Several thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the building of Bosnia’s state-level parliament at noon on Tuesday, June 11, asking politicians to urgently adopt a legislation on allowing ID registrations in the country, local media reported.
The reports claim more than five thousand citizens from Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica, Banja Luka, Prijedor, Mostar and other towns across the country have blocked the city centre in a peaceful mass demonstration. Many of the protestors are students, young parents and even children.
Their protests began last week after the transportation of a six-month old baby girl for a life-saving treatment to Germany was delayed because she did not have an ID number. Newborns in Bosnia have not been issued ID numbers since February when a Bosnian court decision froze the registrations.
Governing politicians from the main Serb, Croat and Muslim parties have failed since then to agree on a solution and unfreeze the registrations. It was this case in particular that sparkled the citizens’ disapproval against their political bickering, which has been poisoning almost every sphere of the political, economic and social life in the country.
Analysts compare the protests in tiny Sarajevo with the ones in cosmopolitan Istanbul, which also began with an attempt to save a city park but quickly loomed into social discontent against the state of democracy and human rights. Without an ID number in Bosnia, as in any country, one cannot be issued a passport, a medical card and therefore has no possibility to travel.
The protests in Bosnia has been on for almost a week as small groups of citizens have been gathering in front of the parliament every day since June 6 when demonstrators trapped inside the building for several hours MPs from all parties, employees and several hundred foreign officials participation in a regional summit.
The immediate demands of the demonstrators also include setting up a special fund for child treatment abroad as they say MPs should give up 30% of their earnings and allocate them to finance the fund.
Citizens send messages to the politicians, saying they will not leave the streets unless their demands are met. They also promise they will no longer silently watch the political inaction.
Ethnically-divided Bosnia has been held hostage to its politicians in the past several years. Their inertia and failure to agree on the country’s main goals to EU and NATO integration have left Bosnia idle behind its neighbours on the EU path. No progress was made since 2008 when the country signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU – the first formal step towards accession – but since then politicians strengthened their national rhetoric in an attempt to solidify their positions in power.
The EU, on the other hand, has lost its patience, and options, with Bosnia over the authorities’ continuous failure to deliver on the EU agenda. Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in May the time has come for the alarm to ring for Bosnia as the political elite’s continuous lack of shared vision on the country’s direction is threatening to leave it in regional and international isolation.
The patience of the Bosnian citizens governed by and paying for the governance of this elite might be finally getting exhausted as well. The coming days will show whether the protests in Sarajevo are indeed a signal that Bosnia is finally waking up and setting out to fight for a better future.
Around 1400 local time, some two hours after the demonstrations officially began, there was an anonymous signal that a bomb was placed in the Alta shopping centre - located just across the road of the parliament. The Alta centre was evacuated but protestors said this announcement will not change their plans.
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