Friday, 17 June 2022

New Sarajevo-Ploce Train Line to Begin Running This July

June the 17th, 2022 - After an almost decade-long break, the Sarajevo-Ploce train line is set to be introduced next month, as we approach the very height of the summer tourist season. The direct line will certainly make travelling to southern Dalmatia that bit easier for many from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As Morski writes, as of next month, the Sarajevo-Ploce train line (which will be direct and will operate on a seasonal basis) will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from July the 1st, 2022 to September 11th, 2022.

A meeting of the representatives of the Croatian Railways and the FBiH (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) Railways was held recently in the City of Zagreb, during which it was agreed that the Sarajevo-Ploce train line would be reintroduced after a long eight and a half year break, much to the delight of many would-be travellers.

It hasn't yet been stated how long a single trip on this particular line will actually last, but it was said that passengers will be transported by modern and comfortable Talgo wagons and that those travelling in groups of six or more adult passengers will have a 30 percent discount on their ticket price.

Children aged four to twelve, blind people and their entourage and groups of more than thirty passengers have a discount of as much as fifty percent on the ticket price.

The public will be informed about the exact timetable of the new and likely highly popular Sarajevo-Ploce train line and ticket prices in a timely manner, they announced from FBiH Railways.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

European People's Party Calls for Electoral and Constitutional Reforms in BiH

ZAGREB, 1 June 2022 - The European People's Party (EPP) adopted a resolution at its conference in Rotterdam on Wednesday, calling for electoral and constitutional reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina in line with decisions by international courts and the BiH Constitutional Court.

The "emergency resolution", tabled by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) calls for "electoral reforms to be addressed swiftly in an inclusive manner while complying with the requirements of EU membership."

As the largest group in the European Parliament the EPP believes that it is necessary to implement "electoral and constitutional reforms, in line with both EU principles and international and constitutional court decisions, which includes the equality of (Bosnia and Herzegovina's) three constituent people, others and all citizens."

As a positive example, the resolution cites the agreement between political parties to hold local elections in Mostar in December 2020 which, it says, underlined "the multicultural reality of BiH."

The EPP welcomed a recent visit by European Council President Charles Michel to Sarajevo.

The resolution notes that "in the context of the drastically deteriorated security environment in Europe," caused by Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the Union "must prevent possible new negative scenarios and make efforts to steer the Southeast Europe towards accelerated acceptance of fundamental European values."

The EPP condemned any questioning of BiH's territorial integrity and sovereignty and any unconstitutional secessionist actions, calling for the blockade of state institutions to be lifted.

"The EPP supports political dialogue which must be given priority over blocking the most important political processes and reforms," the resolution notes.

After an agreement was achieved on the text of the resolution, a number of media outlets in Sarajevo said on Tuesday evening that the term "legitimate representatives", as proposed in the HDZ's original draft, was removed, which they interpreted as a defeat of the policy pursued by the HDZ and the HDZ BiH.

The leaders of the largest Croat and Bosniak parties in BiH, Dragan Čović (HDZ BIH) and  Bakir Izetbegović (SDA) respectively, attended the conference.

Their parties are EPP candidates so their delegates could not vote, and both leaders expressed appreciation for the resolution but put emphasis on different elements.

"The EPP has called for an urgent reform of the election law in line with international rulings and decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court, including the equality of the three constituent peoples as a necessary precondition for Bosnia and Herzegovina's political stability and European future," Čović said on Tuesday, adding that the EPP remains to be a reliable partner to the HDZ BiH, the Fena news agency reported.

In a Twitter post on Tuesday Izetbegović thanked "friends and partners in the EPP for accepting our arguments and recognising, in the adopted resolution, the real priorities in BiH as well as clearly identifying the political actors who are blocking democratic processes in the country and its journey to the European Union."

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Čović: It Would Be Wrong for HNS BiH to Choose Between Milanović or Plenković

ZAGREB, 20 May 2022 - Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian National Council (HNS) leader Dragan Čović said on Friday it would be a "catastrophic mistake" for Croat politicians in BiH to choose between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković or President Zoran Milanović, as both advocates the better status of local Croats.

"It would be a catastrophic mistake for representatives of the Croat people in BiH to take that course in pursuing their policy," Čović said.

Being the leader of the HDZ BiH party I could also afford that luxury to connect with the interests of the president of the HDZ in Croatia, which is logical, he told a press conference in Mostar when asked with whom the HNS BiH would side, President Milanović or Prime Minister Plenković.

Earlier this week President Milanović called for Croat parties in BiH to state whether they support his stance to block Finland and Sweden's application to NATO until the election law in BiH is amended whereas Prime Minister Plenković considers that approach is mere exhibitionism and is damaging to Croatia and Croats in BiH.

The presidents of three minor Croat parties, and members of the HNS BiH, supported Milanović's stance.

Čović explained that it is necessary to preserve the unity within HNS BiH, adding that he appreciates Milanović.

"As the president of HNS BiH, it is necessary to take into account all the elements, valuing everything that Croatia's President is doing, whose advocacy corresponds to everything we are seeking here as the Croat people. There is no doubt that sounds good to our people in Croatia and BiH because it has mobilized public opinion to an enviable degree so they can feel this problem," he added.

According to Čović, Prime Minister Plenković has managed to promote the importance of amending the election law in the world and for the legitimate representation and equality of Croats in BiH.

He said that HNS BiH will not influence Croatia's foreign policy, referring to Croatia's position on Finland and Sweden's NATO application.

"It is our opinion that we cannot influence Croatia's foreign policy. According to the Constitution, its foreign policy is co-defined by the president and prime minister. We will agree to whatever they agree to on the foreign policy plan," he said.

Čović added that he would meet with European Council President Charles Michel in Sarajevo on Saturday, adding that the visit would not have occurred without Prime Minister Plenković's lobbying.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

BiH: No Money for Elections Yet, HDZ Minister Says Exposed to Political Pressure

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Contrary to expectations, Bosnia and Herzegovina's government on Tuesday failed to adopt a decision to secure funds for the implementation of 2 October general elections, with Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda of the HDZ BiH saying an attempt was made to do it illegally by using political pressure.

The government held a conference call at which a proposal was made to finance the elections with budget reserves accumulated in previous years, which was a fallback option because the budget for 2022, which was to contain funds for the elections, has not been adopted yet due to political disputes in the country.

The adoption of the decision on securing funds for the elections was eventually blocked by ministers from the Croat HDZ BiH party while Serb and Bosniak ministers voted in favour.

Under the current election law, 19 May is the deadline by which the country's government, the Council of Ministers, must secure funds for the implementation of elections which the Central Election Commission (SIP) has estimated will cost more than €6.5 million.

The general election is expected to be held based on the country's existing election law after the failure of all attempts to change the law in order to secure the implementation of rulings of the BiH Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Their implementation was to have eliminated discrimination of voters in the election process based on their ethnicity or place of residence as well as secure the right for Croat voters to elect on their own Croat representatives to the BiH Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's Bosniak-Croat entity.

Parties gathered around the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HNS BiH) maintain there are therefore no legal preconditions to implement the election results.

They have decided, however, to participate in the elections, hopeful that before October some sort of agreement on the election reform could be reached, a possibility the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has resolutely dismissed.

Immediately after SIP called the elections on 4 May, the BiH Council of Ministers was asked to secure funds for their implementation, a request openly supported by the Office of the High Representative, the United States and the most influential EU member countries.

In a separate statement issued after the vote at the Council of Ministers, Finance Minister Bevanda claimed money for the elections cannot be secured the way it was attempted on Tuesday.

"Law and lawful conduct were evidently not a priority in proposing this decision," Bevanda said, noting the proposal was a result of political pressure.

He accused SIP of "an unprecedented campaign of imputation and manipulation", an allusion to the fact that SIP has accused him of trying to obstruct the implementation of the elections and threatened to sue him.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Grlić Radman Asks For Additional US Engagement Regarding BiH Election Reform

ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Sunday asked at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for additional US engagement on the election reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, warning that otherwise radicalisation was possible in the country.

"I told the US Secretary of State that we are very much concerned about the missed chance to amend the BiH election law. I also warned of possible radicalisation of the situation after the elections," Grlić Radman told reporters.

He added that he had asked Blinken that the US enhance its presence and help ensure agreement between local Bosniak and Croat leaders on rules for general elections to be held in October.

The two officials were attending an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO member-countries which again supported Ukraine in the fight against the Russian aggression.

"All the ministers reiterated their solidarity and expressed readiness for stronger engagement, not only by individual countries but by NATO as a whole," said the Croatian minister.

He stressed that NATO was not a party to the conflict but that it supported Ukraine's "just and defensive war."

At a meeting with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, Grlić Radman guaranteed full support to Finland and Sweden's bid to join NATO.

"We discussed also the pace of the procedure and I believe the issue could be resolved before the NATO summit to be held in Madrid in June," Grlić Radman said.

He repeated that he believed the doubts Turkey has expressed regarding the accession of Finland and Sweden would soon be removed through talks.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Komšić to Seek Another Term on Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

ZAGREB, 8 May 2022 - The Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite state presidency, Željko Komšić, has confirmed he will seek another term in office at the general election set for 2 October.

"Yes, I will. I must continue, I cannot stop now," Komšić said in a programme of the commercial Face TV channel on Saturday when asked by the programme's host whether he would run for office again.

He said he would be the candidate of his party, the Democratic Front, and that he did not know if any large party would support him. "They all have their own policies and they must have candidates for this most important office."

Komšić said his candidacy was motivated by his struggle for a political concept in which people in Bosnia and Herzegovina would be recognised as individuals.

Komšić has been elected as the Croat representative three times. The country's election law allows two consecutive terms on the presidency, so he is entitled to seek another term.

His election angered the parties gathered within the Croatian National Assembly claiming that he was elected by Bosniaks and not Croats whose interests he was supposed to represent. That's why they insist that the present election law be amended to ensure legitimate representation.

Under the election law, the presidency consists of one Croat and one Bosniak from the Croat-Bosniak Federation entity and one Serb from the Republika Srpska entity.

The European Court of Human Rights has found in five of its rulings that this provision is discriminatory because it limits suffrage to ethnic affiliation and place of residence while preventing members of ethnic minorities and other groups from running for the presidency.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Grlić-Radman: Croatia Will Prevent Further Disenfranchisement of BiH Croats

ZAGREB, 4 May 2022 - Croatia's Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman criticised the decision by BiH's Central Electoral Commission (SIP) to call an election, claiming that it cannot interpret non-existing provisions of the country's election law and noting that Zagreb will prevent further disenfranchisement of BiH Croats.

"Croatia will continue to prevent any scenario... that are aimed at further disenfranchising and destabilising Croats in BiH. Croatia will not stand by passively. That is why I deliberately came here today to show that we will continue to be resolute and firm," Grlić Radman said and conveyed a message from Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about "support to issues that are of vital interest for the Croat people in BiH."

Grlić Radman was speaking to reporters in Mostar, ahead of a conference dedicated to BiH's European integration.

SIP called a general election for 2 October despite the fact that provisions on the way delegates are elected to the House of Peoples have been erased, and the only one to oppose SIP's decision was its Croat member Vlado Rogić.

According to Minister Grlić Radman, there were no legal preconditions for SIP to call the election.

"We believe that SIP has assumed the prerogatives of the constitution-maker and legislature, which it cannot do. It is an administrative body and is not competent with regard to the erased articles of the election law," said Grlić Radman, noting that the erased positions suggest the law is deficient.

In its ruling on a complaint by Božo Ljubić of the umbrella BiH Croat organisation HNS BiH in the summer of 2017, the BiH Constitutional Court erased provisions of the election law regulating the indirect election of deputies to the BiH Federation House of Peoples, the Bosniak-Croat entity parliament's upper chamber, asking the national parliament to amend them to prevent manipulation in the election of representatives of the three constituent peoples in that chamber.

The Constitutional Court also erased a provision under which each of the ten cantons in the entity had to elect a representative of the constituent peoples to the House of Peoples if they were elected to the cantonal assembly. That segment has remained undefined throughout the election reform process.

Grlić Radman believes that that job is within the remit of the state-level parliament and that SIP cannot decide on the composition of the BiH Federation House of Peoples.

"The House of Peoples is a constitutional category and it cannot be filled by an administrative body," he underscored.

He expressed disappointment that the largest Bosniak party - SDA - had obstructed the election reform and added that outvoting Croats in BiH would not do good to anyone.

Grlić Radman, who was participating in a conference entitled "Preparing for Tomorrow: Europe's Global and Regional Role in Responding to Transnational Challenges", said Croatia wanted BiH and other Southeast European countries to join the EU as soon as possible.

BiH's Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Brkić said that there was no alternative to membership in the EU and NATO for BiH and the entire region.

"We are living the alternative now - an unstable and questionable economic and political situation, not just in BiH but in the entire Southeast Europe, which will stabilise in the future in the EU and become a better place to live in," said Brkić.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina General Election Called For 2 October

ZAGREB, 4 May 2022 - A general election will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 2 October, the Central Electoral Commission (SIP) decided on Wednesday.

"The election will be held on Sunday 2 October and the funds for the election have to be secured within 15 days of calling the election," SIP president Suad Arnautović said after the decision on the election was adopted.

Around €6 million has to be secured to conduct the election, which is to be decided by the Council of Ministers. The decision is uncertain at this point because the 2022 budget has not been adopted yet.

Only one of the two Croat members of the electoral commission voted against calling the election.

"There are no legal provisions or conditions at the moment to hold a free and democratic election in line with the Constitution," Vlado Rogić said. He claimed that a permanent election crisis has existed in BiH for years.

Rogić said that it is clear to everyone that a ruling by the European Court for Human Rights and the BiH Constitutional Court in the Ljubić case have not been implemented, which practically repealed the part of the election law that defines the way in which the House of Peoples in the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity is formed.

"In this case, there is no legal void and it cannot be resolved in any other way except to adopt new legislative provisions. We know that the Constitutional Court has ordered that, but those provisions have still not been adopted and BiH is getting into a situation where there are no provisions on key issues such as the election of certain bodies," Rogić said.

SIP member Vanja Bjelica Prutina claimed that Rogić's interpretation of legal void is unfounded and that there is no basis to defer the election because it is defined by the existing election law.

"I'm personally disappointed because parliament has failed to implement the rulings for years and that is truly defeating. However, that cannot affect the obligation to call an election," Bjelica Prutina said.

Also adopted were implementing acts and time limits, as well as a decision to conclude the electoral roll as it was on 3 May.

BiH citizens will vote for three members of the country's presidency, the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliament and of the Federation entity parliament, the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska entity and the president and vice president of that entity.

Cantonal councils in the Federation entity are elected directly. Cantonal councillors will then be delegated to form the new House of Peoples in the Federation entity, who in turn will elect delegates to the House of Peoples in the state parliament. A new speaker and two deputy speakers of the Federation parliament are elected indirectly.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Bosniaks in Upper House of Parliament Block Croat Proposal to Amend Electoral Law

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Bosniak members of Bosnia and Herzegovina's upper house of parliament on Wednesday blocked a vote on amendments to the electoral law put forward by the Croat HDZ BihH party, scuppering the last chance of changing the law before general elections are called for October.

"We declare this proposal harmful to the vital national interests of the Bosniak people," said MP Asim Sarajlić of the Democratic Action Party (SDA). He said that the proposal was completely unacceptable, unilateral and unconstitutional because relevant parliament committees did not have a chance to discuss it.

The parliamentary rules of procedure provide that in case of invoking protection of vital national interests a commission consisting of three members of each national political group should be immediately convened to address the issue in question. If the commission fails to do so, the matter is referred to the Constitutional Court within five days to be dealt with under an urgent procedure.

Explaining the proposal, HDZ MP Bariša Čolak said that his party aimed to create necessary legal prerequisites for calling elections, which the Central Election Commission plans to do on 4 May so that elections can be held in October.

"We no longer have time to wait, because elections have been announced and more comprehensive changes cannot be made because we have no time to amend the constitution," Čolak said, adding that this is why the proposal does not provide for the implementation of any of the five relevant judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights.

Čolak said that the most important thing now was to ensure the election of legitimate members of the state presidency and the upper houses of parliament at the state and entity level to prevent the domination of one constituent peoples over another.

HDZ BiH leader Dragan Čović said there were no legal conditions to hold elections after all attempts to reach a negotiated solution had failed in the last two years and the agreement signed by him and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegović in Mostar in 2020 was frustrated.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

PM: It's Hard to Change Someone's Attitudes on BiH Impacted by Sarajevo Narrative

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - It is difficult to change the position of the international community on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was tailored by the "Sarajevo narrative", especially since the previous (Croatian) governments did not work on that, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in parliament.

Presenting a report on the meetings of the European Council to the members of the parliament, Plenković in particular referred to the discussions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressing it was a success that a reference on BiH's constituent peoples was included in the Strategic Compass, at Croatia's insistence.

"Those in charge of the foreign policy before us could also have discussed this topic, but they never did in this way," said Plenković.

MPs of the Bridge party criticised Plenković for not having done enough to change the existing BiH election law, which allows for Croats there to be outvoted due to their small number.

MP Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) pointed out that a reference to constituent peoples in the Strategic Compass was not a success as that was a fact which was part of the BiH Constitution.

"Equality of constituent peoples did not exist as a reference. That may seem obvious, simple to you, like copying the Constitution, but it is not," said Plenković, underscoring that Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic explicitly opposed it.

According to Plenković, this "speaks of the rooted attitudes in the international community, which was primarily generated by the political narrative of Sarajevo".

"In Sarajevo, there have been no Croats in the political sense for nearly two decades, and this fact is partly the reason why all international representatives who spend some time there ultimately adopt that narrative," said Plenković.

According to him, for years there has been a lack of understanding of the way BiH is organised.

"Changing that after so many years is extremely difficult," said Plenković, adding that his cabinet has done more over the past two years than all the previous governments combined.

PM: I don't think drone crashed in Zagreb by accident

Plenković also commented on the crash of a Soviet-era unmanned aerial vehicle in Zagreb on 10 March, saying that it was indicative that it had exploded during an informal meeting in Versailles, when a statement on Russia's aggression against Ukraine was discussed.

"It is not highly probable that of all the places within the radius of its range, it crashed in the capital of Croatia. I'm not so inclined to believe in the strange aleatory path of that unmanned aerial vehicle considering how likely it was for it to crash in Zagreb," said Plenković.

Davorko Vidović of the SDP said that Croatia, despite all claims of the government's foreign policy successes, "is the only member of the European Union that has been attacked, and we as citizens do not know who attacked us and why".

At the moment, we cannot categorically state whether that was an attack, a mistake or sabotage, said Plenković.

Friendly relations with Ukraine

The Croatian premier also spoke about the EU's response to Russia's aggression and pointed out that the European Union and Croatia "show solidarity, unity and determination" by providing humanitarian, political, military, technical and other aid to Ukraine and with readiness to find alternative energy sources.

"Croatia has sincere and friendly relations with Ukraine. Ukraine was the first to recognise us. We support its sovereignty and integrity," Plenković said.

He noted that Croatia had received 15,000 refugees from Ukraine, that it had supported the opening of an investigation of the International Criminal Court into war crimes in Ukraine, and that it supported Ukraine's European perspective.

"Croatia will help Ukraine, we want it to get a special institutional status with regard to the EU in these circumstances," said Plenković.

For more, check out our politics section.

Page 1 of 8