Monday, 25 July 2022

Croatian PM Arrives in BiH Amid Rising Tensions Over Planned Electoral Law Reform

ZAGREB, 25 July 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković arrived in Mostar on Monday morning and at the beginning of his visit he was received by Mostar Bishop Petar Palić and local Catholic dignitaries for the talks.

During his day-long visit, the Croatian premier, accompanied by several cabinet ministers, is expected to hold talks with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Croat leader Dragan Čović, and also tour the southern towns of Čitluk, Čapljina, Stolac and Ravno.

The visit of the Croatian PM is taking place against a backdrop of rising tensions over reports that the international community's High Representative Christian Schmidt is going to impose the electoral law's changes so as to prevent the outvoting of the Croats, the smallest constituent people, by the Bosniaks, the largest ethnic group.

Leading Bosniak politicians and parties as well as NGOs and the Islamic Community have been disgruntled by those announcements and a protest rally has been set for Monday afternoon outside the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

SDA, SDP and NS Slam HNS Conclusions, While Dodik Welcomes Them

ZAGREB, 20 Feb 2022 - Some of the political parties representing Bosniaks, and those describing themselves as civic political parties on Saturday, criticised the conclusions adopted by Bosnia and Herzegovina's Croat umbrella association (HNS BiH), while Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik welcomed the document.

During the extraordinary convention in Mostar, it was said that the Croats will launch the issue of restructuring BiH if them being outvoted at elections isn't brought to an end.

HNS BiH concluded that there are currently no legal or constitutional conditions to call an election.

Should the election be called in any case based on an unconstitutional law, HNS BiH will take all available legal and political steps to oppose the continuation of unlawful moves, the Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Čović said after the meeting.

The Bosniak SDA BiH party as well as the SDP BiH and Our Party ("Naša Stranka" that is the NS party) said on Saturday that they viewed the conclusions as blackmail and that they would not be threatened.

The NS party, along with the SDP BiH party, is boycotting the negotiations on the election legislation overhaul as long as the Bosnian Serb officials are obstructing the state institutions' work, stating that the Mostar conclusions made the things more complicated.

The Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, who is the leader of the SNSD party, said that the problem of one people in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be viewed as the problem of all in the country.

"Ignoring the outvoting of one people (the Croats) in Bosnia and Herzegovina pushes the country into instability in a long run and the responsibility for that lies with those who turn a blind eye to the issue," said Dodik.

Talks between leading Croat and Bosniak parties regarding the electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue next week, it was also said after the extraordinary convention of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HNS BiH) in Mostar on Saturday.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 24 January 2022

EU Must Send Strong Message to Those Halting Bosnia Election Reform, Croatia FM Says

ZAGREB, 24 Jan 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Monday the EU must send a clear and strong message to those halting the electoral reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Grlić Radman was in Brussels attending a meeting of EU ministers.

Speaking to the press, he said he had spoken of the situation in BiH and informed his counterparts about efforts to amend the electoral law in which US and EU representatives are involved.

"I informed them about the worrying situation in BiH. I said that it's necessary for the EU to send a strong, clear and unambiguous message to those who are halting electoral law changes and whom the status quo suits."

He reiterated that it's necessary to change the electoral law in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the election process and to enable the legitimate representation of the three constituent peoples in state bodies.

Grlić Radman said several of his counterparts had supported his stand and that more political efforts should be invested in BiH so that it did not become an area of interest of third countries.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Milanović Says Will Come to Bosnia Again

ZAGREB, 20 Dec 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Monday, a day after canceling a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina due to security risks, that he would come again.

Milanović yesterday canceled a visit to Travnik and Nova Bila and today would not elaborate on the security risks.

He said he would come to BiH again and that "no morality rabble-rousers will stop me."

"They can get lost", he added. "I can't be friends with everybody. If one should be in a conflict with someone, and that's the unitarist clique in Sarajevo who say they are patriots, I will be in conflict with them."

Milanović said he felt his statements helped the Croat people in BiH, otherwise, they would be exposed to disorganization. He reproached the Croatian government for not doing enough for their protection.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn't exist without Croats. They are the smallest, but they tip the scales for the state's survival. If, after all that, a handful of unitarist rabble-rousers, morality usurers, don't like me, then great," the president said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Plenković Comments on Council Conclusions on Bosnia

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - The conclusions by the Council of the European Union concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina contain everything that is important for the Croats in that country, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday.

"Whenever the Dayton agreement is mentioned, that implies the constituent peoples. Any reference to Constitutional Court judgments implies the judgment in the Ljubić case, which concerns legitimate representation. All that is essential is in there, but one should have background knowledge and be able to decipher the conclusions, what they actually mean," Plenković told reporters in response to criticisms from President Zoran Milanović regarding the Council's conclusions on enlargement.

The prime minister said that these conclusions, adopted by EU ministers for European affairs on Tuesday, were much better for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina than those adopted at the NATO summit this summer when the Croatian delegation was headed by Milanović.

Milanović had threatened to block the adoption of the joint NATO declaration unless a reference was made to the Dayton agreement, constituent peoples, and electoral reform. Eventually, it was agreed to mention the Dayton agreement and the need for electoral reform.

Commenting on Milanović's claim that Croatia should block conclusions whenever it failed to have its views incorporated into them, Plenković said that this was done only in extreme cases. "Anyone well-versed in European topics will not do that. This is done only in extreme cases when there is no other way."

He said that Croatia knew how to protect its interests, as in the case of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that it was constructive towards its neighbor. "It is also a wise interlocutor who knows how to get what it wants through very complicated negotiations involving a lot of member states, without antagonizing all others."

Plenković said that the latest conclusions were not linked to ongoing talks on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are mediated by the United States and the European Union.

"We included everything of importance to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and sent strong messages," the PM said.

Milanović has criticized the Council's conclusions on enlargement and called out the Croatian government for supporting the conclusions because "they do not guarantee the rights of the Croats as a constituent people in Bosnia and Herzegovina," according to a press release from the President's Office.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

FM Says President's Comments on EU Conclusions on Bosnia Malicious

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Thursday called out President Zoran Milanović over his criticism of the government's support for the Council of the EU conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, describing the president's statement as malicious and an attempt to destabilise the government.

"The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs rejects in the strongest terms the malicious insinuations that are detrimental to Croatia's interests, about Croatia's having endorsed conclusions that do not guarantee the rights of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a constituent people," Grlić Radman told a news conference in Zagreb.

In a letter he forwarded to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday, Milanović expressed dissatisfaction with and opposition to the Council of the EU conclusions, adopted on Tuesday, claiming that they do not guarantee rights to Bosnia and Herzegovina Croats as a constituent people in the country.

Grlić Radman today said that the conclusions' making mention of the Dayton Agreement "implies the constitutionality of the three peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

The minister described Milanović's criticism as an attempt to destabilise the government.

While earlier conclusions of the Council of the EU, adopted during the terms of previous Croatian governments, made no mention of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the part of Tuesday's conclusions concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina and the election reform in that country makes mention, at Croatia's request, of the importance of implementing rulings by the BiH Constitutional Court, which was not envisaged by earlier drafts, the minister said.

Grlić Radman said that the message of the conclusions adopted by the General Affairs Council was unequivocal: it is necessary to eliminate all forms of inequality and discrimination in the election process and implement decisions of Bosnia's Constitutional Court as well as the Sejdić-Finci ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Svilaj Bridge Within Pan-European Vc Corridor to Open Today

ZAGREB, 30 Sept 2021 - Svilaj Bridge across the River Sava connecting Svilaj in Croatia with Donji Svilaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina will formally open today, and this 660-meter-long structure is located along the strategically important international Vc corridor.

The 29-meter-wide bridge with six lanes is on the pan-European Vc corridor route between Budapest via Osijek and Sarajevo to the Croatian seaport in Ploče.

In mid-June this year, Croatian Transport Minister Oleg Butković said that the project was worth €23.4 million.

This is a joint investment of Croatia's HAC motorway operator and the relevant authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the project was financed by Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at a ratio of 50:50 with 58% of Croatia's share part being covered by EU funds from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

Butković said in June that Croatia ensured a grant amounting to almost €7 million from the Connecting Europe Facility for its half (€11.7 million).

"This corridor is very important. We are completing the (motorway) section to Beli Manastir which will be finished next year and opened to traffic. We have just a few kilometers left to reach the border with Hungary and we expect to complete that by the end of 2023," said Butković on 15 June. He added that Croatia would do everything to have the procedure of categorizing the border crossing at Svilaj finished so that the bridge could be opened to traffic as soon as possible.

The construction of the bridge started in 2016 and was completed in 2020.

In attendance at today's red-ribbon cutting ceremony will be European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Monday, 6 September 2021

High Rep Says Croats Underrepresented in Bosnia's Institutions

ZAGREB, 6 Sept 2021 - The new High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, said on Sunday Croats were underrepresented in BiH's central institutions and that it was necessary to change the country's electoral law.

Željko Komšić is the Croat representative in the state Presidency, but he was elected more by Bosniaks than Croats, and the fact that Croat representative Dragan Čović lost to Komšić shows how complicated the system is, Schmidt said in Neustadt an der Aich, Germany at a conference on BiH's Euro-Atlantic prospects, organized by the German Atlantic Society.

Schmidt said BiH's Croat population felt underrepresented in what he said were complicated state structures.

Pointing to the need to change BiH's electoral law, he said Croats must be given the possibility to feel represented, instead of everything ending up in, for example, a form of election boycott.

The question being raised now is how to organize elections in such a way that the state does not divide into three entities, which would strongly bring into question BiH's territorial integrity, Schmidt said.

He also said that BiH's Croat population was the most affected by strong emigration and that their 15-17% share did not correspond to the reality for a long time.

Also present at the conference was Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.