Croatia's ex-President: There is threat of crisis in Bosnia

NEWS 08.10.2018 12:57

Former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic appeared on on Monday N1’s morning programme Novi Dan to comment on the election in Bosnia and Herzegovina, held on Sunday, October 7.

Over three million voters were eligible to vote in Bosnia’s general election this weekend and cast their vote for members of the state presidency, entity presidents and vice presidents as well as the members of the state, entity and cantonal parliaments.

After 80 percent of votes for Bosnia’s tripartite presidency were counted, the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that Bosnia’s new Presidency members are Sefik Dzaferovic with 37.30 percent of votes, Zeljko Komsic with 51.14 percent of votes and Milorad Dodik with 54.06 percent of votes.

According to Bosnia’s constitution, citizens from the Serb dominated entity, Republika Srpska (RS), can only vote for the Presidency candidate from among the Serb people, while the citizens living in the Bosniak-Croat dominated Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) can vote for candidates from among the Bosniak and Croat peoples.

After the results were published and it became clear that Zeljko Komsic will be the representative of Croats in the Presidency, the former Presidency member from among the Croat people Dragan Covic said an unprecedented crisis was awaiting Bosnia and Herzegovina. Is there a threat of, maybe even constitutional, crisis in Bosnia?

Absolutely. It seems to me that this result, which the Croat people are clearly unhappy with, is also the result of politics which has gone in the direction it shouldn’t have. I think the emphasis should have been, and the Croatian Democratic Union BiH (HDZ BiH) did that for a while, on European topics and the Bosnian Croats should have been singled out as the most important pro-European factor, but the campaigns instead swerved into nationalistic back-and-forth and this is the result. The Bosniak voters were motivated to vote, not for the Bosniak, but for the Croat representative, and the results are what they are.

What will happen in Bosnia?

We can expect, as Covic announced, blocks in parliaments on different levels and what will happen is that the Croat politics will get even more linked with (Milorad) Dodik and the RS (Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity). It will be done primarily out of interest. When decisions are made on the Presidency level, Dodik will be expected to support what Croat politicians define as Croat politics.

Why was it important for Dodik to become member of Presidency of Bosnia, a country that neither Dodik nor the RS realistically recognise?

It’s a political position from which he can influence global policy. The worst thing would be a new round of instability and blocks in Bosnia, it’s the worst scenario for Bosnia itself, but also its neighbours and the region.

What does Dodik’s announcement of putting the RS first and bringing back to the table the things that were already agreed in Bosnia mean?

Dodik will continue supporting the idea of practically separating RS from Bosnia, in other words, to formally stay part of the country, but completely separated, which will certainly be met with resistance from the international community. Croatia should not risk any foreign policy which would work towards disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only a stable and functioning Bosnia, as functioning as possible in these circumstances, is a guarantee of peace and stability.

Should Prime Minister (Andrej) Plenkovic have gone to Bosnia ahead of election and publicly support Covic? What will now be the position of Croatian politics?

Those were all counterproductive moves. Of course there was immediate backlash that Croatia was meddling in the internal processes in Bosnia, and Komsic built his platform on firmly condemning Croatia, singling out the moves made by primarily the Croatian president (Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic), but also the government. Croatia needs to change its attitude to Bosnia, and cannot, under any circumstances, show ambition or do anything which can be interpreted as an attempt to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has criticised the state of affairs in Bosnia and predicted the possibility of a serious crisis. What are the capacities of Croatian politics where the Croatian president is concerned?

They aren’t big, and the president was very wrong to enter the discussion on Bosnia’s internal issues. I think her going to Turkey, where she herself told the media she was asking (Turkish) president Erdogan this or that, was a completely wrong move. How would we feel if (Serbian) president (Aleksandar) Vucic went to Germany to demand changes to Croatian legislature? The topic is not without legitimacy, but it’s not appropriate for this kind of a discussion. She had to have known this would needlessly irritate many political factors in Bosnia.

What would be the results of a politics in which Dodik supported the RS’ separating from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Croat politics supported a third entity as the future of Bosnia?

It would generate a crisis, and Bosnia is already in a permanent state of crisis. Croatia wouldn’t find international support for that idea, not in the United States and not in the EU. It would probably seriously undermine Croatia’s political position on the international stage.

Today Croatia observes Independence Day, how visible is that in the streets of Zagreb?

It isn’t. Only a flag here and there can be seen. I would say that this important day in Croatian history was forgotten in a way. Perhaps the people of Croatia are not very partial to marking historic dates. Especially visible today is some sort of apathy, it seems.

What does 27 years of Independence mean for Croatia and how much was accomplished in that time?

Croatia affirmed its independence, emerged as a victor from a war it was forced into as a clear underdog, and became member of all international associations important to us in a very short period of time. Perhaps our road to the EU was a bit longer, but I think the price of that was worth the effort and Croatia became a better country, and society, in that process.

But, after joining the EU (in 2013), it seems we adopted the mentality of being above it all as soon as in 2014 and ‘15, and we did not make use of the time or the funds available to us. We failed to continue implementing reforms, and in some aspects we are experiencing a social regression of sorts.

The economy is still showing some signs of life, what with GDP growth and a drop in foreign debt, but we did not achieve the results we should have.

I think Croatia is waiting for a politics which will be strong enough to turn over a new leaf, because things are not looking good now.

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