Sunday, 18 April 2021

FM: Croatia Is a Friend of BiH, Against Balkan Borders Redrawing

April 18, 2021 - Croatia is not running away from outstanding issues in the relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the redrawing of Balkan borders. Croatia wants to address them just as it sincerely wants to help preserve that country's stability and its Euro-Atlantic path, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Sunday.

In an interview for the radio Sarajevo web portal, Grlić Radman said that his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina this week and talks with the country's highest officials took place positively and encouraging atmosphere.

"There is no doubt that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia are economically, culturally, and geographically oriented towards each other. They are and must be friends and thus have to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue. And that is the message that we have, I believe, sent during this visit. So, more talks, fewer misunderstandings," said the Croatian minister, confirming that holding a joint session of the two countries' governments is also planned.

He said that dialogue on all outstanding issues was important but should not behold in issuing statements to the media but through joint working groups and interdepartmental formats whose members are relevant experts.

"That is, I think, especially important so that those outstanding issues would not be exploited for daily political purposes, which could lead to further escalation of mutual misunderstandings," Grlić Radman said.

He added that he had clarified in direct communication during his visit to Sarajevo the purpose and content of the non-paper on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Western Balkans that Croatia sent to the EU Foreign Affairs Council on behalf of a group of six EU member states as a template for the debate announced for May. He stressed that with the document, Croatia had shown respect and appreciation for Bosnia and Herzegovina, opened space for a deeper discussion on critical topics to increase the European Union's attention to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its path to EU candidate status.

In that context, he explained that the need to reform Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law to eliminate all existing inequalities and improve the political climate and cooperation within the country was also brought up.

Commenting on the alleged document advocating the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina and changes to other borders in the Western Balkans, published by a Slovenian web portal without identifying the author or the intended audience, Grlić Radman said that he did not want to speculate about the alleged non-paper. Still, he underscored that border redrawing was out of the question to Croatia.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Coronavirus Cases Rise in BiH: Why is Croatia Opening Borders Now?

June 30, 2020 - The Croatian Minister of Interior Davor Bozinovic announced yesterday that a decision would be made "no later than today" to lift the mandatory two-week self-isolation for those entering Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina. reports that the announcement came just five days after stricter measures were introduced for Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia at the same time.

But apart from the fact that the measure, which is now being repealed, was introduced only a few days ago, there are two other important aspects of the story which should not be overlooked.

The first is the situation with the number of patients in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time when stricter measures were introduced, and the second is the situation with the number of patients today when the measures are lifted.

It would be expected that the epidemiological situation in BiH has improved in the meantime, so that the measures will be relaxed, as announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. But that is not the case.

On the day the decision on mandatory self-isolation was made for entry from BiH, there were 84 infections in that country. The day before the decision, there were 63 infected. Even days earlier, moreover, since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic in that country, the daily number of newly infected did not exceed 100.

So, how are things now that they've decided to lift the mandatory self-isolation for people entering Croatia from BiH?

There were twice as many cases in BiH yesterday than when stricter measures were adopted at the borders.

Yesterday, when Bozinovic announced the easing of measures, BiH had 128 newly infected.

The day before, they had 107 new cases.

They had as many as 179 new cases on Saturday, and the daily number of newly infected was well above 100 in the days before.

When the two-week self-isolation measure was introduced for travelers entering Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, it was explained by the poor epidemiological situation in those countries and the fact that most new cases in Croatia came from those countries.

"As for the decisions, they are based on the opinion of the medical experts. These decisions were made based on the recommendations of epidemiologists with regard to the situation in neighboring countries. We have an increase in those infected, and most of them came from BiH and Serbia. We will monitor everything that happens. We will make decisions faster and change them if necessary. The decision is valid for everyone. All persons who come to these countries, regardless of citizenship, must be in self-isolation," Bozinovic said at the time.

But, as we can see, now that the borders with BiH are reopening unconditionally, the situation there is worse than it was, and the daily numbers of newly infected are much higher than they were when the decision was made. The logical question, therefore, is why the decision on stricter measures at the BiH border was made when the epidemiological situation in that country was significantly better than now, when the decision is revoked.

"We are in the phase of dancing with the virus, and we are analyzing it daily. The EU will probably come out with recommendations, as these talks are underway today. We will probably liberalize the border crossings to some extent when it comes to EU citizens and our neighboring countries. This will mean entering the Republic of Croatia in a way that all those who enter adhere to epidemiological measures and would no longer mean the mandatory self-isolation for those who come from BiH. I expect that no later than tomorrow," said Bozinovic yesterday, which also hinted that the borders with Serbia could be opened, where the number of newly infected people is stagnant and around 250 for several days.

It should also be mentioned that BiH authorities negatively reacted to the decision on stricter measures at the border, and the country's foreign minister Bisera Turkovic announced reciprocal measures, which she withdrew after new announcements from Croatia. However, it is unlikely that the announcement of reciprocal measures from BiH forced the Croatian authorities to withdraw the decision, which leads us to another possible and much more probable reason - the elections to be held on Sunday.

After all, the president of HDZ BiH clearly explained it yesterday: "No border can separate the Croatian being and one nation into two homelands. Thank you to Prime Minister Plenkovic for his quick reaction and rational decision."

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