The Financial Times, November 02, 2007
Bosnia prime minister resigns amid tension
Bosnia-Herzegovina's prime minister resigned on Thursday, claiming the situation in the country was "absurd" and that international interference had rendered him as ineffectual as cartoon character Bart Simpson in leading his country.
Nikola Spiric resigned in protest against measures by Miroslav Lajcak, the international high representative, to streamline decision-making in the ethnically divided state. "Bosnia-Herzegovina is absurd," he later told Serbian television. "If the international community always supports the high representative and not the institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, then it doesn't matter if I am the head of that state, or Bart Simpson."
Mr Spiric, a member of the largest ethnic Serb-dominated party, said executive powers "cannot be held by the international community while I'm supposed to be taking over responsibilities".
His clash with Mr Lajcak follows months of mounting tensions among the three main ethnic groups, in spite of consensus that reforms were needed to bring the country closer to the European Union.
Neighbouring Serbia has drawn irate responses from western governments this week for interfering in Bosnian affairs, especially after Vojislav Kostunica, nationalist-leaning Serbian prime minister, compared the status of Bosnian Serbs with that of Serbia's disputed breakaway province Kosovo.
Mr Lajcak, who is also the EU envoy in Sarajevo, said Mr Spiric's resignation was "not a responsible action" in the tense political atmosphere, although the government could continue to work "in a technical mandate" until the three-member presidency discussed how to form a new government.
"The country needs functioning institutions for the reform processes to be re-launched," Mr Lajcak said. He had decreed amendments to voting in the multi-ethnic state-level cabinet two weeks ago so that members of one ethnic group could not obstruct decisions by being absent.
He said he would also impose similar procedural changes on the parliament of the weak central state. Serbs, concentrated in one of the two largely autonomous entities recognised under the 1995 Dayton peace treaty - the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation - objected to the measures as an attack on ethnic safeguards. The safeguards are part of the complex system preventing domination by the country's largest ethnic group, Bosniak Muslims.
Frane Maroevic, spokesman for Mr Lajcak, said Serb non-co-operation cast doubt on whether the international high representative's office could close in the middle of next year as planned.