Bosnian parliament approves new central govt
SARAJEVO, Jun 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bosnia's central parliament on Thursday approved a new and expanded government to replace the cabinet that ceased to exist in February.
Eighteen deputies in the 42-seat Lower House of parliament voted for the new government with six ministries.
Ten deputies were against, two abstained and twelve were absent.
The Council of Ministers, as the government is called, will be chaired by little known Bosnian Serb economics professor Spasoje Tusevljak whose appointment was strongly criticized earlier this month by the West's top envoy in the country.
Tusevljak, 48, will hold the rotating chairmanship for the next eight months before handing it over to another minister. He will also be minister for the state institution treasury.
After the vote, Tusevljak said the main task of his cabinet would be the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the 1992-95 war by dividing the Balkan country into a Moslem-Croat federation and a Serb republic.
The two highly autonomous entities have their own parliaments, governments, armed forces and police.
The West, sponsoring the recovery in the Balkan country with billions of dollars, wants to speed up free market reforms and the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees to their homes. It also wants the central institutions to strengthen.
"Economy is the basic task and direction of our engagement in the future period," Tusevljak said. "We have to push to create conditions that will enable Bosnia to participate actively in European integration and businesses."
"Our primary goal is to start new initiatives that will give more space to our people to think of everyday matters, to replace hot political issues with thinking about better jobs, wages, lower taxes." Tusevljak said.
Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's High Representative who coordinates the peace process, blasted the three-man presidency for nominating Tusevljak for the post. "A candidate was selected who is virtually unknown in this country," Petritsch said at the beginning of June after the parliament confirmed Tusevljak's nomination.
Tusevljak, who has no party membership, fled Sarajevo when the war broke out for the Serb territory and later moved to Yugoslavia. Sarajevo media reported that he was an economic adviser early in the conflict to Bosnian Serb wartime leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who is now in hiding.
In the new government, Jadranko Prlic, a Croat, will remain as foreign minister and Mirsad Kurtovic, a Moslem, will stay in charge of foreign trade and economic relations.
Tihomir Gligoric, a Serb, will hold the civilian affairs and communications portfolio. Gligoric, a former Bosnian Serb deputy Prime Minister, was withdrawn as the candidate to chair the central government after Western envoys complained that his Socialist party was too close to the Yugoslav ruling party of President Slobodan Milosevic.
Bisera Turkovic, a Moslem and the only woman minister in the new cabinet, will be in charge of European integration. Martin Raguz, a Croat, will be in charge of human rights and refugees. The constitutional court ruled in January that the old central government, which had three ministries, could not have two co-chairs and a deputy after which it stopped functioning.