The outdated 1995 Dayton Accords for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), devised to stop the 1990’s war only stopped the war but did not bring true peace or stability to the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina has for the last two decades remained frozen in time of the days of the war, only instead of gunshots being heard on the ground it is the political turmoil and its dark demeanour that increasingly amplifies the Bosniak agenda to overpower Croats in the Federation of BiH part of the country while they look away from the Serbian push to achieve independence from BiH of the Serbian Republic/Republika Srpska entity, founded on crimes, genocide and ethnic cleansing against Bosniaks and Croats.
Past two decades of perpetual political and economic dysfunction, security threats amplified by radical Islam (that has found a friend and a fighter/feeder in Bosniaks), palpably fading European and American interest, and the divisive foreign influence of Russia and Turkey, the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s emerge as a threatened nation even if on paper they are one of the three constitutional people (Bosniaks/Muslims, Croats and Serbs) that make up BiH. Croats in BiH have been marginalised during the last two decades. Bosniaks have elected a Croat member of the Presidency and formed a federal government twice without legitimate Croat support, completely ignoring Croat electoral will.
The proximate catalyst for the country’s current crisis centres on this year’s national elections. In December 2016, BiH’s Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional a controversial law governing elections in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the bigger of BiH’s two autonomous entities, the other being Serbian Republic/Republika Srpska, dominated by Orthodox Serbs). In a legal quirk, the Federation’s numerically larger Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) can elect designated Catholic Croat representatives to seats on the legislative House of Peoples, effectively disenfranchising them. In a February 2017 resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Brussels-based European Parliament cited “the importance of the recent decision of the Constitutional Court on the principle of constituent status and equality of its three constitutive peoples to elect their own legitimate political representatives…in the House of Peoples.” The Bosniak-dominated government in Sarajevo, however, steadfastly refuses to implement the Court’s decision thus threatening the integrity of the election process. Unless the law is amended (attempts to do so have so far failed scandalously) there will be no constitutional basis to hold elections and form the next Federation government. Worse, the central government would then be unable to form as its legislators are, in part, selected from each Entity’s parliaments.
It’s becoming evident that the International Criminal Tribunal’s verdicts against Serbs and Croats in The Hague have injected into Bosniaks, particularly their leader Bakir Izetbegovic, a new vigour to pursue Bosniak plans for control of BiH and if not the whole of BiH, then definitely the Federation BiH (Bosniaks and Croats) entity. It was this week that Izetbegovic claimed that both Croatia and Serbia were aggressors against BiH. Izetbegovic’s political motives are clear in this even if they are devious and rotten to the core. Given the appalling lack of responsibility for war crimes pinned against the Bosniaks, who committed heinous crimes of mass murder and ethnic cleansing against the Croats in BiH, one finds it difficult to circumvent the likelihood of political engineering that favours the Bosnikas, with blatant bias and injustice towards the Croats in particular. The Bosniak plans to suppress and exterminate Croats as equals by any means possible have been there from the start and continue. This is evident today as it was during the war.
Unchecked migration in BiH, particularly from Islamic countries and increasing adoption of radical Salafi Islam from foreign fighters (Mujahideen) who came to the country during its 1992-95 war to fight alongside Muslims against Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats as well as from ever tightening camaraderie in the relationship between Bosniaks and Middle-Eastern Islamic leaders are a cause for real concerns, especially to BiH Croats.
Any solution that gives Bosniaks majoritarian control would result in the annihilation of Croats as a constituent people in BiH.
The threat of future terrorist attacks linked to ISIS camps in Bosniak controlled territories in BiH, widening communal violence that keeps escalating in the lead up to this year’s elections geared to the scenario that each constitutional people should vote for their own representatives so that eventually deciding power in the country is equally shared, unchecked migration, Russian military adventurism in Republika Srpska entity on a pretext of “peacekeeping,” merit renewed high level attention and resolution with international involvement, specifically the US and the EU, including Croatia. Russia’s and Turkey’s fingers need to be removed and influence sidelined.
As much as the European Union/Commission was deeply involved with its often more detrimental than useful role in the 1990’s war in former Yugoslavia, particularly in the framework of aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina who had chosen to secede from Yugoslavia, it has become blatantly apparent that the EU on its own is unable to assume the responsibility of sorting out the political mess and crisis in BiH, which is emerging as a real threat of a new war. But – no more Dayton-like accords or agreements. The European Union’s ability to play a critical diplomatic role in crafting global policy towards global challenges has been demonstrated through its response towards Russian aggression against Ukraine. But the EU is a conglomerate of sovereign states and success in crafting global or regional policies was dependent on US engagement and commitment. The historical, ethnic and cultural inseparability of Croats in Croatia and BiH dictates and empowers Croatia’s involvement in ensuring that Croats of BiH enjoy equal rights within the conglomerate of three constitutional peoples. During the war that raged from Serb aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina in early 1990’s, the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular president Alija Izetbegovic, pleaded with Croatia to come and help defend Bosnia and Herzegovina, which Croatia took on as well as providing for some 500,000 refugees from BiH. Havig this fact in mind it is natural and just that Croatia needs to protect the interests of BiH Croats – with a stronger and more assertive voice than what has been heard so far.
On Wednesday 2 May, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn urged the Bosnian political leaders to reach an agreement on electoral reform, ahead of a new negotiations meeting. Without amendments to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Electoral Law there would be difficulties in implementing the results of the election to be held in October, said Mogherini and Hahn.
The ongoing local facilitation efforts by EU and US ambassadors to Bosnia and Herzegovina have provided a framework conducive to a solution being found, it is noted. It is also stated in Mogherini and Hahn statement that the EU expects the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach a compromise without further delay in the best interest of their country.
“If the results of the general election cannot be implemented, the formation of a new government could be at risk,” they emphasised.
“The holding of elections and the implementation of their results, including proper functioning of the institutions, is a fundamental democratic requirement for any country aspiring to join the European Union. Holding the future election results hostage to party interests is not an option,” reads the statement.
Leaders of Federation BiH’s (FBiH) parliamentary parties gathered on Thursday 3 May in Sarajevo in yet another attempt to reach an agreement on changes in the BiH Election Law. After five hours of debate, they came out having reached one conclusion – it is necessary to engage the Venice Commission (Council of Europe) so that it can decide whether the suggested changes are in accordance with EU standards.
As in all earlier cases, negotiations around the changes of the Electoral role are currently hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to BiH, Maureen Cormack, with the participation of the EU Special Representative, Lars Gunnar Wigemark. It means that the international community wants to see this problem solved as soon as possible and -at best- before the Central Election Commission BiH officially announces the general elections’ date. This is expected on May 8 and parties have just a few days to agree and adopt changes in Parliament. Given the track record on this matter with the Bosniak thirst for control (led by Bakir Izetbegovic) and alarming (perhaps purposeful) absence of due self-determination in the official Croat leadership in BiH (led by Dragan Covic), that have so far worked to the detriment of asserting equality for Croats in BiH, one somehow doubts any agreements will be reached by coming the Tuesday or by October. One does not doubt, however, that a stronger political force in BiH is desperately needed to ensure the survival of Croats there, as an equal constitutional ethnic make-up of the country.