The Croatian Parliament has Friday 14 December 2018 adopted the proposed Declaration on the Position of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Votes for were 81, against 11 and abstaining 4. Hence, the desired consensus was not reached, which leaves space for ongoing political manipulation and set backs in the lobbying for strengthening of the power in decision making as far as Croat role is concerned there. Issues that stand out particularly relate to the need to change BiH Electoral Act so that Croats are given the prerogative to vote for their own representatives in Presidency and parliament and those relating to the full and deserved status and recognition of the 1990’s war forces Croatian Defence Council (HV).
Advocating strongly for equality of Croatian people in that country the Declaration (Link for PDF version of the Declaration and Amendments http://www.sabor.hr/prijedlog-deklaracije-hrvatskoga-sabora-o-polozaju )calls for changes to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Electoral Act. It states that “The Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are a part of one and indivisible Croatian nation, regardless in which country and in which part of the world members of that nation live.”
In its ascent to parliamentary vote the proposed Declaration had given rise to numerous criticisms from the opposition, particularly Social Democrats, who held that it represented meddling in another country’s internal affairs. Accordingly, the original text discussed in parliament on 12 December has partly been changed.
Croatian people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are standing on the fence of their survival. Their status as equal people to Bosniaks and Serbs in BiH is continually eroded to the point that, despite protests and attempts to change the Electoral law, their representative in the Presidency of BiH is elected by the Bosniaks. Without a doubt, and based on jurisdiction installed within the 1995 Dayton Agreement and subsequently in the Constitution of BiH, Croatia has an obligation in protecting the constituency, equality and interests of the Croatian people in BiH. Hence, given the developments since 1995 that saw increasing deterioration in the status of Croats in BiH that places their very existence there in jeopardy, the time has arrived when Croatia has no alternative but to formulate its clear political framework that would help achieve and sustain such paramount rights of Croatian people in BiH.
To say that the debate in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday 12 December 2018 on the proposed Croatian Parliament Declaration on the Position of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina was heated would be a monumental understatement. Not only was the debate that lasted some ten hours into the night heated but it clearly demonstrated the fact that a Croatian parliamentary consensus on the Declaration was almost impossible to achieve. The bottom line to the disparity on whether the Croatian parliament should pass such a declaration lies in the evidently irreconcilable views between the governing majority and parts of the opposition on the role Croatia should play when it comes to its direct stand ad activities regarding Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The “liberal” opposition headed by Social Democrats (former communist league of Yugoslavia) considers the declaration to be damaging and an encroachment into internal political affairs of a neighbouring country while another portion of the opposition, e.g. Hrvoje Zekanovic/HRAST who vied for a third entity (Croatian) in BiH, Zeljko Glasnovic/the MP for the Croatian diaspora who especially emphasised the need to cement the recognition of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) which was instrumental in protecting the borders of Croatia during the 1990’s war, considers that the proposed text is lukewarm and demands more concrete solutions favouring the protection of Croats within BiH. Proposed by the Parliamentary Committee for Croats Living Outside Croatia and the ruling Croatian Democratic Union the Declaration seeks to strengthen the position on Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina; to preserve the political subjectivity of the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina particularly because of geostrategic influences being a first class strategic Croatian state and national interest.
The Declaration warns of marginalisation of the Croatian people in BiH and calls for changes to the Constitution and Electoral Act of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Declaration, of course, would have no direct power to make constitutional reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina but a consensus on such a political framework would have been likely to strengthen advocacy for major positive changes that would enable the equality of the Croatian people in BiH.
The Croatian Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejcinovic Buric rejected criticism by the opposition that the declaration encroaches on internal political affairs in the neighbouring country. “The Republic of Croatia is only asking for the Dayton Agreement to be respected along with constitutional decisions by the Constitutional Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Pejcinovic Buric.
While the Declaration would not be binding for Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, the BiH presidency in Sarajevo (for which the Croat representive Zeljko Komsic was recently voted in by majority Bosniak/Muslim vote) already views it as another attack on Bosnia’s sovereignty after the two countries became involved in a previous dispute about the Bosnian general elections in October.
In its current form the Declaration does claim that the election of Zeljko Komsic as the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency at October’s polls was not in line with the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war because Komsic was elected mostly by Bosniak votes, not by those of Bosnian Croats.
“For the successful functioning of Bosnia at all its levels it is essential that all its constituent peoples [Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs] and citizens be equal, to trust and believe in Bosnia’s future,” the declaration says.
With this declaration the Croatian Parliament seeks, among other things, from the appropriate institutions in the Republic of Croatia the following:
In order to realise the constitutional, legal and strategic documents and the international obligations of the Republic of Croatia in relation to Croats in BiH and towards BiH:
– that the Republic of Croatia, as a signatory and guarantor of the Washington and Dayton Agreements, and a member of the Peace Implementation Council in BiH, report to the UN Security Council and the PIC Steering Board members that the imposed amendments to the Entity Laws and the imposed changes to the Election the Dayton Peace Agreement was severely violated. Since the balance between the constitutional position and the rights of the constituent peoples in BiH at the expense of the Croatian people, but also to the detriment of the stability and functionality of BiH, the Croatian Parliament charges the representatives of the Republic of Croatia to seek before the international organisations responsible for implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement respect for the Dayton Peace Accords and that the imposed changes be removed via changes to the Constitution and the Election Law of BiH.
– that the Republic of Croatia, as a member of the Peace Implementation Council and as a member of NATO and EU in multilateral and bilateral capacities, advocates and supports the urgent changes of the Constitution and the Election Law of BiH, which would lead to the harmonisation and standardisation of the equal constitutional position of the three constituent peoples in BiH, in an institutional and administrative territorial view;
– the appropriate institutions of the Republic of Croatia are invited to increase their assistance to institutions of education, health, culture, media and Catholic Church institutions in BiH;
– to include institutions of strategic importance for Croats in BiH in the form of financial assistance from the Republic of Croatia, with full respect for their program and personnel independence and the principles of project business aimed at realising real needs and solving specific problems;
– to establish financial instruments for investment in development and employment in the majority Croatian areas, in areas where Croats lived in significant numbers before the war and from which they were forcefully deported or displaced and thus prevent departure and support the return of deported Croats to BiH;
– to stimulate new investments of Croatian companies operating and investing in BiH, especially in places with the Croat majority, where the number of Croats has been drastically reduced due to the war, due to the discriminatory policy of national majority in the Entities and counties on whose territory they are, their access to employment is disabled;
– to encourage cooperation with all local, county and state entities and representatives of the Republic of Croatia who have experience in using funds from European and other programs in the design of future projects and cross-border cooperation that would respond to the real needs of all media in BiH, especially in the areas of to which economic, scientific, academic, cultural and other subjects fulfilling the needs of Croats have capacities for the purposeful and efficient use of available resources, but also in areas where parts of the Croatian people are in a state of inadequate meeting of the needs in these areas;
– to fully valorise the role of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) in the defense of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian territories in BiH, but also in the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the whole of BiH, and to support the resolution of the status and the existential questions relating to the defence population, especially the disabled and the victims of the Homeland War;
– to give equality to Croatians outside Croatia in exercising their right to vote with other citizens of the Republic of Croatia in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, by introducing postal, preferably electronic voting, and by considering harmonisation of the number of representatives representing Croats outside the Republic of Croatia with the proportion of that population in the total number of voters.