Croatian Pickings From UN General Assembly 2021

The past week saw the sitting of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City and Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic was there delivering a speech that spanned from global issues such as Climate Change, Violence, Hunger, Poverty, Coronavirus Pandemic, dealing with the Taliban, Multi-lateral cooperation to localised issues of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia has vested interests in the well-being of the Western Balkans. The region’s stability, functionality and prosperity mean a great deal to us. This is why Croatia is one of the strongest advocates of the region’s EU enlargement prospects. The fulfilment of well-established criteria, the implementation of reforms and delivering tangible results remain key requirements for EU membership. But even more so, the path to membership serves to secure the higher standards its peoples aspire to.

Democratic transformation and the rule of law will remain central markers. But we have also continued to call on all regional leaders to lower tensions, overcome their differences, and seek ways to build lasting relationships.

In a way, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cornerstone of peace and security in the wider region. Its territorial integrity, functioning institutions, and inter-ethnic cohabitation have always been important concerns for Croatia. Yet, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is as challenging and as complex as it gets in the Western Balkans. (And it is always challenging in the Western Balkans)

We would like to see a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, progressing firmly on the path to EU membership; a country where the equality among its three constituent peoples and the rights of all its citizens are fully guaranteed.

Unfortunately, narratives in Bosnia and Herzegovina often swing between two tenaciously unachievable and unjust ends – centralised governance and separatism. In their own way, both are destructive and contrary to the spirit of its constitutional framework, stemming from the Dayton-Paris Agreement.

The Dayton-Paris Agreement is not without its faults, which undoubtedly will need to be addressed. However, we should not underestimate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s well-established sensitivities and inherited intricacies. Nor should it be subject to experimentation that dangerously deviate from the Dayton-Paris Agreement’s founding principles. This is essential in moving Bosnia and Herzegovina forward and securing its EU aspirations.

The inequality of its constituent peoples has been left unresolved for too long. It unnecessarily created internal political instabilities and tensions. In order to move forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina requires an appropriate institutional ‘power sharing’ framework, based on principles of federalism, decentralisation and legitimate representation. The concept of constituent peoples is often mispresented as an obstacle to the equal rights of all its citizens. Many political and legal practices can be ensured without having to give up democratic rights and freedoms.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s electoral reforms are long overdue and urgently needed. Electoral reforms should facilitate constituent peoples (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) are able to respectively choose their representatives at all the appropriate political levels. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Croats have not been able to exercise this right. It’s no wonder they feel marginalised and disenfranchised. This has to change,” said among other things President Milanovic.

The current chair of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s presidency, Zeljko Komsic, reminded the United Nations of its commitment to human rights, citing ethnic inequality within his own country. The problem with Zeljko Komsic is that he is representing the Croatian people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in its Presidency and yet he was elected there by Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks, and not Croats. Were only Croats permitted to vote for their representative then Komsic would not have won and, indeed, the Croats in Bosnia largely feel he is no ally of Croats when it comes upholding and fighting for their rights as one of three constitutional peoples of the country (Croats, Bosniaks/Muslims and Serbs).   

Komšić on Wednesday 22 September 2021 hailed bilateral and regional cooperation during the pandemic, saying neighbours provided aid before multilateral institutions did. But later in his speech, he spoke of neighbours’ intentions to annex parts of his country by fomenting ethnic tensions within.

Bosnia was the site of a bloody war in the 1990s that ended with the Dayton Agreement. Komsic says the international agreement created complex institutions that make it difficult for the country to come to a political consensus that would allow it to move toward “a functioning state.”

He lambasted conditions that have created political, electoral, and social inequality within his own country on ethnic and religious lines.

Komšić bemoaned population outflows, saying a substantial segment of the population, including those of working age and with young families, have left Bosnia for better business and human rights opportunities. At the same time, Bosnia has received economic migrants from elsewhere. He says this combination has created additional social problems.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace, initialled in Dayton and signed in Paris in 1995, is in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An integral part of the Agreement, as Annex 4, is the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its preamble, it clearly and unequivocally states that it is, among other things, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948…

Unfortunately, such system of values, based on the equality of all individuals within a society, does not exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina… systemic inequality of the citizens is reflected in several aspects of life. That includes political aspects because all citizens do not have equal rights in the electoral system, but also those where the same citizens do not have equal rights and opportunities in social life, such as the right to work. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is such that it gives preference to someone’s ethnicity. Based on that ethnicity, the citizens of my country have greater or lesser rights, depending on which part of the country they live in…

The complexity of this issue is evident in the attempts to impose on us, even through diplomatic activities on the international scene, the existence of discrimination and inequality of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is done by emphasizing the ethnicity of a part of the citizens and demands for greater rights for ethnic communities supported by neighbouring countries, always to the detriment of fundamental human rights…

…I believe that this is the right place to emphasize the expectation that the new High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina will take into account the need to protect international legal acts and their fundamental values. That is one of his most important tasks. Otherwise, if the international community itself in Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to abandon the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then the following question rightly arises – is the Universal Declaration even necessary if its implementation is selective? Should we even talk about the protection of human rights in general if, in the specific case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the United Nations still has an executive mandate through the Office of the High Representative, we do not show by example that we are ready to stand for common values such as protection of human rights and equality of every citizen in relation to someone else and different.

I believe that, despite all the differences of political views within Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the international community represented by the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which assists the High Representative, the only guiding light to further political development of my country, as a pledge to preserve its peace and future, must be respect for human rights values. All the people of my country, regardless of their identity, ethnicity, religious affiliation or absence thereof, must have the same rights. Otherwise, we will end up in an ‘Orwellian society’, where it is accepted that some are, after all, more important than others. That always jeopardises the stability of a society and undermines peace and security. From this very place, I call upon the United Nations institutions to insist on the values of human rights protection in every segment of their activities,” said Komsic among other things in his speech.

Zeljko Komsic is evidently working hard at undermining the validity, reality and spirit of the Dayton-Paris Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina by suggesting it’s out of sync with the Universal declaration of Human Rights. In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Croatia’s president called for electoral reform in Bosnia, saying its Croats were marginalised. The marginalisation of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obviously not an issue that worries Komsic as he knows that the overwhelming majority of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not accept or recognise him as their representative in the country’s Presidency.

There appears to be a wide international opinion and agreement that changes are needed to the Dayton Peace Agreement to ensure the sustainability of enduring peace. It goes without saying that any success of such changes will depend on agreements reached among Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as one of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement signatories, as well as international leadership figures that include the EU. In addition to President Milanovic’s emphasis on the urgent need for electoral reforms, one of the latest stands from official Croatian foreign affairs ministry on Bosnia and Herzegovina is that its entire society needs a comprehensive transformation, and ‘only by being firmly anchored for European values and standards of civil and political rights for all three constituent peoples and its citizens can the country strengthen its stability and progress’, which appears to have ruffled some high-ranking feathers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Zeljko Komsic’s.

Some in the corridors of Bosnia and Herzegovina powers would argue that electoral laws are a matter of internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Croatia should not meddle. They could not be more wrong because Croatia is a co-signatory of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and therefore all aspects associated with peace and equality are its business, and, also, hundreds of thousands of Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovia are citizens of the Republic of Croatia and, therefore, have a duty to advocate for and even try to protect the rights of their citizens living there. Agreement of changes that are needed for Bosnia and Herzegovina are without a doubt of vital importance for the country but particularly for the Croatian people there who are supposed to be equal to Serbs and Bosniaks/Muslims but are pushed so far away from their rights as constitutional people that they are threatened with an even more painful existence than till now, if not extinction from their ancestral lands. Ina Vukic

US Congresswoman Calls For Equality For Croats In Bosnia And Herzegovina

 

 

US. Representative Janice Hahn

US. Representative Janice Hahn

US Congresswoman Janice Hahn submitted July 31 to the House of Representatives a resolution demanding that President Barack Obama appoint a special representative for the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) because of the country’s delays in its Euro-Atlantic path and drew attention to the consistent reduction and erosion of rights of Croats in BiH because of which there’s blockades and a political deadlock.

Janice Hahn’s Resolution 705 Recommends “the designation of a Presidential Special Envoy to the Balkans to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to provide policy recommendations, and to report back to Congress within one year”. (Resolution 705 PDF)

Whereas only the full protection of equal political, economic, legal and religious rights of all the constituent peoples (Bosniak, Croat, Serb) and others throughout the territory of BiH, including the inalienable right to return, will guarantee the future stability, functionality, and effectiveness of the country…”

In the Resolution Congresswoman Hahn has noted that the number of Croats in Bosnia has halved from 820,000 to about 460,000. “It is unacceptable that this negative demographic trend is reflected in the reduction of constitutional rights of Croats in BiH, as that reduction directly causes political and administrative dysfunctionality of the country,” Hahn stated in the resolution.

Hahn recognises the poor functionality of the Federation of BiH entity in which Bosniaks (Muslims) are seen as oppressors of Croats and their constitutional rights and that this dis-functionality only fuels the separatist tendency of Serbs within the Srbian Republic entity, which of course threatens, as she says, the very integrity of the country (BiH) as a whole.

“Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives –
1. reiterates its support for the sovereignty,territorial integrity, and legal continuity of BiH within its internationally recognized borders, as well as the equality of its three constituent peoples and others within an integrated multiethnic country;

10. reiterates that a fully functional Federation of BiH entity is essential for the future of BiH as a functional and stable state and therefore any envisaged reform should take into account protection of the constitutional rights of all, including Bosnian Croats—demographically smallest of the three Dayton Peace Accords recognized constituent peoples in BiH—and prevent further weakening of their position.”

Press Release dated 12 August and released through The National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) Public Affairs Director Joe Foley in Washington states that NFCA highly commends US Representative Janice Hahn of California for her introduction in the US House of Representatives of legislation to appoint a Special Envoy for the Balkans, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Indeed, I would think that there is no Croat nor a fair-minded person of any ethnicity anywhere in the world that would not support and agree with what Congresswoman Hahn has set her mind on achieving in BiH: equality for all ethnic groups in a country where constituency is constitutionally defined by specific ethnic groups, taking an initiative to bring to a stop the deplorable treatment of Croats in BiH while Bosniaks (Muslims) and Serbs compete vigorously for separatist superiority based on their own ethnicity.

Keeping BiH as a sovereign country but organised into three ethnic entities (Bosniak, Croat, Serb) each of which would have certain powers that ensure equality is not only a necessary “re-shuffle” of administration and political clouts that would catalyse greater stability and economic progress in BiH but such power-bases would, I believe, be conducive to ensuring that victims of all war crimes finally receive their deserved justice. One cannot avoid the unsettling reality in which war crimes committed by Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) during the 1990’s war, in comparison to those committed by Serbs and Croats, seem to have mysteriously fallen by the wayside of justice. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Report of interest:
“During the 1992-1995 war, a large number of Islamic fighters traveled to BIH to aid the Bosnian Muslim war effort. Several hundred of those fighters remained, a significant number of whom are active in Islamic fundamentalist congregations and organizations. These foreign elements have contributed to the gradual radicalization of certain segments of the Bosnian Muslim community. In October 2005, a small group of individuals with extremist affiliations was arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist acts. In April 2010, members of a radical Wahhabist movement detonated a bomb, killing one police officer and injuring six, at a police station in Bugojno, located 70 kilometers southwest of Sarajevo. The most recent terrorist attack took place in October 2011, when a gunman affiliated with a local Wahhabist movement shot over 100 high-velocity rounds at the U.S. Embassy, damaging the building and injuring one police officer, says in the US Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, 2013 Report on Crime and Safety in BiH.

Related Post:

http://inavukic.com/2014/07/13/towards-a-croatian-entity-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina/

A Bridge On Drina

Google Doodle 9 October 2012 – honouring Ivo Andric

Google doodles honoured Ivo Andric today. Nobel prize winner for literature in 1961, born 9 October 1892 in Bosnia – widely known in the world for his novel “A Bridge on Drina”.  Although fictional, the novel is really a portrait of four centuries, through the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, that focuses around the town of Visegrad and the bridge over Drina River. It describes the lives and relations of local inhabitants, in particular those of Muslims and Orthodox Serbs. Andric in his novel sees the bridge as something that is not just a bridge over the river but as something that has the power to heal divisions. But Andric soon sees that the bridge is a flawed unifier; for all the big events and changes, through all the upheavals brought down by the rise and fall of empires, nothing of significance changes.

A sequel to Andric’s Bridge on Drina, if written, could easily include the Dayton Peace Agreement (November 1995), which ended the bloody war in Bosnia but also imposed a fertile ground for ethnic chauvinism that would put the country’s economic development and true peace in neutral gear, if not in reverse. Dayton Peace Agreement is a prime example of how the international community (primarily USA and European Union) forced their will upon human beings, certain that, by creating the right conditions the war-ravaged country, filled with victims, they could rebuild a country into a workable state of unity.

As the first but strong results of local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina held on Sunday 7 October show – ethnic votes are in and common good is out. The most worrying result is that the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) – co-founded by Radovan Karadžić, who is currently on trial at The Hague on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s (including Srebrenica massacre)– scored a surprise success, taking 27 mayoral posts, up from 13 in 2008, and some 21.6% of the overall vote.

The 1995 Dayton peace agreement divided Bosnia into two semi-independent entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, inhabited mainly by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (Serb Republic, or RS), each with its own government, controlling taxation, educational policy, and even foreign policy.

The Party of Democratic Action (SDA), founded by late Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic, won the local elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina with 34 municipalities out of 136, according to the unofficial results. The SDA won cities such as Novi Grad, Ilica, Zenica, Bihac and Travnik. SDA leader Sulejman Tihic celebrated the victory with Bakir Izetbegovic, head of the Presidential Council, and his supporters in the capital, Sarajevo.

The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) took 14 posts, whilst the Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 11 posts.

The concerning outlook is the shift towards SDS in the Serb Republic and this is likely to cause a fierce locking of ethnic horns at the 2014 general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also a strong sign that Bosnian Serbs, creating Serb Republic political entity in that country have been allowed to spread their wings, ignore the horrible crimes they’ve committed to achieve that political entity. They’ve learned nothing about unity and collaboration in the past two decades moderated by the international powers present on task there. This has been allowed them by the presence of the international bodies there that have failed miserably at the task given them by Dayton Agreement.

Voting in Bosnia and Herzegovina this week was voting on ethnic allegiances, and signifies that Dayton Agreement does not work; it does not bring true peace but fosters divisions. The biggest losers are the Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and they’re at risk of being stampeded upon today just as they were in early 1990’s. Only, in early 1990’s they formed Herceg-Bosna – an entity that helped them retain their identity. What do they have under the Dayton agreement? A lip service from the international power brokers that’s hardly audible when it comes to generating conditions of equal rights for all ethnic groups; a lip service from those who don’t seem to know the first thing about building true nations, homes for all. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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