Harsh winter keeps uneasy peace in place

BOSNIA

Bosnia is in the grip of the coldest winter Central Europe has known this century. But British observers are worried that when spring comes, the return of refugees from abroad and attempts to return displaced persons to their former homes will spark unrest.

Whether to press for the return of displaced persons or to accept the de facto division of the country is "the biggest question the international community has to face in 1997", according to the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, who visited Bosnia at the weekend.

Although the Dayton peace agreement of November 1995 painted a picture of a return to different religious and cultural groups living side by side, officers in the 31,000-strong stabilisation force (S-For) believe that it might bring about a return to violence.

"You could argue we are deliberately provoking the next conflict by imposing a return to the circumstances that led to the last one," a senior officer in the British sector said. "I suspect it will be the large-scale return of refugees here that may displace the situation." Displaced persons - DPs - are also referred to as the "Dayton paradox".

In addition, the return of refugees who have been abroad and drawing large benefit payments, especially in Germany, is expected to spark resentment. Refugees in Germany have been getting about pounds 16,000 a year - vastly more than their compatriots who stayed in Bosnia.

The clearest example of what could happen when DPs return to their former homes in Bosnia occurred last November, when 250 Muslim refugees at Brcko in northern Bosnia - including armed, demobilised Bosnian army soldiers - tried to cross into Serb territory. They exchanged fire with the Serbs, and United States and Russian troops had to get between them and keep them apart - later disarming an entire brigade, confiscating thousands of weapons.

Although S-For can prevent outbreaks of fighting, there is concern that the local parties are dragging their feet in implementing the Dayton peace agreement. Mr Portillo said the "conditionality" stressed at the recent London conference - withholding aid if the locals did not play their part - was needed to concentrate minds. In Banja Luka, he told Serb journalists: "It is easier to telephone from London to Sydney than it is from Banja Luka to Sarajevo. That is unacceptable." He said restoring telephone links was technically easy and that the locals were just being difficult.

There has also been widespread intimidation, including that of one faction by another within the Muslim community in Bihac. There has been political intimidation in Banja Luka itself and ethnic intimidation by Serbs and Croats in Jajce.

The police are still a cause of concern for S-For peacekeepers. The new President of Republika Srpska, Biljana Plavsic, is understood to have achieved control over the Bosnian-Serb army from her base in Banja Luka but the police are still partly dominated by Radovan Karadzic.

For the moment, both S-For and the former warring factions are frozen in place by the weather. The temperature has been -15C during the day, dropping to -30C at night.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones