A Matter For Self-Preservation: Croatians In Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croats in BiH rally against
2018 election of Zeljko Komsic for their representative in the presidency
Photo: Jabuka TV

On Sunday 7 October 2018, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) held general elections, including for its three-member presidency. The multi-ethnic institution, which includes one representative from each of the country’s three ethnic communities – the Croats, the Muslim Bosniaks and the Serbs – is one of the power-sharing bodies established to promote and sustain equal rights in the fractured state after the bloody war in the 1990s. The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords set the stage for ethnic equality when it comes to rights and power. Despite the late 2016 BiH Constitutional court ruling that Electoral law must be changed in order to ensure each ethnic group votes for its own representative in the presidency and other governing institutions, the law had not been changed! Hence, the Croats of BiH were left with the prospect that mainly Bosniaks vote-in and vote for the candidate Bosniak political lead supports to represent the Croats into the presidency!

That utterly unacceptable prospect has been a sad reality for Croats and is, once again – a wretched reality: Bosniaks voted Zeljko Komsic (Democratic Front party) into the presidency while the Croats’ vote for their strongest candidate Dragan Covic (HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union party) – failed. This is the third time Komsic had been voted in as the Croat representative on the presidency and the first two times (2006 and 2010 as member of the leftist, pro-communist Social Democratic party). Furthermore, given that Komsic was a highly decorated member of the BiH Army (Muslim) during the war and not a member of the Croatian Defence Council, which ended up defending BiH Croats against the Serb and later Bosniak onslaught, his very presence among Croats is treated with great disdain and rejection. In fact, post the 11 October Mostar-based protest “Not My President”, he has been declared as persona non grata in several Croat dominated municipalities.

Anti Zeljko Komsic rally
Mostar 11 October 2018
Photo: Jabuka Tv

The presidency’s new composition is fuelling more tension and distrust than what was the case in the lead up to the elections, threatening Bosnia’s future as a country led and made up of three equal ethnic groups. While elected candidates of their respective ethnic political parties represent the Serbs and Muslims – Milorad Dodik and Sefik Dzaferovic – the third seat is filled by Zeljko Komsic against the wishes of most of Bosnia’s Croats. The “fire-accelerator” adding to the fuelling certainly includes the lame, politically orchestrated and questionable 2017 ICTY verdict of “joint criminal enterprise” against Croats in BiH and Croatia, which has evidently provided the Muslims with “perfect” excuses for covering-up and denial of the their brutal and criminal attempts to annihilate Croats in BiH during the war. It’s opportune and perhaps politically significant to mention here that there are actions and initiatives currently being undertaken in Croatia with the aim to have this ICTY verdict re-examined and reviewed as it is deemed unsafe and not representing the truth or justice.

According to election rules currently in place, and protested bitterly by Croats as well as members of smaller ethnic communities, Croats and Bosniak Muslims vote together in one half of Bosnia, the Federation, while the Serb candidate is elected by the Serb Republic. Hence, Bosniaks (not majority Croats) having voted Komsic in as Croat representative is laced with inevitable and unacceptable Bosniak influence over the fate of Croats in BiH as a constitutionally equal group. Regardless of the fact that Komsic advocates unity within BiH (between the three ethnic groups), something the West seems to like or want, even “Blind Freddy” can see the deepening disadvantage and discrimination against Croats there. Unity does seem unachievable.

One cannot, therefore, neither dismiss nor criticise as unwarranted the increasingly spirited calls for the formation of a third entity in BiH, i.e. Croat entity for self-preservation in particular.

With so much energy that Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had poured into supporting Dragan Covic’s election campaign for the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that this narrow and specific support may actually have been a purposeful tactic to favour and play into Russia’s cold war tactics for control over that part of South-East Europe where, guided by Russia’s choices, Croats of BiH are not likely to factor in importance or decision-making. It does appear Croatia’s leadership did not try hard enough to influence and grow influence (e.g by the US and/or EU) for a truly representative outcome for Croat in the BiH presidency, thus leaving room for the Serb muscle (supported by Russia) and Muslim Bosniak muscle (supported by Turkey) to grow even stronger at Croats’ peril and fear.

Indeed, a worldwide consensus of political analysts comes through with BiH seen as a battleground of a new Cold War. Russia has certainly been expanding its political muscle and influence in magnifying ethnic tensions in countries that hope to join the European Union. And Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of those. Furthermore, with Bosniaks/ Muslims turning their gaze firmly towards Ankara and Istanbul, with the EU reviving its dormant aims for enlargement through the consolidation of Europe platform, security risks to NATO members are accentuated.

When a country elects a president, or members of presidency as is in BiH case, it is not usually the case that the candidates include those whose stated aim is to break the country apart. But, in BiH, it happened – Serb leader Milorad Dodik has made it his career to break up BiH and join the Serbian Republic to Serbia. Russia/Putin stands behind him firmly in such a path. The situation bears distant echoes of Ukraine, where Russia originally agreed that Kiev could join the European Union — though not NATO — and then changed its mind, leading to the revolution that prompted Moscow to annex Crimea and foment secession in eastern Ukraine.

The biggest winner of the elections seems to be Dodik, who will command majorities in both the Serb Republic and the Serb delegation in the joint parliament. Dodik and his party have been the dominant political force in the Serb Republic since 2006, at threatening to secede from Bosnia.

“My first priority will be the position of the Serb people and of the [Serb Republic],” Dodik said in his victory speech. During the campaign, he argued that Bosnia is “not a state,” while calling its capital of Sarajevo a “foreign territory.”

Reinforced from Serbia and Russia, Dodik’s inflammatory words are now a clear threat and the Dayton Agreement is looking more fragile than ever before.

With Donald Trump’s putting America first path, which tends to leave the impression of a neo-isolationism, it would appear that the U.S. has, on that path, thinned its former muscle as a policeman in the South-East Europe (Balkan) region. The alarming consequences of this, particularly for Croats in BiH, are perhaps that Russia and Turkey have taken advantage of the U.S. retreat to reassert themselves in old spheres of interest. Furthermore, the virility (or relative lack of it) in Croatia’s leadership’s support for Covic’s election campaign would easily place that support into cruising along with Russia waters. Vladimir Putin has backed populists across the Balkans to counter the expansion of NATO and the European Union. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed up in Bosnia recently during his presidential election campaign, embracing Bosnia as his own. The EU, meanwhile, has been pouring in money, though the carrot of membership and is coming up with a road map for expansion using consolidation as its main mechanism.

The competition with Russia is sowing and activating fresh instability in a region still emerging from the vicious war of 1992-95. Bosnia’s complicated constitutional framework, along with unresolved internal tensions, makes it susceptible to Russian efforts to wield its influence to transform Bosnia-Herzegovina. Political and intellectual elites in the Serbian Republic entity have served Moscow’s cause by promoting Russia within the entity as an alternative pathway to development. This has so far made Euro-Atlantic integration impossible for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

New particles of instability are filling the skies above the region every day and, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, threatening more than ever the preservation of Croats as equal people alongside Serbs and Bosniaks. The idea of a Croat entity within BiH is gaining more and more justified ground. It is beginning to emerge as possibly the only option for self-preservation, regardless of the fact that Croats in BiH have spent decades post-Dayton Agreement in compliant agreement to make it work and despite being increasingly discriminated against and belittled within the Federation with Bosniaks, further compounded by the likewise antagonistic Serb Republic entity. Ina Vukic


  1. Ms.Vukic,

    I need to understand this and I am unclear about this statement:
    With so much energy that Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had poured into supporting Dragan Covic’s election campaign for the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that this narrow and specific support may actually have been a purposeful tactic to favour and play into Russia’s cold war tactics for control over that part of South-East Europe where, guided by Russia’s choices, Croats of BiH are not likely to factor in importance or decision-making.

    Ms.Vukic are you implying that President Kolinda Grabar KItarovic and Prime Minister Amdrej Plenkovic did not do enough to ensure Covic’s election? and how does their support play into Putin’s Cold War tactics? I am just not understanding your statement. Please clarify for me and thank you.

    • Well understood, John, thank you on your comment. In essence while the Prime Minister Plenkovic is member and president of HDZ party his support for the HDZ candidate is to be expected but President Grabar Kitarovic is not a member of any party and rather than pushing for one candidate one would have expected that her support would have spread across the issue of Croat equality etc etc rather than concentrating on one candidate (there were three other candidates besides Komsic and Covic running to represent Croats in the presidency). These elections for Croats were heavily laced with justified fear of further loss of rights and equality and frankly much of that was lost in campaigns of support the two led. Given the weakening of popularity of both the Prime Minister and the President in Croatia and increased accusations that they are not doing enough for assertion of Croatians’ rights, one needs to consider the possible spillage of this into a reduced Croat voter turnout as well as a dispersion of votes among the four Croat candidates (excluding Komsic) – with Bosniak votes Komsic ended up on top. Furthermore both should have lobbied harder during the past year or so in order to put pressure for the Electoral law to be changed. And I say this having in mind that under the Dayton agreement (from which the Constitution of BiH arose) Croatia does have both rights and responsibility to influence such changes in BiH, or at least try the hardest. How does it all play into Putin’s Cold War tactics? Putin is all about thriving on ethnic intolerances or the appearance of such and the results of these elections have left a significant number of Croats at the same spot where they were before – unhappy and fighting for their equality with Bosniaks in the Federation – leaving Dodik free of ethnic tensions in his Serb entity, creating a scenario where the Serb Republic has an additional trump card – apparent ethnic harmony – for secession from BiH, which is evidently what Putin wants also.

  2. may there be a day
    of not only preservation
    but of harmony 🙂

  3. Sounds like tense times over there. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but will there ever be a time when all three groups are happy with their lot? I don’t see it….

  4. Suncica Cvitkovic Anderson says:

    Facebook comment: Clearly both/president and premier/ are working for Russian interest. Specially premier! At the moment they are offering Uljanik to Putin’s man from Ukraina, known for close relationship with Viktor Janukovvč. Vrdoljak, from HNS well known for close economical relationship with Russian gas companies that control Putin’s man is close political ally of the premier. Old commie net is working with there old commie comrades!

  5. I cannot profess to understand all of the in-comings and out-goings of this political upheaval.. But I do see a trend..
    Confusion and Division, And Discontent among the populations, both here, in the UK and USA..
    I see people, presidents, prime-ministers, throughout the world hanging onto their power, and old ways of rule…
    The world is changing now so rapidly, information is gathered much more freely so that the once, ‘Thought ignorant general public’ are more enlightened as to what is happening in political circles.
    And they are not liking what the hear or see..
    I feel in many places Ina around the globe right now their is a undercurrent of simmering going on, just waiting to boil over..
    I really hope Unity and Co-operation will prevail..

    Much love dear friend. <3

    • Dear Sue, last weekend I attended to a Documentary film festival where I saw a film called “What is Democracy?” – at times of political and social crisis in the world as is now the film is so eye-opening. Yes boiling points all over the place but I do like to think that if all take care to places near them then the world has a chance…

  6. This is just proof that BiH is a failed state. It’s now tome for the Croats to start pushing for independence.

  7. Enlightening article. I deplore Trump’s “isolationist” stand, as well as many of his decisions. He does not represent the interests of many of us in the USA.

    • Thank you, Patricia on feedback. Re “isolationist” politics and Trump it stand to reason that if anyone is going to put “America” first (any country/nation) that in itself requires a high degree of patriotism, health patriotism in the interest of the people of that country and this leads, at least in perception, to a kind of isolation but I believe no true isolation is ever afoot – thanks to trade deals etc. Whether such politics are “right” or is indeed a point of great discussion, controversy and disagreements. We can only do what our intellect and hearts tell us and, hence, follow those that suit us or our needs…everyone has needs of course, they’re just different…polls tell us which overweigh which

  8. Some things needs to clear.Bosnia and Herzegovina will never be destroyed.
    Bosniaks are ready for every single enemy who wanna break are lovely homeland.

  9. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

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