Monday, 13 May 2019

Migrant Crisis Escalating on Croatian Border with Bosnia

ZAGREB, May 13, 2019 - The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have to urgently deal with the extent of the migrant crisis and undertake measures to control it because the situation in Una-Sana Canton, where the most migrants are located, has become unbearable, the canton's prime minister, Mustafa Ružnić, warned on Monday. The canton is located on the border with Croatia.

Participating at a meeting of the House of Representatives of the Federation entity, Ružnić said that there are about 5,000 illegal migrants currently located in that canton, yet there is accommodation for only about 3,200 in reception centres in Bihać, Velika Kladuša and Cazin.

Last year 19,200 migrants from 46 countries passed through the canton and twelve check points have been established due to the extraordinary circumstances that are constantly manned by police in order to control the influx of migrants, and the police is barely managing to do so.

In an attempt to reduce the pressure on the border with Croatia, the police in that part of Bosnia have returned 3,330 migrants since the start of 2019.

According to Bosnia's security agencies, more than 6,000 illegal migrants have entered the country so far this year, which is twice as much compared to the same period last year.

There are only two inspectors working with migrants in Una-Sana Canton and state and entity authorities have not taken any responsibility, and it turns out that the state simply does not have any strategy to manage the migrant crisis, Ružnić said.

He added that at this pace, Bosnia and the entire region will need to deal with the problem of illegal migrants in these numbers for the next ten years, and that it is necessary as soon as possible to undertake measures to control that problem.

The Una-Sana Canton's minister of health, Nermina Ćemalović, warned that the health system in the canton is under huge pressure and that the hygienic-epidemiological situation "is out of control."

During 2018, more than 30,000 migrants were treated which cost the canton's health budget more than 2 million euro.

She confirmed that about 90 HIV positive cases had been identified among migrants located in Bihać and that there were "silent epidemics" such as TBC which no one wants to admit publicly. "Health inspections in migrant reception centres have determined a horrific situation," she said.

She warned that the security situation in Bihać has become unbearable, with frequent break-ins, attacks and theft. "Bihać is occupied by migrants, 80% of them are illegal migrants," she said.

Bihać Mayor Suhret Fazlić complained that the Croatian police were returning migrants across the border in contradiction to extradition procedures. "I saw Croatian special police enter Bosnian territory armed with rifles. I saw that and I warned them about that," said Fazlić.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Bosnia Wants Croatia to Return Its Property under Succession Treaty

ZAGREB, May 10, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdić on Friday once again accused Croatia of failing to comply with its obligations from the treaty on succession to the former Yugoslavia and return BiH property on its territory, but said he would like the problem to be resolved through dialogue, not international arbitration.

"I'm for resolving relations with neighbours through dialogue... until we exhaust every possibility of a neighbourly agreement," he told the press in Sarajevo.

Zvizdić said BiH had returned all of Croatia's property on BiH territory but that Croatia had not reciprocated, despite the succession treaty. "There is no need for a new bilateral agreement... because the succession treaty is enough," he said, adding that the BiH Presidency had tasked the relevant authorities to work on resolving this issue.

Zvizdić went on to say that Southeast Europe needed more concrete cooperation because there are projects that would benefit everyone. He said the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development annual assembly that was held in Sarajevo this week was an encouragement to such cooperation.

All of Southeast Europe will have much bigger potential if countries work on projects together, he said. "We're not talking about a new Yugoslavia but a unique region which would be connected through infrastructure and the exchange of workers from Slovenia to Bulgaria."

Zvizdić said a normal flow of people and capital was in the common interest and that it was absolutely clear that all Western Balkan states remained sovereign within internationally recognised borders. He said Croatia would benefit from revoking quotas for the import of workers, notably in summer.

BiH Foreign Trade Minister Mirko Šarović said the political conflicts in the region strongly curbed economic growth and development, and that infrastructure connectivity was an economic necessity that should not be politicised.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

High Representative Criticises Bosnian Croat Parties in UN Security Council

ZAGREB, May 9, 2019 - High Representative Valentin Inzko addressed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday and presented his regular six-month report on the status of peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, covering the period from 16 October 2018 through 15 April 2019.

In his address, Inzko warned about separatist statements from some Republika Srpska politicians, and about the fact that the main Croat parties persistently rejected the judgments of international courts concerning their wartime leadership and sought to resuscitate the structures of that period’s para-state (Herceg Bosna).

"Seven months after the General Elections, the process of building coalitions and appointing governments continues to dominate BiH’s political dynamics. While Republika Srpska and most FBiH cantons have moved swiftly to form governments, regrettably, there has been no appointment of a new Council of Ministers or the FBiH Government,” said the High Representative.

At the beginning of his address, the High Representative highlighted a recent issue that has raised tensions – Republika Srpska’s legislative move to create a reserve police force. This has raised concerns in the Federation entity, where a competent parliamentary committee has said it would do the same.

"The current political discourse related to the reserve police forces in the entities, which started with the unilateral step taken by the RS on this issue, does not contribute to peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the contrary, it has generated a negative spiral of mistrust and competition. Instead, the authorities at all levels should work towards better cooperation in order to maximize public security and a safe and secure environment. Immigration, refugee and asylum policy are the constitutional responsibility of state institutions and their capacity should be reinforced. This would be an appropriate example of better cooperation," the High Representative told the UNSC in New York.

Regrettably, divisive and destabilizing rhetoric, sometimes from the very same leaders who profess a commitment to the country’s EU path, remained a prominent feature throughout the reporting period, he said.

"In addition to separatist statements from some RS politicians, the main Croat parties persistently rejected the judgments of international courts concerning their wartime leadership and sought to resuscitate the structures of that period’s para-state. Also, earlier in the year, the largest Bosniak party announced its intention to launch an initiative to challenge the name of Republika Srpska, which predictably led to further threats of secession." In this context, the High Representative stressed that “the Constitution of BiH recognises that Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities, the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska."

Lack of commitment to the rule of law also remains a serious problem in BiH. In addition, the High Representative pointed out that several FBiH cantons still have not met their longstanding obligation to ensure the full equality of Serbs, while the RS authorities are still disrespecting verdicts concerning the registration of defence property and the "9th January" RS Day.

In conclusion, the High Representative implored BiH’s political leaders to abandon irresponsible rhetoric and take strides to keep the country moving forward on the EU path.

More news about status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Diaspora section.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Croatian, Bosnian Ministers Meet to Discuss Property in Croatia

ZAGREB, May 5, 2019 - The Croatian and Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministers of Justice, Dražen Bošnjaković and Josip Grubeša respectively, met in Sarajevo to talk about the issue of Bosnia's property in Croatia and the signing of a bilateral agreement that would regulate this issue.

Croatia, which has already signed similar agreements with Slovenia and North Macedonia based on the succession agreements, will offer the same agreement to Bosnia and Herzegovina, reporters heard after the meeting in Sarajevo.

"This issue has a procedure which we must respect" Bošnjaković said, adding that Croatia did not want to take any property on its territory that belong to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Grubeša said the meeting also focused on cooperation in criminal issues and serving prison sentences in the two countries, as well as on cooperation in processing war crime suspects located in neighbouring countries.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina has no strategy in that area," Grubeša said.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Bosnia Wants to Solve Border Issues with Croatia, Serbia

ZAGREB, April 30, 2019 - Croatia and Serbia need to finally resolve the issue of the international border with Bosnia and Herzegovina as soon as possible and that would be the best proof of the readiness of these three countries to preserve peace and regional stability, Bosnia and Herzegovina's Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić said on Monday night after a Balkan summit in Berlin hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

A statement delivered to the media by Zvizdić's office notes that Zvizdić was explicitly opposed to drawing new borders in the Western Balkans based on ethnic principles and reiterated that territorial integrity, sovereignty and a multi-ethnic society need to be the only basis on which bilateral disputes can be resolved, particularly the issue of borders.

He once again called for the signing of agreements on Bosnia and Herzegovina's border with Croatia and Serbia "as an expression of respect for the European and democratic principle of the inviolability of internationally recognised borders, but also as proof of good neighbourly relations,” similarly to the way such an agreement was successfully concluded with Montenegro in 2015.

Zvizdić vehemently condemned connecting the solution to Kosovo's status with the Republika Srpska entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Clearly referring to incumbent chairman of the country's presidency, Milorad Dodik, Zvizdić said that he strongly condemned the "anti-constitutional conduct of those who are drafting some new borders across the territory of independent and internationally recognised states."

Zvizdić's message to Merkel and Macron was that in the existing circumstances the best support for Bosnia and Herzegovina would be to award it with the candidate status for accession to the EU and support efforts to activate the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP).

He announced that Bosnia and Herzegovina would remain a constructive partner in all regional processes and confirmed that the country was prepared to support an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina that will reflect harmony and will not have any negative consequences in the region, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Zvizdić's message is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a source nor a threat of any form of terrorism in the region or the EU and that it remains dedicated to constructive regional processes like the Berlin Process.

More news about the border between Croatia and Bosnia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Croatia Strongly Supports Bosnia on Its European Journey

ZAGREB, April 27, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Mostar on Saturday that Croatia would continue strongly supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European journey, which also includes making it possible for the Croats to have the equal status as the other two constitutional peoples.

"We as the party (the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ) and as the government strongly support Bosnia and Herzegovina's European journey. We know that the HDZ BiH plays a prominent role in that, " Plenković told reporters in the southern city of Mostar ahead of the HDZ BiH's election convention.

According to Plenković's explanation this support can be seen in the HDZ decision to nominate Željana Zovko, native of Mostar, as one of the 12 HDZ candidates for the forthcoming European Parliament elections.

Zovko is one of the 11 Croatian deputies in the incumbent 751-seat European Parliament, and succeeded Plenković to this post after he became the Prime Minister of Croatia.

Plenković praised Zovko, who holds Croatian and Bosnian citizenship and who used to be Bosnian ambassador to a few countries, as an excellent option for promoting the interests of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Plenković commented on the HDZ BiH's role in bringing Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to Europe, recalling that when he was the chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, the party leader Dragan Čović submitted his country's application for EU membership in Brussels on 15 February 2016.

Čović told the press conference that during today's convention his party would "extend the hand of unity" to the Serbs and the Bosniaks so that they could together steer the country towards the European Union.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Bosnia Still Investigating Alleged Croatian Spying Scandal

ZAGREB, April 20, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadić said in Sarajevo on Friday that the investigation into the alleged recruitment of Bosnian citizens by the Croatian intelligence agency SOA had not been completed yet, expressing regret that the SOA and the Bosnian intelligence agency OSA had not settled this problem in direct communication between themselves.

The two agencies "should have settled it between themselves and it should never have become public because it disturbed citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in the region," Tadić told the press in Sarajevo.

It was the first time that the public prosecutor had commented on the scandal which broke out after the news website and Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektić claimed in mid-March that SOA agents tried to recruit citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina with ties to radical Islamist groups to illegally transport weapons within the country and plant them in Islamic places of worship as proof that Bosnia and Herzegovina has become a stronghold for thousands of potential terrorists.

After that, prosecutors opened an investigation into those claims, and Tadić said on Friday that her colleagues had found that the three persons named in this case – Deputy Security Minister Mijo Krešić, Croatia's Consul General in Tuzla Ivan Bandić, and Mato Đaković, a journalist with the Bosnian Serb TRS television network, were not involved in such activities.

At the same time, prosecutors opened an investigation into Minister Mektić on suspicion of disclosing confidential information and jeopardising national security.

Tadić would not comment on this case, but she did confirm that the investigation into the allegations that SOA agents had put pressure on citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in attempts to recruit them, was continuing.

The chief prosecutor said that there was also a third line of investigation leading to Slovenia. She said that a prosecutor would go to the Slovenian town of Novo Mesto to interview a Bosnian citizen who said that SOA agents had intimidated him to get him to collaborate with them.

When that part of the investigation has been concluded, the Prosecutor's Office will present the results of the investigation to the public, Tadić said.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Former President Mesić Becomes Honorary Citizen of Sarajevo

ZAGREB, April 18, 2019 - Former Croatian President Stjepan Mesić on Thursday accepted the title of honorary citizen of Sarajevo after he refused the title last year when the city government withdrew its decision to declare renowned Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk also an honorary citizen.

"There was a misunderstanding with Orhan Pamuk, one of the greatest living writers today. But I established contact with Mr Pamuk and he wrote to me congratulating me," Mesić said, explaining why he accepted the title one year on.

Mesić was presented with the award by Sarajevo Mayor Abdulah Skaka.

The former Croatian president said that he was pleased to once again be in Sarajevo where he was attending the Sarajevo Business Forum (SBF) organised by the Bosna Bank International (BBI) in cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Last year, the Sarajevo City Council Commission on Elections and Appointments initially supported a proposal by the Sarajevo book publisher Buybook and the non-governmental organisation Amadeus to name Pamuk an honorary citizen of Sarajevo. However, a few days later that decision was withdrawn and it was decided to award the title to Mesić.

The city authorities predominantly dominated by the Party of Democratic Actions (SDA) are believed to be behind the withdrawal of the title for Pamuk as they reportedly did not want to cause tension with the Turkish authorities. Pamuk is known for criticising the government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After the scandal erupted, Mesić sent a letter to the Sarajevo city authorities declining to accept the award and explaining that under the circumstances, he could not accept the award. "When I heard how the decision was made and that the title was withdrawn from Orhan Pamuk to be conferred on me, I thought that it was wrong and I refused the title," Mesić said then.

More news on Stjepan Mesić can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Bosnia to Send Protest Note to Croatia over Spying Affair

ZAGREB, April 18, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency on Wednesday instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send a protest note to Croatia over actions by the Croatian Security Intelligence Agency (SOA) towards citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina during their stay in or transit through Croatia, the country's collective head of state said in a press release after its meeting in Sarajevo.

The protest note was prompted by claims that SOA agents had attempted to get citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina with links to radical Islamic Salafi groups in that country to plant weapons in Islamic places of worship to prove true the claims by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović that Bosnia and Herzegovina was becoming a stronghold for thousands of potential terrorists.

SOA director Danijel Markić has dismissed the accusations, but has confirmed that Croatian intelligence agents interviewed some citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding their ties to radical Islamist groups.

"SOA, of course, interviewed those people and will continue to do so in the future for the sake of our own security and the security of our neighbours, the European Union and NATO," Markić said last month after the affair broke out.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Government Allocates 3.5 Million Euro for Croats in Bosnia

ZAGREB, April 15, 2019 - Projects and programmes that are considered important for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be financially supported by the Croatian government, which has decided to set aside 25.8 million kuna for that purpose in 2019, or 1.8 million more than in 2018.

"Caring for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a constituent and equal people, and our responsible policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a neighbouring, friendly and sovereign country, are evident through our support to programmes and projects that are important for the Croat people," Zvonko Milas, head of the State Office for Croats Abroad, said at a government meeting in Zagreb on Monday.

This year, the Croatian government is setting aside 25.8 million kuna to help the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is a 7.5% rise compared to 2018.

The government has set up a task force to coordinate and finance cultural, educational, scientific and healthcare programmes designed to help the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the projects of that kind facilitated efforts aimed at protecting the identity of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as an equal and constituent people.

The government sent to the parliament a bill redefining the role and importance of the Police Academy.

More news about Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Diaspora section.

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