FAZ interview on Azerbaijan’s caviar diplomacy in Europe: „A general atmosphere of venality“

This interview was originally published in German: Die Aserbaidschan-Clique: Eine allgemeine Atmosphäre der Käuflichkeit (30 March 2021)

PDF of this the interview in English

Interview in FAZ

A conversation with Gerald Knaus, whose think tank „European Stability Initiative“ has exposed the corrupt connections of members of the Bundestag to Azerbaijan.

Question: Mr Knaus, with reports from your think tank, the „European Stability Initiative“, or ESI for short, you initiated a development more than ten years ago that is now also creating a stir in the Bundestag: Apparently, several current and former members of the CDU/CSU have allowed themselves to be bought by the regime of the Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev. How did your research begin?

Knaus: We were actually researching the situation of women’s rights in Azerbaijan in 2009, when a controversial referendum was held to allow Ilham Aliyev to become president for life. There were protests and arrests. Two young activists we knew were beaten up in a restaurant in Baku by paid hooligans. When they went to the police, it was not the perpetrators who were investigated, but they who were arrested and sent to prison. That was when we decided to research the situation of young dissidents and came across something unexpected: while the repression in the country was getting worse, the assessment of the situation by the Council of Europe, to which Azerbaijan was admitted in 2001, was becoming more and more positive. This was strange. We began to look into how this could have happened.

Question: So in the beginning there was no suspicion of corruption against Western politicians?

Knaus: I could not have imagined what we soon found out about the Council of Europe and European politicians active there. I was naïve. Then in 2012, insiders explained to us how this policy worked: parliamentarians from all over Europe received jewellery, vacation trips and money, election observers were getting tens of thousands of euros for positive statements about Azerbaijan. Staff at the Council of Europe confirmed to us behind closed doors that Azerbaijan’s actions were an open secret in Strasbourg. Other parliamentarians said they had long suspected some colleagues of acting strangely in Baku. But how to write about it without hard evidence? The first task was to explain exactly how the regime strategically bought votes in the Council of Europe and to describe who spoke and voted publicly about Azerbaijan and how. We traced how networks in the Council of Europe systematically elevated apologists of the Azerbaijani regime to leading positions. We saw that certain MPs spoke out in defence of the regime in every debate on Azerbaijan. Many politicians from all over Europe regularly went to Baku as election observers to call elections free and fair, even though the voting was like in the GDR.

Coverage in Der Tagesspiegel 2012

Question: And you thought you could bring down this system with a few reports?

Knaus: We hoped: If we describe this, there will have to be an investigation. It was about bribery of MPs in the most important human rights institution in Europe. But that was also naïve. In the next five years, everything got much worse, in Azerbaijan as in the Council of Europe.

Question: ESI coined the term „caviar diplomacy“ – what does that mean?

Knaus: That was the name of our report from May 2012, in which we described how the Aliyev regime infiltrated the Council of Europe. The symbol of this policy was caviar, but in fact it was about a lot of money. Jewellery, expensive carpets, invitations with business class flights to Baku including a stopover in luxury hotels in Istanbul. This was a test: whoever accepted such gifts was a candidate for further, bigger ones. This was also the case with the Italian Christian Democrat Luca Volontè, who was sentenced to four years in prison in Milan in January this year for accepting bribes from Azerbaijan. Volontè was not just any MP, but leader of the European People’s Party group, the largest in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which includes the CDU. He helped mobilise a majority of MPs, who he listed in emails to his accomplices in Baku, to vote down a resolution on political prisoners in Azerbaijan in January 2013. One consequence of this scandalous vote was another wave of arrests in Azerbaijan. All those who had cooperated with the Council of Europe in Baku were arrested. Another consequence was that Aliyev could publicly declare with a cold smile that there were no political prisoners in his country – after all, the Council of Europe had confirmed this, with 125 votes.

The 2012 report

Question: Could all this be proven in court?

Knaus: Only if prosecutors also take it to court like in Milan. The Italian public prosecutor’s office showed that Volontè set up a „consulting firm“ in Milan at the end of 2012. Three weeks later, 220,000 euros were transferred to its account from Azerbaijan via a shell company. In the end, a total of 2.4 million euros was transferred to Volontè by mid-2014, and he even expected more than 10 million. The fact that this did not happen was due to the Italian banking supervisory authority and Milanese prosecutors who, during a raid, secured Volontè’s communication with the Azerbaijani financiers.

Question: What were the connections to Germany?

Knaus: Years before, the former CSU member of the Bundestag, Eduard Lintner, who was, among other things, parliamentary state secretary in the Ministry of the Interior and until January 2010 in the Council of Europe, had always sided with Azerbaijan there. Lintner, too, regularly went to Azerbaijan to observe elections, during and after he sat in the Council of Europe. He himself praised the completely manipulated parliamentary elections in 2013 as exemplary. Lintner also financed „private election observation missions“ by other politicians, who always mutated into admirers of the regime in Baku. The same shell companies, with owners in the Virgin Islands, that had transferred money from Baku to Volonte’s consulting firm transferred money to Lintner. Since the beginning of 2020, German prosecutors have been investigating what this was all about.

Question: The large majority of the CDU/CSU in the Bundestag is certainly not corrupt. But why did this majority for years tolerate clear indications of dubious and probably also lucrative contacts between some of their colleagues and Azerbaijan? Out of party discipline?  Because they were overworked? Or weren’t interested?

Knaus: Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe appeared to many to be remote issues far from the concerns of ordinary voters. But it is a fallacy to think that this is far away and none of our business. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, which meets four times a year, is made up of members of national parliaments, in Germany’s case the Bundestag. If MPs take bribes in Strasbourg, they continue to function in this way in national parliaments afterwards, as corrupted politicians. And if even we, a small think tank from Kreuzberg, were able to find out what happened in Strasbourg, then the secret services of large countries certainly know that too. This is how politicians become susceptible to blackmail – also in national parliaments and in their later careers. Luca Volontè met with Azerbaijani middlemen in Baku in the presence of members of the Russian Council of Europe delegation to discuss strategies. In addition, the parliamentarians of the Council of Europe elect the judges of the Human Rights Court.

Question: In Italy and Germany, public prosecutors are investigating possible participants in the corruption cartel. Have there been reactions in other countries as well?

Knaus: Prosecutors in other countries would also have to follow up on the information. So far, however, almost all the apologists of the regime we reported on have remained unchallenged. It would be ideal if one of those involved had incentives to appear as a principal witness.

Question: It is remarkable that ESI’s reports had no effect at all for years. Why did those involved feel so secure?

Knaus: The general atmosphere of venality was so widespread in Strasbourg that individual MPs who were outraged by it were simply resigned to it. Caviar diplomacy simply continued for five years after 2012. The regime in Baku even had Azerbaijani advisors to the Council of Europe arrested, that’s how secure it felt. Moreover, reports were launched in Brussels by certain circles claiming that we were financed by Armenia, or by a Russian gas lobby to prevent Azerbaijani pipelines. In addition, Thorbjørn Jagland, the then Secretary General of the Council of Europe and then Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, also showed no interest in investigating into what was going on.

Question: You claim that the Secretary General of the Council of Europe was part of the corruption?

Knaus: No. But Jagland should have launched an investigation much earlier, given what was known in Strasbourg. He didn’t do it for years.

Question: Why not?

Knaus: We cannot see into people’s heads. But the Secretary General of the Council of Europe is elected by its parliamentary assembly, and there the so-called dark coalition of Azerbaijan and its allies at that time was dominant. Against this lobby, a Secretary General could hardly be re-elected. The largest group of delegates in the Council of Europe is the Russian one with 18 deputies. Apart from the Russians, most Spanish and Italian MPs, many Eastern Europeans and also influential Frenchmen were on Azerbaijan’s side in votes. The leader of the liberal faction, Jordi Xucla, was a defender of Baku. There were also leftists and social democrats, British Tories, European right-wing populists and several successive leaders of the European People’s Party group. Over the years, they had formed veritable entailed estates: New MPs took over Baku relations from their predecessors. In Belgium, some liberals showed an astonishing love for Azerbaijan, in Spain it was conservatives, in Eastern Europe ex-communists. Most Germans from all parliamentary groups voted with the Scandinavians and the Swiss for human rights. But there were some all the more astonishing exceptions – among them the recently deceased CDU MP Karin Strenz and Axel Fischer, who until recently was chairman of the audit committee in the Bundestag.

Question: At what point then did the ESI revelations have an impact?

Knaus: In December 2016, our report „The European Swamp“ was published and received wide attention. But until April 2017, there was still bitter resistance to an independent investigation into the allegations. It was individual determined MPs, such as the German SPD politician Frank Schwabe and the Dutch Christian Democrat Pieter Omtzigt, who mobilised a broad coalition. Nevertheless, too little has happened across Europe. The Milan verdict against Volontè reads like a thriller, but if this politician alone, who was in Strasbourg for only a few years, received millions from Baku, one can only guess at how much money may have flowed since 2003. But so far only Italy and Germany are investigating the matter. Axel Fischer is being investigated by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office on the suspicion of bribery of elected officials. The Bundestag has therefore lifted Fischer’s immunity. His house was searched, as were Lintner’s and Strenz’s before him.

The 2016 report

Question: Some MPs are now rightly in the pillory. But isn’t there a danger that in the end the false impression „politicians are all corrupt anyway“ will stick?

Knaus: This impression is created when institutions tolerate corruption for years and too few have the courage to address it and correct it in time. Until 2017, even Fifa had a stricter anti-corruption system than the Council of Europe. That has changed since then, at least in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. But the most important thing is that parties do not cover for their members in cases of serious suspicion, neither in Strasbourg nor in Berlin. Buying votes is never a trivial offence.

Speaking on TV on Caviar Diplomacy (from minute 52)

Question: Is there such a thing as a lesson from caviar diplomacy?

Knaus: The deep fall of the Council of Europe shows how easy it is to corrupt institutions when an authoritarian regime goes about buying parliamentarians with determination and a lot of money. This is a warning, because other states are probably trying it too, especially since they have seen that this policy was entirely risk-free for the regime in Azerbaijan. To date, the exposure of Azerbaijan’s bribery has had no consequences for Aliyev whatsoever. The Italian Football Federation once reacted severely to referee corruption and sentenced champion Juventus Turin to forced relegation to the second league in 2006. The member states of the Council of Europe, on the other hand, have looked the other way for years and to this day have done nothing to outlaw such behaviour by one of its members. Not even Azerbaijan’s right to vote in the Committee of Ministers has been suspended. Why should other states not follow Baku’s example? Buying votes in Europe is unfortunately far too easy.

Question: The exposure of „caviar diplomacy“ is not the first example of ESI reports having an impact. What does a think tank have to do to have an impact on society and to bring about change?

Knaus: In order to be able to swim against the tide for years out of conviction, if necessary, it is important that institutions that financially support a think tank do not influence how and on which topics it publishes and when it does so. This goes for our most important donors – the Essen-based Mercator Foundation, the Swedish Ministry for Development Aid and the Open Society Foundations. In addition, we clearly define our own role: we work scientifically and independently. We are not lobbyists and do not take money from governments to advise them. This also allows us to take risks. Because one thing is clear: anyone who might have influence will be attacked.

Question: From the outside, it looks like ESI is working rather slowly. It sometimes takes years before you publish reports.

Knaus: Influence is always the result of years of work. It never works through one report alone, but through many publications, lectures, and meetings. At some point something will fall on fertile ground. That cannot be planned. You have to run with an issue for years. Moreover, we always do research as a team. As a rule, individuals cannot carry out an empirically based analysis on a complex topic. Sometimes we bring in additional experts. Years ago, we worked intensively on how the quality of government statistics could be assessed and brought a former employee of the European statistics authority Eurostat into the team for this purpose. When it came to visa liberalisation for the countries of the Western Balkans, we worked closely with former European interior ministers. On the crisis of the rule of law in Poland, we have been cooperating intensively with Polish lawyers for years.

Question: Is there a strategy for making think tank reports particularly effective?

Knaus: Influence for a think tank never consists of telling people what they should think. Influence happens when a report describes a situation so credibly and convincingly that readers come to similar conclusions to the ones we came to on their own. Many reports try to convince only those who have similar views anyway. Moreover, policy recommendations must convince practitioners. One must also never forget that people in important positions who can decide things live on an ever-growing mountain of papers. If an analysis is to stand out among the hundreds of studies that appear every week, it must be grippingly written. Because if people don’t remember a think tank’s report after a month, it’s as if it was never written. I hope that everyone who read our reports on Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe could remember them after a month. Like the prosecutors in Milan who started from our work. People think in stories. So we write stories. Only then can we succeed in influencing the world through papers.

The questions were asked by Michael Martens

Video presentations on Caviar Diplomacy

Presentation by Gerald Knaus on corruption in the Council of Europe (September 2017). Video: Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation


Gerald Knaus: The end of shame? Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe and the capture of Europe (November 2014). Video: Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Recent articles and interviews in the media

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Aserbaidschan-Affäre: Geschenke, Werbung, Verleumdung, 31 March 2021

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Was ist die Aserbaidschan-Connection, und wer machte da mit?, 28 March 2021

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Korruption, Kaviar, Kanzlerdämmerung: Die Union erhält eine Lektion in Demut, 27 March 2021

STERN, CDU/CSU-Abgeordnete verwickelt: Soziologe erklärt, wie Aserbaidschan EU-Politiker kauft, 26 March 2021

VICE News, Aserbaidschan-Affäre: Der Diktator, die CDU, der Moderator und das Geld, 22 March 2021

Cicero, Interview mit Gerald Knaus. Aserbaidschan und die Union -30 Millionen Euro für „Kaviar-Diplomatie.“, 12 March 2021

Watch the video (from minute 52): ZDF, Markus Lanz, 25 March 2021

Interview in NOVA TV, “Кнаус за НОВА: Европска економска зона е подобро од овa статус кво” (“Knaus in conversation with NOVA: The European Economic Area is better than the status quo”)

NOVA TV, “Кнаус за НОВА: Европска економска зона е подобро од овa статус кво” – interview with Gerald Knaus – (“Knaus in conversation with NOVA: The European Economic Area is better than the status quo”) (26 October 2019)

Radical realism – to transform the world, lets take its measure first. Why joining the European single market and the four freedoms would be a huge step forward for all Western Balkan nations.

And why the EU should offer this to all six, with a reformed accession methodology that truly rewards merit. This will be very hard work. But with this EU integration would finally get serious for the region.

Q: Will the ESI Norway in the Balkans proposal mark the end of enlargement ?

Knaus: It is the opposite: with this proposal the European integration of the Balkan countries would accelerate. We are proposing that the European Union opens accession talks with all six Western Balkan countries now to join the European single market, the biggest in the world, with its four freedoms of movement of people, capital, goods and services. And we propose to reform the way these talks take place, to make them fair and transformative.

The immediate goal is for each Balkan country that meets the conditions to be linked as closely to the EU as Norway is in the so-called European Economic Area (EEA). Now, joining the EEA is in itself a very good thing. Norway, a rich country, is still paying the EU a lot to be in the EEA, because it is such an advantage for its people and economy, Of course, the Western Balkans are not rich and need help to catch up, so the EU should increase grants and assistance AND allow them to join the single market in order. Why? Because a stable, democratic, prosperous Balkans is in the EU interest.

Now, North Macedonia citizens might say that they want to join the EU, nothing else. But even then our proposal is good for them. How does EEA accession relate to the goal of EU accession? If you think of joining the EU as a marathon, over 42 km, joining the EEA is running the first 35 km of that very same marathon, on exactly the same road. It is not a detour, it is not an alternative, is is a stage on the same path.

This is not just my theory. This is how it worked in the past. I was young then, but remember well: this is how Austrian, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union more than twenty years ago. All three joined the EEA first. Then, since everything they needed to do for the EEA was also a requirement for the EU, they completed EU accession talks within a very short period of time. To be precise: the EEA entered into force in 1994 and Austria, Sweden and Finland joined the EU on 1 January 1995. This is important: there is no contradiction between the goal of first joining the EEA and then the EU. On the contrary, it is a logical sequence. All EEA negotiators at the time noted how these talks made later fast accession of their countries possible.

Q: what about the commitment of the EU from Zagreb 2000 and Thessaloniki 2003 ? Could we just forgot it?

These commitments remain, of course. At the same time we know that these promises, repeated every year over twenty years, never guaranteed WHEN enlargement would actually happen. Nobody can guarantee this. Every EU member states always kept the right to veto. And they used it. How many times was North Macedonia blocked by a veto of one member state, despite unconditional recommendations by the European Commission to start talks? Nine times! Nobody knows from bitter experience better than Macedonians that the most important thing is a process which is about merit and not arbitrary vetoes, at every step.

So my advice to Balkan leaders is to focus all diplomatic energy on changing the process, not demanding guarantees that can never be given. We do not know now who the French president will be in 2024. Right now there is a lot of sympathy with North Macedonia and Albania in many EU states. This sympathy should help push for a reformed process. If the process is not reformed, what would happen even when you have to open the first chapters? Again, you know: Croatia experienced it, Turkey did.

How likely is it to reform the process in this way? It is hard, too. But if ever there was a moment to do it it is now. There is a new Commission. There is a deep crisis. So this is the moment to put a constructive proposal on the table that can convince all EU members and work for the Balkans for the next years, not just the next months. The key question is not whether talks today will lead to a Norwegian situation of joining the EEA or to a Swedish situation of joining, first the EEA and then the EU. This will be decided later in any case. What is key now is that these talks are fair.

Q: How to explain to Montenegro and Serbia that the game is over?

Knaus: The current accession process has been broken for years. Many Member states don’t believe in it. Frontrunners, like Turkey and Serbia, don’t believe in it any more. What happened to North Macedonia in Brussels confirmed this.Note: Turkey has been negotiating its accession since 2005, Montenegro since 2012, Serbia since 2014. But did opening accession talks process produce the positive changes which were expected? No. Are these countries closer to joining the EU now than they were when they started? No. Turkey has since had a coup attempt. a state of emergency, fighting broke out again in South East Anatolia. And last year in Sofia EU member states refused to give even a vague commitment that 2025 was a good target date for Serbia and Montenegro to join. Nobody has any guarantee, whether talks started or not.

So the process itself must be changed. I feared in a speech in 2014 in Belgrade at an event with the deputy prime minister of Serbia that the current accession process would not survive for more than five years without reform. This was five years ago.

Q: Negotiations for membership was a very efficient instrument for the transformation and reform . what could be the carrot now?

Knaus: Negotiations for membership are only an efficient instrument for transformation when EU is serious about it. The EU has not been serious about the negotiations with the Western Balkan countries. It is not prepared to open them with four out of six. Why? Because accession of the Western Balkan countries is unpopular in many EU members. So a process was designed with so many obstacles that it kills the motivation of even the most committed politicians or civil servant. You can have a hurdles race over over 200 meters. You cannot have a hurdles race over 42 kilometers. This is what the current process has become. This is what your government has experienced too. That is bad for the EU and bad for the Balkans.

The question of incentives is crucial. The first incentive, the major carrot, is that the process helps reformers create a better country for their citizens and children. For this, it must be fair. For citizens it must be transparent. The EU should provide real help reaching Eu standards, not block countries. And each Balkan country should be judged by the same criteria. If more assistance then goes to those counties that perform best, all the better. But you cannot buy the will to reform with money. Yes, money helps. Having a goal that is within reach of a few years helps too. Having EU member states that want you to reach it, not block you, is also crucial.

Q: How would the process of negotiation look like ?

Knaus: There is a website where you can see what the EAA covers. It is a huge part of the EU rules and laws. Reaching this integration now should be the first objective goal for each of the six WB countries. The EU should draw up roadmaps for each area. and then evaluate regularly how far each of the six Balkan countries are from meeting these criteria in each field. These assessments should be led by experts, the criteria public, allowing you to compare countries. There should be a positive competition. And no vetoes once the whole process starts next year until the very end.

Q: What is the potential risk for stability if there is no more enlargement ?

Knaus: Many in the EU fear that Balkan countries are not stable and might return to chaos at any moment. This is a very bad image to have. I would never use fear of instability as an argument for enlargement. On the other hand, the goal of eternal European peace is a great and inspiring goal for the EU and the Balkans. I lived in the Balkans in the 1990s, in Sarajevo, in Pristina, and remember well a period when nationalists first won elections with promises of hate, and then wars and destruction followed. This must never happen again in the Balkans. But it continues to happen, even in Europe, even today. In 2008 there was a war in Georgia. In 2014 in Ukraine. This is why we need European integration, not just in the Balkans, but also in the Balkans.

Q: ESI has put lot of effort in order to promote enlargement of EU towards WB. How you are going to ensure your partners in the WB that it was just a “joke” talking about enlargement?

Knaus: We put a lot of effort into convincing EU interior ministers into lifting the visa requirements for all Western Balkan countries first. And it succeeded. Why? Because it was a merit based credible process. And because we talked to the sceptics, and tried to persuade the ministers of interior in EU member states. This is the only way this can work, and it means that right now we need to talk to France and the Netherlands, to see how to convince them. And to show them that a credible process of accession can be in their interest, too.

Q: Why don’t you join the huge majority of member states and WB countries to find a solution in order to change Macron s mind?

Knaus: I simply ask: do you think it is likely that other member states will be able to change the mind of the French president? It might happen. I hope it does. But it never happened with Greece. So you need a strategy that also works without it happening. And that makes future vetoes in the process less likely. This is how European integration has always happened. It is not new.

Q: Do you believe that there is anything that could satisfy Macron in order to leave his veto on enlargement ?

Knaus: He says the EU is not now ready to promise enlargement to anyone. But the EU should be ready to allow each Western Balkan state to meet the conditions to join the EEA. I think to persuade France of this is possible, if other EU members support it too.

Q: Is there any other member state supporting your ideas ? If yes..which one?

Knaus: We only published this paper last Friday night. But there has been a strong and encouraging response. I received emails and SMS from foreign ministers, parliamentarians and EU officials within hours, expressing interest. But I have no illusions. This would be a historic offer, that would transform the Balkans. But it will take a lot of discussions. Like visa liberalisation. And it will only work if leaders in the region support it too. Not as their ideal scenario, but as a very good way forward for their countries, much better than the status quo.

Interview – Merkel-Samsom plan in German papers

Main-Post, Michael Pohl, “Ist dieser Mann Angela Merkels Rettung?” (“Is this man Angela Merkel’s last resort?”) (17 February 2016)

Herr Knaus, Sie haben mit Ihrer Denkfabrik „Europäische Stabilitäts-Initiative“ schon wenige Wochen nach der deutschen Grenzöffnung einen detaillierten Plan vorgelegt, wie die Flüchtlingskrise entschärft werden könnte. Inzwischen gelten Ihre Ideen als Vorlage für Angela Merkels jetzigen Versuch, den Flüchtlingszustrom auf der Balkanroute aufzuhalten. Viele sprechen bereits von der letzten Chance der Kanzlerin. Sind Sie der Drehbuchautor für Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik?

Gerald Knaus: Ich hoffe es. Wir haben unseren Plan in den vergangenen Monaten vielen Regierungen in ganz Europa präsentiert und uns kritischen Fragen gestellt. Seitdem sind wir mehr denn je von unserem Plan überzeugt. Mitte September haben wir das erste Mal geschrieben, dass in der Flüchtlingskrise nur ein Ausweg gefunden werden kann, wenn es eine Lösung zwischen Deutschland, der Türkei und Griechenland gibt. Denn nicht nur in Deutschland hat die Bevölkerung hat Angst davor bekommen, dass die Politik die Kontrolle verloren hat. Unser Plan ist der beste Weg, um die unkontrollierte Zuwanderung der Flüchtlinge unter eine Kontrolle zu bringen und gleichzeitig das Flüchtlingsrecht in Europa zu bewahren. Denn all jene Populisten, die von Victor Orban angeführt werden, würden das Asylrecht am liebsten abschaffen.AZ_17_2_2016_cut_590px

Was ist der Kern Ihrer Idee?

Knaus: Für Griechenland und für Europa gibt es faktisch keine Möglichkeit, Flüchtlingsboote auf dem offenen Meer zu stoppen. Die Idee, dass die Griechen ihre Marine einsetzen und die Grenze in der Ägäis dichtmachen könnten, ist absurd und nicht umsetzbar. Die einzige Möglichkeit, die lebensgefährliche Flucht über das Mittelmeer zu unterbinden, liegt in einer Zusammenarbeit von Griechenland und der Türkei. Die wird es aber nur geben, wenn eine Gruppe europäischer Staaten, angeführt von Deutschland, der Türkei ein seriöses Angebot macht, die Verantwortung für diese gewaltige Zahl von Flüchtlingen im Land auf geordnete Art und Weise zu teilen. Die Lösung besteht deshalb darin, der Türkei mit der Übernahme von Flüchtlingen in großzügigen Kontingenten zu helfen.

Sie haben bereits im September dafür den Begriff der „Koalition der Willigen“ erfunden und haben das Scheitern der damals von Merkel geplanten gesamteuropäischen Lösung vorhergesagt. Jetzt fordert auch die Kanzlerin Kontingent-Lösungen und spricht von einer Koalition der Willigen, wie in Ihrem Plan. Wie sehen Sie die Chancen, dass er umgesetzt wird?

Knaus: In den vergangenen Wochen sind sehr viele Dinge in dies Richtung passiert. Die niederländische EU-Präsidentschaft macht sich sehr stark für die Grundelemente unseres Plans. In Brüssel wird erkannt, dass man auf die Türkei mehr zugehen muss. Am Donnerstag wollen die Länder der Koalition der Willigen mit dem türkischen Ministerpräsidenten verhandeln, wie man die Umsiedlung von syrischen Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei beginnen kann. Griechenland hat beschlossen, die Türkei zu sicheren Drittstaat zu erklären, damit man Flüchtlinge wieder dorthin zurückschicken kann. Schritt für Schritt werden alle Punkte, die wir vorgeschlagen langsam umgesetzt. Das stimmt mich optimistisch, dass wir vielleicht in den nächsten Wochen einen Wendepunkt in der Flüchtlingskrise sehen.

Glauben Sie wirklich, dass sich dadurch die Menschen von einer Flucht nach Europa über abhalten lassen?

Knaus: Ja. Wenn Griechenland Insel für Insel beginnt, die ankommenden Flüchtlinge in die Türkei zurückzuschicken, dann werden die Menschen nicht mehr ihr Leben riskieren, weil die gefährliche Flucht über das Meer sinnlos wird. So rettet man Menschenleben und zerstört das Schmugglerwesen. Und man erhält zugleich geordnete Prozesse: Die Deutschen wären in der Lage, von jedem Flüchtling der aus der Türkei übernommen werden soll, die Fingerabdrücke zu überprüfen. Man wüsste, dass sind keine IS-Terroristen und könnte ganze Familien aufnehmen, damit sich auch die Frage des Familiennachzugs nicht mehr stellt. Das alles wird gerade zwischen Deutschland und der Türkei verhandelt. Die Umsetzung könnte in wenigen Wochen beginnen.

Wird es nicht dramatische Bilder geben, wie sie einst in Ungarn die Krise mitausgelöst haben, wenn Griechenland die Flüchtlinge in die Türkei zurückschaffen will?

Knaus: Zunächst einmal muss die Übernahme von Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei durch die Koalition der Willigen der allererste Schritt sein. Es ist nicht nur als Signal an die Türkei wichtig, dass es Deutschland und die anderen Länder tatsächlich ernst meinen. Das ist natürlich ein Signal an die syrischen Flüchtlinge, dass sie weiter die Chance auf Asyl haben. In Griechenland kann man leicht unterbinden, dass Flüchtlinge von Inseln wie Lesbos mit der Fähre auf das Festland übersetzen. Wenn man das klug organisiert, und nicht dilettantisch wie in Budapest, kann man vielleicht unschöne Bilder vermeiden. Aber letztlich ist die Rückführung unvermeidlich, wenn man die Grenze schützen will.

Warum soll die Türkei ausgerechnet die Flüchtlinge behalten wollen, die Europa nicht will?

Knaus: Viele kommen in die Türkei, weil sie die Bilder sehen, dass derzeit die einmalige Chance besteht mit relativ geringem Risiko nach Deutschland oder Schweden zu kommen. Das führt dazu, dass sich immer mehr Nordafrikaner und Menschen aus Zentralasien auf den Weg machen. Dieser Strom ist schlecht für die Türkei, weil dort die Kriminalität in Form von Menschenschmuggel wächst. Deshalb muss das Signal um die Welt gehen, dass die für jeden offene Autobahn nach Europa über die Ägäis geschlossen ist.

Wie verlässlich ist die Türkei? Das Land hat den Flüchtlingsstrom bislang an seinen Grenzen nicht aufgehalten…

Knaus: Die Vorstellung, die türkische Küstenwache oder die Armee könnte die gesamte hunderte Kilometer lange Ägäis-Küste abriegeln, war von Anfang an absurd. Da gibt es unzählige Inseln und Tourismusgebiete, da kann nicht das Militär aufmarschieren. Und wenn man Flüchtlinge erwischt und ein paar hundert Kilometer landeinwärts aussetzt, sind sie eine Woche später wieder an der Küste. Wer nur einen Tag vor Ort in der Türkei verbracht hat, kann bestätigen, dass die türkische Küstenwache hier eine Sisyphosarbeit verrichtet. Der Türkei ist es mit enormen Aufwand gelungen, die Landgrenze zu Griechenland zu schützen. An der Küste uns auf dem Meer geht das nicht.

Die osteuropäischen Länder wollen die Grenze von Mazedonien schließen, in der Hoffnung, dass die Flüchtlinge dann aufgeben, nach Griechenland zu fliehen.

Knaus: Es ist eine Illusion zu glauben, man könnte einen neuen eisernen Vorhang bauen mit Mazedonien als Vorposten in einer Reihe von Zäunen. Für jeden, der den Balkan kennt, ist das eine absurde Idee. Ich habe zehn Jahre auf dem Balkan gelebt und gearbeitet. Nirgendwo gibt es so viel Expertise im Schmuggeln. Glaubt jemand ernsthaft, ein paar unterbezahlte Polizisten könnten die Berge des Balkans kontrollieren? Ganz abgesehen davon, dass Europa Griechenland völlig im Stich lassen würde.

Viele fordern mehr Druck auf Griechenland, dass bisher seine Verpflichtungen kaum erfüllt …

Knaus: Der Plan der Umsiedlung von Flüchtlingen aus sogenannten „Hots-Spots“ in Griechenland, an dem die EU-Kommission seit Monaten festhält, funktioniert nicht und ist nur kontraproduktiv. Er animiert nur die Flüchtlinge ihr Geld Schleppern zu geben für eine lebensgefährliche Flucht über die Ägäis. Es ist besser diese Flüchtlinge aus der Türkei zu holen, wo sie ja in diesem Moment auch sind.

Aber große Teile der Bevölkerung der Aufnahmeländer wie Deutschland sehen die Belastungsgrenzen schon erreicht…

Knaus: Ich glaube, dass die Mehrheit in Deutschland und auch in anderen Ländern eine Unterscheidung macht und bereit ist, die Menschen aufzunehmen, die vom Syrienkrieg fliehen – der größten humanitären Katastrophe unserer Zeit. Die Bevölkerung hat aber gleichzeitig Angst, dass die offenen Grenzen ohne jede Kontrolle, dazu führen, dass eben sehr viele Menschen kommen, die nicht Flüchtlinge sind.

Viele halten Ihren Plan für Angela Merkels letzte Rettung. Glauben Sie, dass der Kanzlerin die Umsetzung gegen all die europäischen Widerstände gelingt?

Knaus: Wir haben unseren Vorschlag am Anfang „Merkel-Plan“ genannt, weil es letztlich nicht so wichtig ist, was ein Thinktank schreibt. Entscheidend ist, dass es Politiker gibt, die den Mut haben, richtige und weitsichtige Entscheidungen nicht nur gut zu heißen, sondern sie auch umzusetzen. Unsere Analyse war, dass dieser Plan als Lösung nur möglich ist, wenn ihn die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin in die Hände nimmt. Es geht hier um eine Koalition der Anständigen, die Europas Grundwerte gegen die Populisten verteidigt. Nach den Ergebnissen der vergangenen Wochen würde ich, wenn ich ein europäischer Politiker wäre, nicht mehr gegen Angela Merkel wetten.

In Süddeutsche Zeitung: Merkel Plan B

Merkel Plan B – Der nötige Befreiungsschlag

SZ

Wenn der türkische Premierminister Ahmet Davutoglu diese Woche nach Berlin kommt geht es um viel: die Zukunft europäischer Asylpolitik, die Glaubwürdigkeit Deutschlands in der Flüchtlingskrise, und die Frage, ob Angela Merkel einen Plan hat, der funktionieren kann. Regierungschefs in Europa beschuldigen Merkel sie habe Hunderttausende „eingeladen“ und wisse nicht weiter. Ehemalige Verfassungsrichter und Bundeskanzler beklagen Planlosigkeit. Dabei hat Merkel einen Plan: er beruht auf der Erkenntnis, dass sich Kontrolle über Europas Außengrenze nur in Zusammenarbeit mit der Türkei zurückgewinnen lässt. Dafür muss die EU der Türkei etwas bieten: die geregelte Übernahme von Flüchtlingen, Finanzhilfen, Visumfreiheit. Dafür setzt sich Merkel seit Oktober ein.

Hat sie sich geirrt? Nichts deutet darauf hin, dass sich 2016 weniger Menschen über die Ägäis auf den Weg machen werden als im letzten Jahr. Oder dass weniger Kinder ertrinken werden. Dennoch ist die deutsche Kanzlerin ihren Kritikern voraus. Wer deren Alternativen durchdenkt, erkennt, wie wenig Substanz sie haben. Manche träumen von einem Zaun nach israelischem Vorbild an der deutsch-österreichischen Grenze; oder von Australien, wo Flüchtlinge, die über das Meer kommen, auf Inseln gebracht werden. Doch der israelische Zaun wird von Soldaten mit Schussbefehl bewacht; der Bau hatte Jahren gebraucht. Und die EU hat im Gegensatz zu Australien keine Nachbarn wie Nauru, wo sie Flüchtlinge absetzten könnte. Von rechtlichen, politischen, moralischen Fragen einmal abgesehen: wie das „Schließen“ der Grenzen Deutschlands praktisch aussehen solle sagen Merkels Kritiker nicht.

Denn Merkel hat grundsätzlich recht: wenn Europa die Kontrolle über seine Grenzen wiedergewinnen will, geht das nur mit Hilfe der Türkei. Doch ihre Kritiker haben auch recht, wenn sie an der derzeitigen Strategie zweifeln. So wie man sich in Brüssel die Zusammenarbeit mit Ankara vorgestellt hat wird sie nicht gelingen. Versprechen sind zu vage. Es fehlt an Vertrauen und an klaren Signalen.

Und auch an Realismus. Selbst wenn türkische Politiker etwa regelmäßig versprechen, die Ägäis für Migration schließen zu wollen, wird ihnen das nicht gelingen und es genügt auch nicht zu versichern, dass sie „sich bemühen“. Notwendig ist eine Zusammenarbeit zwischen Griechenland und der Türkei wie es sie noch nie zuvor gab. Die Türkei müsste sich bereit erklären, jeden Flüchtling, der die griechischen Inseln erreicht, zurückzunehmen. Dafür gibt es schon das griechisch-türkische Rücknahmeabkommen; es ist kein rechtliches, sondern ein politisches Problem. Denn es fehlen noch zwei Voraussetzungen: die Türkei müsste im Einklang mit dem griechischen Recht ein sicherer Drittstaat sein, und dafür ihr Flüchtlingsgesetz, das seit 2014 in Kraft ist, umsetzen und bereits gestellte Asylanträge im Land sofort bearbeiten. Und Griechenland müsste sich logistisch vorbereiten, um jeden, der etwa nach dem 31. Januar Lesbos und andere Inseln erreicht, in die Türkei zurückschicken zu können. Das wäre sinnvoller als Hotspots für die Verteilung von Flüchtlingen aus Griechenland in andere EU Staaten, denn letzteres würde an der Zahl der Ankommenden nichts ändern. Die Planung müsste heute beginnen. Dafür bräuchte Athen Hilfe und die erklärte Bereitschaft der Türkei. Dann ginge es um zählbare Ergebnisse: wie viele Asylverfahren werden in der Türkei abgewickelt? Wie viele Leute werden von Griechenland jeden Tag zurückgenommen? Die Umsetzung türkischer Zusagen könnte man täglich überprüfen.

Warum sollte die Türkei darauf eingehen? Hier kommt Deutschland ins Spiel. Es ist unvorstellbar, dass die Türkei in den nächsten Monaten jeden Flüchtling, der Griechenland erreicht, zurücknehmen wird ohne konkrete, substantielle und sofortige Hilfe. Es fehlt in Ankara an Vertrauen in die Zusagen der EU, und dafür gibt es gute Gründe. Von den drei

Milliarden Euro Hilfe für Flüchtlinge ist nichts zu sehen. Das Versprechen auf Visaliberalisierung ist unverbindlich. Der Plan, Kontingente von Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei aufzunehmen, ist derzeit so wenig glaubwürdig wie der blamabel scheiternde Plan 160,000 Flüchtlinge innerhalb der EU zu verteilen. Bei der Kontingentlösung versteckt sich Deutschland hinter der Europäischen Kommission, und diese hinter dem Flüchtlingskommissariat der UN. Man kann eine richtige Idee auch durch schlechte Planung ad absurdum führen.

Denn auch hier gilt: Versprechen genügen nicht. Wenn Deutschland will, dass die Türkei ab dem nächsten Monat Flüchtlinge zurücknehmen soll, dann muss Deutschland bereit sein in diesem Jahr hundertausende Syrer direkt aus der Türkei aufzunehmen. Das kann gelingen, wenn deutsche Behörden dies direkt mit den Behörden in Ankara planen. Dafür bedarf es weder der Europäischen Kommission noch der UN. Merkel könnte Davutoglu anbieten, in einem ersten Schritt bis April 100,000 anerkannte syrische Flüchtlinge direkt aus den türkischen Flüchtlingslagern aufzunehmen. Diese sind bereits erfasst, man kennt ihre Nationalität, es kämen Familien, nicht nur Männer, und man könnte die Fingerabdrücke mit europäischen Datenbanken abgleichen. Dann könnte die Türkei täglich zählen, wie viele Flüchtlinge ihr abgenommen werden. Es gibt auch keinen guten Grund, warum Deutschland oder Schweden ihren Anteil an den 3 Milliarden Hilfe nicht direkt über nationale Organisationen ausgeben sollen, ohne Umweg über Brüssel. Es geht darum Schulen und Kliniken für Flüchtlinge noch in diesem Jahr zu bauen, Lehrer zu bezahlen. Wo Vertrauen fehlt, wie heute zwischen Ankara und der EU, müssen konkrete Resultate dieses erst aufbauen.

Bedeutet dies, dass sich Deutschland damit von einer notwendigen Reform des europäischen Asylwesens abwendet? Nein, im Gegenteil. Eine solche Reform kann nur gelingen, wenn die akute Krise unter Kontrolle ist. Erst dann kann Berlin fordern, dass ab jetzt in jedem Jahr bis zu 100,000 Flüchtlinge, die die EU erreichen, verteilt werden, als Preis für Schengen und Ersatz für das Dublin-regime. Dies entspräche der Anzahl von Menschen, die vor 2014 im Durchschnitt jedes Jahr die EU Außengrenzen überwunden haben. Gelingt es Merkel aber nicht in den nächsten Wochen einen Plan zu entwickeln, der Ergebnisse zeigt, dann führt dies zum weiteren Erstarken jener Kräfte in der EU, die das Asylrecht überhaupt abschaffen wollen; jener die gegen Flüchtlinge, die EU, die Türkei, für Putin und gegen Muslime agitieren.

Deutschland, Europa und die Türkei brauchen einen Merkel Plan B. Darüber müssen Merkel und Davutoglu reden. Davon muss Berlin Ankara überzeugen.

Bosnians care – But will protests change things?

Bosnian_social_protests_Tuzla

The Government Building of Tuzla Canton burning, 7 February 2014.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Juniki San 

Recent years have seen many small and peaceful protests. The violent protest in Bosnia which made international headlines earlier this year in February was an exception, not the rule.

The impression that Bosnian society is passive and Bosnians are indifferent to what is happening around them is wrong. Take a look at the list below. It is only some information on protests ESI has collected for the last three weeks – 1 to 21 December 2014. It offers an interesting insight into politics in Bosnia at the end of this year, and at the end of a lost decade.

It is noteworthy that protestors direct their energy at the levels of government that matter most to them: these are the cantons (in the Federation), Republika Srpska and Brcko District. This is an important signal to all those, including the European Commission, who work with Bosnian authorities on recommendations for reforms. It simply makes no sense not to closely involve the levels of government that are at the centre of citizens’ expectations and frustrations.  The same is true for the international financial institutions such as the World Bank, studying challenges to Bosnian development. The future of Bosnian reforms will be decided in Tuzla, Zenica and Bihac as much as in Sarajevo.

Hot December? Reports in Bosnian media on threats, protests and strikes
1 to 21 December 2014

Protesters target

Number

Cantons

20

Republika Srpska

11

Private companies

8

Municipalities

6

Judiciary

5

Not specified

3

Federation

3

State level

2

Brcko District

2

Total number

60

Will protests change policy, though? If protests are directed at things which politicians cannot actually change – or at the very system of representative democracy – then they condemn themselves to impotence. Only parliamentary majorities can change laws. Only elected leaders can change policy.

On theme that runs through the news is lack of financial resources. Note that on 3 December 2014, Brcko, mayor of Brcko District announced that Brcko is faced with financial difficulties due to the collapse of Bobar bank. Brcko deposited around 10 million euros in Bobar bank. There is similar news from across the country. On 7 December 2014, Trebinje, mayor of Trebinje announced that the city could go bankrupt because it had around 2.5 million euros of its budget deposited in collapsed Bobar bank.

The key question that will determine whether protests change anything is what people expect from them and call for. If it is only some interest groups – former workers of socialist companies or war veterans – demanding redistribution of public spending to their benefit few politicians will be able to satisfy them. However, if protests can be harnessed to support specific changes, less waste, and more transparency then they could become the wind filling sails of reform.

Reasons for protests and strikes – Media to 21 December 2014

Reason

Primary reason

Secondary reason

Pending salaries

22

3

Unpaid benefits

13

16

War related topics

6

Cutting salaries

received from budget

3

Bad privatization

3

6

Policy improvement

3

Environment

2

Unemployment

2

Slow judiciary

1

Bad working conditions

1

7

Flooding related

1

Other reasons

3

Here is a selection of available reports in Bosnian media for the period from 1 to 21 December 2014 on threats of possible and actual protests. The list is not exhausted.

1 December 2014, Tuzla, group of workers of several big companies in Tuzla gathered and blocked traffic in front of the building where the first session of new cantonal assembly was held.

2 December 2014, Zenica, organization Eko forum announced it would organize protests because of increasing air pollution in Zenica and little or no effort on side of municipality and canton to prevent pollution or punish polluters.

3 December 2014, Tuzla, workers of several companies gathered in front of the prosecutor’s office and the court to remind about criminal privatization of their factories and pending cases against alleged perpetuators.

4 December 2014, Banja Luka, a group of small owners of Fruktona factory protested in front of the factory and demanded from the entity government to stop factory’s bankruptcy.

5 December 2014, Istocno Sarajevo, around 100 workers in the Istocno Sarajevo general hospital protested because their salaries were late, because benefits were not paid for several months and because of the working conditions.

5 December 2014, Bihac, around 200 workers of BIRA factory of cooling equipment who were fired recently protested in front of the factory and demanded from the owners to register them at the unemployed office in order to be able to make use of health insurance.

5 December 2014, Visegrad, organization of war veterans of Republika Srpska organized protests because of arrests of 15 war veterans from Visegrad on account of war crimes.

6 December 2014, Srbac, 11 workers in a local cultural center of Srbac warned that they would go into general strike because of poor working conditions, pending salaries and social and health benefits.

7 December 2014, Gorazde, former cantonal minister, who resigned in June 2011 following the disagreement with then cantonal prime minister, announced that she was preparing a public exhibition of 47 job rejections in the local, cantonal, entity and state administration she received since her resignation.

8 December 2014, Istocno Sarajevo, around 100 workers in the Istocno Sarajevo general hospital protested because their salaries were late, because benefits were not paid for several months and because of the working conditions.

8 December 2014, Zenica, representatives of students who receive scholarships as children of war veterans met with the cantonal prime minister to demand payment of three pending benefits.

8 December 2014, Sarajevo, workers of a company in charge for management of the sporting arenas built during the 1984 Winter Olympics continued their protests because of pending salaries and announced cuts of 33 jobs.

9 December 2014, Ilijas, teachers in local schools go into 30 minutes long strike because of unpaid transportation costs.

9 December 2014, Tuzla, representatives of the Union of those receiving their salaries from cantonal budget announced mass protests if the government doesn’t retract its decision to cut all budget dependent salaries for 10%.

9 December 2014, Banja Luka, representative of union of medical doctors threatened with general strike if demands of those working in Istocno Sarajevo general hospital are not met.

9 December 2014, Sokolac, workers of company Nova Romanija announced they would start a legal procedure against government of Republika Srpska because of pending 10 salaries from 2014.

9 December 2014, Sarajevo, representatives of farmers from entire Bosnia demand a meeting with the presidency to explain them all the problems they have.

9 December 2014, Bileca, workers in textile factory Nikola Tesla protested because of two pending salaries.

9 December 2014, Sarajevo and Geneva, around 50 out of 15.000 citizens of Bosnia who worked before the war in Croatia and were left without benefits (pension) started their trip to Geneva where they protested in front of the UN building on occasion of the human rights day (10 December).

10 December 2014, Sarajevo, members of families of missing persons from the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia protested in the city centre and demanded that all governments do more on finding their missing ones.

10 December, Banja Luka, three of TRZ Bratunac company protested in front of the entity industry ministry because they rejected to sign a contract with management of their company on arrangement for payment of pending salaries.

10 December 2014, Tuzla, a small group of former and current workers of state owned shoe factory Aida protested in front of the factory. They demanded from cantonal government to provide them with unemployed one-time support in amount of 200 euros, to provide funding for missing contributions to the pension fund and help repay 10 million euros of debt that the factory has.

10 December 2014, Sarajevo, survivors of concentration camps from the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia gathered in the city center to warn about their bad legal and economic situation.

10 December 2014, Zenica, students of the University of Zenica announced that they would start to protest if three pending cantonal scholarships for children of war veterans were not paid.

10 December 2014, Tuzla, around 300 workers of nine companies announced that they will protests if cantonal government doesn’t provide them with agreed one time help in amount of 200 euros.

11 December 2014, Zenica and Bihac, according to the statements of directors of general hospitals in Zenica and Bihac, two hospitals are close to being closed. The hospital in Zenica had to restrict its work to urgent surgeries and was forced to cut down parts of its heating system. Bihac general hospital could close down because it has a debt of 3.5 million euros and cantonal health fund rejected to vouch for further loans for this hospital.

11 December, Banja Luka, three of TRZ Bratunac protested in front of the entity industry ministry because they rejected to sign a contract with management of their company on arrangement for payment of pending salaries.

11 December 2014, Zenica, miners in pit Stranjani rejected to come out of the pit after their shift was over and put forward demands towards a company run by the Federation regarding unpaid benefits and working conditions. Following the meeting with the management protests ended.

11 December 2014, Tuzla, decision of cantonal government to put out of force decision on reducing all salaries for 10% as of January 2015 prevented mass protests of those receiving salaries from budget.

11 December 2014, Tuzla, association of “Mothers of Srebrenica” protested in front of the state investigative agency SIPA regional office in Tuzla because one of its employees took part in Srebrenica atrocities in July 1995.

11 December 2014, Istocno Sarajevo, around 100 workers in the Istocno Sarajevo general hospital protested because their salaries were late, because benefits were not paid for several months and because of the working conditions.

12 December 2014, Teslic, management and workers of a private textile factory Neno threatened with protests because company’s bank account has been blocked due to collapse of Bobar bank.

12 December 2014, Brcko, families of missing Serbs from the 1992 to 1995 Bosnian war protested in front of the Brcko District prosecutor’s office because of pending missing person’s cases.

12 December 2014, Siroki Brijeg, around 100 former and current workers of private meat factory Lijanovici protested in front of the factory and claimed that they haven’t received salaries for 16 months and that the owners did not make contribution for workers pensions for 12 years.

13 December 2014, Banja Luka, three workers of TRZ Bratunac protested in front of the entity industry ministry because they rejected to sign a contract with management of their company on arrangement for payment of pending salaries. The minister talked with them and they stopped their protests.

15 December 2014, Zenica, a group o 50 young mothers with their babies protested in front of the cantonal government because they haven’t received child support for four months.

15 December 2014, Tuzla, around 100 former and current workers of state owned shoe factory Aida protested in front of the factory and blocked the city’s main road. Workers of Aida demanded from cantonal government to provide them with unemployed one-time support in amount of 200 euros, to provide funding for missing contributions to the pension fund and help repay 10 million euros of debt that the factory has.

15 December 2014, Sarajevo, union of railway workers of the Federation publicly demanded from the Federation government to solve the problem of health insurance for workers of the Federation Railways who live in Mostar and Sarajevo canton and those who live in Brcko District and Repubika Srpska.

15 December 2014, Bihac, around 200 workers of BIRA factory of cooling equipment who were recently fired protested in front of the factory and demanded from the owners to register them at the unemployed office in order to be able to make use of health insurance.

15 December 2014, Istocno Sarajevo, around 100 workers in the Istocno Sarajevo general hospital protested because their salaries were late, because benefits were not paid for several months and because of the working conditions.

15 December 2014, Siroki Brijeg, around 100 former and current workers of private meat factory Lijanovici protested in front of the factory and claimed that they haven’t received salaries for 16 months and that the owners did not make contribution for workers pensions for 12 years.

16 December 2014, Bihac, general hospital warns that it could close due to unpaid contribution by the cantonal health fund in amount of 3.5 million euros.

16 December 2014, Siroki Brijeg, around 100 former and current workers of private meat factory Lijanovici announced that they would sleep in front of the factory and the house of its owner Jerko Lijanovic (who is from 2011 deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture in the government of the federation). The protestors claim that they haven’t received salaries for 16 months and that the owners did not make contribution for workers pensions for 12 years.

16 December 2014, Tuzla, around 100 former and current workers of state owned shoe factory Aida ended their protests without success. Workers of Aida demanded from cantonal government to provide them with a one-time support in amount of 200 euros, to provide funding for missing contributions to the pension fund and help repay 10 million euros of debt that the factory has.

16 December 2014, Sarajevo, around 20 workers of privatized Feroelektro trading company gathered in front of the Federation government building demanding support for workers who haven’t received 29 salaries and their social benefits were not paid (health insurance and pension contribution) and demanded to speed up the process at the cantonal court regarding the alleged wrongdoing during the privatization process which could lead to annulation of privatization contract and return of the company to the state.

16 December 2014, Sarajevo, around 4.000 unemployed persons in canton Sarajevo warned on possibility that they will go to the streets if the cantonal government implements decision to delete from the list all unemployed who earned more than 104 euros per month.

16 December 2014, Zenica, following a meeting with the cantonal prime minister some 50 young mothers ended their protests which started because they haven’t received child support for four months. The prime minister explained that the government is experiencing problems with the filling of budget but he hopes that the money from IMF would solve this.

16 December 2014, Sarajevo, union of teachers in canton Sarajevo held a 30 minutes protest because their November salary was late and because their transport costs haven’t been paid for 9 months.

17 December 2014, Bihac, thousand members of the cantonal union of persons receiving salaries from cantonal budget protested because the cantonal government did not fulfill the agreement about paying pending payments.

17 December 2014, Srbac, 11 workers in a local cultural center of Srbac started their general strike because of poor working conditions, pending salaries and pending social and health benefits.

17 December 2014, Sarajevo, workers in Sarajevotekstil textile company protest because their salaries and benefits have not been paid due to company’s blocked bank account.

17 December 2014, Lokanje, residents of a small village of Lokanje in eastern Bosnia (Republika Srpska) demonstrated against arrests of their fellow citizens who were indicted for war crimes.

18 December 2014, Sarajevo, workers in Sarajevotekstil textile company protest because their salaries and benefits have not been paid due to company’s blocked bank account.

18 December 2014, Sarajevo, coalition of civic organizations gathered in front of the state parliament to deliver 78 demands/policy recommendations for the period from 2014 to 2018 regarding EU integration process, human and minority rights.

18 December 2014, Brcko, Milenko Gojkovic, victim of May flooding started a hunger strike because authorities rejected to provide financial assistance for rebuilding of his home.

19 December 2014, Derventa, workers in factory Unis demonstrated in front of their factory demanding payment of pending salaries from December 2013 and restart of production.

19 December 2014, Banja Luka, union of textile workers sends a protest letter to the council of ministers at the state level demanding adoption of measures that would protect their production.

21 December 2014, Zenica, 300 citizens protest because of the air pollution in the city. Protestors demand lowering of pollution and prosecution of air polluter.