PM: It's a mistake to ignore part of Dayton Accords on equality of peoples

NEWS 15.12.2020 16:59
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Source: Marin Tironi/PIXSELL

Ignoring the legitimate representation of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina as defined by the Dayton Peace Accords "would be a serious mistake," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday at a conference on the occasion of the accords' 25th anniversary.

Speaking at the “25 Years of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement” conference, he said its Annex 4 stipulates legitimate representation for the three peoples in BiH institutions, which “was decisive for the successful conclusion” of the Agreement.

“Overlooking this crucial part of the Agreement or, worse, deliberately ignoring it, would be a serious mistake,” Plenkovic said at the start of the conference in which the participants in the negotiations on the Agreement, signed on 14 December 1995, will also take part.

Plenkovic said a “false dilemma” was being imposed today between a Dayton-based BiH and a BiH “of all its citizens, going beyond ethnic boundaries.”

“The principle of equality of the three constituent peoples, and the principle of equality of all citizens, do not exclude each other,” he said, adding that insisting on equality “is not backward nationalism” but “sound constitutionalism.”

Plenkovic said nothing could justify the practice seen three times already, in the 2006, 2010 and 2018 elections, to eliminate through outvoting the political representation of Croats in BiH, which “does not contribute to the cohesiveness of the country and the normal functioning of its institutions.”

He said the equality of the three peoples existed from the very start od BiH's statehood, recalling that the 1992 referendum on its independence saw a 63.7% turnout and 99.7% of the voters in favour, and that it described the country as “a state of equal citizens, the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina – Muslims, Serbs, Croats and members of peoples living there.”

Revising Dayton?

Plenkovic went on to say that there was universal consensus that the Dayton-Paris Agreement ended the war in BiH but that there was a difference of opinion on its success in achieving a functioning BiH. In this context, he welcomed today's international conference.

He said a revision of the Agreement was “open for debate” but that “any change…must come from within,” from citizens, political parties and institutions.

He once again called for changing the Electoral Law without further delay, calling it “an investment in the political stability of the country” that was also important for Europe.

Plenkovic said BiH's stability was of “strategic importance” for Croatia, which he said was the “staunchest supporter and best advocate” of BiH's EU path, knowing what that “would bring to a country which has already suffered too much.”

Unification on EU path

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said in a video message that the path to EU integration had helped his country, Spain, to overcome divisions in society after a civil war and 40 years of dictatorship.

The EU helped on that path, it can help BiH too as well as all of Europe, he said.

Difficult but necessary reforms await BiH, he said, adding that its politicians must create an environment which advocated cooperation and reconciliation instead of undermining them. He urged politicians in BiH to avoid the temptation of identity politics.

Three panels

The international conference, organised by the Croatian Foreign Ministry and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, will have three panels attended by participants in the Dayton negotiations, EU and BiH political representatives, and legal and scientific experts.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to address via video.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said ahead of the conference that its goal was to “mark the historic achievement and offer views on what the peace agreement meant a quarter of a century ago and what it means for BiH's present and future.”

He said the agreement “recalls the importance of responsible leadership in difficult times” and that it was one of the biggest achievements of international peace-building.