Paying benefits to veterans of the wars that broke up former Yugoslavia hits budgets of all the breakaway states, but none harder than Bosnia, where the problem could cause financial collapse, experts and official say.
In all of the countries, veterans' groups are influential and have been closely linked to wartime political elites who awarded them with state payments in return for political support.
But unless a regional parliament in Bosnia passes laws on Tuesday toughening criteria for veterans' payments, it will lose badly needed budget support loans from international establishments and likely face financial collapse.
Bosnia's two regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic carved from the opposing sides in the war, would have to slash their budgets and, in turn, face social unrest.
The situation is especially risky in the Muslim-Croat federation because about 40 percent of the budget goes for cash payments mainly to war-related categories such as veterans and families of fallen soldiers and the disabled.
In Croatia, a country of 4.4 million people, about 4.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product goes for welfare benefits -- the highest percentage in Eastern Europe, the World Bank says.
In Serbia and its ex province of Kosovo, the state pays benefits only to those disabled in fighting and to families of fallen soldiers and civilians, but not to war veterans.
In Kosovo, where four out of five prime ministers fought in the war, the impact of around 25,000 veterans is strong as all political parties want their support.
ReutersLast Mod: 23 Şubat 2010, 08:18