Bosnia parties agree to stronger central cabinet


Bosnia's leaders have agreed to create a stronger central cabinet, a step towards easing ethnic divisions and forming a more efficient decision-making body, the US ambassador to Bosnia said today.

Bosnia, which was divided into a Muslim and a Serb half after the 1992-95 war now has three governments, one for each half and a central government. The West wants to give more powers to the central government.

Under international pressure the main parties started talks in Brussels last month and continued them in Washington to revamp Bosnia's complex constitutional structure, a key condition for joining the European Union and NATO.

"Constitutional changes are an extremely serious issue in any country and the fact that we were able to arrive at an agreement already, I think, is a very positive signal," Douglas McElhaney told a news conference.

He said Muslim, Croat and Serb politicians had agreed to make the central cabinet more efficient by specifying the role of the prime minister and giving him the power to choose and dismiss members of his cabinet. They also agreed to set up two new ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Technology, Science and Protection of the Environment in a nine-ministry cabinet.

"The changes that were made are substantive. I think that ... a certain concentration of power within the cabinet and within the office of prime minister is extremely important in establishing the real parliamentary system," McElhaney said.

As one of Europe's poorest nations prepares to embark on the long road to the EU membership, Bosnia had faced the threat that without the removal of ethnic divisions in governing structures its progress could be greatly delay. In a compromise to end Europe's worst conflict since World war Two, the US-brokered Dayton peace treaty created the tri-person inter-ethnic presidency and established the Serb Republic and Muslim-Croat federation.

Western powers now want to give more power to the central cabinet and parliament and have suggested replacing the tri-presidency with a single president in order to reduce complex administrative system.