Bosnia And Herzegovina Hotbed Of Political Unrest And Disintegration Fears

Last Sunday’s elections in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), which saw a 50% voter turnout, while marked by continued electoral and political rape of Croats in that country as one of the three constitutional peoples (Bosniaks (Muslims), Serb and Croats) delivered results that put an end to the long-lasting reign within the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the corrupt and corrupting Muslim Izetbegovic “dynasty”. Readers may remember it was Alija Izetbegovic, President of the Presidency of BiH to 1998 and later member of the Presidency to 2001 and Islamic philosopher who died in 2003 and was succeeded in political leadership of his only son Bekir Izetbegovic. Bekir like his father heavily leaned towards creating an Islamic state in BiH and if that failed (which has not yet) then they both would undertake measures to degrade and belittle and oppress Croats living in the same regions of the country as Bosniaks or Muslims and under supposed equal constitutional rights as constitutional peoples.

Sunday 2 October election results have out of the long-standing incumbents on the Presidency confirmed Bekir Izetbegovic’s loss and exit. This result though does not mean that Croats in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina will now be free of pressures and oppressions that come their way from Muslims or Bosniaks and perhaps it is for that very reason the country’s top international envoy whose duty and role is to oversee the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Agreement for BiH, High Representative Christian Schmidt, decided to impose wide-ranging amendments to Bosnia’s Constitution immediately after the polls had closed on Sunday, which would spill into electoral law.

It has been years since the Constitutional Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered a decision in late 2016 that the country’s electoral law be changed to accommodate a guarantee that each of the three constitutional peoples would elect their own representatives in the Presidency and other representative and governing bodies in the country. This is particularly and crucially important for Croats because they are in relative smaller numbers in the country and can be outvoted in cantons by others ethnic groups that also form the constitutional people.  Yet in all those years nothing had been changed in the country’s Electoral Law to accommodate the Constitutional Court’s decision from 2016 and it seems that Christian Schmidt has “put his foot down”!

The future three members of the BiH Presidency: Denis Becirovic (Muslim or Bosniak Representative on the Presidency who comes from Bekir Izetbegovic’s opposition), Zeljka Cvijanovic as Serb Representative, and Zeljko Komsic as Croat Representative. The electoral rape and utter unfairness of the country’s electoral law that places Croats at a dire disadvantage is highlighted with the fact that Borjana Kristo (HDZ Party), a candidate for Croat Representation on the Presidency, had won over 90% of Croat vote in towns and villages where in the Federation Croats live as majority ethnic group with Muslims and where, sadly and undemocratically HDZ has wielded corrupt power for decades that seems to have caused fear among many voters to vote away from HDZ because they may lose their job or perks they receive from HDZ for being politically loyal. But Muslims outnumber Croats in majority of places. Clearly Croats said a firm no to Zeljko Komsic as their Representative, but the Electoral Law favours him! It is believed that had HDZ not caused so much disappointment and existential fears among the Croats in the Federation, voter turnout would have been greater and other Croat political parties and candidates would have had a fighting chance to win significant number of seats.

Hence, the awful tragedy of electoral rape of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues!

Zeljko Komsic was, again, elected to the Presidency as Croat Representative by Bosniak or Muslim, not Croat vote!  Again, the electoral law was not changes as directed by the Bosnian Constitutional Court, which legislation would ensure that each of the three constitutional peoples (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) elect their own representatives.

Journalists rooting for status quo in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which permits oppression of Croats my Muslims or Bosniaks, will try and convince the world that the move High Representative Christian Schmidt made immediately after the polls closed on Sunday is destructive, illegal, unnecessary and that it threatens democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, forgetting that the 1995 Dayton Agreement which was about democracy and rights has been sabotaged and derailed too many times to count since then – not by the High Representative but by BiH politicians in power! Well, there is no democracy in the country to speak of as one of the three Constitutional people that are supposed to have the same rights as the other two continue to experience oppression and setbacks in asserting their rights. The truth is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a corrupt political and economic pit where detrimental ethnic divisions are stronger than ever.

The surprise new intervention made on last Sunday by Schmidt changes the election law by raising the number of representatives in the Federation entity’s House of Peoples and the way they are chosen. The changes also include the deadline (one month) for the formation of the government after the election, as well as measures to ensure the functionality of the Bosniak and Croat-dominated Federation entity.

Schmidt, whose task is to oversee implementation of the 1995 peace accords that ended the 1992-95 war, also imposed changes to the Constitution of the Federation entity intending to ensure future functionality of its constitutional court and the selection process of the judges.

The US Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed Schmidt’s move, stating in its 4 October Press Release that the move would “bolster the stability and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina … This action was both urgent and necessary … The High Representative’s decision addresses problems that have plagued the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for many years.  Four years after the 2018 elections, the Federation has not implemented the results, and the Federation Constitutional Court is nearly paralysed.  This has deprived Federation residents of their constitutional rights, undermined the rule of law, and emboldened ethno-nationalists across BiH.  Together, these problems threaten BiH’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and multiethnic character.”.

The British Ambassador to BiH, Julian Reilly, Tweeted on 3 October: “The United Kingdom supports the role played by the High Representative and his Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It is a source of regret that the powers of the High Representative continue to be needed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in the absence of domestic political 1/3”.

In essence, Schmidt has changed the formula for the appointment of delegates to the upper chamber of the Federation of BiH entity parliament, the House of Peoples. A widespread opinion came through these past days that this change will give the minorities more rights to be represented and when one looks at election results for representatives that went against Croats in areas where they are outnumbered by Muslims, one may sense a realistic hope that Croats will have a better chance now.  

The measures package taken by Schmidt are said to “set the stage for further electoral and constitutional reform, including to meet BiH’s commitments for EU integration and to address concrete problems facing the country.  These measures also strengthen the constitutional safeguards provided by the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution for constituent peoples while preventing abuse or paralysis of the system…”

The Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, welcomed the decision of the high representative of the international community, Christian Schmidt, which changed the electoral law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointing out that this ensured the political survival of the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The other side to this medal is the fact that the Bosnian HDZ/Croatian Democratic Party, Andrej Plenkovic’s political party twin, is responsible for the atrocious situation regarding the continued oppression of Croats in BiH and the exodus or emigration of Croats in droves. That responsibility stems from the fact that HDZ in BiH has managed to stay in much of the power corridors and that stay did not always result from honest politics but from corrupt ones. Schmidt’s move for changes to the BiH Constitution seem like having delivered a licence of sorts for HDZ party to retain the power of maintaining a legislative and political gridlock on important matters in the Federation unless representation in the federation upper house chambers moves significantly away from HDZ. It is now up to Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina to vote away to HDZ in future elections.  

President of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, said that the High Representative Christian Schmidt “played underground, rat games” and that the electoral system in Bosnia and Herzegovina lacks representativeness, where anyone can elect anyone and then the smallest ones suffer.

“The death penalty for Croats, in the political sense, has been commuted to life imprisonment, and we must celebrate that. But this is a disaster for Croatian foreign policy, this is quisling behaviour.

“The Croats had one candidate (for the Presidency), they came out in good numbers and they failed to prevail. There is no help. In the next four years, Zagreb will either stand behind the rights of the Croats in BiH as a constituent nation or there will be no Croats there anymore,” Milanovic concluded.

The intervention after the polling had finished by the UN’s overseer Christian Schmidt is likely to dominate the post-election landscape and its effect on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s  national and political fortunes. So far, in the past thirty years BiH has been a hotbed of ethnic rivalries for power and supremacy of essentially nationalist parties, which have maintained power by stirring up sectarian divisions, while presiding over vast patronage networks which helped further cement their grip on people. But after nearly three decades of this as well as growing social and economic stagnation and decay Bosnia and Herzegovina may be ripe for the picking by external full control.  

Will the moves to control stop with UN envoy Schmidt or will new winds blow in more control from the Islamic world via Turkey or from Orthodox Russia are questions that cannot be ignored.

What international actors should be concerned about is Russia’s offer of support to the Bosnian Serbs (the the Serbian Republic within BiH forged in genocide and ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs during the 1990’s war). Considering Russia’s recent and current encroachment upon eastern Ukraine and Crimea, it is not unthinkable that Moscow would collaborate with the Serbs to further expand its influence and control, fuelling conflict in the region. Russia has long championed secessionist Serb Milorad Dodik, and more recently Moscow has allied with China to threaten to strip the BiH High Representative’s powers.

Turkey’a President Erdogan has for years appeared to consider Bosnia and Herzegovina his turf, his second home… Turkey’s engagement with BiH has mostly been of a political nature but this was backed up by diverse business and cultural activities, often using the Ottoman legacy and Islam as leverage. Erdogan has had close relations with the Bosnian Muslim political parties and the detrimental effects on Croats have been visible for some years now. Islamic supremacy in the country, or Federation of BiH is a yearning only too visible.

In the absence of a tentative alternative to Dayton Agreement for BiH, rather widespread belief is that the fate of Bosnia and Herzegovina is inextricably tied to the fate of the High Representative as that body is its main bulwark against the forces of disintegration. Thuds from Russia and Turkey, and even China, are getting louder and louder though!

When it comes to visions for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s near and distant future, things are still as they were in 1995: Let’s wait and see! Anything can happen. And if Russia pushes harder to get Bosnian Serbs to sabotage any BiH EU accession and NATO membership ambitions and plans then matters of violent disintegration are surely to follow. Whether controlling forces come from Russia or Turkey with stronger resolve, or from both simultaneously, a great deal can develop including a new armed conflict. Regretfully! Ina Vukic  

Croatia: Covert Communist Diplomacy Against Diaspora Patriotic Community

MT4YYW flags of Croatia and Yugoslavia

Messages are circulating, becoming louder, that for true independence from communist Yugoslavia to flow among the people the Croatian patriotic diaspora community must wage a strong political war against the political parties that have held government and presidential candidates in office since year 2000. This, under the understanding that politics is the foundation of all good and all bad things that happen to people and that everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not, is a political being.

7 June marked Croatian Diplomacy Day! Official events were held in Croatia for it. This Day traditionally marks a historic event from 879 when Pope John VIII sent a letter to the Croatian prince Branimir informing him that he had blessed him and the entire Croatian people in Rome and acknowledging his “earthly authority over the whole of Croatia”. At that time, it was the highest international recognition, which, in today’s sense, recognised Croatia as a sovereign state. This is a traditional event in June when the achievements of diplomats are discussed, and guidelines are set for the next one-year.

The Croatian patriotic communities in the diaspora would have quite a lot to say about the achievements, the failures, the backward or forward milestones that the Croatian diplomatic relationship with its own diaspora has been put through since 1992 when Croatia was internationally recognised and confirmed as an independent country – an enormous gratitude for that goes to the Croatians living and being active abroad at those times. As far as the Croatian public is aware no one from the Croatian corridors of power has asked a representative sample of the Croatian patriotic diaspora community to provide the government with feedback regarding its performance on the diplomatic sphere.  So, I think this is an opportunity to look at what is happening in 2022 with regards to diplomatic currents official Croatia sends and maintains in the diaspora.  

Out of its own choice Croatian patriotic diaspora communities that rejected communism and Yugoslavia since the end of World War II have always, while former Yugoslavia lasted, lived without a relationship with the Yugoslav diplomatic and consular missions. Only those who lived in the diaspora and supported Yugoslavia had a relationship with Yugoslav consular and diplomatic missions and simply never interested in nor cared about an independent Croatia and frequently worked against such an idea. A mutually respectful, cordial, and beneficial relationship between the Croatian patriotic diaspora communities and official Croatia cemented roots in the early 1990’s, 1992 to be exact. This lasted until late 1999 when the first president of independent Croatia Dr Franjo Tudjman passed away. In many cases, Croatian patriotic communities throughout the world donated funds and worked hard at helping Croatia establish its diplomatic missions abroad, including purpose purchasing of land, purpose building embassy and consular buildings or purchasing premises and equipping them with the charitable fundraising monetary results. One would be correct in saying that in many places across the world when the Croatian Embassy or Consulate organise an event within their official building, a celebration, a soirée, they are drinking and feasting under our roof – the roof that the Croats in the diaspora erected, purchased, and paid for!   

In his speech at the official celebration of the Day of Croatian Diplomacy in Zagreb, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic referred to the beginnings of Croatian statehood and the role that diplomacy played there and spoke about the present when Croatia has a completely different position and role. The worst thing is to have a state whose position is unknown, said also Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, emphasising that Croatia must be a “reliable country” at the international level.

Well, the only Croatian government reliability that the Croatian patriotic diaspora community has seen since year 2000 is that both SDP/Social Democratic Party and HDZ/ Croatian Democratic Union governments have been engaging in is their reliable pursuits, both overt and covert, in the diminishment and the degrading of the value of the Croatian patriots living in the diaspora who contributed the most to the creation of the independent state of Croatia during 1990’s! That, in simple words, is a continuance of operations, covert or overt that communist Yugoslavia engaged in across the world where Croatian patriots lived.

The Croatian diaspora has during the past five years or so, been seeing the emergence of new, quite small, so-called Croatian community organisations sponsored and highly supported by the Croatian diplomatic corps, filled with people or members that have never been a part of the Croatian patriotic community that fought for today’s Croatia away from the communist regime of Yugoslavia. Large majority of them also did not contribute any funds whatsoever to the war efforts to defend Croatia against the Serb/Yugoslav aggressor; in the homes of many a portrait of the mega murderer Josip Broz Tito hung in prominent places. The Croatian diplomatic corps across the world has been declaring such people as Croatian community leaders even though they have never been that nor will they ever be simply because they do not appear to have in them what it takes to love and promote a Croatia for its secession from communist Yugoslavia. The extent to which such phenomena of setting up or inserting new associations among emigrants, where career diplomatic and consular personnel are key in creating them, may be considered by some as kind of suspicious attempt to disrupt the character of the Croatian patriotic community in emigration by the Croatian government for its own political party gain.

There is a visible trend of a dirty political game of this scenario where the Croatian diplomatic and to some extent consular corps have started to call these people, who in their organisations may have a hundred or less or slightly more members, “Croatian community leaders” while at the same time ignoring the real Croatian patriotic community leaders who always stood by and sacrificed for a Croatia free from communist Yugoslavia. Hence, trying to create a new (false or partially true) profile of the Croatian community in the diaspora of “yes” people to the ruling political party, or those who for personal gain do not criticise the government for the betterment of Croatia for all! This was the modus operandi that communist Yugoslavia employed against patriotic Croats in the diaspora, and it is the covert politics that the communist-mindset-laden Croatian governments since year 2000 have been utilising and putting into practice. Run down the true Croatian patriots and at the same time uplift those who never lifted a finger for independent Croatia! Do not misunderstand me or the Croats who are very unhappy about this trend – we all love new people of Croatian descent to join the true and sincere patriotic community but when this is attempted through running down or degrading the existing patriotic community, those who always stood and fought fiercely for an independent Croatia, and pushing up front those who did not, then Croatia has a huge problem in the foundations of its sovereignty. Croatian governments must learn to accept and respect all its citizens and the roles they played in creating the state, even those who criticise them – otherwise democracy becomes a mere face mask; progress towards a good livelihood for all becomes a one-way street with a dead end. Ina Vukic   

Croatia: Price Rise Despair On The Final Stretch To Eurozone

Food market Dolac, Zagreb Croatia. Photo: visitzagreb.hr

Croatian residents and companies and organisations have faced a rude shock when recently their new gas/energy bills arrived with sharp and unexpected spikes compared to the previous ones, many expressing absolute inability to pay the new energy costs with the government finding itself in the position of having to subsidise some organisations so they could survive their energy bills. It has all been put down to some generalised energy crisis in EU and the world that is sure to cause price increases in all goods and services. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic noted during the past month that vulnerable energy consumers, about 91,000 of them, are currently receiving vouchers of EUR 27 each to pay electricity bills. The program will be expanded to 5,700 beneficiaries of the national compensation for the elderly. Also, a voucher for gas will be introduced, and the amount doubled to EUR 54. A special one-time fee is envisaged for 721,000 pensioners with pensions lower than EUR 531, which will require a total payment of EUR 62 million. Not much help when one hears that energy bills have risen by double or triple amount from previous ones!

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has also during the past month presented a plan for households, businesses, and farmers that would mitigate the rise in prices and pointed out that without the package the electricity bills would rise by 23 percent from April 1, compared to 79 percent for gas. The measures will become operational on April 1 and will be valid until March 31, 2023.  Plenkovic pointed to the wave of rising prices in Europe caused by the global energy crisis as the main reason for the adoption of the package. Still, the rise of energy costs in Croatia appears much higher than in other countries, especially the West. He did not refer to any possible correlation between prices increases and Croatia’s transitioning into the Eurozone, that is, swapping its kuna currency with the euro in 2023!

According to the government’s plan the increase of electricity costs will be limited to lower the expected price increase. Goods and Services TAX (PDV) on natural gas will be reduced from 23 percent to 5 percent and a subsidy of 1.3-euro cents per kWh will be introduced. The Ministry of Economy will reimburse power suppliers from April 1 until March 31, 2023. There will be PDV tax reduction on many food items or products. Micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs with an average annual consumption of up to 10 GWh are eligible for subsidies. The amount of aid is 2-euro cents. It will be paid through vouchers.

General price rises have been known to occur in countries of the European Union as they approached admission into the Eurozone and the introduction of euro as their official currency. Croatia is set to introduce the euro in 2023 and while the current astronomic rises in energy prices are said to be associated with world energy crisis the increases in all prices may indeed be at least partially due to possible fallout from exchange rate fluctuations between the kuna and the euro; to achieve a softer fall of purchase power so to speak once entering the euro monetary climate.

For Croatia to meet its goal to be admitted into Eurozone in January 2023, it needs a positive assessment by the European Commission in spring 2022 and a subsequent decision by the EU Council in summer 2022.

The Croatian National Bank has been optimistic that Croatia, whose economy relies largely on tourism and services, will meet the EU’s criteria to join. The country relies more than any other EU state on tourists, who generate a fifth of gross domestic product and find holidaying much easier when they needn’t grapple with exchange rates. Meanwhile, most private and corporate bank deposits are held in euros, along with more than two-thirds of debt totalling about 520 billion kuna (US$78 billion). Eurozone membership would lower interest rates, improve credit ratings and make Croatia more attractive to investors, according to central bank Governor Boris Vujcic last month.

Adopting the euro would reportedly formalise a large piece of economic activity that’s already carried out using the common currency — from apartment and car sales to short-term rentals for vacationers. It would trim foreign-exchange costs outside tourism to the tune of about 1.2 billion kuna a year, according to the central bank. Croatia would gain access to European Central Bank liquidity and potential bailout financing from the European Stability Mechanism during periods of crisis.

Inflation is the biggest uncertainty. Europe’s spike in energy costs alongside the Croatian economy’s rebound in 2021 have sent consumer prices surging. Inflation is set to come in at 3.5% in 2022, but what counts is how Croatia stacks up against a one-year average of the three euro-area states with the lowest rates. That calculation will be made once data for April are in.

Due to the recent surge in inflation, Croatia might breach the price stability criterion. However, as the price rises are also observable in the eurozone, the Croatian National Bank argued that Croatia should be considered as fulfilling the criterion, nevertheless.

Croatia’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released last Thursday Croatian inflation data for the month of January 2022, which went unnoticed due to the horrendous Russian attack on Ukraine, although prices did continue to rise significantly. In January 2022, prices were 5.7 percent higher than in the same month back in 2021.

There are solid indicators that the key cause of rising prices across Croatia is now not only the global energy prices but also transport prices (growth in January +10.8 percent), food and non-alcoholic beverages (+9.4 percent), alcoholic beverages and tobacco (+6.2 percent), furniture, household equipment and household maintenance costs (+5.0 percent) and at restaurants and hotels (+ 4.7 percent).

Whether global energy crisis or not, most Croatians believe the introduction of the euro will have positive consequences for the country, according to a 2021 Eurobarometer poll. However, 70% believe it could and will lead to price increases. Perhaps this is where much of price increases come from during this year that leads to Eurozone for Croatia.  And, by the way, the past year has seen about 13,000 newly poor in Croatia as standard of living continues to drop for many and indications are that multitudes in Croatia will step into the Eurozone with their feet far below the poverty line. Prices growth usually do affect the poorest and Croatia is one of the poorest countries in the EU. Bumping up economic activity, apart from tourism, has been and remains the biggest stumbling block for Croatia, euro, or no euro. Work and employment culture and practices are still heavily founded on corrupt nepotism and largely irresponsible work habits inherited from communist Yugoslavia, where accountability had been the weak point undermining economic and living standard progress. Regretfully. Ina Vukic

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