SARAJEVO, March 27 (FENA) – President of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) Bakir Izetbegović sent a letter to international officials in response to a letter addressed to those same officials by the president of the Croat People’s Assembly, Dragan Čović a few days ago.
The letter is addressed to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, European Council President Charles Michel, Croatian President Zoran Milanović, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, European Parliament Vice President Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister, President of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Donald Tusk, President of the EPP, Manfred Weber, President of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, Paul Rangel, OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid, EU Special Envoy Western Balkans Miroslav Lajčák, Director of the European External Action Service Angelina Eichhorst, High Representative Christian Schmidt and ambassadors in the PIC Steering Board.
The letter is presented in its entirety:
We have been informed through the media that a letter was sent to your addresses by the President of the HDZ BiH and the NGO, Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) Dragan Čović, stating his interpretation of the situation in BiH and the reasons why negotiations on reforming the BiH Constitution and the election legislation has failed. In that letter, Dragan Čović unequivocally threatened that due to his inability to achieve his own political goals, he would initiate activities on the “administrative reorganization of BiH”.
We remind you that the current administrative structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina arises from the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH, and that any attempt at unilateral “reorganization” means a direct violation of the peace agreement and endangering peace and stability.
The “administrative reorganization” announced by the HNS would be carried out through the revival of the so-called “Croat Community of Herceg-Bosna” (HZHB), which existed during the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina. As you know, the political and military leadership of the so-called HZHB was convicted before the Hague Tribunal for a joint criminal enterprise, with the aim of creating an ethnically clean Croat territory in BiH.
In the letter, Čović also threatens to block the holding of the General Elections scheduled for October 2022, which he apparently plans to do through the HDZ personnel in the state institutions. Boycotting the elections is one of the democratic ways to express personal dissatisfaction, and everyone has the right to it. What no one has the right to do is obstruct and blockade the .holding of the elections themselves, because that is unconstitutional and unlawful activity.
The rest of the letter is full of untruths, arbitrary and malicious interpretations, such as the claim of “unitarization and the desire to create a Bosniak nation-state”, for which Čović often uses the term “Islamic State”, relying on the solidarity of Islamophobic circles in Europe.
With the untruths about the “Bosniak”, “Islamic state”, Čović is looking for an alibi for his policies of additional ethnic divisions and complete control of life in BiH. I don’t need to convince you, because you can be convinced of that every day, that since its establishment the SDA has pursued a policy that respects the multicultural spirit and reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is committed to balancing ethnic and civic principles in the functioning of BiH.
On the other hand, the HDZ wants complete domination of the ethnic principle through the so-called “legitimate representation”, which means that only Croats voted for by Croat voters can participate in political life, only Bosniaks voted for by Bosniak voters and so on. Such a policy would lead to a definite ethnic division of the country.
In addition to members of three nations, a huge number of people live in BiH who do not want to declare themselves as members of ethnic groups. Their views are articulated by civic, mostly left-wing parties. In the 2018 elections, those parties won twice as many votes as the parties gathered around the HNS, and they received almost half of those votes from non-Bosniak voters. Despite that, Čović is trying to bring all these parties and voters under the “Bosniak quota”, and to present the HNS as the exclusive representatives of Croats without any foundation. That this is not the case is evidenced by data from the 2013 Census and the results of the 2018 and 2020 elections. The HNS won every sixth vote in 2018 and every seventh vote in 2020, which clearly indicates that a good part of Croats in the FBiH voted for parties without Croat prefix in their names.
The SDA, which I lead, won twice as many votes as the HDZ, and the HDZ currently has more ministers in the FBiH government than the SDA. In addition, representatives of the Croat people, in addition to parity representation in some institutions, at the head of institutions in which, according to the law, national representation should be proportional in accordance with the Census, have significantly higher representation than prescribed.
Čović and his SNSD partner Milorad Dodik, who is on the US blacklist for undermining the Dayton Accords and for corruption, advocate a policy based solely on ethnicity, which is basically segregationist.
Čović’s and Dodik’s policies collide with the 14 priorities from the European Commission’s Opinion, numerous European Parliament resolutions, the views of the vast majority of EU member states, but also the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. In the letter you received, Čović tries to convince you that he is in favor of implementing the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (Sejdic/Finci, Zornić, Pilav, Šlaku, Pudarić), which strongly support the civic principle, i.e. the rights of citizens who are not members of the three peoples, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats). These judgments are being misused by the HNS in order to try to resolve the so-called “Croat issue”, i.e. the election of a member of the Presidency of BiH for whom only Croats would vote, challenging the right of Croats who do not follow the policy of the HNS, labeling them as “illegitimate”.
The SDA believes that every people in BiH has the right to be politically represented and to protect its vital national interests, but that it has no right to impose its will on others and to block political processes and life in the country with ultimatums and blackmails. In recent years, this has been the practice pursued by the SNSD at the state level by blocking the work of the institutions, and at the BiH Federation of BiH level by blocking the implementation of the 2018 election results by never allowing the convocation of the new FBiH Government, blocking the election of Constitutional Court judges or blocking the FBiH House of Peoples in which 37 laws and more than 150 other documents were stopped without any explanation.
All the blockades in the FBiH are being done in order to force the SDA, as well as the civic parties, to accept the HDZ’s ethnic principle. It was the House of Peoples, whose competencies were completely equated with the House of Representatives, that was used for the blockades. The SDA believes that vital national interests should be protected through the houses of the peoples, but that these houses should not decide on every issue, because that erases the very principle of democracy and the majority will of the citizens expressed in the houses of representatives.
In accordance with its policy of ethnic and civic balance, the SDA is ready to help reach a solution in which the election of one member of the BiH Presidency and the method of filling the House of Peoples in the FBiH would be based on the majority will of the Croat people. However, we cannot accept that the will of other voters is completely excluded in the election for a member of the Presidency of BiH, taking into account that according to the BiH Constitution, each member of the Presidency represents all BiH citizens, not only the ethnic group. At the same time, we asked for a solution to the problem in the functioning of the Federation of BiH, which was accepted by international mediators as a problem that needs to be solved. However, the hard-line views of the HDZ, the overemphasized ethnic insistence and the refusal to seriously discuss determining the competence of the House of Peoples to protect vital national interests, prevented an agreement from being reached.
I would like to emphasize that during the last round of negotiations, significant progress has been made, which can be the basis for continuing the talks in the future. The SDA will always respond to all talks that will lead to the stabilization of opportunities and solutions that are in line with European standards and recommendations of the European Union.