THE new Roman Catholic cathedral being built by Bosnian Croats
in the city of Mostar is expected to be half the size of a football
field, and it is deepening antagonism between former Croat and
There has been relative peace in this divided city for two
years, and a Bosnia-wide Federation between Croats and Muslims that
serves as the cornerstone to the Dayton peace agreement. But the
alliance is fraying quickly, Western officials say, and is in
danger of collapse.
Forging ahead with the symbolic and controversial "Resurrection
of Christ" basilica, a European Union official says, is a
"deliberate provocation" of the Muslims by the Croats, and one of
many that demonstrates how little the two groups want to live with
The pit for the foundation of the cathedral is being excavated
at breakneck speed, and Croats say that the church will be
completed by the year 2004.
Muslims say they don't mind that the Croats are building a new
cathedral in Mostar, but they and EU officials are angry it is
being built in a central zone - meant for both Croats and Muslims -
currently under EU administration.
Staking their claim to one of the last open spaces in the center
of the city, the Croats are also planning to build a Croatian
national theater and - even though Croats initiated 10 months of
brutal ethnic war in 1993 to "cleanse" the city of Muslims - erect
a monument to Croat "heroes" and victims of the fighting.
The Dayton peace agreement was based on the assumption that the
Muslim-Croat Federation - brokered by US diplomats in 1994 - would
remain intact and serve as a counterbalance to the Serb ministate
in Bosnia. But tensions remain high, despite the presence of 60,000
American-led peacekeeping troops. "It's a shotgun marriage, and
they want to be at arm's length," says a NATO officer in Mostar.
"Our assessment is that we are seeing the unraveling of the
Federation by mutual consent."
EU officials have struggled to hammer out agreements for a joint
police force in Mostar, as well as freedom of movement, and even a
new Federation flag. But strong diplomatic pressure has been unable
to overcome the animosity. "The fighting here was so close and
intense that quite a lot of heart was taken out," says the officer.
Freedom of movement has proven to be a "farce," and both sides seem
intent on continuing with their wartime policies of obliterating
all cultural traces of their former enemy.
Croat violence boiled over last month, when EU administrator
Hans Koschnick of Germany laid down his plans for the reunification
of the city. Mostar would be divided into six municipalities -
three each for Muslims and Croats - and a mixed central zone would
be created, where federation ministries and offices would be based. …