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.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Croatia, Bosnia Sign Contract on Construction of Bridge across Sava River

ZAGREB, July 16, 2019 - The Croatian Roads company, the Bosnian Communications and Transport Ministry and a contractor representative signed in Zagreb on Tuesday a EUR 19.5 million contract on the construction of a bridge across the Sava river from Okučani to the Croatian-Bosnian border.

Including VAT, the contract is worth 23.5 million euro and the costs will be covered equally by Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bridge will be built by a consortium comprising the Bosnian company Integral Inženjering and Croatian companies Đuro Đaković Montaža and Zagreb-Montaža.

Croatian Transport Minister Oleg Butković, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the contract proved that Croatia and BiH, neighbours and friends, could carry out big infrastructure projects.

The bridge across the Sava is part of a future expressway stretching from the Croatian-Hungarian border across Virovitica and Okučani to the Croatian-Bosnian border.

The bridge is expected to be built in the next 30 months. It will be 462 metres long, 22 metres wide and have four lanes. The whole project consists of three stages and envisages the construction of 8.5 km of access roads.

Butković said the Svilaj bridge, which is also being built by Croatia and BiH, would be inaugurated by the end of the year.

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

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Government Considering Situation in Mostar-Based Aluminij Company

ZAGREB, July 13, 2019 - The Croatian government, a minority stakeholder in the Mostar-based Aluminij smelting plant, has announced consultations with the company's management and the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Federation over the debt-ridden smelter and considers that it is necessary to thoroughly change its current business model to make the company successful.

The Croatian government has a 12% stake in the plant, while Bosnia's Bosniak-Croat Federation entity is the biggest single shareholder with a 44% stake, and small shareholders hold the remaining 44%.

The Andrej Plenković cabinet today issued a press release to express its concern over the latest developments in Aluminij, which was disconnected from the power grid a few days ago over debts incurred because of high electricity and alumina prices, and the consequent discontinuation of production in the night between 9 and 10 July.

The Croatian government "expresses concern and regret at such developments in a company of strategic importance for the Croat people in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the economic development of the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina".

Being a minority stakeholder, the Croatian government believes that market and economically justified and competitive production in Aluminij can be accomplished only by the thorough change of the current business model of Aluminij in line with the best European business practices. For that change to be made, the support of the Federation's government is needed.

The company's management has announced filing for bankruptcy.

The Croatian government's representatives are going to hold consultations before the next stakeholders' assembly with the Bosnian Federation's authorities and the Aluminij management so as to consider possible solutions for the company's challenges.

On Thursday, hundreds of disgruntled employees of Aluminij took to the streets in Mostar to protest against the closing of the plant.

Also on Thursday, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović expressed concern over the fate of 900 workers at the Aluminij smelting plant in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and due to the escalation of the problems at that strategically important company, she requested an opinion from the Croatian government.

Aluminij is the largest company in Herzegovina with about 900 workers and a turnover of approximately 163 million euro. It was founded in 1981 and stopped operating during the 1992-1995 war. After the war it was reconstructed with the assistance of the Croatian government in 1997. Croatia owns a 12% share in the company, the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity holds 44% of its shares and workers hold the remaining 44%.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Croatian President Very Concerned about Workers at Bosnian Company

ZAGREB, July 12, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Thursday expressed concern over the fate of 900 workers at the Aluminij smelting plant in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and due to the escalation of the problems at that strategically important company, she requested an opinion from the Croatian government.

Grabar-Kitarović assessed that the escalation of the situation is the result of years of ignoring obvious problems in the business operations of that strategically important company.

"I am worried about the workers' fate and livelihood and strongly support them in their demands for shedding light on all the facts that led to this situation. I would like to believe that Croatia as a co-owner of Aluminij has done everything in its power to protect national interests and the interests of the workers and I have asked the government to present its opinion as a matter of urgency," Grabar-Kitarović said in a press release.

Production at Aluminij stopped just after midnight on July 9 when its electricity supply was cut off over debts incurred. The company's management board then quickly announced that it would launch bankruptcy proceedings.

Aluminij is the largest company in Herzegovina with about 900 workers and a turnover of approximately 163 million euro. It was founded in 1981 and stopped operating during the 1992-1995 war. After the war it was reconstructed with the assistance of the Croatian government in 1997. Croatia owns a 12% share in the company, the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity holds 44% of its shares and workers hold the remaining 44%.

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Plenković Extends His Condolences for Srebrenica Genocide

ZAGREB, July 11, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković opened Thursday's cabinet meeting by expressing his condolences for the victims of the Srebrenica genocide.

"Today is the 24th anniversary of a great tragedy, one of the worst atrocities following World War II. In 1995 more than 8,000 men and youths were killed in Srebrenica," said Plenković.

He added that the government had sent an envoy to two commemorations of that tragedy, one to the Croatian parliament and the other to the Islamic centre in Zagreb.

"We want to express our condolences for the victims of that horrific crime," Plenković underscored and recalled that that "crime has been qualified as genocide by the international tribunal's conviction."

Participants and speakers at the central commemoration held in Srebrenica on Thursday to mark the 24th anniversary of the genocide committed by Bosnian Serb army and police forces against local Bosniaks urged the international community to take all the necessary steps to counter more and more aggressive attempts aimed at revising the history and denying the genocidal character of the war crimes in that eastern Bosnian enclave in the summer 1995.

Thousands of people arrived today in Srebrenica to attend the central commemoration in the Potočari memorial centre in tribute to victims of the genocide committed in July 1995 when Srebrenica which was at the time a U.N. safe haven, fell into the hands of the Serb forces.

One of the few survivors of the mass-scale executions of Bosniak men and boys, Nedžad Avdić, who was 17 when he was captured and taken to an execution site in July 1995, today held a speech in which he recalled how the forces that raided Srebrenica had a well-organised system for the execution of local inhabitants.

"Many say that the past should be forgotten and that we should look to the future. I can say that for some, Srebrenica belongs to the past, but for us it is our life," said Avdić underscoring that those who survived the Srebrenica genocide had hoped that the Dayton peace accords would improve the situation.

However, it has turned out to be an illusion, and the victims of that genocide are still suffering, while Srebrenica is left to those who even today deny genocide and glorify war crimes, Avdić said.

He underscored that the perpetration of the genocide is continuing in Srebrenica through more subtle methods, primarily through the education system.

We are denied the right to have our own language, culture, past, heritage, identity and existence in this area, Avdić said.

Statistics show that of the 8,372 persons registered as missing after the fall of Srebrenica, the remains of 7,119 victims have been found and exhumed. Another 102 bodies have been found but not identified.

The remains of 33 victims of that genocide were buried in the Potočari memorial centre today.

The president of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Judge Carmel Agius, who attended today's commemoration, extended condolences to the families of those killed in 1995.

It was established beyond any reasonable doubt that the genocide was planned and committed, and more than 8,000 man and youths were killed and buried in mass graves, Judge Agius said.

Bosniak member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, Šefik Džaferović said that the goal of the crimes committed in Srebrenica was to erase all traces of the existence of a people.

The fact that genocide was committed in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995 has been proved by rulings delivered by international and local courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, which have to date sentenced 47 people for ordering or committing war crimes in that eastern Bosnian enclave.

On 26 February 2007, the ICJ, the highest judicial body of the United Nations, ruled that the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica constituted genocide, but that Serbia was not responsible for the mass killings. However, the ICJ found Belgrade responsible for violating the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, and defined the Bosnian Serb army and police as the perpetrators of the genocide.

In mid-July every year, commemorations are organised in Bosnia and Herzegovina to pay tribute to the victims of that worst atrocity on European soil since the end of WWII.

In Croatia, commemorative marches and other events in memory of the Srebrenica victims were held in several cities this week.

More news about the Srebrenica genocide can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Parliament Commemorates Srebrenica Genocide Victims

ZAGREB, July 5, 2019 - A commemoration on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, when more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, was held at the Croatian parliament and a message was sent out that a crime of that nature must never occur again.

The commemoration, during which the names were read out of 33 victims whose remains will be laid to rest on July 11, was organised by the Association of Bosniak Homeland War Veterans and the member of parliament who represents a group of minorities, including the Bosniaks, Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Željko Reiner said that commemorations for the Srebrenica victims reopened old wounds.

Twenty-four years after the atrocity, its dimensions are still being uncovered because in 1995 thousands of innocent people were killed in the most massive crime and genocide after World War II. They remain in our collective memory of the brutality of individuals who demonstrated their inhumanity. The truth is important for the sake of the victims and their families because any denial hides the seed of future wars and crimes, said Reiner.

Only the truth and admission of responsibility for crimes pave the way to a catharsis, Reiner said.

Hamdija Malić of the Association of Bosniak Homeland War Veterans said that the Srebrenica tragedy occurred because of the aggressive and criminal policy of Slobodan Milošević, who, he said, could have prevented it with a single phone call to criminal Ratko Mladić yet he did not do so.

Killing more than 8,000 people in several days is an unprecedented crime after World War II, he said, accusing international politicians in power at the time of failing to do anything to prevent the atrocity despite having witnessed the tragedy of the Croatian town of Vukovar.

He said that it was tragic that the Serb Orthodox Church encouraged Great Serbian paramilitary forces that killed, raped and expelled non-Serbs and burned their homes.

We thank Croats and the Croatian Parliament for having a big heart and for recognising the participation of 25,000 Bosniaks in the Homeland War, of whom 1,100 were killed, Malić said.

The commemoration in the parliament was also addressed by Lekaj Prljaskaj, an envoy for the Croatian president, Mirjana Hrga, and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

Nermin Mujkanović, who was a child at the time and survived the Srebrenica genocide but lost two older brothers in it, spoke at the commemoration about those events.

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

Thursday, 4 July 2019

President Tells Croats in Bihać Croatia Monitors Migrant Crisis

ZAGREB, July 4, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has written to a group of Croat residents of the northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina town of Bihać, telling them that Croatia has been closely following the migrant crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily said on Thursday.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak confirmed to the daily that the Croatian president replied through his ministry to a letter by four Bihać residents who asked her in a letter to intervene over a decision by town authorities to set up a new migrant centre in Vučjak, only ten kilometres from the border with Croatia.

The four Bihać residents believe this move jeopardises the few remaining Croats living in villages close to Vučjak.

In her reply, Grabar-Kitarović said that she and Croatian authorities were following developments in the area of Bihać and that she had forwarded the letter to the Croatian ministries of foreign and internal affairs for further action.

The Croatian president did not specify what the two ministries would do with regard to the situation in the neighbouring country.

The largest number of migrants who illegally enter Bosnia and Herzegovina and attempt to reach the Western Europe via Croatia have been staying in the northwestern Una-Sana Canton and the towns of Bihać and Velika Kladuša, close to the border with Croatia.

As two migrant centres opened in downtown Bihać have become overcrowded, two months ago the town authorities decided to set up a new migrant centre at Vučjak, seven kilometres from the town centre.

A large number of migrants are staying there in a tent settlement in poor conditions and the EU has said that it will not finance it because the settlement does not meet even the most basic conditions for normal functioning considering that it is located in rugged terrain and is close to areas believed to be infested with mines and even lacks running water.

The head of the Delegation of the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, has suggested that the country should consider the model used by Serbian authorities which have distributed migrants evenly in 18 centres across the country.

Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina will discuss this dispute with EU officials in Brussels on July 17.

The EU has said that this year it will set aside slightly less than 15 million euros for Bosnia and Herzegovina to deal with the migrant crisis.

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

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Exhibition on Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina Opened

ZAGREB, July 4, 2019 - An exhibition of the intangible cultural heritage of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, borrowed from the ethnographic collection of the Carmelite monastery of St Elijah near Tomislavgrad, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, was opened in Zagreb's Klovićevi Dvori gallery on Wednesday.

The exhibition features 12 cultural phenomena from a preliminary list of intangible cultural heritage of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina which the entity has already nominated or will nominate for UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage.

Those phenomena include Konjić woodcarving (already on UNESCO's list), Kreševo egg shoeing, Kupres haymaking, the ganga and sevdalinka traditional songs, and diving from Mostar's Old Bridge.

The exhibition was opened on the occasion of the 53rd Zagreb International Folklore Festival, to start on July 17.

The Monastery of St Elijah on Buško Lake near Tomislavgrad collects and keeps traditional clothes, jewellery and objects of everyday use of all three constituent peoples - the Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks - from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Zagreb exhibition will be open until July 21.

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

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Croatia Must Change Its Policy Towards Bosnia, Says MP

ZAGREB, July 2, 2019 - A member of parliament, former minister of the interior and leader of the recently established New Politics party, Vlaho Orepić, has said that Croatia's attitude to Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably the interests of Croats in that country, had to change as it had become evident that the situation could not be changed for the better only through cooperation with the HDZ BiH party.

Orepić, who used to be minister of the interior nominated by the Bridge party, told the Bosnia and Herzegovina new agency Patria on Tuesday that he was concerned about the conduct of HDZ BiH leader Dragan Ćović and described his policy as detrimental to Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Croatia's interests.

"His policy lacks legality and legitimacy in the Croat electorate in Bosnia and Herzegovina... it is a policy that tries to present, based on the model used by Milorad Dodik, the policy of war booty as a Croatian interest... many in Herzegovina, even successful business people are afraid and depend on his policy. The Croatian government, too, is afraid to rub him the wrong way because he is part of the ruling majority and is using political blackmail in the parliament to secure its support," said Orepić.

He noted that Ćović's drawing closer to Bosnian Serb leader Dodik, who, he said, openly questioned Bosnia and Herzegovina's territorial integrity and NATO membership bid, was entirely opposed to Croatia's strategic interests.

"Ćović and his political exhibitionism are the most important reason why relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia are bad," Orepić said, adding that that policy should be replaced with one based on principles of trust and responsibility and that it could be articulated by other political parties that would represent the interests of all Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including his New Politics party.

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

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

EU Allocates 14.8 Million Euro for Migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina

ZAGREB, June 26, 2019 - The Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday said that the EU would allocate 14.8 million euro to Bosnia and Herzegovina "to address the needs of migrants and refugees who remain present" in that country.

The assistance includes 13 million euro of support "to migration management – for which an implementation agreement was signed on 21 June with the International Organisation for Migration – and 1.8 million euro for humanitarian aid."

"This brings EU overall assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina to cope with the increased migratory flow since 2018 to 24 million euro (20.2 million euro from the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance and 3.8 million euro of humanitarian aid)," the EU says.

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations was quoted as saying: that "Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities need to ensure effective coordination, at all levels, of border management and migration management capacity, as well as the functioning of the asylum system. This is necessary for the country to take full advantage of the EU substantial assistance – in the interest of refugees and migrants and of the local communities."

Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, was quoted as saying that "the EU is committed to help those most in need and cover the basic needs of refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, complementing national efforts."

"It is important that the well-being of the refugees and migrants is at the heart of decisions for the location and quality of accommodation centres."

The statement recalls that local authorities proceeded with a forced relocation of 900-1000 refugees and migrants to a new location called Vučijak "that has been deemed unsuitable by the European Union and UN."

"The above-mentioned venue, without the necessary infrastructure in terms of water, sanitation or electricity, surrounded by minefields, creates a clear danger for the life and health of migrants. Furthermore, the land is a former landfill and may still be toxic. The European Union is concerned about the well-being of the people moved there and has, together with its humanitarian partners, requested the authorities to stop forced relocations and provide dignified and secure shelter solutions. The European Union is also concerned about the authorities’ intention to take measures against humanitarian partners."

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

Page 8 of 37