremony was attended by guests and government officials who pointed out the importance shelter has for art and cooperation in the region. This year, six artists added their works to the contemporary art collection in the shelter.

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The event was attended by Italy’s deputy minister of culture, Antimo Cesaro, who was there to speak about Italy’s support to the biennial and the collection.

“Culture is a great form of diplomacy and cooperation. We encourage Bosnian authorities to continue protecting and promoting Bosnia’s cultural treasure,” he said.

German ambassador Christiane Hohmann said it was an original idea to organize the event in the shelter, adding it is a great place perfectly repurposed. She added that knowing history is very important to German people and that they are convinced that facing the past is necessary for a successful coexistence in a community.

“Trust, tolerance and understanding are pillars for a better future of BiH. This project gives us a chance to deal with the past, but at the same look to the future,” she said.

The first biennial was organized in 2011, with Serbia and Montenegro being partner-countries. Turkey and Croatia were partner-countries in 2013, and Austria and Albania in 2015. The fifth and last biennial will be organized in 2019.

Banks’ Net Profit “Surges in 2016”

Bosnia’s banking sector ended 2016 with a net profit of 220.4 million KM, sharply up from 31.6 million KM profit in the previous year, according to Raiffeisen Research. Out of 23 banks in Bosnia, only three showed a negative net financial result – Addiko Mostar, Addiko Banja Luka and Pavlovic banka, while the remaining 20 registered a combined profit of 284.3 million KM, Raiffeisen Research said in a Central and Eastern Europe weekly report.

The two most profitable banks were UniCredit Mostar with a net profit of 81.5 million KM and Raiffeisen Bank Bosnia and Herzegovina with 52.5 million KM.