Oil in Bosnia?

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Mon Sep 4 22:48:45 MDT 1995

Oil in Bosnia?

I have forwarded some items from yugo.antiwar that give evidence from
activists on the ground of what is happening in former yugoslavia
including atrocities on both sides, but these have not included
contributions from Serbs. I have now found a new
conference running since mid July on GreenNet called zamir.chat, with a
moderator called Ivo Skoric in New York. However the Zamir net appears
to be a small progressive net linking cities of the former Yugoslavia,
Zagreb, Lublijana, Sarjevo, Tuzla and Belgrade. "Mir" standing for "peace"?

This list has had only a minority Serb nationalist contributions to it,
almost all now from an anonymous  doctorb at ix.netcom.com but recently joined
by a doctorc. They appear to have very good access to journalistic
sources, but like their pseudonyms, they come over me as highly cynical.
I may post other extracts because their viewpoints illustrate the
thinking of Greater Serb nationalism, on key points.

But the piece below is fascinating as their most apparently objective. I
am not at all sure that what they are forwarding is really of commercial
interest. Albania had oil but does anyone know if there is any
confirmation in any media that there is oil in Yugoslavia of real
commerical interest to imperialism and monopoly capitalism? Can anyone

The piece is more interesting politically. On the surface, which is why
it has been posted by doctorc, it supports the apparently left-wing line of
Greater Serb nationalism - its all a bourgeois mess; don't fall for the view
that there should be international intervention just because Greater Serb
nationalist troops repeatedly shell civilians in Sarajevo, or drive
people from their homes through terror because they are muslim or Croat, in
order to  create a coherent Greater Serb nationalist state.

In fact the piece *to the extent that it is economically relevant*
illustrates that in the three-way tug between the interests of working
people, modern inernational capitalism,  and national capitalism, it is
narrow nationalism that is now reactionary. Narrow nationalism not only
divides working people; it prevents the exploitation of natural resources
by the size of capitalism that is now required for the development of an
oil industry, which in turn needs domestic peace and no hint of trade

Although long, it seems to me particularly interesting material for this
marxist list.

Chris Burford, London.

/* Written 12:15 pm  Aug 28, 1995 by doctorc at ix.netcom.com in gn:zamir.chat */
/* ---------- "Croat-Bosnian Border is Oil Rich" ---------- */
From: doctorc at ix.netcom.com (. )

Monday, August 28, 1995
Tuzla, Bosnia
     Besieged by rebel Serbs and cut off from normal oil
shipments by  an international embargo, Bosnia has been running
its army and its  economy on a near-empty fuel tank for three
     Yet officials here are convinced that their country sits on
its own untapped oil fields -- which were surveyed by
multinational  firms before the civil war began, with results
that have since  vanished from the Ministry of Energy in
     ``We have reason to believe that the documents
summarizing these operations are now in the hands of Croatia and
the  (Bosnian) Serbs,'' said Selim Beslagic, mayor of
government-held  Tuzla.
     Although it is by no means certain that Bosnia has
commercially  viable petroleum reserves, a Chronicle
investigation has confirmed  that major oil firms conducted field
studies in the former Yugoslav  republic before 1992 under the
auspices of the World Bank.
     In addition to the area around Tuzla, the studies
concentrated on  the eastern slope of the ``Dinarides Thrust,'' a
300-mile arc from  Bihac to the Neretva River along the Dinara
     Sources in Europe and the United States confirm that
deposits  of both coal and oil were identified in the Dinara
region. Recent  military action has underscored the area's high
importance to all  sides in the Bosnian civil war.
     The Dinarides Thrust was the primary battlefront of this
summer's massive Croatian Army offensives against rebel Serbs in
Bosnia and Croatia's Krajina region.
     {However a map and article from the same paper, Aug 11
'Bosnia Disappearing Into Jaws of Its Neighbors' identifies this
area as part of Bosnia-Herzegovina completely under Croat
control for several years. (1)--ed.]
     The region, along with other parts of Bosnia, began
attracting the serious interest of petroleum experts a decade
ago. In the mid-1980s, a World Bank executive said, the
Washington, D.C.-based institution extended seed loans ``for
oil-related operations'' to Energo Invest, the state oil monopoly
of  what was then the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia.
     ``The money was for geophysical and geological data
acquisition and interpretation and for exploration promotion,''
said  bank official Richard Hamilton.
     Hamilton, who heads a special task force on ex-Yugoslavia in
the bank's energy division, said he was not at liberty to provide
details on the loan or its results.
     But a World Bank source said the promotion financing implied
``an  expectation of viable potential for oil recovery.''

     According to Bosnian officials, Chicago-based Amoco was
among several foreign firms that subsequently initiated
exploratory surveys  in Bosnia.
     Although Amoco also declined to reveal its findings, the
company established a Bosnian subsidiary, the Amoco Dinarides
Petroleum Co., in July 1989.
     International oil experts say that Amoco and other foreign
companies found evidence of oil in the Dinarides Thrust and in
the  nearby Adriatic Sea.
     The Italian state-owned oil firm, AGIP, is already drilling
at  offshore sites in the Croatian Adriatic about 60 miles west
of the Dinarides Thrust.

     The situation in northern Bosnia, where Tuzla lies, is more
     ``What we know is that there are substantial petroleum
fields in the Serb-held part of Croatia, just across the Sava
River from the  Tuzla region,'' said Menad Peleksic, chief
consultant to Inter-Energo, the Bosnian state firm that succeeded
Energo Invest when the republic declared its full independence in
     ``Geologically, the two areas are quite similar, which means
it is possible that Tuzla also has reserves,'' he said.
     The World Bank -- and the multinationals that conducted
operations -- are reluctant to divulge their latest exploration
reports to the combatant governments while the war continues.
     ``Territorial disputes would have to be settled before any
Western oil company would want to become involved,'' said one
U.S.  expert.
     Peleksic worked for a subsidiary of Energo Invest until its
dissolution in 1992, and he paints a picture of organizational
chaos and sabotage at the war's onset that could explain how the
preliminary exploration documents vanished.
     ``When things started to fall apart, thousands of (Energo
employees) took advantage of whatever information they had under
their control and used it to serve their own interests,''
Peleksic added, obliquely referring to ethnic Serbs and Croats
who left Bosnia  after 1992.

     `The oil exploration was still at the embryonic stage
then,''  he emphasized. ``Whether or not Bosnian oil actually
holds commercial  promise remains to be seen.''
     But even at relatively long odds that oil could be
profitably  extracted, the region is of crucial interest to
war-devastated Bosnia  and Croatia.
     ``We were 10 percent behind Europe (economically) when this
terrible conflict began. Now we are 90 percent behind,'' said
Mevlida  Vlajic, Tuzla's director of economic development.
``There is no  potential source of recovery that we can afford to

The San Francisco Chronicle   http://sfgate.com
Monday, August 28, 1995 · Page A1
Frank Viviano reported this story from Bosnia and Kenneth Howe
from San Francisco.

(1) SF Chronicle, Aug 11 95 p12

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