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After Yugoslavia's dissolution, borders cut through towns

Associated Press Associated Press 21/11/2016 By ALMIR ALIC, Associated Press
In this photo taken on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, Bosnian man Stojan Palija shows his land divided by state border between Bosnia and Croatia in the town of Bosanska Kostajnica, 450 kms west of Sarajevo. The state border dividing Bosnia from Croatia runs through the town and it's soccer field, leaving one third of it in one country the other two thirds in the other. (AP Photo/Almir Alic) © The Associated Press In this photo taken on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, Bosnian man Stojan Palija shows his land divided by state border between Bosnia and Croatia in the town of Bosanska Kostajnica, 450 kms west of Sarajevo. The state border dividing Bosnia from Croatia runs through the town and it's soccer field, leaving one third of it in one country the other two thirds in the other. (AP Photo/Almir Alic)

KOSTAJNICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Pretty much any soccer match played at the Kostajnica field is an international: The grounds were split between Croatia and Bosnia after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and players now cross in and out of the EU throughout the match.

A third of the field ended up in one country, the rest in the other. If the ball is kicked deep into a nearby grove of trees, that's when one of the staffers of the local Partizan club springs into action.

"The logistics manager always has a passport with him and then goes and gets the ball," said Zoran Avramovic, the club's vice president. However, the manager is rarely challenged, fans from the two countries mingle freely and the border isn't marked on the field.

In former Yugoslavia, borders of the six republics did not matter much and many towns, villages, roads and even airports developed over time, spreading over the administrative boundaries.

But as the republics declared independence in the early 1990s, those administrative lines became international borders which zig and zag through towns, villages and roads, creating problems for the residents.

One town like that is Kostajnica, where the border now cuts through the river Una over 20 times in the outskirts and then runs straight through town.

"Our sewage system as well as the electricity grid is split," said Aleksandar Pasic, the spokesman for the Kostajnica municipality in Bosnia.

"A number of residents now have their gardens in Croatia and must cross the border to get to them," he added.

Since Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, it had to enforce strict import rules, making it difficult for residents of Bosnian Kostajnica to do something as simple as hauling manure to their fields in Croatia.

So if Sead Ikanovic wants to work on his land or harvest his crops in Croatia, he first has to wash his tractor as one cannot enter the EU with dirty tires. Then he drives to the nearby border crossing to show his passport and then to his field. Bringing manure can be complicated.

"Ten years ago, I did not know I had to do all this and the Croatian police came as I was working in the field and took me in for questioning. I had to go to the court in Sisak and pay two fines and I was banned from entering," Ikanovic said. Sisak is a city in Croatia.

The rules have since changed, allowing Ikanovic and others like him to work on their fields in Croatia after presenting their passports.

"Now there are no problems if I show my documents but I wish the two countries would reach an agreement that would make it easier for us living here," Ikanovic said.

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