Monday, 13 June 2022

Čović Set to Support Brussels Document Provided 2 Changes Are Added

ZAGREB, 13 June 2022 - The leader of the Bosnian Croat HDZ party, Dragan Čović, has announced that he will support the document which was adopted by representatives of 12 Bosnian political parties in Brussels on Sunday, provided that two amendments were added to the text.

A source close to Čović said on Monday that he would support the document today, with an additional "two minor changes that should not be problematic." The changes will give an additional value to the text, the source said.

The leaders of 12 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) and Serb parties endorsed the document in Brussels on Sunday, committing to the electoral law reform and a limited amendment to the Constitution within six months since the formation of authorities at all levels.

European Council President Charles Michel had arranged for 15 parliamentary parties from Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet in Brussels on Sunday. In attendance were representatives of 12 parties who endorsed the document "Political agreement on principles for ensuring a functional Bosnia and Herzegovina that advances on the European path".

Milan Šarović of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and Fahrudin Radončić of the Bosniak SBB parties did not travel to Brussels, while Čović did but did not show up at the meeting and later explained that he did not want to give legitimacy and promote the two Bosniak members of the country's presidency and that he had learned just a few days before the meeting that it would be held in "a strange format".

On Monday the Bosnian Croat leader announced his support for the document.

The preamble reads among other things that the signatories are committed to "upholding the principle of the rule of law and conduct free and democratic elections as well as develop democratic institutions at all levels of government/authority."

Čović is proposing that this should be extended by adding "in compliance with the agreement on the implementation of the rulings of the European Court for Human Rights, signed in Brussels on 1 October 2013, and in line with the political agreement on amending the electoral law, signed in Mostar on 17 June 2020."

Čović and the leader of the Bosniak SDA party, Bakir Izetbegović signed a political agreement in Mostar on 17 June 2020 regulating the model of election of councillors in that southern city and amending the city statute.

The 17 June 2020 political agreement made it possible for elections to be held in Mostar for the first time since 2008.

The signatories of that agreement also undertook to make sure that the amendments to the Bosnia and Herzegovina electoral law would be based on "the legitimate election and legitimate political representation" of the constituent peoples and citizens at all administrative and political levels, in the country's presidency and in the houses of people in the state and the federation's parliaments.

Amending paragraph 11

Čović also demands the amending of paragraph 11 of the Brussels document which now reads that the parties are committed to adopting, within six months from the formation of the authorities at all levels, "electoral reforms and those limited constitutional reforms needed to ensure full compliance with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court, Venice Commission recommendations and OSCE/ODIHR and GRECO recommendations."

The proposed amendment says that the electoral reforms that will ensure the implementation of the election results in connection with the Houses of People should be urgently adopted in line with the agreements cited in the preamble, which is in line with the 1 October 2013 Brussels agreement on the ECHR rulings' implementation and the 2020 Mostar political agreement.

On Sunday evening, Čović raised the question of how it would be possible to establish the authorities after the crucial provision of the electoral law was declared null and void.

"However, it is a crucial issue how one can establish the authorities if you do not have crucial provisions already declared null and void by the Constitutional Court," said Čović.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court invalidated a provision under which the national clubs in the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina must include at least one representative of the respective people from each canton. This provision enabled the Bosniak parties from the Federation's cantons in which there were actually no Croats to get politicians who wrongfully declared themselves as Croats to become the delegates on behalf of the non-existent Croat communities and thus automatically be added to the national club of the Croats.

Each of the three national clubs (the Croat, the Serb, and the Bosniak), has 17 members, and the Croat club usually could not reach agreement and decisions because a two-thirds majority vote is required and the Bosniaks managed to add 6 purported Croat delegates to that club.

 Meeting's participants say they have not signed the document but endorsed it

 Participants in the Brussels meeting said in Sarajevo on Monday that they had not signed the document but only endorsed the paper published by European Council president.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Negotiations on Bosnia Electoral Law Amendment Fail

ZAGREB, 20 March 2022 - The latest round of the negotiations on amending Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral law, which was held in Sarajevo on Sunday, ended inconclusively, with Bosnia Croat leader Dragan Čović saying that "there are absolutely no conditions" for holding general elections in October.

Čović also accused the Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegović (of the SDA BiH party) of the failure.

Most of the participants in the negotiations which were held today under the mediation of managing director at the EU's External Action Service, Angelina Eichhorst and US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michael Murphy, who confirmed that the round of the talks failed.

Čović said that there were no prerequisites for the general elections to be held in October, as previously planned.

"Since the very start, the SDA party has been in favour of keeping a status quo and no deal on the legislation's amendment", said Čović, adding that the behaviour of that party is "a brutal blow to the state".

"Five of the six parties participating in the negotiations actually accepted the solutions proposed by the international community, and the HDZ BiH was ready to accept all the options that would avoid the blockade of the authorities in the Croat-Bosniak Federation and appointment of office-holders", said Čović, who is at the helm of the HDZ BiH.

The SDA leader Izetbegović shunned the press.

On the other hand, the leader of the People and Justice party (NiP), Elmedin Konaković, addressed the press to inform the public that the negotiations had failed.

"The reform of the constitution or electoral law stands no chances any longer", he said, adding that it was pity that a document that could serve as a good basis for the model of the election of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency was discarded. Konaković said that the model had ensured all the rights to the Croats, as one of the three constituent peoples, and had also lifted restrictions for others, while the ethnic denominators would have been erased in the process of the election of the deputies in the upper house (the House of Peoples) of the state parliament.

Konaković and the SBB party leader Fahrudin Radončić agreed that such outcome of the negotiations would give the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik a reason to gloat as the failed negotiations meant the continuation of the blockade of the state.

Eichhorst: Good set of reforms was at table

The EU mediator told the press that the negotiations had lasted nine months and eventually, a good set of draft reforms had been put on the table and that this package would have accelerated Bosnia's journey towards the European Union membership.

According to her, the stumbling block was the failure of the SDA and HDZ parties to reach agreement on the model of the election and the constitution of the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Eichorst said that the parties did not agree which was a missed opportunity.

The US ambassador Murphy called on political leaders to continue searching for compromises and that the international community was willing to offer assistance. Murphy said that it was not wise to boycott the coming elections.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Bosniak Leader Says Croat Side Unwilling to Reach Agreement on Election Law Reform

ZAGREB, 4 March (2022) - The leader of the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegović, said on Thursday that the agreement on changes to Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law would be reached when the Croat side was ready.

The neighbouring country is set to hold elections in autumn, and there is still no agreement on the new election law and limited constitutional changes.

Speaking in an interview with Croatia's Nova TV, Izetbegović said that Bosniaks were ready for agreement.

"(The agreement will be possible) when the Croat side is ready. We are... I supported the current negotiating model (with EU and US mediators)... even though it is stupid and does not benefit my party while (Bosnian Croat leader Dragan) Čović refused it," said Izetbegović.

"(The prerequisite) is readiness to accept the model offered by the international community, which definitely is not against Čović and Croats, and (the Croats') readiness to unblock the BiH Federation entity. The HDZ has practically blocked the Federation," he said in reference to the Bosniak-Croat entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On Russian invasion

Commenting on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Izetbegović said that Bosnia and Herzegovina should follow the EU's foreign policy. The Serb member of BiH's collective presidency, Milorad Dodik, does not agree with that and has said that he will not join in sanctions against Russia.

"Everybody has the right to their own opinion, but they do not have the right to be angry and make problems," said Izetbegović, noting that "many things Dodik does are not normal."

"This is the culmination of his actions of the past 15 years that have cost BiH and Republika Srpska and all peoples and citizens dearly," the Bosniak leader said.

"We could have been in NATO by now, we could have made progress on the path to the EU," he said.

As a precaution, and considering the conflicts in the east of Europe, EUFOR will deploy 500 troops in BiH, the EU military mission in BiH said on Thursday.

The worsened international security situation has potential to spread instability to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mission said.

Asked if he believed there could be an armed conflict in BiH, Izetbegović said that he will do everything he can to prevent it.

For more, check out our politics section.