Saturday, 7 May 2022

Plenković: Trust Between Bosniaks and Croats in Federation Needs To Be Restored

ZAGREB, 7 May 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday it was necessary to restore the trust between Bosniaks and Croats in the Federation entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina because without it, it would be difficult to ensure the functioning of the country which is choosing a new parliament in October in accordance with the old law.

The issue of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is important to Croatia and it is regrettable that the Bosniak and Croat parties have failed to reach an agreement on the electoral law reform ahead of the 2 October general election despite US and EU mediation, Plenković said at a working dinner held as part of the Global Europe Seminar in Salzburg on Friday.

In the autumn, "institutions will again be elected according to the old law and one constitutional people will not have its legitimate representatives," the prime minister said and added: "That's why we will try to restore the trust between Bosniaks and Croats in the Federation because it will be difficult for the country to function without it."

Earlier this week, the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina called the general election for 2 October even though the election law was not amended to prevent the more numerous Bosniaks from outvoting the Croats and to ensure the election of legitimate representatives of the Croats.

War in Ukraine

Speaking of the war in Ukraine, Plenković said that Russia had largely underestimated Ukraine's resistance, adding that Ukraine should be assisted in different areas and its ambition to get a special status in the EU should be supported.

"Russia has largely underestimated Ukraine, the courage of its people, the heroism of its soldiers and their determination to to fight back," the PM said. "We should support Ukraine's ambition to get a special status in the EU, but we should also support the EU membership ambitions of other countries."

He went on to say that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict have diverted attention from other global crises such as the nuclear threat from North Korea, negotiations with Iran, tensions in the South China Sea, US-China relations, climate change and illegal migration. "Unfortunately, none of these have disappeared."

Plenković said that the situation in the Western Balkans should be monitored closely. "We must not let those issues be overshadowed because they, too, require action."

Noting that "every crisis is, at the same time, an opportunity," the prime minister praised the EU for its COVID-19 response, saying that it was a sign of European solidarity that showed the Union's purpose and mission.

Plenković estimated that it was too early to say whether the EU would manage to resolve the energy crisis in the same way, by showing solidarity, expressing hope that it would.

He mentioned the strategic decision to phase out the EU's dependence on Russian energy sources by taking into account the specific circumstances of each country and creating alternative supply routes and networks. In this context, he emphasised the importance of the LNG terminal on the Croatian island of Krk.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Milanović Says No One Wants Bosnia to Join EU as Much as Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 April 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday Bosnia and Herzegovina was a security, emotional and state issue for Croatia and that no other state wanted it to join the EU as much, adding that he will see personally that Croats in BiH are not totally politically defeated in the next election.

"There is no state which wants BiH to enter the European Union as much and which is working on that as much as Croatia. For sentimental, but often purely selfish reasons. That's in the interest of the community I represent," Milanović said in Livno, BiH.

He was speaking at a ceremony marking 30 years of a military operation in which Croatian units stopped the Yugoslav People's Army and Serb forces from conquering Livno and cutting Croatia in two.

Milanović laid a wreath and lit candles at a monument to fallen Croatian defenders in the town.

He said questions would be raised about the motives of his messages in Livno, adding that Zagreb is pushing for BiH's perspective much more strongly "than a larger part of Sarajevo."

"This is important for us. For us, this is a security, emotional and state issue of a neighbouring state."

Milanović criticised international officials' treatment of BiH, notably attempts to "organise elections by force" and to defeat Croats in them.

"Agreements await you, not battles. Not all is lost. I will do everything so that not all is lost, so that you are represented by the people you elect."

He said the fundamental principles of the Dayton peace agreement were undermined in preparing general elections for October.

"That's not the path to Europe. A European state doesn't function like that," Milanović said, adding that he is not a nationalist, of which some Bosniak politicians and part of the public accuse him.

Speaking of the Croatian military victory in the Livno field, he said Croatia would never forget that. "Thirty years ago, BiH, the European BiH, was defended here with rare courage, as well as the Croatian coast. Croatia can't forget that."

He said that if Croatia and BiH had not had an armament embargo but had available arms as Ukraine did today, the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar "would not have fallen, the tanks would not have crossed the Danube."

Croatian National Assembly of BiH president Dragan Čović said the attempts to divide Croats in BiH would not succeed and that the principles from the country's Constitution for which the defenders had fought would be preserved.

"We neither did nor will allow constituency, equality and sovereignty to disappear from the Constitution," he said, adding that BiH will be the homeland of the Croatian people.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Pressure of Illegal Migrants on Croatia-BiH Border Decreasing

ZAGREB, 12 April 2022 - The number of illegal migrants trying to enter Croatia from Una-Sava Canton in the west of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been steadily decreasing as migrants have been looking for other routes to reach EU countries, according to estimates by government bodies and local police in west Bosnia.

According to police data, there are currently slightly more than 2,800 illegal migrants in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they are mostly from African and Asian countries.

Around 850 of them are accommodated in three reception centres and slightly more than 1,800 are staying in makeshift accommodation in Bihać, Cazin and Velika Kladuša or in illegal camps along the border with Croatia.

UNA-Sana Canton ministry of the interior spokesman Adnan Beganović has confirmed to the Banja Luka-based Nezavisne Novine paper that local police still control roads leading to that part of the country to prevent the arrival of new migrants.

He said that that way in 2021 police prevented the arrival of around 17,000 migrants, which is why the number of those trying to reach Croatia along that route has been declining.

"Currently the number of migrants leaving Una-Sana Canton is higher than the number of migrants arriving here. Those who do not manage to cross the border into Croatia are returning to Sarajevo or Serbia and looking for another route to reach Western European countries," Beganović said.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Plenković Appeals to Croat, Bosniak Parties to Agree on Bosnia Electoral Reform

ZAGREB, 5 April 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday called on Croat and Bosniak parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach an agreement on electoral reform so that all citizens and peoples in the country can be legitimately represented.

Croatia does not want the crisis due to changes to BiH's election law to be prolonged, he said at the opening of the 2022 International Economic Fair in Mostar, BiH.

"We appeal in particular to the leaders of the Bosniak and Croat parties to renew trust, to renew their alliance so that the election law can be changed."

We have shown willingness at the highest EU level to organise a continuation of the talks, Plenković said, adding that Croatia is doing that as a well-meaning friend which wants to help BiH to be functional.

"That's why it's important that BiH functions well, that a step forward is made with the support of the international community, and that the Croats are legitimately represented in state and Federation institutions."

Plenković said he initiated a debate on BiH at the European Council, which adopted conclusions to encourage an electoral reform agreement. That would be a way for BiH to continue its European journey, he added.

"That's the appeal of a friend, a country which wants BiH to get EU (membership candidate) status as soon as possible and step up its European journey."

Croatia is the second biggest investor in BiH and its main trade partner.

Plenković said the strengthening of infrastructure and economic ties was very important. He called for building a southern Croatia-BiH gas interconnection so that BiH can have diversified supply.

Hungarian FM criticises EU

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, speaking at the opening of the fair as the representative of the partner country, strongly criticised Brussels over the slow EU integration of Western Balkan countries.

He said Brussels was making a strategic mistake and that such conduct was damaging to regional security. He pushed for Serbia's EU accession and giving BiH candidate status.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić said any regional instability affected every Western Balkan country. "Instability is bad for everyone. It's necessary to build bridges of cooperation and to build a more progressive region."

The International Economic Fair Mostar is taking place after a two-year break due to COVID. It brought together 750 exhibitors from some 20 countries.

In Mostar, Plenković met with the leadership of the HDZ BiH party and is to meet the leadership of the Croatian National Assembly, an organisation of Croat political parties in BiH.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Tegeltija: Why Would Trebinje Airport Be a Problem to Dubrovnik?

ZAGREB, 2 April 2022 - The Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija, said on Saturday it was not clear to him why anyone in Dubrovnik and Croatia would be against the construction of an airport at Trebinje, noting that everyone would benefit from the project.

Tegeltija confirmed to the local media that he had received a letter from Dubrovnik Mayor Mate Franković requesting that all preparations for the construction of the Trebinje airport be suspended until the possible impact of the project on the environment, including the River Ombla, was assessed.

In his letter, Franković reminded Tegeltija that Bosnia and Herzegovina, just like Croatia and Serbia as a potential investor, was a signatory to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and that the airport construction should be suspended until it was confirmed that there would be no risk to the source of the River Ombla, which is situated only eight kilometres from the planned construction site.

The airport would be built in highly porous karst terrain.

Tegeltija said he was ready to discuss all unresolved issues with the Croatian government, including its plan to build a nuclear waste facility on Mount Trgovska Gora at Dvor na Uni, near the Bosnian border.

"I do not understand why the mayor of Dubrovnik is not happy about the construction of the airport at Trebinje, given its economic importance not just for Trebinje, but for the whole of Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina," Tegeltija said, avoiding a comment on Dubrovnik's concern about the possible pollution of the Ombla.

Trebinje Mayor Mirko Ćuk said that Franković should not be interfering in this project. "I am in favour of all conditions being met, but without political interference. It is superfluous to comment on the claim that the construction of the Trebinje airport will affect the source of the river."

Earlier this week, the Council of Ministers formulated a proposal to open talks with Serbia on a memorandum of understanding for the construction of an airport at Trebinje. The opening of talks requires the approval of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The idea to build the Trebine airport was first floated two years ago by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who said that the project was important for connecting Eastern Herzegovina to Serbia and the region and that it would be fully financed by Belgrade.

The airport would serve a town of barely 30,000 inhabitants and would be situated in a sparsely populated region. There are already three airports within a 50-km radius of Trebinje -- at Mostar, Dubrovnik and Tivat.   

For more, check out our business section.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Ambassador: BiH Media Invent Allegations on Croatia Pushing for Polls' Postponement

ZAGREB, 26 March 2022 - Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Ivan Sabolić on Friday denied allegations by some local media outlets about Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković having lobbied during the European Council's meeting for the deferment of Bosnia's general elections.

The allegations that Plenković advocated the postponement of the elections, which are expected to be held in October, and that the European Council dismissed that possibility were first presented by the Klix news portal, and after that some other local media outlets disseminated them.

Bosnian presidency member Željko Komšić immediately joined the comments that this failed attempt by Croatia's officials to defer the polls is an important and clear message to Bosnia and Herzegovina's authorities.

This prompted Ambassador Sabolić to issue a statement in which he denied the invented allegations.

The story about the refusal of the alleged Croatian proposal is made up with the obvious aim of downplaying the recognised and well-accepted constructive efforts of PM Plenković and the Croatian government to speed up a political agreement on the limited constitutional reform and the reform of the electoral law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the diplomat.

Sabolić recalled the Strategic Compass, adopted by the EU, fully recognised Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitutional architecture and that at Croatia's initiative, the EU reiterated its readiness to make additional engagement in a bid to help local politician to reach agreement on Bosnia's new electoral law.

The European Council, which held a two-day summit meeting in Brussels, also discussed "the prolonged political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina," read the Council's conclusions.

The European Union, which "reiterates its commitment to the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans," calls on leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina "to demonstrate a strong commitment to finalise swiftly the constitutional and electoral reform, vital for stability and full functionality of the country, as well as to support all other priority reforms set out in the Commission’s Opinion to obtain a candidate status."

"The European Union stands ready to continue its high-level engagement in this regard," the European Council says in its conclusions.

As for the Strategic Compass, the document reads that it is "of particular interest to support the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination of all citizens and constituent peoples as enshrined in the Bosnia and Herzegovina constitution."

For more, check out our politics section.


Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Croatia Wants March EU Summit to Discuss Bosnia

ZAGREB, 22 Feb 2022 - EU general affairs ministers began in Brussels on Tuesday to prepare the agenda of the next EU summit due in March, and Croatia has requested that the summit discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Croatia has pointed out that it would like to see a European Council debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina," said the state secretary at the Foreign Ministry, Andreja Metelko Zgombić.

She said the dangerous Ukraine situation should not overshadow the situation in BiH, which is at a key moment of talks on electoral reform aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination in the election process and ensuring the right of the constituent peoples to elect their representatives.

EU foreign ministers have discussed the Ukraine situation, which will be on the agenda of the spring summit on 24 and 25 March.

"I reiterated on Croatia's behalf the condemnation of Russia's recognition of two Ukrainian regions outside government control and supported the prompt adoption of a set of sanctions," said Metelko Zgombić.

EU foreign ministers are discussing sanctions against Russia at an extraordinary meeting in Paris.

Before it started, Croatian Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman condemned Russia's recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

"We call on Russia to revoke the recognition and to return to Normandy Format talks. I'd like to reiterate Croatia's full support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," he said.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Civic State Concept Ended Yugoslavia, Foreign Minister Says

ZAGREB, 19 Feb 2022 - Yugoslavia broke up because of the civic state concept being advocated for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Saturday, adding that Croatia's authorities have made the international community see that such an approach is harmful.

He was speaking in Munich, where he is attending a security conference which is also discussing the future of the Western Balkans and BiH.

Grlić Radman was commenting on a recent initiative by three members of the last Presidency of the former Yugoslavia, Stjepan Mesić, Bogić Bogićević and Vasil Tupurkovski, who propose abandoning the Dayton agreement and the ethnic concept of governance for BiH.

"They are comfortably making recommendations, yet are actually among those the most to blame for this situation," he said. "It was such a civic concept, coming from Belgrade that cost the former state and the consequence was the Great Serbian aggression."

"Slobodan Milošević wanted to create a unitary, centralised state that would be governed from Belgrade. It was because of such a narrative that the former state broke up," he said, adding that Mesić, Bogićević and Tupurkovski are pushing that narrative, which would have "horrible consequences" for BiH.

Grlić Radman said previous Croatian governments had failed to inform the international community about the BiH situation and that the incumbent government had changed that.

"It is because of all those missed opportunities by the former governments that we have the situation we have," he said, adding that Zagreb has "made international partners see that BiH's prospects depend on the spirit and letter of the Dayton agreement."

Grlić Radman took part in the security conference along with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu in a GLOBSEC debate on the situation in eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and the Three Seas Initiative.

He said the LNG terminal off Krk island, inaugurated at the start of 2021 and "entered onto the energy map of the world," was Croatia's contribution to the Initiative and Europe's energy independence.

Grlić Radman also took part in a debate organised by Google on new digital technologies, cyber security and the fight against disinformation.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Bosnia-Herzegovina Croat Umbrella Association Convening in Mostar

ZAGREB, 19 Feb 2022 -The Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HNS BiH)  started an extraordinary convention in Mostar on Saturday to draw up a document calling for the continuation of electoral reforms and warning that conditions have not been met for an election this autumn.

In a statement to the media prior to the convention, HNS BiH leader Dragan Čović said that the aim for Croat parties to gather was to "ensure complete constitutional equality of the Croat people with the other two constituent peoples in BiH."

"We want to make sure that Croats can elect legitimate political representatives at all levels of government in BiH," said Čović.

Asked whether HNS BiH would insist on the establishment of a third entity if the election law is not amended, Čović said that he did not wish to comment on speculation.

"Our message will be a sign of unity by representatives of the Croat people in BiH," he added.

The leader of the HDZ 1990, Ilija Cvitanović, who is also a member of the HNS BiH leadership, said that the conclusions of today's convention would be in line with the country's Constitution.

"With this, we are giving BiH a chance and offering our hand in an effort to define our relations on the basis of equality," underscored Cvitanović.


Thursday, 17 February 2022

Plenković Calls On Croat And Bosniak Leaders To Agree On A Fair Election Law

ZAGREB, 17 Feb 2022- Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković called on Bosnia and Herzegovina's Croat and Bosniak leaders on Thursday to make the extra effort to agree on a fair election law in that country.

"I once again call on the leaders of the Bosniak and Croat political parties, especially before a meeting of the Croat National Assembly in Mostar on Saturday, to try and resolve this problem in a fair and constructive way, and Croatia, as a friendly country, will help Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European path," Plenković said in Brussels.

Ahead of an informal EU summit on the Ukraine crisis and an EU-Africa summit, Plenković met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, discussing the extension of the deadline for the use of EU funding for the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia's journey towards membership of the Schengen area and the euro zone.

"Our position is clear: it is vital for the next election (in Bosnia and Herzegovina) to be held under a new, fair election law that will ensure legitimate representation, rather than hold the election at any cost, as a result of which the Croats might again be left feeling bad and the state would not be functioning well," Plenković said.

As for Croatia's Schengen bid, he said that the process was now "in the final stage of decision making." 

For more, check out our politics section.

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