Sunday, 12 January 2020

Milanović's Presidential Term Opportunity to Improve Croatia-BiH's Relations

ZAGREB, January 12, 2020 - A Croatian member of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on the Western Balkans, Tonino Picula, has said that Croatia's President-elect Zoran Milanović should use his term to improve relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily said on Saturday.

In an interview with the daily, Picula said that relations between the two countries had always been friendly and well-meaning but that it was now time for Milanović to help start resolving outstanding issues in their relations "in a rational way".

He noted that outgoing President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was partly responsible for the current state of relations between the two countries, which he said was not good. "With occasionally clumsy and unfair statements the outgoing president questioned Croatia's professed policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and the end of her term was marked by a certain lack of ideas in that regard," said Picula.

Picula stressed that regardless of its problems, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained a partner to EU institutions, which expected of it commitment to long-announced reforms which it had undertaken to implement.

"In doing so it will enjoy unreserved support, primarily from members of the European Parliament," he said, adding that responsibility rested primarily with Bosnia and Herzegovina and that he expected elected officials to responsibly perform their duties.

Picula said that it was high time the Bosnia-EU interparliamentary commission for European integration started functioning.

The commission has not met since 2015 due to the demand by Serb deputies in the national parliament that all decisions in the commission be made by consensus, which departs from the usual practice in relations with other countries.

Serb deputies have been refusing for five years to accept the proposed rules for the work of the commission.

"That is a standard document, adopted by all candidate countries, and that only shows the high level of disfunctionality and general mistrust within the existing system in Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Picula.

Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives President Denis Zvizdić said in an interview with the Fena new agency on Saturday that it was high time the two countries' relations started improving, noting that that was one of the things Milanovic's voters had voted for.

He said that relations so far had not been satisfactory. "I'm speaking about (the need for) mutual respect, respect for BiH's sovereignty and integrity, about frequent and unnecessary interference in BiH's internal affairs and an unnatural, condescending attitude with regard to processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region," said Zvizdić.

Zvizdić, who was BiH's prime minister in the past five years, said that his country and Croatia were historically oriented to one another and commended Croatian PM Andrej Plenković's constructive role in strengthening those relations.

He warned, however, that despite that, there were still some issues that remained to be resolved such as the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, the possible construction of a nuclear waste disposal site at Trgovska Gora (on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina), and the status of the property of BiH companies in Croatia.

Those issues should be put on the table and discussed based on facts and international law, he said.

"I expect Zoran Milanović to restore (discussions) to the level of institutions... and his visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina to be at the institutional level and not be party or ethnically-motivated visits."

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

Thursday, 2 January 2020

BiH Speaker Expects Croatia to Support Bosnia on Its European Journey

ZAGREB, January 2, 2020 - The chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's House of Representatives, Denis Zvizdić, on Thursday wrote in his letter of congratulations to Zagreb on Croatia's presidency of the European Union that he expected Zagreb to "promote in a proper way" the progress made by his country on its European journey.

Zvizdić's letter sent to Sabor Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković reads that Bosnia perceives Croatia's six-month rotating presidency as a period of strong promotion of the importance of the project of the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

Zvizdić writes that the region of the Western Balkans belongs to the family of European families strategically, historically, as well as culture-wise.

One of the two essential foreign policy objectives of Bosnia and Herzegovina is to become a full member of the EU. This objective, alongside the integration into NATO, is a priority and has no alternative, he says explaining that the membership of the EU and NATO is supposed to ensure "a permanent peace, long-term stability and economic prosperity."

He underlines that his country has been, is and would like to be "a noticeable and reliable partner in the processes of Euro-Atlantic integration and in creation of peace and stability within regional and international frameworks."

Zvizdić, a former prime minister, says that in the past few years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made significant steps forward on its journey towards the EU and during the Croatian presidency of the bloc, Sarajevo expects "the proper promotion" of that headway resulting in the decision that Bosnia and Herzegovina may be given a status of candidate country for the EU membership.

This would be the best and most concrete message and support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zvizdić writes, among other things.

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

Sunday, 29 December 2019

“Croatia Will Show During EU Presidency It Supports Bosnia”

ZAGREB, December 29, 2019 - Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have very good relations despite occasional miscommunication, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Sarajevo on Saturday, adding that Croatia would show it supported BiH during its EU presidency in the first half of 2020.

He met with BiH's new Foreign Minister Bisera Turković. Speaking to the press, he said that as a co-signatory of the Dayton peace agreement, Croatia supported BiH's territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the equality of its constituent peoples.

He said that during its EU presidency Croatia would be a resolute advocate of the continuation of BiH's Euro-Atlantic journey. "Presiding the Council of the EU is a big responsibility for a stable neighbourhood, notably BiH with which Croatia has the longest border."

Grlić Radman reiterated that for the sake of BiH's stability, its constituent peoples should elect their government representatives.

He also met with the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljić, underlining the importance of his struggle for the survival of Croats in BiH in the spirit of tolerance, which he said contributed to peace, stability and dialogue.

Puljić said the Catholic Church in BiH counted on the continuation of Croatia's support for the survival of Croats in BiH, adding that equality was a burning issue for them. "Because Croatia is presiding the EU, it should help (BiH) to become normal too, and it won't become normal unless there are equal rights."

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

Thursday, 12 December 2019

44 Polling Stations to Be Set up in Bosnia for Croatia's Presidential Vote

ZAGREB, December 12, 2019 - Croatian nationals living in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to cast their ballots at the 22 December presidential election at 44 polling stations in Bosnia, the Croatian embassy in Sarajevo said on Thursday.

The polling stations will be set up on the compounds of the embassy and consulates.

The highest number of polling stations, 19, will be set up on the compounds of the consulate-general in Mostar.

As many as 10 polling stations will be opened in Vitez, central Bosnia, where the Croatian consulate will again serve as a polling place.

In the capital city of Sarajevo, Croatians will be able to cast their ballots at six polling stations.

In the southwestern town of Livno, there will be four and in the north-eastern city of Tuzla three polling stations for the Croatian presidential vote.

In Banja Luka, two polling stations will be set up.

Croatian citizens with permanent residence in Bosnia and Herzegovina are eligible to cast their ballots at those places.

Also, Croatians with permanent residence in Croatia, who happen to be in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the election day, are eligible to vote in Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided they have the necessary documents enabling them to vote outside of the place of their permanent residence.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Croatian Military Equipment Factories Showcase Their Products in Sarajevo

ZAGREB, December 10, 2019 - Croatian arms, ammunition and military equipment factories showcased their products at a presentation in Sarajevo on Tuesday intended for potential buyers in Bosnia and Herzegovina and foreign diplomats accredited in that country.

Croatian assistant defence minister Roman Mikulić said that the Croatian defence production had reached about €200 million annually and that it employed about 3,000 people. He expressed satisfaction that the HS Produkt company was successful on demanding markets such as the United States where more than 5 million HS semi-automatic pistols have been sold to date.

"I can proudly say that our companies have become global bywords for innovation and quality. The Croatian defence industry still has a lot of room for advancement and development," Mikulić said during the presentation, organised in cooperation with the Defence Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He said that Bosnian companies such as Igman, Pretis and Pobjeda had for years been manufacturing infantry and artillery ammunition for the Croatian army. To date, Croatia has imported 68 million kuna (9.2 million euro) worth of ammunition manufactured by these factories, and over 11 million kuna (1.5 million euro) this year alone.

Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivan Sabolić, said that the Croatian defence industry was one of the drivers of the national economy.

"Croatian defence industry products are already used by the IT sector and the food and pharmaceutical industries. This exhibition is a good opportunity for defence companies from the Federation and Republika Srpska and their colleagues from Croatia to find models for even better business results," Sabolić said.

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

Monday, 9 December 2019

Police Still Bringing Migrants to Camp Near Croatian Border

ZAGREB, December 9, 2019 - Police in the Una-Sana canton of northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday continued bringing migrants to the makeshift Vučjak camp outside Bihać despite last week's announcements that the camp would be dismantled as totally unsuitable for accommodation of migrants, local media said.

A group of migrants was transferred to Vučjak from a dilapidated former metal factory in Bihać on Monday morning.

An estimated 600 illegal migrants are currently staying in the Vučjak camp, situated on a former landfill near a minefield close to the Croatian border.

Last week Security Minister Dragan Mektić and the head of cantonal government, Mustafa Ružnić, agreed to close down the camp and transfer its occupants to other camps, such as Bira and Miral which meet the basic conditions for accommodation of migrants during wintertime, or to a new reception centre in Blažuj, near Sarajevo, which is not yet fit to take them in.

The head of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Peter Van der Auweraert, told N1 television that there was still no official confirmation of how and when the Mektić-Ružnić agreement would be carried out.

Under the agreement, the refugees would not be relocated by IOM but by police.

Residents of Blažuj are opposed to the plan and have announced to take all the necessary measures to prevent the relocation, including by blocking access to the former army barracks which would serve as a temporary shelter for about 350 migrants.

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

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Bosnia to Take Over Control of Its Air Space from Zagreb, Belgrade

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - On Friday Bosnia and Herzegovina will take full control of its air space and will start controlling all air traffic above its territory on its own, something it has been doing with the help of air control services in Zagreb and Belgrade since 1996, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Air Navigation Services Agency (BHANSA) confirmed on Wednesday.

Bosnia and Herzegovina air traffic controllers will take over full control of the country's air space from their colleagues in Croatia and Serbia in the night between December 4 and 5, and as of that moment they will also be navigating planes flying over Bosnia and Herzegovina's territory at altitudes of more than 10,000 metres.

Bosnia and Herzegovina currently has 60 trained air controllers.

Since 1996, when regular air traffic was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina and international flight corridors above the country were opened, the job of controlling air traffic has been done by controllers from Zagreb and Belgrade because Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked the necessary capacity and equipment as well as trained personnel.

It was only in 2014 that the country took over control of air traffic at lower altitudes, namely those below 10,000 metres, and now it will perform control of all air traffic above its territory.

It is estimated that around 1,600 planes fly along corridors at altitudes of more than 10,000 metres above Bosnia and Herzegovina every day, while only some 200 fly at lower altitudes.

The fees that are collected from this amount to around 15 million euro annually and the largest portion of that money has so far gone to the air flight control services in Zagreb and Belgrade.

"This is a big day for Bosnia and Herzegovina because in a relatively short period of time, as the youngest European air control agency, we have managed to create technical, personnel and all other conditions to control air traffic above Bosnia and Herzegovina's territory on our own," said BHANSA director Davorin Primorac.

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

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Croatian President Campaigns for Re-Election in Bosnia and Herzegovina

ZAGREB, November 27, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Wednesday in Mostar, which she visited during her campaign, that care for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) would continue to be an important plank of her state policy.

In that southern city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croatian president promised that she would continue to advocate the achievement of full equality of the Croatian people, including their possibility to elect their own political representatives without being outvoted.

"The thing that is and will remain to be my state policy is care for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatians have two homelands - the Republic of Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. And that is why I will not stop until Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are provided with the rights they are entitled to historically, politically and under the country's constitution - and that is full equality and achieving their rights as a constituent people," said Grabar-Kitarović, addressing a conference on the anniversary of the establishment of the 'Prsten' Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina Croats with its headquarters in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

She said that it was necessary to prevent scenarios in which the more numerous peoples can impose their representatives on Croats in elections.

"No one else should be allowed to elect representatives for the Croatian people in BiH. They are deluding themselves if they think that Croats will bend and disappear from Bosnia and Herzegovina. No, they won't! With your help I will continue to be a guarantee that there will be no more ignoring of Croats in BiH which had happened in 15 years during the term of my two predecessors," she underscored.

Grabar-Kitarović called on Croatian business people to invest in Bosnia and Herzegovina and help stop the emigration of young people from the country.

"That is why in fact, I am encouraging Croatian entrepreneurs to turn to investments in BiH, to establish new companies and to launch new investments so that our young people can be given a job and keep living here," she added.

Grabar-Kitarović in particular underlined the significance of the Prsten association which was established by Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina in an effort to preserve tradition and values and at the same time to assist their compatriots in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During its 14 years of existence, the Prsten association, which has 3,500 member and 200 entrepreneurs, has set aside 15 million kuna in aid for institutions, and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as an additional 3.5 million kuna for scholarships for poor students.

The Croatian president is due to stop in Skopaljska Gračanica near Bugojno and Vitez on her campaign trail in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday afternoon.

The incumbent president's candidacy for her second term is supported by the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and a few more political parties in Croatia.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Inhumane Conditions Reported in Migrant Camp Near Croatia’s Border

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - European Commission representatives called on all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday to join as soon as possible in dealing with the problems caused by the high influx of illegal migrants, insisting on the closure of the Vucjak migrant camp where hundreds of migrants stay in inhumane conditions.

Michela Matuella, head of the unit for BiH at the European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, and Martin Taschner of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, talked about the migrant crisis in Bihac with representatives of the city and cantonal authorities and visited Vučjak, where migrants stay in tents without electricity, heat or running water and sleep in the mud, protected only by cartons they bring themselves.

The conditions are very bad and we are now even more convinced that this camp must be closed and that another location must be found to accommodate these people, Matuella told reporters.

The migrants in Vučjak could not be accommodated in better equipped camps in Bihac because there was no room.

"We clearly said that not only Vučjak but Bira and Miral must also be closed. We didn't give in and won't allow the accommodation capacities (in Bihac) to be enlarged," said Mustafa Ružnić, premier of Una-Sana Canton.

Matuella and Taschner said the EU had given BiH 36 million euro since the start of 2018 to provide for illegal migrants, adding that the assistance would continue to arrive but would have no results if the BiH authorities did not do their job or cooperate to put the migrant crisis under control.

We can't replace the representatives of government, Matuella said, recalling that 10 million euro was approved for BiH in August to expand accommodation capacities and build new reception centres, which have not been established.

She said it was encouraging that possible locations for illegal migrants had been found near Sarajevo and Tuzla, adding that this would reduce the pressure on Una-Sana Canton.

She said those locations were being assessed, after which a relocation plan would be made for the migrants in Vučjak.

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

Friday, 15 November 2019

INA Plans to Expand Retail Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina

ZAGREB, November 15, 2019 - Croatia's INA oil company intends to buy the Banja Luka-based Krajinapetrol company to expand its existing network of petrol stations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian business news website capital.ba said on Friday.

According to capital.ba, INA has received the green light from Republika Srpska's (RS) Energy and Mining Minister Petar Đokić that it can conduct due diligence at Krajinapetrol before making a final decision on the possible purchase of a majority stake.

Krajinapetrol's current majority owner is the entity's government and related shareholders' funds, while INA currently owns 9.7% of the company's shares. The company emerged after the former Yugoslavia disintegrated and the RS authorities took over the petrol stations and infrastructure that INA had owned in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the time of Yugoslavia.

Krajinapetrol now manages a network of 15 petrol stations mostly distributed in and around Banja Luka.

Financial indicators show stable business operations and a growing revenue, which this year has increased by 2.5 million euro from 2018.

Krajinapetrol's total capital is estimated at 12 million euro and the company currently employs 168 workers.

INA has the largest retail network for oil derivatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 45 petrol stations which were originally limited to the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity but later began to expand to the Bosnian Serb entity.

More news about the Croatian national oil company can be found in the Business section.

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