Bosnian officials and members of the country’s Jewish Community slammed Croatia’s President on Wednesday for claims she made in Jerusalem about alleged "militant Islam" in Bosnia, calling her “unstable” and her statements “fascistic.”
Grabar-Kitarovic made the comment as she was speaking about the migrant crisis in the region.
“While nearly all claim to be Syrian refugees, most are actually African or Pakistani migrants who try to break through the border from Bosnia-Herzegovina, which Grabar-Kitarović said was very unstable, and had in some respects been taken over by people who have connections with Iran and terrorist organizations. The country is now controlled by militant Islam, which is dominant in setting the agenda, she said, adding that some are very violent and break into people’s homes.” the Jerusalem Post wrote.
Her comments come a few days after the BBC published an article named titled “Beaten and robbed: how Croatia is policing its border,” which contains interviews with migrants who described what they experience when they encounter Croatian police after crossing into Croatia from Bosnia.
“She’s unstable, not Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, reacting to Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement.
“I am sorry that the Croatian President is continuing her propaganda activities which are damaging to Bosnia and Herzegovina by spreading brutal lies,” he said. “It seems that when we speak of such tricks, it is not an exception but the rule in Grabar-Kitarovic’s behaviour toward Bosnia."
The only reason for making such statements is a “malicious stance” toward Bosnia and an attempt to damage its reputation, he said.
“Such persistence in propaganda activities against Bosnia only strengthens our belief that Croatia’s agencies are trying to instigate something that could damage the reputation of our country and close its doors to NATO and the EU, and with that put its existence in question,” he added.
Komsic was referring to allegations that Croatia’s secret service tried to recruit Bosnians to transport arms in Bosnia in order to portray the country as a haven for ISIS.
Komsic’s Bosniak colleague, Sefik Dzaferovic, said that the Croatian President is “repeating lies that spread xenophobia” and that Croatia is leading a “fascist policy.”
“Everyone in Europe and in the world is aware that these are lies fabricated by the aggressive and fascist policy of official Zagreb toward Bosnia and Bosniaks, which contains all elements of fascism,” Sefik Dzaferovic said in his statement.
"The statements of the President of the Republic of Croatia represent the same kind of propaganda vocabulary which was used by convicted war criminals and leaders of the so-called Herceg-Bosna when trying to justify the monstrous crimes they committed against Bosniaks,” he noted.
The head of Bosnia’s Jewish Community, Jakob Finci, strongly criticised the statement as well.
“It is absolutely clear to us, who live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that the Croatian President has confused the facts and that she spoke of something which is absolutely not true,” Finci stressed.
He reminded of Bosnia’s setup in the Constitution as a country populated by three major ethnic group and Others, the official name for those who are not Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs, “and regardless of the grave losses we suffered during the past war, it seems like life is going on normally and we live normally.”
“It seems that we have gotten used to this coming from Kolinda, but we must always say that she is wrong,” he concluded.
Member of Bosnia’s Jewish Community and historian Eli Tauber also called Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement untrue.
“If the statement by President Grabar-Kitarovic was true, I don’t know how I could even walk the streets of my city,” Tauber told the Patria news agency, adding that the Croatian President was pronouncing Croatia’s foreign policy aimed to humiliate Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to the leader of the Union for a Better Future (SBB) political party, Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement was “completely unnecessary and untrue and made to turn our country into a new political target.”
The main Bosniak party, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), said that it is “paradoxical that the President of Croatia gives such statements with fascist elements in Israel, while she is tolerating in Croatia the growth of militant Ustasha and neo-Nazi movements which celebrate NDH (The Independent State of Croatia, a World War II fascist puppet state) and war criminals who participated in the execution of the Holocaust.”
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) called Grabar-Kitarovic’s statements “unacceptable” and “rude,” criticising the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) she is a member of. The HDZ also has a sister party in Bosnia under the same name.
“The only political factor in inter-state relations which has a militant background between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia is the HDZ, the party Grabar-Kitarovic comes from,” the SDP said, adding that courts proved that her party contributed in a “joint criminal enterprise” on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The SDP was referring to a ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) against six wartime leaders of Herzeg-Bosnia (HB) - a self-declared unrecognised Bosnian Croat statelet - who were at the helm of a massive ethnic cleansing operation in parts of Bosnia with the goal of annexing HB to Croatia.
The operation, which targeted mostly Bosniaks, including prison camps, mass killings, rapes and other grave crimes.
Instead of apologising to the victims and compensating the damage, Grabar-Kitarovic and her colleagues glorify war criminals and visit them in prison while trying to justify this with threats of militant Islam, the SDP said.
The vice-speaker of the Parliament of neighbouring Croatia, Milijan Brkic, recently visited one of the six, Bruno Stojic, in a prison in Gratz, Austria.
“What is especially offensive is that Grabar-Kitarovic is sending these messages from Israel, considering that a genocide in Europe throughout the past century only took place against two peoples, the Jews and the Bosnian Muslims,” it said.
The SDP called upon institutions in the EU and the international community to condemn the statements by the Croatian President “who finally needs to face political consequences for her militant and malicious actions and stances toward Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
The party also said that such a move by Grabar-Kitarovic could also be a part of an attempt to justify setting up a dump for its nuclear waste in Trgovska Gora at the border with Bosnia.
Since Croatia owns half of the Krsko power plant in Slovenia, the country needs to take over half of the nuclear waste from that power plant by 2023. Croatia adopted a strategy which names the unused Cerkezovac barracks, in Trgovska Gora, as one od seven most likely locations for dumping the waste.
But Trgovska Gora is only 800 metres away from the border with Bosnia and about a kilometre away from the town of Bosanski Novi. According to Bosnia’s officials and institutions, the plan endangers the lives of some 300,000 Bosnians and Croatia is not responding to any of Bosnia’s complaints.
Croatia is expected to make its final decision regarding the dump in September.
“At this moment, the only thing more toxic for Bosnia and Herzegovina than that dump are the statements and actions of the HDZ and the leadership of Croatia, spearheaded by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic,” it said.