Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is patronising Bosnia and Herzegovina and acting like a spokesperson for only one ethnic group in the country when speaking with European institutions and in bilateral meetings, the head of Bosnia’s Government said in a statement on Friday.
“Plenkovic is abusing Croatia’s EU membership when behaving as if he was the prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina and not of Croatia,” says the statement from the Chairman of Bosnia’s Council of Ministers (CoM), Denis Zvizdic.
The reaction came after Plenkovic raised the issue of the results of Bosnia’s October 7 General Election at an EU summit on Thursday.
“I explained that we were worried about the Bosniaks, who are a majority people in the Federation (of Bosnia and Herzegovina) electing a representative of the Croat people in the presidency against the will of Bosnian Croats. We explained that the spirit of Dayton (Agreement) was betrayed and that the scenario was not good either for the functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or for the three constituent peoples (Croats, Bosniaks, and Serbs), in this case for the Croat people,” Plenkovic told reporters after an EU summit.
But Zvizdic said that Plenkovic is misrepresenting the situation.
“This is not in line with good neighbourly relations and represents open and direct interfering in Bosnia’s internal issues,” he said, adding that Plenkovic is trying to present “untrue, selective and confusing theories about the endangerment of only one ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
He exemplified this with the fact that Bosnian Croats comprise, according to the 2013 census, 15,43 percent of the population, but that they “have twice as much senior positions - nearly 30 per cent,” which he said “completely contradicts any theory of inequality.”
The problem stems from the election of Zeljko Komsic, the leader of the left-leaning Democratic Front (DF), as the Croat member of Bosnia’s Presidency at the October 7 election.
Bosnia’s presidency is composed of three members, each representing one of the three majority ethnic groups living in the country - Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The country is also composed of two semi-autonomous entities, the Bosnian Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation (FBiH), shared by Croats and Bosniaks. While the Serb presidency member is elected from the RS, the Bosniak and Croat members are elected from the FBiH.
The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is the ruling party in Croatia and has a sister party in Bosnia. The leader of Bosnia’s HDZ is Dragan Covic, who lost in his bid for reelection in Bosnia’s Presidency to Komsic.
Since there are many more Bosniaks than Croats in the Federation, Bosnian Croat representatives, particularly those of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), have been complaining that Bosniaks are able to elect the Bosnian Croat member and that they did so to help Komsic.
Bosnian Croat politicians and Croatia’s top officials intensified calls for the Election Law in Bosnia to be changed in order to avoid this from happening again.
“I am sure that Plenkovic knows that Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats are, in line with Bosnia’s Constitution, equal and constituent peoples throughout the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that in any given institution at the state level: the Presidency, Parliament, Council of Ministers, no decision can be made that is against the democratic will of elected or appointed representatives of any ethnic group, due to a number of protection mechanisms,” Zvizdic said.
“All accredited representatives of foreign countries and European and international institutions are familiar with the constitutional-political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the ethnic principle overpowers the civic, which is not in line with modern European and democratic standards,” Zvizdic stressed, adding that “there is no need for Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to be informing heads of EU member states and governments about the situation in Bosnia.”
He also said that EU member states are also well aware of the process of Bosnia’s Election Law changes, as EU representatives have taken part in the negotiations between political parties on how to change it, “and all of them are well aware that it was the HDZ who rejected all solutions that have been discussed.”
“The most perplexing fact is that the positions Plenkovic is representing on behalf of only one ethnic group, or only one political party, are in complete contradiction to the ruling of the European Court for Human Rights in the Sejdic-Finci case, which implies that all Bosnian citizens have the right to vote and be elected,” Zvizdic stressed.
The Sejdic-Finci case Zvizdic mentioned refers to a lawsuit Dervo Sejdic, a Roma, and Jakob Finci, a Jew, submitted against Bosnia and Herzegovina because the system in place does not allow either of them to run for the Presidency and the Upper House as they do not belong to any of the three majority ethnic groups.
The Human Rights Court in Strasbourg ruled in their favour in 2009 and ordered Bosnia to fix its Constitution so it does not violate minority rights – the rights of those who are not mentioned in the Constitution as the only ones who can fill the seats in the country’s three-member Presidency or House of Peoples.
Zvizdic said that Croatia’s Government has also presented similar positions at a meeting between EU foreign affairs ministers on Monday in Luxembourg, and asked for their position to be added to the conclusions of that meeting.
“Other EU members have not accepted that and have this way expressed a clear stance and rejection of the unprincipled interference in internal processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
“Because of all of this, I call upon Plenkovic to, as the prime minister of the neighbouring country, stop acting as the prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a spokesperson of only one political and ethnic group, and to start viewing Bosnia as a sovereign country of equal peoples and citizens, as well as a good and honest neighbour,” he said.
State officials should act under the principle ‘respect others in order to be respected,’ Zvizdic’s statement concluded.