Croatia's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said on Thursday that it did not know that Ambassador Ivan Del Vechio would be attending the unconstitutional RS Day celebration in Bosnia, a move Bosnia's Council of Ministers Chairman called a "diplomatic scandal and a hostile act."
“The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs was not informed of Ambassador Ivan DelVechio’s visit to Banja Luka at the reception on the occasion of the celebration of the unconstitutional ‘RS Day,’ and it will investigate the incident in detail,” the Croatian Ministry said.
Bosnia's Constitutional Court banned the celebration the January 9 ‘Day of Republika Srpska’ holiday in Bosnia's Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity, Republika Srpska (RS), in 2015, on an appeal by Bakir Izetbegovic, who was at that time the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite Presidency.
The reason stated was that the celebration falls on the same date as an Orthodox religious holiday, and celebrating it is, therefore, discriminating against the mostly Muslim Bosniaks and the mostly Catholic Croats.
The Court gave the RS Government six months to find a new date for the celebration but the request has so far been ignored.
Dragan Covic, the leader of the main Bosnian Croat ethnic-oriented political party, Bosnia's Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), attended the event.
He is a political ally of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who became the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency in October and has for years been advocating for the RS to seceede from the country.
But apart from Covic, the ambassador of neighbouring Croatia also attended the ceremony.
Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry also condemned the RS Day decorating of a former JNA officer, Slavko Lisica, whom Croatia convicted for war crimes committed in the Sibenik area, in 1991.
At the request of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Croatia's Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric called Del Vechio back to Zagreb on Thursday for consultations.
Bosnia’s Council of Ministers Chairman, Denis Zvizdic, posted on Twitter that he was “horrified by Del Vechio’s presence at the celebration of the unconstitutional ‘RS Day’.”
“This is a diplomatic scandal and a hostile act. Any further form of personal contact and cooperation is thus impossible,” he wrote.
The Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, said that the attendance of Croatia's Ambassador and of Covic was neither in the interest of Bosnian citizens nor of the Croat people whose interests they wish to represent.
“Considering that Ambassador Del Vechio attended the unconstitutional ‘RS Day,’ one wonders whether Croatia is celebrating crimes against their own people?,” Komsic asked, referring to the wartime Serb-Croat conflict.
Former European Parliament member Doris pack also condemned Covic’s appearance at the ‘RS Day’ event in a Twitter post, saying that she is “ashamed” of the Bosnian Croat leader who “forgot what happened to Croat citizens” in the Serb-dominated region during the war.
the #”RS National Day”-forbidden by the Court- attended by the #Serbian PM and -I cannot believe!- by Mr. #Covic, Leader HDZ BiH. Does he forgot what happened to Croat citizens (+Bosniaks)in the then “so called RS”?How must croats feel taunted?I am ashamed of him.
— Doris Pack (@pack_doris) January 10, 2019
But Bosnia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Igor Crnadak, said he will not cut ties with Del Vechio, adding that Zvizdic has expressed his personal opinion.
For Crnadak, the criticism of the RS Day celebration was “blown out of proportion.”
“You’ll have to ask Croatian representatives why their Ambassador attended the event. I have no idea what his instructions were,” Crnadak said.