The Bosnian Croat member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, wrote to Brussels on Friday, saying his country is exposed to political pressure from Moscow and interference from neighbouring Croatia and Serbia through local political parties.
He first listed “new and growing pressure from Russia on Bosnia and Herzegovina as a geopolitical point, through threats regarding further steps of Bosnia and Herzegovina down the NATO path.”
Komsic also criticised the role the European Union is playing in BiH, which he argued is “under significant influence of Croatia.”
“Croatia is trying to project its own interests through the EU in order to achieve a continuous influence over Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly through activities of the HDZ BiH,” he wrote, referring to Bosnia’s Croat Democratic Union, the main Bosnian Croat party in the country.
He also warned of “direct influence and interference of neighbouring countries, Croatia and Serbia” in BiH through the HDZ BiH and the main Bosnian Serb party in the country, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD).
There is “systematic destruction of state institutions” and “obstruction of their function” on the scene in BiH as well, conducted through those who were appointed by these two parties to the House of Peoples and the Council of Ministers,” he argued, referring to the country’s upper house and government.
He also complained about “destroying society’s trust in the credibility of state institutions, such as referring to them as ‘joint institutions’.”
Komsic stressed that these two parties want to “cement the ethnically based politics escalating into a populistic totalitarianism through an Election Law reform – particularly through the creation of ethnically pure election units,” arguing that this closely resembles the creation of a third semi-autonomous entity in the country.
He also complained about the “ambiguous and insincere” behaviour of the EU Delegation in BiH, which he said was “trying to give something” to HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic by pressing other parties and political stakeholders into something not in line with EU policies.
Komsic noted that there is an absence of Rule of Law in Bosnia, with leaders of political parties “creating a system based on corruption and various forms of crime” and enjoying the protection of police and judicial institutions.
Komsic said he expects the “reform of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a manner implementing all five rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg” in order to “provide equality for all citizens of BiH in all their rights, including political rights.”
He noted that another ruling by Bosnia's Constitutional Court regarding the indirect election of the delegates to the House of Peoples of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity has already been implemented since the disputed provisions of the Election Law BiH had already been revoked.
“That has been resolved by the Central Election Commission (CEC) when it issued its instruction on Procedures of Implementing Indirect Elections for Government Authorities in BiH encompassed in the Election Law,” he stated.
Komsic advocated for a “transition from an ethnic model of the election system, which carries elements of systematic discrimination and totalitarianism, to a civic concept in order to achieve complete democracy.”
The constitutional reform, he stressed, also must “redefine the competences of the House of Peoples” so it is not a legislative power but only “a body to determine whether ethnic interests” of ethnic communities in Bosnia have been violated “within the scope of 5-7 clearly established issues.”
This would prevent obstructions of the work of state institutions, he argued.
He also urged for reforms to the Election Law which would “provide all the citizens to have equal both active and passive suffrage, that is, that all citizens can be candidates for all political positions, and that all citizens can vote for all candidates.”
Komsic called for “stronger assistance within the scope of NATO integration, done in such a way that those refusing NATO membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be indulged, and the path of Bosnia and Herzegovina towards NATO membership will be accelerated.”
He also urged for the establishment of the Rule of Law and reinstating trust in the work of the judicial institutions through a complete reform of Bosnia’s top judicial body, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC).
Three separate bodies – a High Judicial Council, a High Prosecutorial Council and an Office of the Disciplinary Prosecutor should instead be formed, as well as a Supreme Court Of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he argued.
Komsic stated he expects to see more efforts in “suppressing the negative influence of Russia and its narrative,” according to which Bosnia and Herzegovina is “a state of two entities and three peoples” and that Moscow will accept ‘whatever the three peoples agree upon’.”
Komsic said that the cooperation between the EU and the US regarding the reform process in BiH is “confusing” and that there is a lack of leadership coordination on behalf of the EU and the US when it comes to the reforms of the Constitution and the Election Law.
He called “the level of servitude” towards the demands from SNSD and HDZ BiH “concerning” and argued that there is an effort to “accommodate their demands” although they are “not in line with the strengthening of the state institutions.”
“On the other hand, there is almost no communication with political parties advocating a civic concept and equality of all citizens in accordance with the Opinion of the European Commission,” Komsic argued.
He then listed some examples, such as “dishonest treatment by the EU Mission in BiH” of civic-oriented proposals for amending the Constitution and the Election Law, as well as other laws, explaining that the EU Mission had asked the proposed laws to be withdrawn from the Parliamentary Assembly in order to get different proposals from HDZ BiH.
Komsic also argued that the proposed amendments to the Law on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council the EU Mission pushed for “was assessed as bad and inappropriate” by the Venice Commission from the perspective of European standards and practices.
He accused the EU Mission in BiH of giving into the HDZ BiH’s consistent efforts to create ethnically pure election units – something Komsic argued was similar to what the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rules represented as a “joint criminal enterprise.”
The goal of this is, according to Komsic, to allow Zagreb to “have permanent control and influence over the decision-making processes in BiH” through the HDZ BiH.
Komsic complained about the “indecisiveness of the EU Mission in BiH on various issues not defined by the Dayton Peace Accord or focused on correcting the Accord,” which he argued benefits ethnic policies.
The EU Mission in BiH has been “creating an atmosphere which is conveying that they only care about statistical indicators of a ‘job done’,” in order to inform Brussels about it, “without actually getting into the core and content of the reform activities that quite often are not in the interests of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
All key ministerial positions in state institutions essential for the fulfilment of the 14 Key Priorities from the Opinion of the European Commission, are occupied by HDZ BiH and SNSD staff (except for the CEC),” he noted and those two parties have also a clear majority in the parliament.
“Therefore, the question is: why making almost no progress at all on BiH’s path towards the EU is being tolerated while the representatives of HDZ BiH are being portrayed as ‘champions of European integration’ although HDZ BiH strongly blocks any progress,” Komsic asked.
“All obstructions caused by the SNSD on the EU path of BiH are being tolerated despite their clearly expressed attitude that the creation of functional institutions at the state level is out of the question,” although this is a requirement for Bosnia’s EU path, he said.
“The increase of Russian influence in BiH, through rhetoric and active engagement towards specific political actors, cannot be properly solved without a more active engagement of the EU officials from Brussels, in order to unlock the reform process,” he concluded.