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Young Bosnian Serbs take aim at ministers' fancy cars

2017-09-21 12:21

PROTESTS IN BOSNIA: Hundreds of young Bosnian Serbs protested on September 20 for a price cap on official vehicles after ministries in Bosnia's Serb-run entity, Republika Srpska (RS), purchased several high-end cars this in 2017. Image: AFP / STR

Sarajevo - Exasperated by their government's taste for luxury cars, hundreds of young Bosnian Serbs protested Wednesday for a price cap on official vehicles in one of Europe's poorest countries.

After ministries in Bosnia's Serb-run entity, Republika Srpska (RS), purchased several high-end cars this year - some of them for more than €60 000 - members of the "ReStart Srpska" protest movement launched a campaign for the cap last month.

Yet to receive official response

"We are reacting against the incredibly arrogant behaviour of the government that can no longer be tolerated," said Stefan Blagic, leader of the movement in the city of Banja Luka, where several hundreds marched in protest.

In August the group handed a petition to the government signed by 6500 people asking for a spending limit of €25 000 per government vehicle.

They are yet to receive an official response, although RS President Milorad Dodik recently retorted to local media that ministers "cannot travel in a wheelbarrow".

While the initiative concerns the RS, such problems prevail across the small Balkan country, which is home to 3.5-million people and a particularly complex and expensive political system.

Bosnia has no fewer than 180 ministers of varying power.

After the devastating 1990s civil conflict, the country was divided into two semi-independent entities: the Serb-run RS and a Federation dominated by ethnic Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

As well as having their own governments, the two entities are linked by a weak central administration.

Scandal-ridden politicians

In addition, the Muslim-Croat Federation is divided into ten cantons, each with its own government.

Despite the high number of political posts, more than 40 percent of Bosnians are unemployed, according to official statistics.

"While 40% of the country's inhabitants are hungry, they squander on cars," Blagic, a 26-year-old political scientist, told AFP.

Luxury vehicles bought for political leaders are a regular source of scandal in the Bosnian press, but this is the first time a formal initiative has been launched in protest.

At a "ReStart Srpska" protest earlier this month, demonstrators drove remote-controlled cars in front of the government building in Banja Luka.

According to Blagic, the mayor of the northeast city of Bijeljina and the state foreign minister have given up their intentions of purchasing new luxury cars in response to the movement.

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