Monday, 25 July 2022

Plenković: Schmidt's Electoral and Constitutional Reform Proposal Balanced

ZAGREB, 25 July 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday the electoral and constitutional reforms the High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina planned to impose were balanced and constructive as they would preserve the constituency of Croats and their ability to elect their government representatives.

Speaking to the press in Mostar, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Plenković said the international community's High Representative Christian Schmidt "has a very balanced proposal which will enable legitimate representation at the Federation level and government formation with minor changes."

It is expected that Schmidt will impose electoral law changes that would prevent outvoting the Croats and obstructing government formation after elections, as well as ensure the normal functioning of the Croat-Bosniak Federation entity.

Pro-Bosniak political parties and NGOs as well as the Islamic Community have strongly criticised Schmidt since details of the changes leaked last week, including calls for chaos and violence, and there has even been mention of war.

Plenković said the messages of the Bosniak parties were "revelatory". He said the reactions were "exaggerated" and that tensions should be defused so that general elections scheduled for October "can be implemented in the best way possible."

Plenković said he did hold talks on the initiative to change the election law and the Federation's constitution, but that the most important thing was for those reforms to lead to better relations.

"I believe that such a move would lead to a better functioning of representative bodies and later on the executive authority in BiH," he said, adding that a stable, democratic and inclusive BiH in which the Croats, "although the smallest people, will be equal," is in Croatia's interest.

Plenković said these moves were in line with the Dayton-Paris agreement which ended the war in BiH and with the Washington agreement on the establishment of the Federation entity.

For three times now, Željko Komšić has been elected as the Croat member of the BiH Presidency thanks to Bosniak voters. Komšić has announced that he will run again in October.

Now there is a danger that Bosniaks will elect six of the 17 delegates to the Croat group in the Federation parliament's House of Peoples, whereby  they could oust from government the Croat parties for which the largest number of Croats vote. Croatia and BiH Croat parties are against that.

Dragan Čović, the president of one of them, the HDZ BiH, said after today's talks with Plenković that Bosniak parties had managed to obstruct constitutional and electoral reforms in part, thereby highlighting the attempt to oust the Croat people from government. He called for strengthening Croat-Bosniak ties as the key to a stable BiH.

 "Our message is that we want to build good relations with the Bosniaks, that this is an opportunity for the Federation as well as for BiH. Without the Croat people, BiH won't be able to function as a normal state," Čović said.

Asked by the press about Croatian President Zoran Milanović's statement that his visit to BiH was a PR move, Plenković said Milanović was constantly doing harm to Croats in BiH, including his insults of Schmidt. "His every statement is causing damage to the Croats in BiH because they drive the parties further away from solving their problem."

In the afternoon, Plenković visited Čitluk, Čapljina, Stolac and Ravno, meeting the authorities and checking the projects supported by the Croatian government. He said Croatia would continue to support key BiH Croat institutions such as the university, the university hospital and the Croatian National Theatre in Mostar.

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.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatian FM Calls for One More Attempt to Reform Bosnia Electoral Law

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - One more attempt should be made to reform the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the present one does not guarantee the equality of its constituent peoples, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said in Brussels on Monday. 

"Bosnia and Herzegovina still does not have an electoral law that guarantees the equality of its three constituent peoples and other ethnic groups, and that is not good for the country's stability. We need to make yet another attempt to carry out the electoral reform because that it the way towards EU membership candidate status," Grlić Radman told reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The main topics of the meeting will be the Western Balkans and the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the EU's response to it.

Grlić Radman said that the EU should send the Western Balkan countries a strong message regarding their accession to the Union, first of all by opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia and by making progress with regard to the liberalisation of the visa regime for Kosovo.

He said he would inform his EU counterparts of his visit to Ukraine last week together with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"We have to increase pressure on Russia to stop the aggression. Croatia supports the sixth round of sanctions against Russia and can contribute to energy security given its geostrategic position and its infrastructure," Grlić Radman said.

Two weeks ago, the European Commission proposed a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its military invasion of Ukraine, including a ban on Russian oil imports. There is still no agreement among the member states, and the main obstacle is Hungary, which seeks an exemption from the oil embargo.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said that the EU is hostage to one member state, without explicitly mentioning Hungary. "We must agree, we cannot be hostages," he said.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has expressed doubt that ministers will be able to reach an agreement on the oil embargo given that some countries have very firm views.

For more, check out our politics section.