Bosnia strikes temporary deal to allow registration of babies

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 05, 2013 2:52 PM

By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia's government agreed to temporarily allow the registration of newborn babies on Wednesday, following a protest by young parents angry over the latest example of political paralysis in the troubled Balkan country.

Lawmakers from Bosnia's rival Serb, Croat and Muslim communities are at odds over how to draw up the districts that determine the 13-digit identification numbers assigned every citizen.

A January court deadline for parliament to agree technical changes to the law on citizen registration expired without a deal and registrations have effectively been frozen since early February.

Several hundred protesters, mainly young mothers and fathers, blocked the doors to the government building, furious at news that a three-month-old baby from northern Bosnia had been denied travel documents for an urgent stem-cell transplant in Germany because of the deadlock.

Without the registration number, newborns cannot be issued with passports or the medical cards they need to be seen by a doctor.

The row is one of the most egregious examples of the ethnic politicking that has plagued Bosnia since the end of its 1992-95 war, which left the country with a weak central government and a system of ethnic quotas that has stifled development.

The government adopted a measure to temporarily unblock the registration process for around six months until new legislation is in place.

"I am relieved now," said Fatima Ibrisevic, mother of the baby unable to travel to Germany.

"But I hope this issue will be solved for good".

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Another protester, Zoran Catic, said: "This child could die any minute while our politicians care only about their petty interests. This is peacetime fascism."

The Bosnian Serbs have pressed for a new registration arrangement that would reflect the territorial lines set down under a peace deal to end the war and which split the country into two highly autonomous regions.

Bosnian Muslim, or Bosniak, parties say this will only cement the ethnic divide. The Serbs, meanwhile, have moved to regulate the issue at the level of their autonomous Serb Republic, further complicating matters.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Andrew Roche)