Thursday, 23 June 2022

Milanović Seeks EU Membership Candidate Status For Bosnia And Herzegovina

ZAGREB, 23 June 2022- Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Thursday again urged the European Union to grant membership candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit to decide on the membership candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, for which there is widespread support.

Milanović on Thursday requested the same status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has Slovenian President Borut Pahor's strong support for this, and Austria has also joined the initiative.

"We have heard from all member states that Ukraine will get the candidate status, which is fine, but Ukraine, just like Moldova, has some huge problems," Milanović said.

"This is an opportunity to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina the candidate status, as an act of confidence and hope," the Croatian president said, adding that he could not see how anyone could be against it.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Cavusoglu in Favour of Meeting of Croatia, Turkey, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina Leaders

ZAGREB, 18 June 2022 - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Sarajevo on Saturday that Ankara would not allow new tension in Bosnia and Herzegovina, advocating a meeting of leaders of Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to help preserve the country's stability.

For the sake of Bosnia and Herzegovina's stability and development we are willing to support and participate in any bilateral and multilateral political, economic and other initiatives that are acceptable to all sides, and we constantly encourage them in that sense, the Turkish official said at a news conference he held together with his BiH counterpart Bisera Turković.

The proposal to hold a quadrilateral meeting was put forward earlier this week by the Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Milorad Dodik, during a visit to Ankara.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is crucial to regional stability and therefore we cannot allow new tension in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cavusoglu said, noting that everyone should act responsibly.

Dodik has proposed that the stabilisation of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be discussed by the presidents of Turkey, Croatia and Serbia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Zoran Milanović and Aleksandar Vučić respectively, as well as by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks.

Turkey will support any format of talks and agreement if all political stakeholders in your country agree on it, Cavusoglu said.

He recalled that during his visit to Zagreb on Friday, he had made it very clear that Ankara would support all activities aimed at preserving Bosnia and Herzegovina's integrity.

Turkey respects the fact that Dodik is the Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, he said when asked about his country's position on Dodik.

Whether you love him or not, Milorad Dodik is a member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Cavusoglu said.

At meetings with Dodik, Turkey makes its positions on Republika Srpska's moves regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina's political and territorial integrity very clear, Cavusoglu said in an evident allusion to announcements by the Serb entity of the transfer of powers from the state to the entity level, which is seen as an attempt at secessionism.

Cavusoglu on Saturday held talks with his Bosnia and Herzegovina counterpart Bisera Turković, and the two ministers signed two agreements.

Turkey supports Bosnia and Herzegovina's integration with NATO and the EU, Turković stressed.

Cavusoglu also held separate meetings with Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency members Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović, and on Friday evening he met with the international community's High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, and the head of the country's Islamic community, Rais Husein Kavazović. He also visited the grave of the Bosniak wartime leader and Bosnia and Herzegovina's first president, Alija Izetbegović.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

New Round of Talks on Bosnia Electoral Reform in 10 days, Says Čović

ZAGREB, 7 May 2022 - Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HNS BiH) president Dragan Čović said on Saturday a new round of talks on electoral reform in BiH would be held in ten days as a result of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's initiative to avert a crisis after the next election in BiH.

Speaking to the press in Mostar, Čović said he spoke with European representatives last night to prepare the new round of electoral reform talks, even though a general election has already been called for October and Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegović has dismissed the possibility of the initiative succeeding.

Čović said the new round was aimed at once again attempting to change the election law so that "elections can have their point and true democracy."

He said the new round was a result of Plenković's talks this week with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, and Commissioners Johannes Hahn and Paolo Gentiloni, among others.

Plenković has underlined that it is necessary to restore trust between between Bosniaks and Croats in the Federation entity of BiH because without it, it would be difficult to ensure the functioning of the country.

Čović said he expected Bosniak politicians to resist the initiative because they wanted control of the Federation, adding that no one in BiH needed that.

Asked about the HNS BiH's steps for a territorial reorganisation of BiH, he said federalisation would build a European BiH and that they would not give up on that.

He welcomed the efforts by Plenković and Croatian President Zoran Milanović aimed at achieving equality for Croats in BiH and stopping the three-and-a-half-times more numerous Bosniaks from outvoting them in elections.

For more, check out our politics section.

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.

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.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Milanović: Finland, Sweden Can't Join NATO Before Bosnia Election Law Changed

ZAGREB, 26 April 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that Finland and Sweden could not join NATO before the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina was changed.

The Croatian parliament "must not ratify anyone's accession to NATO" until that law is changed, he told the press. The accession of Finland and Sweden can be discussed, but it is "a very dangerous adventure," he added.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, next month the two countries will state their wish to join NATO, their media reported yesterday.

Milanović said that formally he could not decide on his own on their accession to NATO but called it "very dangerous charlatanism."

"As far as I'm concerned, let them join NATO... but until the issue of the election law in BiH is solved, until the Americans, the English, the Germans, if they can and want to, force (Bosniak officials) to change the election law in the next six months and give Croats their fundamental rights, the Sabor must not ratify anyone's accession to NATO."

Milanović said "we are in a terrible situation" because Bulgaria and Romania cannot join Schengen, North Macedonia and Albania cannot begin EU accession negotiations and Kosovo has not been recognised, while Finland "can join NATO overnight."

We are only asking that Finland and Sweden "tell the Americans to solve this," he said. "For me, that's a vital national interest of the Croatian state, nation and people, that BiH be a functioning state."

Milanović said he raised this issue with his French and German counterparts, but that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, due to his function, had a lot more room for that. "But he is neglecting that consciously and cowardly."

Asked if Croats in BiH should boycott general elections in October unless the election law was changed, Milanović said he did not know at the moment. "It seems to me the feeling among Croats in BiH is that they shouldn't boycott so as not to bring into question local government."

Commenting on the victory of manager Robert Golob and his party in Sunday's parliamentary election in Slovenia, he said Slovenia had been "left-liberal" for the past 30 years.

Croatia-Slovenia relations have been "really good" in the past two years, he said, adding that this was due also to Prime Minister Janeza Janša, who was defeated in Sunday's vote.

"We have seen that Croatia-Slovenia relations have been more stable when Janša was in power, but they were not hostile when the left was in power either."

Tanja Fajon, whom Slovenian media say might be the new foreign minister, was in the past against Croatia's accession to Schengen.

"If they want to prevent Croatia's Schengen entry, okay. Croatia won't go down because of that. They will cause damage to themselves," said Milanović.

He said Croatia was ready for Schengen already in 2015, but added that it was "a political decision and torture." He also criticised the fact that Bulgaria and Romania have not yet entered Schengen, despite being in the EU since 2007.

"Slovenia will, if it looks after its interests, ask that Croatia join Schengen. If not, if will have to hire another 20,000 police officers," said Milanović, who is meeting with Slovenian President Borut Pahor later today.

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

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Zagreb Mayor Offers Help to Quake-affected Areas in SE Bosnia And Herzegovina

ZAGREB, 23 April 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević has offered humanitarian and other assistance to the mayors of Mostar and Stolac after a strong earthquake struck southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina late on Friday.

Tomašević has spoken by telephone with the Mayor of Mostar, Mario Kordić, and the Mayor of Stolac, Stjepan Bošković, conveying his sympathies and offering help, he said on Twitter on Saturday.

Zagreb itself was hit by a 5.5 magnitude earthquake on 22 March 2020 and has received aid from other towns and cities.

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after 11 pm on Friday. The epicentre was between the towns of Ljubinje and Stolac.

The earthquake claimed the life of a 28-year-old woman, who suffered fatal injuries after a rock fell on her house in Stolac. Several people were lightly injured elsewhere in the region, and the property damage is being assessed.

The tremor was also felt in neighbouring Croatia and Montenegro. 

In the southern Croatian border town of Metković, firefighters received five calls for assistance in removing damaged chimneys and shattered windows, while elsewhere in Dubrovnik-Neretva County firefighters were called in to help clear rockslides. 

There was no need to involve firefighters from other areas of the county, the Croatian Fire Service said on Saturday, adding that the situation is under control.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Dubrovnik Mayor Asks Bosnia Government to Halt Construction of Trebinje Airport

ZAGREB, 2 April 2022 - Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković has sent a request to Bosnia and Herzegovina's Council of Ministers to halt the construction of the airport in the town of Trebinje, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, until the impact of the project on the source of the River Ombla is assessed.

The road distance between Dubrovnik and Trebinje is roughly 30 kilometres.

The mayor sent the request to the chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina's ministerial council, Zoran Tegeltija, on Friday following the adoption of a memorandum by Bosnia's Council of Ministers and the government of Serbia on the future cooperation with the aim of implementing the project of Trebinje Airport.

Franković recalls that apart from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are also signatories to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (informally called the Espoo Convention).

The document is a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) convention signed in Espoo, Finland, in 1991 that entered into force in 1997.

The Convention sets out the obligations of Parties—that is States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention—to carry out an environmental impact assessment of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries.

Franković says that the construction of airports is covered by the convention whereby the signatories are obliged to apply the principles and provisions of ESPO as well as of the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

"Therefore we express dissatisfaction with the current course of action and with the absence of initiative for dialogue...concerning this environmentally important issue," writes the mayor of the southernmost Croatian city.

Dubrovnik insists on the immediate suspension of the project until all the fulfillment of the requirements under the ESPO convention and SEA protocol.

According to the available information, the future airport should be situated in a Karst area and on soil permeable to water in the Talež settlement in the Serb entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, just eight kilometres of the source of the River Ombla.

For more, check out our business section.


Friday, 25 March 2022

Croatian Prime Minister: Bosnia Conclusions Impetus to Leaders to Complete Electoral Reform

ZAGREB, 25 March (2022) - The entire European Union has recognised Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitutional architecture, and the conclusions adopted by the European Council at Croatia's initiative should be an impetus to Croat and Bosniak leaders to reach a deal on electoral reform,  Prime Minister Andrej Plenković says.

On Friday, the European Council consisting of the heads of state or government of the 27 EU member-states, endorsed the Strategic Compass, a document on the European Union's defence vision in the coming years.

Concerning the topic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Strategic Compass 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," according to the document made available recently.

Furthermore, at the insistence of PM Plenković, the European Council discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday morning.

It adopted the conclusions in which the leaders in that country are urged to complete the electoral and constitutional reform.

The European Union reaffirms its commitment to the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans, read the conclusions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's leaders are urged to show strong determination regarding the fast completion of the electoral and constitutional reform, which is described by the document as crucial for the stability and full functionality of the country.

They are also encouraged to support all other priorities from the European Commission's opinion on the plans to grant a candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In this regard, the European Union is ready to continue its high-level engagement, it was concluded.

Upon the adoption of the conclusions, Croatia's PM said that this was a constructive contribution of a friendly and benevolent country that has the 1000-kilometre-long border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Asked by the press why the HDZ BiH party did not vote for the proposalmade by Denis Bećirević of the opposition SDP party to adopt a declaration condemning Russia's military aggression against Ukraine in Bosnia and Herzegovina's House of Peoples, Plenković said that one of the opposition SDP MPs had launched that initiative on his own.

The HDZ BiH party has clearly supported the whole set of sanctions which the EU adopted against Russia, and there i no dilemma about that, he explained.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

BiH Official: No Information on Security Threats to Croatian President

ZAGREB, 19 Dec, 2021 - The police and security services in Bosnia and Herzegovina have said they did not receive any information of a threat to the security of Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who, according to a statement from his office, on Sunday cancelled his visit to central Bosnia and Herzegovina for security reasons.  

The head of the BiH Directorate for the Coordination of Police Agencies, Mirsad Vilić, told the Bosnia and Herzegovina BHRT public broadcaster on Sunday that they had worked for days with police agencies from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia that were involved in the organisation of the Croatian president's visit to central Bosnia.

"Our services did not have information that would indicate a threat to Zoran Milanović's security during his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina," Vilić said.

The body headed by Vilić coordinates the work of a number of police agencies and its personnel is most directly involved in the protection of VIPs.

The spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior of Central Bosnia Canton, Hasan Hodžić, has told the local media that the security situation in that canton is satisfactory.

The visit by President Milanović to Bosnia and Herzegovina, set for Sunday, has been cancelled due to security reasons, the Office of the President said earlier in the day.

The Croatian president was to have visited Travnik, central BiH, on Sunday morning to attend an event commemorating the 28th anniversary of a humanitarian convoy from Croatia which in 1993 visited the Croat enclaves of central Bosnia and Herzegovina that had been under siege by Bosniak forces for months.

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