Former High Representative: Two events that shook Bosnia in 2019

Source: REUTERS/Danilo Krstanovic

The year 2019 kicked off in Bosnia with two significant events. The first is the election of the Croat Presidency member and the second is the appearance of high-ranking Bosnian Croat officials at the celebration of the unconstitutional ‘RS Day,’ former High Representative in Bosnia, Christian Schwarz-Schilling wrote for Deutsche Welle.

“At first glance, nothing happened, but looking more carefully, one can notice a couple of bright examples: ethnic-oriented Dragan Covic, the leader of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) dropped out of the tripartite Presidency. He was replaced by a democrat, the Democratic Front leader Zeljko Komsic who sees himself as president of all Bosnian citizens,” Schwarz-Schilling wrote. “This has hindered the dangerous cooperation between nationalists Covic and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.”

Milorad Dodik is the leader of the strongest party in the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity. He is known for his views that the RS is the only functioning part of Bosnia and that RS should secede from the country if their demands are not fully met. He was elected as the Serb member of Bosnia’s Presidency at the October general election in 2018.

Bosnia’s Presidency consists of three members representing three main ethnic groups, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The Bosniak and Croat members are elected in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) entity, while the Serb member comes from the RS.

The Formed High Representative of the international community, whose function was to oversee the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war, also noted the election result for the Sarajevo Canton where civic parties took the lead over the nationalist parties.

But the new year in Bosnia also witnessed another notable event. For years, the Serb-dominated entity has celebrated the ‘RS Day,’ on January 9, deemed unconstitutional by both the Constitutional Court and the Venice Commission. On that day, Bosnian Serbs declared the independent RS within Bosnia.

Generally, no one has anything against January 9 being celebrated as a religious, Orthodox holidday, but declaring it a state holiday is insulting for Bosniaks and Croats in that entity because it reminds them of war, persecutions and genocide.

Even though the celebration is against the constitution, no one is doing anything about it, which speaks volumes about the rule of law in Bosnia, the formed High Representative wrote.

The fact that Serbian officials attended the celebration is not surprising, but the fact that Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic war awarded by the same award by convicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik is insulting for everyone with the slightest sense of justice.

“But this year’s ‘boom’ was the attendance of high-ranking Bosnian Croat politicians at the celebration, namely the HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic and Bosnia’s Finance Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda. Even more striking was the attendance of Croatia’s Ambassador Ivan Del Vechio, at the event,” Schwarz-Schilling wrote.

Considering the scandal his appearance provoked, Croatia’s Foreign Minister recalled him back to Zagreb, immediately.

But the former High Representative asks how one could explain the fact that Covic, Bevanda and Del Vechio attended the celebration in the RS administrative centre, Banja Luka, knowing that over 150,000 Bosnian Croats were persecuted from Banja Luka and the RS?

“It’s simple. They don’t care about the Bosnian od Croat people – they only think of themselves. They came to Bana Luka with one aim only: to support RS’ secession from Bosnia, which opens the door for Covic’s third entity and the definite division of Bosnia,” Schwarz-Schilling wrote. “And that is how we entered 2019. Returning right back where we were in the early ’90s. Has Europe heard about this, yet?”

Now the EU must do everything to transform Bosnia into a powerful legal state, he adds. Europe must clearly say that Bosnia is an independent and sovereign country and that every attempt to undermine that is destined to fail.