The alliance between Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic represents “the end of Bosnia”, and Croatia’s stance that Covic is the only representative of Bosnian Croats is a mistake, Bosnia’s former top international official, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, told Deutsche Welle.
From 2005 until 2007, Schwarz-Schilling was the High Representative in Bosnia, the foreign official the international community designated to oversee the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 war in the country.
In an interview published by Deutsche Welle on Saturday, Schwarz-Schilling criticised the stance of Croatia toward the election results in Bosnia.
In the October election, left-leaning politician Zeljko Komsic won the Bosnian Croat seat in Bosnia’s Presidency, which is composed of three members, each representing one of the three ethnic majorities living in the country – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs.
The country is also composed of two semi-autonomous entities, and the Serb Presidency member is elected from Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb majority one, while the other two members are elected from the Federation (FBiH), the one mostly shared by Bosniaks and Croats.
But the main Bosnian Croat ethnic-oriented party, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), which is a sister party of the currently ruling HDZ in Croatia, has been complaining that Bosniaks, who are numerically dominant in FBiH, have elected Komsic.
Supported by Croatian leadership, Croatian members of the European Parliament (EP), claimed that Komsic was not a legitimate representative of the ethnic group and that the true Bosnian Croat representative is Dragan Covic, the hard-line leader of Bosnia’s HDZ.
“The idea that the HDZ here has a right to the Croat seat in the Presidency is an arrogant ambition which is not in harmony with international law and is contrary to the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Schwarz-Schilling said, adding that Bosnian Croats also elected Komsic and that this makes the narrative of Covic being the legitimate representative “undemocratic and illegal.”
He called such aspirations “dangerous nationalism.”
“The HDZ, which believes itself to be the only representative of Croats, is angry because voters chose someone other than their candidate. That is a transparent game, with which Croatia is pursuing its influence on neighbouring Bosnia,” he said.
Covic formed a coalition with hard-line Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who advocates the secession of Republika Srpska from the country and supports Covic’s goal of creating a separate Croat entity in the FBiH.
Dodik was elected into Bosnia’s Presidency as the Serb member and has already declared the country he is President of should not exist.
Schilling cited the Leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, who warned of rising nationalism in EU countries.
“The problem is that there is an attempt to declare the legal election of Komsic illegitimate. That is an unbelievable case of twisting facts,” he said.
Komsic’s views are non-nationalistic, liberal and civic, he said, and it is clear that he is a representative of all of Bosnia’s citizens, the former High Representative said. Croatia, he said, is making mistakes, “as it just looks at the ethnicity of Bosnian citizens and interferes in the election,” of its neighbouring country.
Schilling said that former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic had the correct stance toward Bosnia and understood that it is a neighbouring country and that Croatia’s HDZ should not be leading politics in Bosnia.
European Parliament member from Croatia, Zeljana Zovko, has recently caused a stir in Bosnia when she said it was not a normal country and that foreigners are for years tailoring political relations within it. She said that Croatia’s interest in Bosnia comes from the fact that “there are 500,000 Croats, EU citizens, living there” so it is in Croatia's interest to maintain stability and peace there.”
“The European Parliament has until now adopted four resolutions on Bosnia, which recommend a middle path between two extremes, separatism and unitarism,” she said.
This middle path is the only solution for Bosnia, she said, which would entail “federalisation and implementation of proposals from the European Parliament.”
But Schwarz-Schilling has a completely different opinion.
“That is not a middle path, that is an attempt to form a third entity, which is what the HDZ has for a long time been fighting for,” he said, adding that now the party is doing this in an alliance with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who is strongly supportive of it.
Dodik has for years been pushing for the RS to secede from Bosnia, and has openly said he considers Serbia his homeland a day after he was sworn in.
Schwarz-Schilling said that Dodik is smart enough to know he should not be mentioning secession this at the moment, but he will surely raise the issue when the right time for it comes and when he decides to initiate a referendum on secession.
“That is why the coalition between the HDZ, more specifically Covic, and Dodik, who is now the representative of Serbs in the presidency, in fact, represents the end of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Schilling said, adding that this is what is underneath Zovko’s statement in the European Parliament as well.
“That is why there is an increasingly persistent narrative about decentralisation, or federalisation. And that means nothing other than a path toward a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia,” he said.
EP member from the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Michael Gahler, opposes Zovko too.
“Only a unitary Bosnia and Herzegovina can proceed toward the European Union,” he said.
He explained that his party supports the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, “which was the basis for peace.”
However, the path toward the EU can only be realised jointly, and that the European Parliament generally believes that “further ethnicization, which is playing the card of ethnic groups and not togetherness,” is, in the long run, not the path that will bring Bosnia to the EU.