interview by Sasa BIZIC
NOVI REPORTER: Is a compromise of two strongest political parties, the SNSD and the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), possible, regarding a reaction to possible sanctions by the OHR against institutions of the Republic of Srpska?
KUNIC: The responsibility for failures mentioned by the OHR must be born by individuals and bodies that haven't fulfilled their obligations, and can in no way bring into question the existence of institutions of Srpska. In that context, representatives of the SNSD have clearly stated that the current government of Srpska bears most responsibility for the situation in which the international community is announcing that it will in the future make no distinction between collective and individual responsibility. We believe that the current government is incapable of governing Srpska and fulfilling assumed obligations. We demanded from the president of the republic to take a stand regarding that issue. In that part a general agreement has been reached, although certain differences regarding the understanding of the general situation still exist. Also, we agreed regarding the need for sincere cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and there are no dilemmas regarding that matter. It is good that that meeting was held, as besides making our views known we also had a chance to listen to the president of Srpska. I believe that these talks will continue.
Did you consider possible replacements for Dragan Mikerevic's government?
We did not talk about specific details of that sort. We only stated that the current government, with the existing ministers, cannot resolve key problems of Srpska and that new ministers must be appointed. We want a government that will have a program outlining a plan to take Srpska out of this crisis and such a Prime Minister will enjoy our support. Also, at that meeting we emphasized that there is a crisis in the work of the Council of Ministers and that we were not satisfied with activities of our representatives in that body. Changes must take place both in the republic and at the state level, because these two issues are linked. The SNSD does not want to assume power at all cost. Our goal is to put together a government that will be able to deal with difficult problems affecting Srpska in the way that will satisfy citizens. It is undeniable that the current government is incapable of doing so and that it has failed expectations.
Are authorities in Federation BH meeting expectations? Why has the House of Nations of the Federation BH parliament been functioning without the number of Serb representatives specified by the constitution?
Amendments to the Federation BH Constitution were adopted on April 18, 2002. Both chambers of the Federation BH parliament were supposed to be constituted in accordance with those amendments. In the House of Representatives each constituent nation is guaranteed at least four representatives and that criterion has been met as far as Serbs are concerned, since as the least numerous nation in the entity they have exactly four representatives. The House of Nations of the Federation BH parliament is supposed, according to the Constitution, to have 57 representatives, 17 each from three constituent nations [Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs] and seven representatives of "others". However, the House of Nations only has 11 Serb representatives. On several occasions Serb representatives demanded from the leadership of both houses of the Federation BH parliament, the Federation BH presidency and the OHR to resolve that problem and make sure that the Constitution and laws are not violated. Unfortunately, until today nothing has been done in that sense. I am convinced that nothing will be done before the end of 2006 when the next general elections are supposed to be held as the ruling parties in Federation BH do not have the political will to resolve that issue, regardless of their declarative statements claiming otherwise.
Is the constitution respected at lower levels of government, specifically in canton 10, to which the Drvar municipality belongs?
Cantons had the obligation to align their constitutions with amendments to the Federation BH constitution within nine months, therefore by the end of January 2003. However, two years later, not all cantons have done so. Canton 10, with the center in Livno, is a typical example. In 1999 the Federation BH Constitutional Court established that 63 articles in the Canton 10 constitution violate the constitution of Federation BH. None of these articles has been changed until today. Therefore, in canton 10, according to the cantonal constitution, Serbs have the status of an ethnic minority, which is unacceptable. Similarly, amendment 52 to the constitution of Federation BH envisages proportional representation of representatives of all nations in executive authorities and state institutions at all levels of government from the local level to the federal level. However, that amendment has been ignored and these institutions today employ very few Serbs. In canton 10, according to the 1991 population census, Serbs were 37.5 percent of population. However, today only about two percent of employees of the cantonal government and state institutions are Serbs. The decision of the Constitutional Court of BH about the constituent character of nations was very important for the return, but return means nothing if people do not enjoy equal status, rights and obligations.
Are you aware of the existence of at least rough data about the number of Serbs who are physically present on the territory of Federation BH and canton 10?
Unfortunately, no one is interested in that sort of analysis. I am convinced that at this moment no one knows how many returnees there really are. Property has been returned, but the actual number of returnees most definitely does not correspond to the number of returned properties. Personally, I believe that less than seven percent of internally displaced persons and refugees have returned to the places where they lived in 1991. In canton 10 the rate of return is above average and is highest anywhere in BH, but we are still talking about small numbers. Before the war the Drvar municipality had 17,500 inhabitants, while today we have 6,000 Serb returnees. However, seventy percent of them are elderly, older than sixty. In municipalities Grahovo and Glamoc there are far less returnees. People would like to return, but are facing large obstacles, which do not have to do with safety, as in the past. Apart from small incidents, the degree of freedom of movement and ability to use one's property is satisfactory. However, today key problems are of economic nature. Returnees are unable to find work, arrange health care and obtain their state pensions. If we were to establish the true number of returnees, we'd have to wonder what we've been doing all these years.
The SNSD is the ruling political party in Drvar and the most influential political option among Serbs in Federation BH, out of the parties with headquarters in Srpska; however, in the latest local elections, the SDS won in Glamoc. To what extent do your concepts of return differ?
These differences are significant. The SNSD is the only political party with headquarters in the Republic of Srpska that has significant activities in Federation BH. The SNSD has municipal boards in 23 locales, and these boards are for real, given that we've had candidates in 23 municipalities in the most recent local elections. Other parties with headquarters in Srpska do not have infrastructure in Federation BH, do not have policies that include that entity and show up only on the eve of elections in an attempt to demonstrate that they are present everywhere in BH. In that way they do more harm than good to returnees, because they pick up miniscule number of votes and only contribute to the scattering of [the Serb] vote. In 2002 the SNSD offered to all parties from Srpska to form a joint electoral list of candidates. Unfortunately, that proposal was rejected, above all because of unrealistic ambitions of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP). Representatives of the PDP and SDS so far haven't publicly raised the issue of the status of Serbs in Federation BH. This is the first time that the SDS had candidates in local elections in Glamoc. They won the mayoral post and three representatives in the municipal council. That result has nothing to do with their work in the field, but is the consequence of the relations in the Glamoc municipality. Those elections were in fact won by mayor Rade Gvero as an individual, and not as a representative of a political party. I would like to see some changes in Glamoc, although I don't think that residents of Glamoc will gain anything from this SDS victory. I believe that their problems will remain unsolved. You can't be active in only one municipality in Federation BH, without addressing issues essential for sustainable return. As far as the new SNSD mayor in Drvar is concerned, we shall create a team that will put together high quality proposals so that the municipality may obtain financial support that will enable it to resolve problems with infrastructure and provide additional jobs through support to small enterprises and family run business. Therefore, the municipality does not have the money to finance these activities itself. We have to get it from other institutions. We have people and will provide high quality projects and funding proposals.
Could you tell us more about the economy in Drvar today?
Before the war, 6,500 residents of the Drvar municipality had jobs, meaning that we had very low unemployment. We had several logging and wood-processing companies, former "Grmec" and "Sipad" respectively, altogether employing about 2,000 workers; then a paper factory, metal parts factory, carpet factory, a construction company and several restaurants and hotels. Today, all of these companies, apart from a partial exemption of a pump factory, have closed their doors. Today in Drvar, about 900 persons are employed, both Serbs and Croats. That means that unemployment rate is very high and that there is no chance that pre-war companies will restart their production, mostly because they have been privatized, but new owners haven't done anything to restart production. If the goal of privatization is to take over land and equipment of former factories and then lock them up, then that concept has been very successful in Drvar, at the expense of the citizens and the canton. The privatization in Drvar went through two cycles. First we had the so-called "big" privatization. All significant companies in the municipality - "Sipad", "Unis", "Jugoturbina", "Progres" - were privatized in 1998 through various illegal investment schemes. Consequently we have demanded that the mentioned privatization be audited. Between July and December 2000, Financial police of Federation BH completed control of the estimated value of that property and investments in these companies. Their report concluded that the value of property in privatized companies was underestimated by KM 33.5 million [roughly $17 million], which has resulted in lower payments to the municipal, cantonal, and Federation BH budgets. The financial police has passed its report to the Federation BH prosecutors' office, which declared itself incompetent in this case. The file was returned to the cantonal prosecutors' office and they are obliged to issue indictments if any illegalities are detected in the privatization process and send cases to regular courts. I think that that will happen in the coming period and that that issue will finally be resolved. No one in Drvar has anything against privatization as such and we believe that privatization is a necessary process, but we oppose privatization that violates laws, and whose political goal was to close certain companies and thus make sure that returnees cannot find work, as well as to exclude entrepreneurs who were interested in restarting production in privatized companies.
Is that the end of machinations?
No, because we also had a second cycle of privatization in Drvar in 2002. That cycle was also illegal, as well as non-transparent. We had an absurd outcome, as small companies were sold for less money than was paid between 1998 and 2002 by people who had leased their property. Besides, most residents of Drvar had no idea that these companies were going to be privatized. Privatization notices were published in Dnevni List, a daily newspaper published in Mostar, and only a few copies of the paper arrive in Drvar. Also, it is interesting that on the days adds announcing tenders for privatization of small companies in Drvar were published Dnevni List would not even be delivered to Drvar. In this case also, competent municipal authorities have filed a lawsuit with the Ministry if Internal Affairs (Police) and the Cantonal Prosecutor's Office submitting evidence of numerous irregularities. Consequently, director of the cantonal privatization agency and his collaborators are under investigation and the director has been taken into custody. The judiciary has enough evidence to process and wrap up this case.
Do you collaborate with any other cantonal institutions, apart from the court and prosecution?
In the past we had certain problems in relations between the municipality and the canton. Today communication exists, but there are no visible results. It is outrageous that in the time since the Dayton Peace Agreement  the canton hasn't invested a penny in Drvar, while on the other hand everything that could be carted off from the municipality has been taken away. Finally, the most important local resource, forest, hasn't been contributing to the development of the town. I can state with confidence that cantonal budget has made infrastructure investments only in municipalities Livno and Tomislavgrad, and partly in Kupres [towns with Croat majority[. Drvar and Bosansko Grahovo [with Serb majority before the war] until today haven't received a penny from the cantonal budget for infrastructure development. The most recent audit of the public company "Herceg-Bosna forests" completed in May 2004, confirms the extent of looting of forests in this region.
Are there any exceptions from such "rules"?
This year for the first time we encountered understanding on the part of the Federation BH government, which earmarked in the budget for 2004 KM 200,000 for the reconstruction of the primary school in Drvar. These funds have already been transferred to the municipality and the reconstruction will be finished by early 2005 at the latest. Also the Federation BH budget for 2004 allocated KM 120,000 for the reconstruction of the workers hall, so that hopefully we'll finally revitalize that cultural institution and improve the quality of life in Drvar. Also, during 2004 we implemented the project "Reintegrated return to Drvar". The Council of Ministers provided KM 270,000, while Ministries for Displaced Persons and Refugees of Federation BH and the Republic of Srpska contributed KM 250,000 each to the project. World organization of churches coordinates that project. The project will provide funds for the reconstruction of two apartment buildings in the center of Drvar and the settlement Kecmanova Glavica on the outskirts of the town. These funds will be used to rebuild 55 buildings, and these are first positive steps after a long period in which Drvar was treated extremely badly.