Covic to Palmer, Eichhorst: Conditions for 2022 election in BiH haven't been met

NEWS 02.02.2022 17:50
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Dragan Čović
Source: Dragan Čović (F.Z./N1)

In a letter addressed to US Special Envoy, Matthew Palmer, and Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Angelina Eichhorst, Dragan Covic, the head of the Croat National Assembly (HNS), an organisation made up of Bosnian Croat parties, argued that conditions for holding the 2022 general election in BiH have not been met.

Covic, who is also the leader of the strongest Bosnian Croat ethnic party in the country, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), began his letter by thanking the foreign officials for their efforts over the last year and a half in finding solutions that would fully implement the political agreements from Mostar signed on June 17, 2020, which allowed the city to have its first local election since 2008.

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“Your commitment and expertise were extremely important for the process that ended with the negotiations in Neum at the end of January 2022,” he said, referring to the talks that took place in the southern Bosnian town over the past weekend.

“On the other hand, the agreement on the legitimate election and legitimate political representation of constituent peoples and citizens at all administrative and political levels, in the Presidency of BiH and the Houses of Peoples, and ensuring active and passive suffrage of every citizen throughout BiH, despite efforts Of the Croatian National Parliament (HNS BiH), remains unfulfilled,” complained.

Covic argued that “hundreds of hours” have been spent negotiating on “limited amendments to the BiH Constitution and electoral legislation to implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the BiH Constitutional Court, including Judgment U-23/14, and implement relevant OSCE / ODIHR recommendations and the Venice Commission in line with European standards.”

“Thanks to the selfless efforts of the representatives of the EU, USA and the Venice Commission, we managed to harmonize our proposed constitutional provisions with the highest European standards and recommendations of the Venice Commission, including the issue of formulating constitutional expression in relation to the BiH Presidency. With our proposal, we have ensured that all BiH citizens can vote and be elected regardless of affiliation and without declaring national or ethnic identity. The very careful design of our proposals for limited constitutional reform, as well as other models, was guided by the principle of satisfying the constitutionally guaranteed rights to equality of the three constituent peoples and the highest standards of human rights,” he wrote.

Covic argued that Bosnian Croat representatives led by the HNS BiH “left room for compromise solutions” and showed “exceptional flexibility and openness to accept negotiations” regarding the functionality of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity.

“Despite all this, we believe that our efforts and agreements were grossly violated by the co-signatories of the Mostar Agreement, especially knowing that the implementation of the Agreement on Principles of Amendments to the BiH Election Law should be completed by adopting legal amendments in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly by the end of 2021. We feared such a scenario until the very end because it further deepens mistrust and the political crisis in BiH,” he warned.

Covic argued that, because of this, the formal and legal conditions for holding the General Elections in October 2022 have not yet been secured.

He stressed that both the 1994 Washington Accords and the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords guarantee Bosnian Croats rights that “have been grossly violated in the last two decades, both in terms of reflecting the constitutivity of Croats in all joint institutions and the legitimate election of their representatives.”

“Recent negotiations and persistent undermining of our unequivocal commitment to finding a solution have proved that the co-signatory of the Mostar Agreement, along with other Bosniak political representatives, is committed to continuing gross violations of international agreements and the sovereign right of Croats as an equal constituent people in BiH. Such a gross violation of the rights of a constituent people and international law, if continued, will have far-reaching consequences for Croat-Bosniak relations,” he warned.

“Therefore, our obligation is to improve electoral standards in our country, but also to preserve key norms of signed international agreements guaranteeing equality of all constituent peoples, especially the least numerous Croat people, to avoid further destabilization and ensure the path to Euro-Atlantic integration,” Covic added.

The Bosnian Croat political leader wrote that, though less optimistic and considering the time constraint, “we are ready to complete the started negotiation process.”

“Gross violations of human rights and the domination of one constituent people over another are inadmissible. As political leaders, we must not give up or deviate from the higher goals of electoral reform and limited changes to the BiH Constitution. The implementation of the Mostar Agreement is of vital interest for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he wrote.

“In the end, persistent dialogue and compromise are the only way to build up the unfortunately already deeply damaged trust and reconciliation, which will allow us to turn a new page in favour of our country's Euro-Atlantic future. Once again, I express my deep gratitude for your commitment and support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, all its peoples and citizens on the Euro-Atlantic path, which, despite all the difficulties and challenges, remains our only perspective,” his letter concluded.

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