Wednesday, 18 May 2022

HDZ BiH Hit by Avalanche of Criticism, US Embassy Joins in

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - The Bosnian Croat HDZ BiH party has been strongly criticised over the fact that ministers from that party on Tuesday blocked the adoption of a decision on election financing, with the leading BiH Croat party resolutely dismissing the criticisms, including by the US Embassy in Sarajevo.

"Unprecedented public and media pressure on BiH Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda has culminated with an open call to violate the law. Such attempts can be described as an act of undermining the rule or law," the HDZ BiH said in a statement on Tuesday amid an avalanche of criticism over its attempt to block the implementation of 2 October general elections.

The BiH government on Tuesday held a conference call at which a proposal was made to finance the elections with slightly less than €6.5 million from budget reserves accumulated over previous years.

This fallback option was proposed by the Central Election Commission (SIP) because the budget for 2022, which was to have envisaged funds for elections, has not been adopted yet. 

Its budget has been obstructed for a year and a half by Bosnian Serb officials, but Serb and Bosniak government ministers were on Tuesday willing to support SIP's proposal.

The BiH Finance Ministry, however, described the proposal as unconstitutional, and the three HDZ BiH ministers on the government voted against.

Under the Council of Ministers rules of procedure, the government cannot make any decision unless at least one minister from all three constituent peoples votes for it.

Shortly after yesterday's government session, Bevanda issued a statement explaining that elections can be financed without the budget but not the way it had been proposed.

"Law and lawful conduct were evidently not a priority in proposing this decision," said Bevanda, who was fully supported by his HDZ BiH party.

Nevertheless, the HDZ BiH has suddenly found itself isolated because in addition to criticism of its ministers, almost all major Bosniak and Serb parties called for ensuring money for the elections, noting that their blockade must not be allowed.

The Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) was the most vocal in its criticism, saying the HDZ BiH is doing everything possible to prevent the October election because it is dissatisfied with the failure to reach agreement on changes to the election law.

The SDA called for prosecuting those responsible for blockades and urged the international community to intervene and impose a decision to ensure funds for the elections.

The US Embassy said in a Twitter post that the HDZ BiH's blocking election financing is irresponsible and unjustified.

It also noted that HDZ deputies in the state parliament were against the adoption of EU-required laws, which it said was contrary to their professed commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration.

Under the current election law, 19 May is the deadline by which the Council of Ministers must secure funds for the implementation of elections, and Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija said after the failed vote that an attempt was made to do it in a way that was not in line with the law.

"I call on all those in charge to continue with preparations for the implementation of elections in October 2022 and by the time SIP needs the money for elections, it will have it," said Tegeltija.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

BiH: No Money for Elections Yet, HDZ Minister Says Exposed to Political Pressure

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Contrary to expectations, Bosnia and Herzegovina's government on Tuesday failed to adopt a decision to secure funds for the implementation of 2 October general elections, with Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda of the HDZ BiH saying an attempt was made to do it illegally by using political pressure.

The government held a conference call at which a proposal was made to finance the elections with budget reserves accumulated in previous years, which was a fallback option because the budget for 2022, which was to contain funds for the elections, has not been adopted yet due to political disputes in the country.

The adoption of the decision on securing funds for the elections was eventually blocked by ministers from the Croat HDZ BiH party while Serb and Bosniak ministers voted in favour.

Under the current election law, 19 May is the deadline by which the country's government, the Council of Ministers, must secure funds for the implementation of elections which the Central Election Commission (SIP) has estimated will cost more than €6.5 million.

The general election is expected to be held based on the country's existing election law after the failure of all attempts to change the law in order to secure the implementation of rulings of the BiH Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Their implementation was to have eliminated discrimination of voters in the election process based on their ethnicity or place of residence as well as secure the right for Croat voters to elect on their own Croat representatives to the BiH Presidency and the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's Bosniak-Croat entity.

Parties gathered around the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HNS BiH) maintain there are therefore no legal preconditions to implement the election results.

They have decided, however, to participate in the elections, hopeful that before October some sort of agreement on the election reform could be reached, a possibility the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has resolutely dismissed.

Immediately after SIP called the elections on 4 May, the BiH Council of Ministers was asked to secure funds for their implementation, a request openly supported by the Office of the High Representative, the United States and the most influential EU member countries.

In a separate statement issued after the vote at the Council of Ministers, Finance Minister Bevanda claimed money for the elections cannot be secured the way it was attempted on Tuesday.

"Law and lawful conduct were evidently not a priority in proposing this decision," Bevanda said, noting the proposal was a result of political pressure.

He accused SIP of "an unprecedented campaign of imputation and manipulation", an allusion to the fact that SIP has accused him of trying to obstruct the implementation of the elections and threatened to sue him.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Bosniaks in Upper House of Parliament Block Croat Proposal to Amend Electoral Law

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Bosniak members of Bosnia and Herzegovina's upper house of parliament on Wednesday blocked a vote on amendments to the electoral law put forward by the Croat HDZ BihH party, scuppering the last chance of changing the law before general elections are called for October.

"We declare this proposal harmful to the vital national interests of the Bosniak people," said MP Asim Sarajlić of the Democratic Action Party (SDA). He said that the proposal was completely unacceptable, unilateral and unconstitutional because relevant parliament committees did not have a chance to discuss it.

The parliamentary rules of procedure provide that in case of invoking protection of vital national interests a commission consisting of three members of each national political group should be immediately convened to address the issue in question. If the commission fails to do so, the matter is referred to the Constitutional Court within five days to be dealt with under an urgent procedure.

Explaining the proposal, HDZ MP Bariša Čolak said that his party aimed to create necessary legal prerequisites for calling elections, which the Central Election Commission plans to do on 4 May so that elections can be held in October.

"We no longer have time to wait, because elections have been announced and more comprehensive changes cannot be made because we have no time to amend the constitution," Čolak said, adding that this is why the proposal does not provide for the implementation of any of the five relevant judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights.

Čolak said that the most important thing now was to ensure the election of legitimate members of the state presidency and the upper houses of parliament at the state and entity level to prevent the domination of one constituent peoples over another.

HDZ BiH leader Dragan Čović said there were no legal conditions to hold elections after all attempts to reach a negotiated solution had failed in the last two years and the agreement signed by him and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegović in Mostar in 2020 was frustrated.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Croat Deputies in BiH Call for Urgent Investigation into Threats Against Officials

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - The Croat parliamentary group in the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the BiH Federation entity on Wednesday harshly condemned death threats sent to HDZ BiH officials Dragan Čović and Ivo Tadić, calling for an urgent investigation and punishment of those responsible.

The death threats against Čović and Tadić, who is at the helm of the HDZ branch in Zenica-Doboj Canton and is also the whip for the Croat parliamentary group in the House of Peoples of the BiH Federation Parliament, were published on Tuesday in a Facebook post.

The Croat caucus underscored that the police and judicial bodies need to treat this as a very serious case because Tadić was exposed to similar threats in 2011, when an explosive device was planted in his car.

The HDZ BiH believes the threats are due to the failed negotiations on election reform. After the last round of negotiations failed, Čović and the leader of the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegović, exchanged some sharp accusations, blaming each other for the blockade and obstruction of the reform.

Čović told reporters on Tuesday that he had been exposed to threats for years, adding that he would not be intimidated.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

FM Grlić Radman Discusses Situation in Bosnia With Čović and Zovko

ZAGREB, 8 Sept, 2021 - Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, on Wednesday discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the leader of the HDZ BiH party, Dragan Čović, and the vice-chair of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Željana Zovko, the ministry said in a statement.

The meeting focused on the reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral legislation "to ensure the quality and legitimate political representation of the Croats", the steps that need to be taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards European Union membership and how Croatia can help it in that regard.

Čović spoke of the current political situation and ethnic relations in his country and challenges to the achievement of legitimate rights for the Croats, while Zovko presented the European Parliament's activities concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of southeast Europe.

Grlić Radman reiterated that Bosnia and Herzegovina has the support of Croatia and his ministry in political demands for the legitimate representation of the Croats "so that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be functioning, stable and prosperous and would achieve its Euroatlantic ambitions more easily."

They all agreed that amendments to the election law would contribute to the stability and functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina and increase trust between the three constituent peoples and all other citizens in the country, the statement said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

HDZ BiH Women Donate HRK 100,000 for Reconstruction of Petrinja Care Home

ZAGREB, 23 May, 2021 - The president of the Women's Union of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) party, Marina Pendeš, on Sunday gave the head of a care home in Petrinja HRK 100,000 for the reconstruction of the home, damaged in last year's earthquake.

Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved was also present.

The HDZ BiH Women's Union organised the fund-raising and raised a total of HRK 140,000, with 40,000 to go for the reconstruction of the Dragutin Tadijanović Elementary School in Petrinja.

The fund-raising for the reconstruction of the school was initiated by HDZ BiH president Dragan Čović together with the Croat mayors, municipal heads and heads of cantonal governments in BiH.

For more news about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Dragan Čović For Euractiv: Stop Discrimination Against Minorities And Outvoting of Croats

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - HDZ BiH party leader Dragan Čović on Tuesday called for amending Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law to put an end to discrimination against ethnic minorities, whose members cannot run for the country's top posts, as well as to the outvoting of Croats as the smallest constituent ethnic group.

"It is intolerable that a part of our citizenry, including Roma and Jews, cannot run as candidates for the top state institutions. Creating just and fair solutions to these challenges, including through limited constitutional change, is one of the HDZ's major priorities in the election legislation alternatives we are proposing," the leader of the biggest BiH Croat party says in a commentary published by Euractiv and forwarded to the local media.

Čović notes that this is crucial for the country's progress towards EU membership as is putting an end to the outvoting of Croats.

"It is unconstitutional that the most populous community selects and determines who will represent the smallest constituent community, yet this is what is happening to the Croats and others in Bosnia and Herzegovina...

"We must adjust and reaffirm a power-sharing system in Bosnia Herzegovina that guarantees equal rights and does not discriminate against anyone," says Čović.

"This non-election year provides a chance we cannot afford to miss, in the implementation of electoral, rule of law, and economic reforms necessary for a path forward to EU and NATO membership," says Čović.

The European Court of Human Rights has made several rulings, of which the best known is the ruling in the Sejdić-Finci case, which calls for an end to discrimination against candidates wo do not identify themselves as Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs since they cannot run or be elected to the state presidency and the parliament's upper chamber, called the House of Peoples.

In its ruling of 2016 in the Ljubić case, the BiH Constitutional Court called for changing the election law to prevent the outvoting of constituent ethnic groups in elections for ethnically-designed institutions.

This has caused disputes about changes to the election law that have been going on for several years.

In 2020, Čović and Bosniak SDA party leader Bakir Izetbegović signed two documents on the reform of the election law with the mediation of US, EU and British diplomats, the OSCE Mission and the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One of the documents refers to ensuring conditions for local elections in Mostar and the other to changes to the election law to implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and enable legitimate political representation for the three constituent peoples in line with the BiH Constitutional Court ruling in the Ljubić case.

For more about Croats in BiH, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Grlić Radman: Stability Reason for Croatian BiH EU Membership Support

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - Croatia wants to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a future member of the European Union because that is the only way to ensure stability in this area, and Bosnia and Herzegovina will have all our support, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina is our most important neighbour, a country with which we share 1,100 kilometres of border, a country made up of two entities, three equal peoples, including Croats, and it is our constitutional and moral obligation to help Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European path," Grlić Radman said in Kreševo at the end of his two-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He visited the Franciscan monastery and a museum co-financed by the Croatian government, which should open soon.

"We want to help all areas of life of Croats in this place, where Croats make up more than 80% of the population, so that they would stay in this area, especially young people," Grlić Radman said.

Together with HDZ BiH party leader Dragan Čović, he visited the plants owned by the Stanić family, noting that these modern production facilities prove that it is possible to live and invest there.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.