Saturday, 25 September 2021

Milanović: My Words Will Be Superfluous When Croats Are Equal People in Bosnia

ZAGREB, 25 Sept, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday his statements like the one that he was also the president of Croats not living in Croatia would be "completely or somewhat superfluous" once Croats were able to elect their representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina on their own.

"It's a difficult situation when I have to say that I'm also the president of Croats not living in Croatia, who have the right to vote because they are Croatian citizens. And not just Croats. There are Bosniaks and Serbs in BiH who also have Croatian citizenship. Perhaps they vote, perhaps they don't. When Croats are able to elect their representative in Sarajevo on their own, equally as the other two constituent peoples, then those words of mine will be completely or somewhat superfluous," Milanović told the press in Varaždin.

He was responding to BiH Presidency Chairman Željko Komšić, who said on Thursday that by saying that he was also the president of all Croatian citizens in BiH while Komšić was not, Milanović had surpassed even Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

"If you want to chase Croats out of BiH or alienate them from BiH, then you'll deprive them of those fundamental constitutional rights, while simultaneously accusing those who only fight for basic house rules of being destroyers and comparing them with warmongers," Milanović said, adding that "the more Croats insist on that right, the more, more than before, they care about staying there."

Insults from Serbia

Responding to Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin's statement earlier this week that Milanović was "one of the stupider Croatian politicians," Milanović said he did not have "my own loudmouths and rabble-rousers who will roundly insult Vučić."

"I'll say some things that are not pleasant in my own words, from my own mouth," he said, wondering "what would happen if I was the smartest" politician in Croatia.

Milanović added that while he did say earlier this week that Vučić was proud of having been a warmonger in the 1990s, he did not call anyone a Chetnik. "I draw the line at such things."

No difference between Scholtz and Laschet

Commenting on Sunday's German election for Chancellor Angela Merkel's successor, he said "nothing will change," whether it was Social Democrat Olaf Scholz or Christian Democrat Armin Laschet.

"It will be the same policy, the same course. More or less the same people will probably stay in foreign affairs as well," he said, adding that "it almost makes no difference, both for Croatia and Europe," who the new German chancellor is.

"They are moderate people... One should expect the continuity of the German policy. The big parties have weakened. A two-party coalition is hardly possible," he said.

No communication on ambassadorial appointments for weeks

Commenting on relations between his office and the government concerning the appointment of ambassadors, Milanović said Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman had begun talks with the head of his office but they stopped.

"Evidently at the same time as the finale of this story with the appointment of the Supreme Court president... Whether there is a causal connection, whether one has been made conditional on the other, I can't claim that."

He said there had been no communication on the appointment of ambassadors, consuls general and consuls for weeks. "Not because of my side. The head of my office is ready to resume those talks today... That's not my decision, but I'm sure it's not Minister Grlić Radman's decision either."

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Friday, 25 June 2021

SDA, Džaferović, Komšić: Croatia Defeated In EP Regarding Ethnic Divisions

June 25th, 2021 -  The leading Bosniak party, SDA, and two members of the Bosnian Presidency, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić, said on Thursday that Croatia and the concept of ethnic divisions were defeated in the EP with the rejection of an amendment on constituent peoples to a Bosnia and Herzegovina progress report.

At a plenary on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a report on BiH, rejecting amendments by Croatian MEPs on the rights of constituent peoples, which the European People's Party supported but not the Liberals, the Left, and the Greens.

"The rejection of the amendment by the parliamentarians from Croatia and ultra-right European parties, which asked of BiH to additionally deepen discrimination in the election process... is a clear message as to which direction future reforms of the Constitution and electoral legislation in BiH should take," the SDA said in a press release.

Komšić called the result of the vote in Brussels a clear message to Zagreb.

"That was as expected given the fact that the allegedly legitimate representation of the constituent peoples has no basis in European Court of Human Rights rulings. That's a message Zagreb should take note of well because it's clear now that the ethnic concept they are forcing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not acceptable to the EU," he said.

Džaferović said Croatia's idea to introduce "the rhetoric of ethnic divisions" in the EP resolution was rejected.

"After NATO's refusal at the past summit to include similar formulations in its declaration, this is the second important message after which Zagreb should... start changing its policy on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Any attempt by Zagreb to impose solutions on Bosnia and Herzegovina will fail and an unnecessary decline of Croatia's reputation," he said.

Džaferović said BiH should reform its Constitution and electoral legislation based on ECHR rulings and European Commission recommendations to eliminate discrimination and ensure equality for all its citizens across the country.

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

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Croatia About to Come into Conflict with NATO, Says Komšić

ZAGREB, 13 June, 2021 - Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Presidency member Željko Komšić said on Sunday Croatia was about to come into conflict with NATO after President Zoran Milanović said that he would not accept a NATO closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement and BiH's three constituent peoples.

"Croatia is coming into conflict with NATO because it insists on the obsolete concept of constituent peoples," Komšić, who is the Croat member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, was quoted by the BiH Presidency as saying.

Komšić believes that Croatia does not have the power to block the principles of the declaration to be adopted at the end of a NATO summit to be held in Brussels on Monday.

"A country like Croatia can hardly prevent what is in NATO's interest, and it can even less do so by advocating what is contrary to NATO and EU standards," he added.

The European Court of Human Rights rulings regarding election reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the country's national programme of reforms, sent to NATO, prefer the quality of all citizens, Komšić said.

"NATO should now decide if it cares more about its standards and interests or the anti-NATO and anti-European standards of Croatian officials," Komšić said.

Croat parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina contest Komšić's legitimacy as the Croat member of the country's three-member presidency, claiming that he was elected predominantly by Bosniak voters.

The leaders of NATO's 30 member-states, including President Milanović, will gather in Brussels on Monday for a summit at which decisions on the alliance's reforms in the period until 2030 are expected to be made.

Milanović has said that he will not consent to the summit's closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement, which put an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, and its three constituent peoples.

"I do not intend to return to Zagreb with that. It shows what kind of plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina some international circles have and Croatia will not agree to that," Milanović said.

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Sunday, 16 February 2020

Komšić Meets Pope Francis, Vatican to Continue Supporting Bosnia as Multi-Ethnic Country

ZAGREB, February 16, 2020 - The Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) tripartite Presidency and its current chair, Željko Komšić, on Saturday had an audience with Pope Francis during which the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the status of the Church in the country were discussed, the BiH Presidency said.

Komšić also met separately with the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Vatican will continue providing constructive political support to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a multi-ethnic country and it will continue supporting its bid to join Euro-Atlantic associations, it was said at the meeting between Komšić and the pope.

Komšić told the pope that for Bosnia and Herzegovina the only solution was its membership in NATO and the EU.

Confirmed at the talks was the need to ensure respect for the basic human rights of all BiH citizens.

Komšić and Pope Francis also discussed common interests on the regional and international fronts such as peace and security, support for dialogue and responding to challenges faced by Western Balkan countries.

Komšić and Parolin discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region and the ratification and implementation of the Basic Agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holy See, signed in 2007.

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

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Bosnia Presidency Chair Expects Better Relations with Croatia after Presidential Vote

ZAGREB, September 26, 2019 - The Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Željko Komšić, expects relations between his country and Croatia to start improving after presidential elections in Croatia set for the end of the year, and he conveyed that assessment to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Komšić's office said in a statement on Wednesday.

Komšić and Guterres met in New York on the margins of the current session of the UN General Assembly and on that occasion, the chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency informed the high UN official of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and relations with neighbouring countries.

According to the statement from his office, Komšić said that in relations with Croatia he expected "the opening of a positive dialogue... after the elections to be held in that country at the end of the year."

He also said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was ready to solve outstanding issues with Croatia through dialogue, and in that context he particularly mentioned the implementation of the agreement on succession to the former Yugoslav federation and the sea border.

During his meeting with Guterres, Komšić also commented on the fact that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had commented on Bosnia and Herzegovina's the election law and the fact that it had not been amended despite a Constitutional Court ruling to that effect, suggesting that the Croatian president was again interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal matters.

"(Komšić) said that the Election Law should be changed in many segments but that it was exclusively an internal matter of Bosnia and Herzegovina on which a decision would be made in Bosnia and Herzegovina," according to the statement from Komšić's office.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina 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.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Željko Komšić Open to Dialogue with Zagreb

ZAGREB, January 21, 2019 - The Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, Željko Komšić, said on Sunday he was open to dialogue with Croatia's leadership, who consider his election illegitimate, and that his country currently did not need the support of the Serb member of the presidency, Milorad Dodik, for the continuation of its journey towards NATO membership.

"As far as I am concerned, I don't see any other way but for us to relax our relations through cooperation and talks," Komšić said in a Croatian television current affairs talk show.

Komšić said that his country was interested in resolving issues concerning border demarcation and property relations and that the Croatian political leadership was welcome in Sarajevo in that regard. He noted that these issues should be resolved in such a way that neither party was damaged.

Speaking of the decision by dozens of predominantly-Croat municipalities and several cantons to declare him persona non grata because he had been elected the Croat member of the presidency thanks to Bosniak votes, Komšić said that this was "the policy of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)."

"If they don't need me, and they need me more than I need them, those municipal services and mayors, fine, but I stand at their disposal," he said. "As far as the Croats are concerned, and some of the Serbs too, they are certainly all aware that Bosnia and Herzegovina is their country. What politicians are saying is another matter," he added.

Komšić advocates Bosnia and Herzegovina as a civic state and is against the Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats being treated as constituent ethnic groups. He claims to be representing all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the same time, activists of the movement #SejdoKomsic is not my president, launched earlier this year, have announced protests for the 7th of every month to draw attention to what they call "the Bosniak's imposition of Komšić as the Croat representative." The movement was called after Sejdo Bajramović, a communist-era representative of Kosovo Albanians, whom the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic forced onto the Yugoslav federal presidency against the will of the Albanian people in Kosovo. More than 10,000 people took part in an anti-Komšić rally in Mostar.

Speaking of the constitutionality of the three largest ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, Komšić said that each group took from the constitution what suited them best. He said that the constitution was in many aspects illogical, but needed to be respected.

"Under the Bosnia and Herzegovina constitution, it is not just the Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs that are constituent. The constitution says that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the country of Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, others and citizens, which shows that the architects of the Dayton agreement took everything into account and did not reduce Bosnia and Herzegovina to just three ethnic groups," he said.

Komšić also noted that under the constitution the presidency members "are not representatives, but members of their ethnic group." "I am a member of the Croat ethnic group, but under the constitution I have the obligation to represent all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina," he added.

He said it was absurd that the presidency should have three members, recommending a chancellor-style system with a single president being elected in parliament as is the case in Germany. He said he would rather have certain powers of the presidency transferred to the government, or the Council of Ministers.

Speaking of the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, Komšić said that this problem could have been avoided had the border agreement signed by former presidents Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Franjo Tuđman of Croatia been ratified. He said that this hadn't been done because of the lack of will on Zagreb's part.

Komšić had previously announced that he would bring a lawsuit against Croatia over the Pelješac Bridge construction project, but now he said that there would be no suit and that he preferred dialogue. "It is impossible to separate Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. What we think of each other is irrelevant, we need to work together," he stressed.

Apart from the Pelješac Bridge, Sarajevo and Zagreb are also in dispute over border demarcation and Yugoslav-era properties which Croatia has not returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Komšić warned.

Commenting on his statement that the biggest threats to the region are posed by Serbian, Croatian and Albanian territorial expansion projects, Komšić said that in his opinion these projects present, partly directly and partly indirectly, a great threat to his country.

Commenting on the statement by Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegović, made in the same television programme a year ago, that it would not be possible to establish a third, Croat-majority entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina without a war, Komšić said that those who were ready to take up arms were in the minority, adding that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina had no will to fight any more.

Komšić said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was currently closer to becoming a member of NATO than of the European Union because the NATO accession process was simpler and would bring benefits more quickly.

NATO membership brings security to the whole country, "a possible intervention from the outside is out of the question", but it requires political reforms, he said.

The NATO membership bid is also supported by the Bosniak member of the presidency, Šefik Džaferović, but the Serb member Milorad Dodik is against.

Dodik insists that his candidate for Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija, will have to comply with the resolution, passed by the Bosnian Serb National Assembly in 2017, which promotes the military neutrality of the Republika Srpska entity and is therefore an obstacle to Bosnia and Herzegovina joining NATO.

Džaferović and Komšić have warned that the new Chairman must not be a person who will block the country's path towards NATO membership because this is its foreign policy commitment.

Komšić said in the television interview on Sunday that he was unable to convince Dodik for now, but that all decisions and documents were prepared and that Dodik's consent was not needed at present.

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

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Bosnia Recalls Diplomats, Including Ambassador to Croatia

ZAGREB, December 19, 2018 - The Bosnian Presidency decided on Tuesday to recall the country's diplomatic representatives in 21 countries, including Renata Paskalj, the Ambassador to Croatia, as well as in the UN, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The recalled ambassadors were appointed over the past four years by the Presidency's former Croat and Serb members, Dragan Čović and Mladen Ivanić respectively.

Before being appointed Bosnian ambassador to Croatia, Paskalj was Čović's chief of staff and had no diplomatic experience.

The Presidency's chairman and Serb member, Milorad Dodik, had announced the replacement of all Serb diplomats, saying they had not consulted enough with the Bosnian Serb entity authorities.

The Presidency's Croat member, Željko Komšić, had announced he would examine the work of the Croat diplomats appointed by Čović and decide who would be replaced.

Only the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is authorised to appoint ambassadors and consuls general. The unwritten rule is that its Croat, Serb and Bosniak members decide on the appointment of diplomats from their own peoples.

The Bosnian Croat HDZ BiH party said Komšić's decision to replace all Croat ambassadors was political revanchism and the continuation of his attempt to disempower Bosnian Croats. The party considers Komšić's election as the Croat member of the state Presidency "unlawful and illegitimate."

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

Friday, 14 December 2018

Željko Komšić Reacts to Attacks on His Election

ZAGREB, December 14, 2018 - The Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, Željko Komšić, said on Thursday that the Constitutional Court ruling in the Ljubić case was misinterpreted in debates on changing the country's election rules.

Speaking in an interview with public television BHT 1, Komšić said it was important to realise that the Constitutional Court cannot interpret clear provisions of the Constitution, but that in its judgment on Bozo Ljubić's appeal it only found that certain articles of election law clashed with the Constitution of the Federation, the country's Bosniak-Croat entity.

He was referring to a provision, repealed by the Constitutional Court, saying that in each canton at least one deputy from each constituent ethnic group is elected to the Federation's upper house of parliament.

Interpretations of the Constitutional Court ruling failed to notice that the Federation's Constitution dictates that deputies are delegated only if they have been directly elected to the cantonal assembly, and that's all what this ruling refers to, Komšić said.

Claims that it follows from the ruling that the constitutionality of ethnic groups is above all other principles, on which the Croat HDZ party insists, are wrong, as this principle is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, he added.

Željko Komšić resolutely denied that the ruling in the Ljubić case could be relevant to the method of electing presidency members, and hence it could not serve as the basis for negating the legitimacy of his election.

Asked how he would protect Croat national interests in the present circumstances when it was certain that he could not expect that Croat deputies in the Federation's upper house would cooperate with him, Komšić said he would react every time he estimated that these interests were jeopardised. "If I think that something is harmful to the Croat national interest, and the Croat caucus does not support it, then it is their problem to explain it," Komšić said.

He said he had no intention of wasting his energy on quarrels and would use his term in office to do good things in accordance with the law.

Speaking of the situation in the region and threats it was facing, Komšić said that three major projects of territorial expansion - Albanian, Serbian and Croatian - continued to be a threat.

"Sometimes they are weak, sometimes they are strong, but they are here and should not be ignored. These narratives are not over and they depend on who is in power, but this is a political and social process in the Balkans," Komšić concluded.

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

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Komšić Says Croatia Waging "Diplomatic Aggression" against Bosnia

ZAGREB, October 30, 2018 - The newly-elected Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency Željko Komšić sent a letter to EU leaders on Tuesday saying that Croatian members of the European Parliament were saying untruths about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and accusing Croatia of "a diplomatic aggression" on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The letter which Komšić's Democratic Front (DF) party forwarded to the media was sent to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and European Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Komšić said that in their recent joint statement, criticising the outcome of the recent election in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian members of the European Parliament stated "a number of untruths about the election process in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

The 11 Croatian MEPs last Thursday sent a joint letter to EU officials regarding the October 7 general election, expressing deep concern that the Croat representative in the State Presidency was elected by Bosniaks while a vast majority of Croats voted for another candidate.

Komšić said that his letter was also prompted by "an open diplomatic aggression by an EU member against Bosnia and Herzegovina."

In a recent diplomatic offensive Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenković warned before EU institutions about Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina not being equal to the other two constituent peoples after Komšić was elected to the Presidency owing to Bosniak votes. Referring to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Komšić said that the October election was conducted in line with the existing constitution and laws even though his election is not questionable in terms of legality but in terms of legitimacy.

Komšić said that in their letter to the EU's Foreign Affairs Council, the Croatian MEPs had shown a political tendency to violate provisions of the Dayton peace agreement. "The letter by the Croatian MEPs is yet another attack by Croatia on Bosnia and Herzegovina's sovereignty, its sovereign right to decide on its election system or, more precisely, it is an act of direct interference by Croatia in Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal affairs, which is contrary both to international law and order and to usual relations between two sovereign countries," Komšić said.

Komšić went on to say that the Croatian MEPs and Croatian politicians were wrong to say that Bosnia and Herzegovina is "a state of two entities and three constituent peoples" because the preamble to the constitution, based on the Dayton agreement which put an end to the war in the country in 1995, says that Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, as the constituent peoples, determine the country's constitution together with other ethnic groups and citizens.

"The Croatian MEPs ignore the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of three constituent peoples as well as other citizens and other ethnic groups. Referring selectively to its constitution and only to the constituent peoples, without mentioning other ethnic groups and other citizens, promotes discrimination, and excludes other citizens and other ethnic groups as a constituent of the state," said Komšić, who, even though expected to represent Croats in the collective state presidency, promotes himself as a representative of all citizens.

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