Bosnia War Veterans Block Border Crossing with Croatia

Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

Former soldiers from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Federation entity blocked the Bijaca border crossing with Croatia, sources reported, demanding welfare benefits and a proper register of those who fought in the 1992-95 war.

According to the sources, around 100 former soldiers, members of the Forgotten Defenders association, blocked the Bijaca crossing in eastern Bosnia on Monday in the latest protest by war veterans from the Bosnian Army and Croatian Defense Council, the association’s president said.

Forgotten Defenders’ president Drago Grbavac told Bosnian media “We really do not want this, we have tried everything, we have been through all the institutions and we have not come to an understanding anywhere.”

He apologized to all those who were held up at the border crossing by the protest.

In February, protesting veterans blocked roads in the Bosnian towns of Tuzla, Zenica and Doboj, and the main road from Sarajevo to Konjic.

The protestors also demonstrated outside the Bosnian Federation entity parliament in April, calling on MPs to discuss their demands. Among their demands were a sum of 167 Euros per month in benefits for unemployed veterans, which is equal to 326 Bosnian marks. They also demanded to get one to one and a half Euros for every former soldier for each month they served during wartime, which is around two or three Bosnian marks.

Furthermore, the report said they also want the establishment of a single, unified registry of veterans in the Federation who were members of the Bosnian Army and the Croatian Defense Council in order to weed out people who have falsely declared themselves to be veterans.

The third demand and may be considered most important is an end to the financing of what they see as unnecessary veterans’ associations by the Federation and cantonal governments.

“Twenty million Bosnian marks [10 million euros] a year, according to their acknowledgment, are spent on these associations. That makes no sense,” Grbavac said.