Doubts grow over Bosnia rebuilding

World donors meet today in Brussels in a new effort to raise money for the rebuilding of Bosnia, envisaged under the Dayton peace accords as the foundation for lasting peace.

However, the meeting takes place amid increasing doubts about the role to be played by the international community in the reconstruction effort. Western analysts are also sceptical about whether reconstruction can really cement over the deeply-rooted enmities, thereby preventing further war.

The decision announced on Wednesday by Bosnian Serb leaders not to attend the donor conference provided a stark illustration of how distant the concept of permanent reconciliation remains. Rajko Kasagic, prime minister of the Bosnian Serb republic, is reported to have rejected an invitation to attend the conference because of pressure from hardline Bosnian Serbs , who remain determined to disrupt the peace process.

At the Brussels conference, sponsored by the European Union and the World Bank, donors aim to stump up $1.2bn (pounds 800m) - the minimum figure set by the World Bank for the first year of reconstruction. Over the next three to four years an estimated $5.1bn will be needed to rebuild devastated infrastructure, towns and villages.

During the Brussels conference, the US is expected to pledge $200m, Japan $125m, and the European Union $200m. Several EU countries will offer their own separate donations, and Islamic countries are expected to pledge about $100m.

However, despite these generous noises, nobody is under any illusion about the reluctance of the world community to pay up. Carl Bildt, the High Representative responsible for implementing the civilian side of the peace deal, has already predicted a $400m shortfall at the Brussels conference.

A conference held in December produced promises of $600m, but the donors have been slow to hand over the cash and only a fraction of this first sum has yet been spent. As a result there has yet been little reconstruction on the ground to produce any real confidence in the Dayton process.

The dilemma for the donors is acute. It is accepted that without Western money there can be no substantial rebuilding or economic revival, and, as a result, there will be no chance of creating the conditions for the next phase of the peace process, namely the preparations for elections in September.

However, since Dayton, the donors have seen less and less reason to believe that the peace has so far brought about any fundamental reconciliation between Bosnia's Serbs, Muslims and Croats. "We see no guarantee that if we spend the money there will be any return," said one Western official this week.

The task of separating the warring parties and returning the forces to barracks has beenlargely completed already by the 60,000-strong Nato implementation force (I-For). However, the job of rebuilding, bringing about the return of refugees, ensuring free movement and a free media, and establishing institutions for the new Bosnia, has scarcely begun. Under the peace deal the Serb entity consists of 49 per cent of Bosnia with the Muslim-Croat federation covering the rest. Institutions responsible for both entities were to have been established before the end of the year, as well as economic projects crossing ethnic boundaries.

Western diplomats voice increasing impatience about the Bosnians' reluctance to build the peace. "Everyone there is standing around waiting for the international community to do something," said one Nato official. There is talk of the dangers of creating a culture of dependency. "There is deepening fear among the donor governments that the elections, even if they do come about ,will only reconfirm the dominance of the existing extreme nationalist parties, and will not bring in a leadership which advocates reconciliation," said a Western diplomat.

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