Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Bosnian Officials Slam Grabar-Kitarović over Alleged Statement about ‘Militant Islam' in Bosnia

ZAGREB, July 31, 2019 - The Croat and Bosniak members of the Bosnian Presidency, Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović respectively, on Tuesday strongly attacked Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović over her alleged statement to Israeli reporters that Bosnia and Herzegovina "is now controlled by militant Islam."

The Jerusalem Post reported on its website that, Grabar-Kitarović, who is on a state visit to Israel, said BiH "was very unstable, and had in some respects been taken over by people who have connections with Iran and terrorist organizations."

The paper was reporting details of her closed-door meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

"The country is now controlled by militant Islam, which is dominant in setting the agenda," the paper reported Grabar-Kitarović as saying, without naming sources.

Komšić said Grabar-Kitarović was "unstable and not BiH," while Džaferović accused her of "repeating lies which spread xenophobia."

"I'm sorry that the Croatian president is continuing with propaganda at the expense of BiH, stating brutal untruths. However, when it comes to these imputations, it seems this is not the exception but the rule in Grabar-Kitarović's attitude towards BiH," Komšić said in a press release.

He accused her of a "malicious attitude" towards the neighbouring country. "Such perseverance in propaganda against BiH only additionally strengthens our belief that it is the services of the Republic of Croatia that wish to stage in BiH something which would damage the reputation of our state, closing its door to NATO and EU membership, and thereby bringing its survival into question."

BiH Presidency Chairman Džaferović said in a press release that Grabar-Kitarović's statements proved that Croatia had a "fascist policy" towards BiH. "It's clear to everyone in Europe and the world that these are lies fabricated by Zagreb's aggressive and xenophobic policy towards BiH and Bosniaks, which has all the elements of fascism."

"The statements by the Croatian president represent the same propaganda vocabulary which was used by convicted war criminals and leaders of the so-called Herceg-Bosna as they tried to justify the monstrous crimes they committed against Bosniaks," said Džaferović.

He linked Grabar-Kitarović's alleged statements in Israel to a recent visit by Croatian Parliament Deputy Speaker Milijan Brkić to convicted war criminal Bruno Stojić, calling her out for not condemning the visit, "which the president of any civilised country would do."

"In this way, Grabar-Kitarović supported that joint criminal enterprise policy which is the real source of instability and undermines peace in the region," Džaferović said.

Speaking to the press after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Grabar-Kitarović said the two countries had to bring the attention of Europe and the US to the situation in their respective regions.

We can do a lot of good but we can also sink into chaos. Therefore, we have to monitor what is going on around us and, as far as Croatia is concerned, help neighbouring countries - BiH and Macedonia - to come under the wing of the European Union, the Croatian president said.

Netanyahu warned of the danger of radical Islam, saying it wanted to return humanity to the darkest ages and that Israel was on the front line.

If Israel was not here, the Middle East would fall into the hands of radical Islam. By defending ourselves, we are defending all of the Middle East and by defending the Middle East, we are defending Europe, he added.

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

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia Strengthening Cooperation in Search for War Missing

ZAGREB, July 30, 2019 - Locating and identifying the remains of those gone missing in the war in the former Yugoslavia is primarily a humanitarian issue and must not be the subject of political dispute between countries in the region, Croatia's representative told his counterparts from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in Sarajevo on Tuesday with whom he signed protocols to speed up that process.

Croatian Assistant Veterans' Affairs Minister Stjepan Sučić, the head of Serbia's office for missing persons, Veljko Odalović, and the director of the Institute for Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nikola Perišić, signed documents on the implementation of a previously agreed protocol on cooperation in the search for missing persons.

Croatia is still searching for 1,892 people who went missing during the 1990s Homeland War, yet the previously signed agreements have not produced any progress for that issue to finally be resolved, Sučić recalled. "When the time for action comes, disputes emerge," he added.

The missing, however, are primarily a humanitarian problem that must be separated from other outstanding issues between countries in the region, he said.

Today's signing is a "small step forward" and we aren't expecting "anything spectacular if good will doesn't exist and if that issue is not treated without any politics or relating it to other outstanding issues," Sučić said.

The existing agreement on tracing the missing signed with Serbia need to be reviewed as do the rules of procedure so that they are in line with the law on missing persons recently adopted in the Croatian parliament because it is necessary to protect the rights of missing persons and their families too, he said.

Perišić said that the documents signed today define the method of cooperation and exchange of information, including the exhumation and handing over of remains.

There are still about 12,000 people considered to have gone missing during the wars in the entire area of the former Yugoslavia and morgues throughout the region contain the remains of about 4,000 people that have not been identified.

He added that in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone there are about 7,200 missing persons and without institutional cooperation that search would be an impossible mission.

Odalović said that Serbia is prepared for cooperation without any restrictions so that the issue of those gone missing during the 1990s wars can be resolved, but considering the nature of all those conflicts, that problem cannot be solved without regional cooperation.

"There has to be a regional search mechanism" Odalović said, adding that country borders must not be an obstacle in the search for the war missing.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 29 July 2019

No Decision Yet on Nuclear Waste Storage Facility near Bosnia Border

ZAGREB, July 29, 2019 - Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said on Monday that it had not been decided yet on whether a nuclear waste storage facility would be built on Mount Trgovska Gora near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and if such a decision were made, the neighbouring country would be able to raise its concerns.

Ćorić made the statement after being asked by the press in Zagreb whether a decision had been made to store medium and low radioactive waste from the Krško nuclear power plant at Trgovska Gora and whether in that case Croatia should consult with the Bosnian authorities.

The Krško plant is located in Slovenia and is co-owned by Slovenia and Croatia.

"As for Trgovska Gora, Croatia is considering that site, and as for opinions and signals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is fully justified for any country to think about what is happening in its neighbourhood and I don't see any problem with that," the minister said.

He pointed out that disposal sites like that that existed across Europe were made according to the highest standards and posed no threat.

Ćorić said that if Croatia decided to dispose of its radioactive waste in the Trgovska Gora area it would contact Bosnia and Herzegovina and the neighbouring country would be able to raise its concerns then. He said that concerns could not be raised based on hearsay evidence but should be clearly founded, adding that he expected all parties involved to behave responsibly.

Ćorić said that the site of the nuclear waste storage facility would be decided after careful consideration. He added that the Croatia-Slovenia commission on this matter was meeting in September or October.

Asked what would happen if the Bosnian authorities continued to oppose the idea, Ćorić said that sometimes it was impossible to reconcile all views and that there were always those that were discontented. "I'm not prejudging the decision and I can't answer 'what if' questions."

A protest rally was held outside the Croatian Embassy in Sarajevo on Monday against Croatia's plan to build a radioactive waste storage facility near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

More news about the Krško nuclear power plant can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Unlikely Bosnia Will Extradite Zdravko Mamić to Croatia

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - It is unlikely that former Dinamo football club boss Zdravko Mamić will be extradited to Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina after the country's prosecutors underscored on Tuesday that that would be unlawful.

A hearing was held at the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday regarding Mamić's extradition on charges that he and several others had siphoned 200 million kuna from the football club.

The court is expected to deliver its decision in the next ten days, Mamić's defence attorney said. Bosnian Justice Minister Josip Grubeša has the final says on Croatia's extradition request.

Mamić fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina and is currently residing in Medjugorje. During today's hearing, Mamić and his local defence attorney Zdravko Rajić objected to the extradition.

Prosecutor Gordana Bosiljčić had a similar stance. "The condition for Mamić to be extradited to a foreign country is that the criminal act with which he has been charged constitutes a criminal act in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is not the case with either the penal code in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina or in the Republika Srpska or Brčko District," she underscored.

Bosiljčić said that of the 32 offences covered by the indictment against Mamić, only seven were committed after Bosnia and Croatia signed an extradition agreement, adding that the agreement could not be applied retroactively.

Mamić's defence attorney said the crimes he was charged with occurred before the agreement went into force.

The agreement was signed in 2012 and went into force in 2014, and the two countries interpret it differently, said Rajić.

Mamić was ordered to surrender his passport and is obliged to regularly report to local police in Čitluk until the procedure is finalised. Rajić asked the State Court to lift the measures.

More news about the case of Zdravko Mamić can be found in the Sports section.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Bosnian Presidency Should Re-Examine Pelješac Bridge and Nuclear Waste Site

ZAGREB, July 22, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Mirko Šarović, who is the leader of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), on Monday called on the country's Presidency to once again examine the question of the Pelješac Bridge and Croatia's plans for a nuclear waste site at Trgovska Gora after media reported that Croatia had already decided on that site which is close to the Bosnian border.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina has no other choice than to once again put the issue of a nuclear waste storage facility in Trgovska Gora, which is of enormous significance for the entire country and in particular for the towns of Novi Grad, Kostajnica and other border towns, but also the issue of the construction of the Pelješac Bridge on the agenda and to take a clear stance," Šarović said in Banja Luka on Monday.

According to Šarović, the Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik's decision last week to veto a decision by the two other Presidency members was rash. As the incumbent chairman of the tripartite presidency, Dodik called for a veto to a decision by the Bosniak and Serb members, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić respectively that a demand be sent to Croatia to stop the construction of the Pelješac Bridge until the sea border demarcation issue is resolved between the two countries. Dodik's veto was later upheld by the Republika Srpska parliament.

In the meantime, some media outlets have reported that Croatia's authorities have already decided on Trgovska Gora as the site to build a nuclear waste storage facility, which is located on the border with Bosnia, and this has led to numerous reactions in that country.

Šarović said that after the announcement of the plan to build the nuclear waste facility, authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina "have no alternative than to once again" raise these issues with Croatia at the next Presidency meeting.

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

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Milorad Dodik to Protect Pelješac Bridge Again

ZAGREB, July 21, 2019 - The Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency, Milorad Dodik, has said he will again impose a veto and ask the Serb entity's parliament to reverse any decision whereby the Presidency's two other members might outvote him concerning the Pelješac Bridge in Croatia.

"If I'm outvoted again and Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić create certain conclusions on the Pelješac Bridge again, I'll invoke vital interests again," he was quoted as saying in BiH's print media on Sunday.

Earlier this week, the Serb entity's parliament rescinded by two-thirds majority a decision by Džaferović and Komšić, the Presidency's Bosniak and Croat members, after Dodik vetoed their demand that construction on the Pelješac Bridge be stopped and that the two countries resolve the sea border issue, or they would file an international suit.

Dodik said all outstanding issues with Croatia should be resolved through talks but without setting conditions or creating "new disputes that will last ten years or more."

Komšić assumed the rotating chairmanship of the BiH Presidency from Dodik on Saturday, saying he would look for any way to implement the sea border demarcation and that he would insist on BiH's access to the high seas.

More news about Pelješac bridge can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Komšić Says Croatia Obstructing Resolution of Outstanding Issues with Bosnia

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency member Željko Komšić has accused Croatia of refusing to resolve outstanding issues between the two countries, the Sarajevo-based Oslobodjenje daily said on Friday.

Komšić, who will assume the rotating chairmanship of the Presidency on Saturday, said in an interview with the daily that there is a long list interview of outstanding issues and that, aside from Croatia's unwillingness to resolve them, the HDZ BiH party's members in the BiH Council of Ministers are obstructing work on those issues.

He highlighted the border issue, BiH companies' assets in Croatia, and plans to build a nuclear waste dump in Croatia near the BiH border.

"There's no interest on Croatia's part to resolve them," he was quoted as saying, adding that "we have the desire and the good will" to resolve them. He also said BiH was "very fair and concrete" in dealing with the assets of Croatian companies and private citizens in BiH, "without the condition of reciprocity."

Komšić said Croatia is treating the assets of BiH companies and persons as its own and is leasing them.

He also commented on the latest dispute in the BiH Presidency, in which incumbent chair Milorad Dodik put a veto on a decision to stop the construction of the Pelješac bridge until the two countries resolve their border issue. Komšić says Dodik "promised Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović" that he would do so.

He dismissed Dodik's claims that stopping the construction would cause problems with the construction of a bridge across the Sava river and bring BiH into conflict with the EU.

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

Friday, 19 July 2019

Frontex to Arrive on Croatia-Bosnia Border?

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - Slovenian Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar has mentioned the possibility of sending Frontex (European Border and Coast Guard Agency) to the Croatian-Bosnian border to prevent illegal migration, his ministry said on Thursday.

Poklukar met with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on the fringes of a meeting of EU interior ministers and they discussed migrations and the situation in the Western Balkans, the Slovenian Interior Ministry said.

The two ministers agreed that the problem is not the Slovenian-Italian border but the external EU border which should be protected even better, the ministry said. They expressed willingness to help Croatia if it assesses that it needs help, and Poklukar mentioned the possibility of sending Frontex to the Croatian-Bosnian border, it added.

Poklukar told Salvini that closing the Slovenian-Italian border because of illegal migration was unnecessary and that the situation on the border did not call for it. Any restriction of the border regime on the border would interfere with the everyday life of people living along the border, the ministry said, adding that border closures in history had negative consequences.

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

Thursday, 18 July 2019

EU Approves Preparation of Documentation for New Bosnia-Croatia Gas Pipeline

ZAGREB, July 18, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's natural gas supplier BH Gas said on Thursday it had received permission from the European Union to launch a project that would connect the country's gas grid to that of Croatia.

The Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations on Wednesday approved the preparation of a project to build the South Interconnection BH-Croatia, the company said.

The new natural gas pipeline would run from Zagvozd in southern Croatia to Posušje and on to central Bosnia and Mostar. BH Gas said it hoped the new supply route, which would be independent of Russia, would be operational by 2023.

The main financier of the project is the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which will provide a favourable loan arrangement.

The EU will for now support the project with 1 million euro in grants. The job of preparation of initial documentation has been awarded to the Mott MacDonald consortium through the CONNECTA project.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently completely dependent on Russian gas, which is supplied via Hungary and Serbia. The new pipeline via Zagvozd should ensure it access to the EU market and the future LNG terminal on the northern Croatian Adriatic island of Krk.

Croatia is expected to build a 60-kilometre long pipeline from Split to Zagvozd as part of the project, whereas the whole route from Zagvozd to Travnik is 114 kilometres with an additional 46 kilometres of a branch pipeline to Mostar.

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

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Bosnian Presidency Divided over Pelješac Bridge Construction

ZAGREB, July 17, 2019 - The Croat and Bosniak members of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović respectively, on Tuesday decided to launch proceedings against Croatia over the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, while the chairman of the tripartite presidency and its Serb member, Milorad Dodik, said that he would attempt to thwart them by using the mechanism of protecting vital national interest.

The decision is considered to have been formally adopted, but considering that each member has the right to vital interest, I as the Serb member of the presidency raised the issue of vital national interest, Dodik told reporters in Sarajevo after a meeting of the presidency.

He did not explain what sort of proceedings would be launched, but it is assumed that they will most likely be instigated at an international arbitration body.

The mechanism of vital national interest means that Dodik will have to explain his objection to Komšić and Džaferović's stance before the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity and if his opinion is upheld by a two-thirds majority, the decision that the other two members of the presidency voted for cannot enter into force.

Dodik's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) with its coalition partners has absolute majority in the RS parliament, so it is more than likely that the parliament will put a veto on the presidency's decision adopted today.

Dodik said that that decision was not a good one because it opened new problems in relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. He underlined that it was particularly damaging on the day the two countries signed an agreement the construction of a bridge across the Sava river at Gradiška which has been in the pipeline for the past ten years.

"My demand was that a border agreement be reached with Croatia, but they (Komšić and Džaferović) focused on the Pelješac Bridge," Dodik said, stressing that that would mean a dispute not only with Croatia but the European Union, which would not be good for the country.

Komšić and Džaferović earlier reiterated that Croatia should not be allowed to build the bridge before the border issue between the two countries in the Neum bay is resolved. They claim that the Pelješac Bridge will hinder Bosnia and Herzegovina's access to the high seas.

The Croatian Roads company, the Bosnian Communications and Transport Ministry and a contractor representative signed a 19.5 million euro contract in Zagreb on Tuesday for the construction of a bridge across the Sava river from Okučani to the Croatian-Bosnian border.

More news about Pelješac Bridge can be found in the Politics section.

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