Serbia avoids transport links with the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina
by Rade Vukosav
Ten years have passed since the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, yet Novi Sad (like Belgrade) has no regular passenger bus or railway service to Bosnia’s capital city, Sarajevo. This serves to both affirm and claim Republika Srpska, ignoring Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state. Likewise, in RS many politicians and anti-Bosnian extremists believe that RS itself is a state, which will sooner or later join Serbia. This finds support from kindred minds on the other side of the Drina. The aim is to maintain separation in all matters, and to drive wedges into the gaps established by force of arms between the two ‘entities’, hoping that they will become or remain barriers that could but will not be crossed. They are aided in this by the controversial notion of ‘special links’ built into the Dayton Accords. Thanks to these ‘links’, we have no transport links with cities in the Federation of B-H. Nor any other normal links.
The coach service that starts at Novi Sad (the same is doubtless true for Belgrade) ends at ‘Serb Sarajevo’. ‘Serb Sarajevo’ has supposedly been renamed ‘East Sarajevo’, but the signs at the bus station, on the time tables and on the tickets maintain the old ‘Serb Sarajevo’. The coaches drive through Sarajevo but do not stop at the main bus station. Instead, they turn left and drive for another fifteen kilometres to a fringe of Sarajevo termed ‘Srpsko’. Passengers who wish to proceed to other parts of Sarajevo or Bosnia-Herzegovina must if they have baggage - and most of them do - take a taxi (and pay 10-13 KM) to the main Centrotrans bus station, from which coaches travel all over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Europe. Alternatively, they can drag their luggage for three hundred metres to the terminal stop of the urban bus and tram network, dismount again near the [National] Museum, and walk with their luggage for another four hundred metres to the railway and bus station. It is a free choice. The same effort awaits them on their return. So why do the coaches not stop at the Sarajevo bus station in the first place?
Why not renew the passenger rail link between Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina by way of Vinkovci, Vrpolje, Doboj, Zenica and Sarajevo? Why not re-activate the railway line built on the eve of the war linking Zvornik with Tuzla and beyond? Given the regular train link between Belgrade and Banja Luka, why not establish one for Sarajevo too? At least one of the carriages travelling from Belgrade or Novi Sad to Banja Luka could proceed to Sarajevo.
Someone ought to tell this to Mr Ashdown at the OHR, and to other bodies of the international community, so that this could be achieved to the benefit of both states and their passengers. This is an aspect of international relations between Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and someone concerned with that ought to take the initiative.
Comment translated from Helsinška povelja, Belgrade, no. 81-82, March-April 2005