Željko Komšić Open to Dialogue with Zagreb

By 21 January 2019

ZAGREB, January 21, 2019 - The Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, Željko Komšić, said on Sunday he was open to dialogue with Croatia's leadership, who consider his election illegitimate, and that his country currently did not need the support of the Serb member of the presidency, Milorad Dodik, for the continuation of its journey towards NATO membership.

"As far as I am concerned, I don't see any other way but for us to relax our relations through cooperation and talks," Komšić said in a Croatian television current affairs talk show.

Komšić said that his country was interested in resolving issues concerning border demarcation and property relations and that the Croatian political leadership was welcome in Sarajevo in that regard. He noted that these issues should be resolved in such a way that neither party was damaged.

Speaking of the decision by dozens of predominantly-Croat municipalities and several cantons to declare him persona non grata because he had been elected the Croat member of the presidency thanks to Bosniak votes, Komšić said that this was "the policy of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)."

"If they don't need me, and they need me more than I need them, those municipal services and mayors, fine, but I stand at their disposal," he said. "As far as the Croats are concerned, and some of the Serbs too, they are certainly all aware that Bosnia and Herzegovina is their country. What politicians are saying is another matter," he added.

Komšić advocates Bosnia and Herzegovina as a civic state and is against the Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats being treated as constituent ethnic groups. He claims to be representing all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the same time, activists of the movement #SejdoKomsic is not my president, launched earlier this year, have announced protests for the 7th of every month to draw attention to what they call "the Bosniak's imposition of Komšić as the Croat representative." The movement was called after Sejdo Bajramović, a communist-era representative of Kosovo Albanians, whom the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic forced onto the Yugoslav federal presidency against the will of the Albanian people in Kosovo. More than 10,000 people took part in an anti-Komšić rally in Mostar.

Speaking of the constitutionality of the three largest ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, Komšić said that each group took from the constitution what suited them best. He said that the constitution was in many aspects illogical, but needed to be respected.

"Under the Bosnia and Herzegovina constitution, it is not just the Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs that are constituent. The constitution says that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the country of Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, others and citizens, which shows that the architects of the Dayton agreement took everything into account and did not reduce Bosnia and Herzegovina to just three ethnic groups," he said.

Komšić also noted that under the constitution the presidency members "are not representatives, but members of their ethnic group." "I am a member of the Croat ethnic group, but under the constitution I have the obligation to represent all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina," he added.

He said it was absurd that the presidency should have three members, recommending a chancellor-style system with a single president being elected in parliament as is the case in Germany. He said he would rather have certain powers of the presidency transferred to the government, or the Council of Ministers.

Speaking of the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, Komšić said that this problem could have been avoided had the border agreement signed by former presidents Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Franjo Tuđman of Croatia been ratified. He said that this hadn't been done because of the lack of will on Zagreb's part.

Komšić had previously announced that he would bring a lawsuit against Croatia over the Pelješac Bridge construction project, but now he said that there would be no suit and that he preferred dialogue. "It is impossible to separate Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. What we think of each other is irrelevant, we need to work together," he stressed.

Apart from the Pelješac Bridge, Sarajevo and Zagreb are also in dispute over border demarcation and Yugoslav-era properties which Croatia has not returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Komšić warned.

Commenting on his statement that the biggest threats to the region are posed by Serbian, Croatian and Albanian territorial expansion projects, Komšić said that in his opinion these projects present, partly directly and partly indirectly, a great threat to his country.

Commenting on the statement by Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegović, made in the same television programme a year ago, that it would not be possible to establish a third, Croat-majority entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina without a war, Komšić said that those who were ready to take up arms were in the minority, adding that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina had no will to fight any more.

Komšić said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was currently closer to becoming a member of NATO than of the European Union because the NATO accession process was simpler and would bring benefits more quickly.

NATO membership brings security to the whole country, "a possible intervention from the outside is out of the question", but it requires political reforms, he said.

The NATO membership bid is also supported by the Bosniak member of the presidency, Šefik Džaferović, but the Serb member Milorad Dodik is against.

Dodik insists that his candidate for Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija, will have to comply with the resolution, passed by the Bosnian Serb National Assembly in 2017, which promotes the military neutrality of the Republika Srpska entity and is therefore an obstacle to Bosnia and Herzegovina joining NATO.

Džaferović and Komšić have warned that the new Chairman must not be a person who will block the country's path towards NATO membership because this is its foreign policy commitment.

Komšić said in the television interview on Sunday that he was unable to convince Dodik for now, but that all decisions and documents were prepared and that Dodik's consent was not needed at present.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.