MODERN FACTORY, ANCIENT TOWN: The Bekto Precisa factory at Gorazde in Bosnia-Hercegovina - a haven of compatibility in country once torn by ethnic war thanks to the auto industry. Image: Bekto Precisa
• Ethnic harmony in ex-war zone
• Auto industry leads acceptance
• 70 000 jobs possible soon
GORAZDE, Bosnia-Hercegovina - Far removed from the nationalist rhetoric in the run up to Bosnia's general election on Sunday Muslim and Serb workers at the Bekto Precisa factory were focused only on how to improve products for clients such as Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Despite deep inter-ethnic divisions that have endured for almost 20 years since the 1992-95 Bosnian war the two communities at the unit in the eastern town of Gorazde work together in harmony.
Amir Coralic, a company manager, explained: "Economy does not recognise borders. Our company does not care about the confession or nationality of the employees. Here, a man is valued for what he does."
UNEMPLOYMENT AT 44%
The factory, alongside the Drina River, was set up in 2005 by businessman Redzo Bekto and has been growing despite an economic crisis. It employs 540 people, among them 45 engineers, and the management hopes to increase the workforce to 1000 in the next six years.
This is the exception in a country of 3.8-million where the official jobless rate stands at 44%.
Another manager, Mensur Brdar, told AFP that Bekto Precisa factory assembles sensor parts and other equipment for the auto industry as well as components for sport skis,
"We export more than 95% of production to western Europe, the United States and Mexico," he said, but gave no precise figures.
The company is proud of its client list, which also includes top-range automakers such as BMW, Audi, VW and Mercedes. Brdar said: "Porsche had never produced a single component for its vehicles outside of Germany. However, today, parts for their cars are being made in Germany and Gorazde."
Natasa Danojlic, a 37-year old lawyer, has been working for the company for 18 months. She is a Serb and lives in Visegrad, some 40km east of Gorazde. "This is a really European company that evaluates you by your skills and not by ethnic origin," she said. And this is not an isolated case...
CABLING FOR LAMBORGHINI
Derventa, a small northern town in Bosnia's Serb-run entity, is home to several factories, about half of them set up by Austrian, German or Italian companies and employing around 7000 people.
Mreza Network, founded in 2005, has 350 people on its payroll. Its manager Zoran Tosic said the operatiions made electric cables for engines, notably for the Liebherr group whose products range from domestic appliances to mining equipment, and Ferrari, Lamborghini and Formula 3 cars, .
The employees are drawn from Bosnia's three main ethnic communities - Serbs, Croats and Muslims - and work together without a problem, he said. "The economy is a basis for any development. If we did not give a priority to the economy, we would never emerge from these inter-ethnic divisions."
Tosic, an economist in his 50's, said that if Sunday's elections brought forth a competent government then Bosnian companies could create at least 70 000jobs within five years.