President Zoran Milanovic warned NATO leaders, who wrapped up their three-day summit in Madrid on Thursday, that destabilisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina could have serious implications for the region and NATO.
Addressing the summit, Milanovic wanted to draw attention to serious security problems that Croatia was facing in the Western Balkans, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the president’s office said in a press release.
Events in Bosnia and Herzegovina have a direct impact on our national interests and security. Further destabilisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina will have serious implications for the wider region and NATO. We hope that it will not be too late to reverse the situation, Milanovic said in his address to the NATO heads of state or government on Wednesday.
Due to the geographical position of Croatia, we are significantly affected by the events in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. We share a thousand-kilometre-long border. One of the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina are Croats, most of whom also have EU citizenship. Many left during the war and unfortunately are now leaving primarily due to a lack of faith in the future of Bosnia, Milanovic said.
He said gradual progress in Bosnia is unlikely and that nothing will change after the October elections.
In any case, the outcome will not be good either for Bosnia and Herzegovina or for Croatia or for NATO for that matter, he said.
Milanovic said that Bosnian Croats are systematically prevented from electing their legitimate representatives and are gradually being stripped of their rights.
Simply put, the election law has to be changed. The High Representative can do this with the stroke of a pen, using his so-called Bonn powers. If the High Representative does not address such key issues, his role is completely meaningless, Milanovic added.
He said that even among the countries gathered, there are those who opt for their favourites in Bosnia, instead of impartially approaching the situation on the ground.
I do not think this policy is created in the capital cities, but it emerges from their local representatives in Bosnia, he added.
He called for policy making on Bosnia to return to the level of statesmen as was the case when the Dayton and Paris Agreements were signed.
He said that he fully understands the desire of Finland and Sweden to join the Alliance, that they have proven to be reliable partners and that their potential contribution to Euro-Atlantic security cannot and must not be underestimated.
He added, however, that the concerning situation in Bosnia and the Western Balkans must not be ignored.
Perhaps most of you, dear colleagues, consider that our southeastern neighbourhood is peaceful, and the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are now a vague and distant memory. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is, at best, worrying, Milanovic said.
He expressed his disappointment that Bosnia and Herzegovina had not been granted candidate status for EU membership at the European Council on 23 June, while Ukraine and Moldova had been granted it without any conditions set.