BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA REMAINS A TROUBLE SPOT

From Hrvatsko Nebo portal 13 December 2022

A political analysis by Dr Josip Stjepandic first published in Zur Zeit.

“Wars of disintegration in the former Yugoslavia gave rise to seven new states, including the former Austro-Hungarian annexation area of ​​Bosnia-Herzegovina (BH), which has since been in a permanent state of crisis as an international protectorate.

In addition to a bloated administrative apparatus that promotes corruption, the different political ideas of the three-constituent people (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) are causing problems for the young state. The Serbs only want Serbia and reject any BH proposal. In terms of foreign policy, they aspire to Russia. The (Muslim) Bosniaks see themselves as permanent victims of Western conspiracies and want a unitary state that they don’t have to share with the Serbs and Croats. In terms of foreign policy, they behave like the western Turkish (or Iranian) province. As the smallest of the constituent peoples, the Croats reject the state in which they are deprived of their ethnic and human rights, as in the former Yugoslavia. With their aspirations to the EU and NATO, the Croats in BH can hardly achieve anything, although most of them are Croatian and therefore also EU citizens.

The elections for the state presidency and the parliaments, which took place on the election day on October 2, should have bring improvement. There weren’t really good conditions for this. The central election commission was composed in an illegal manner without examining the qualifications of the candidates and in the past ruled pro-Bosniak. The electoral register contains 3.3 million names, although the country’s population is only 2.06 million, which is very conducive to electoral fraud. After all, the constitutional court already quashed an important rule for the composition of the Chamber of Peoples in FBH in 2016. The Bosniak leadership used this rule, issued by HR Wolfgang Petritsch in 2002, to squeeze the numerically weaker Croats out of power. The best example of this is Zeljko Komsic, who, despite his numerous anti-Croatian outbursts, has been elected Croatian member of the three-man state presidency with the Bosniak vote against bitter resistance from the Croats since 2006. In 2018, Komsic even wanted to prevent the construction of the Peljesac Bridge, the largest EU project in Croatia, with a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The elections passed peacefully, despite many complaints of irregularities, which OSCE monitors seem to have missed. Among the winners was again Komsic, who outperformed his Croatian competitor (Borjana) Kristo by 43,000 votes. The results from 13 constituencies, where the number of voters is higher than the number of inhabitants and at the same time very few Croats live, show that he got his votes exclusively from the Bosniaks. There he achieved a lead of 43,000 votes.

The star of the election day was HR Christian Schmidt, who followed the Austrian Valentin Inzko in 2021. Since the Bosniak leadership let all Croatian proposals to change the electoral rule in terms of so-called legitimate representation (each ethnic group elects its own representative) come to nothing, Schmidt issued a temporary rule after the polling stations were closed, by increasing the number of seats in the house of the people, so that the Bosniaks cannot circumvent the blocking minority of the Croatian representatives. This temporarily ensures that the Bosniaks, who have been massively incited by Ankara and Tehran, cannot take over 100% of the power in the BH Federation and two thirds in the state as a whole, as desired.

The photo of Ambassador (Martina) Mlinarevic casting her vote in a ballot box made out of a shoe box in the embassy in Prague shows how seriously such an election should be taken. The law prescribes a transparent box. Mlinarevic, a member of the Komsic cadre, is a dental laboratory assistant by trade, although a postgraduate diploma is required by law to be an ambassador and is more conspicuous for her poorly diplomatic choice of words than for her achievements.

HR Schmidt wanted to prevent a deadlock situation by shortening several decision deadlines. However, counting the votes has already taken 3 weeks.

The talks about forming a government are going rather slowly because there is still no clear majority among the Bosniaks. At present, it looks as if the Bosniaks are represented by an eight-party coalition in the government, which is unlikely to be conducive to stability. The Serbs and Croats are likely to be represented by their strongest parties, SNSD and HDZ.

BiH exists today only through external pressure because the external powers do not want the state of Bi H to be divided. Nevertheless, the cohesion between the three peoples is extremely low. There are only two common holidays: New Year and Labor Day. The often invoked EU perspective lacks any practical basis. In addition, after January 1, 2023, BiH will be separated from Croatia by the iron Schengen border. If external pressure were to ease or even disappear, then the next war for BiH’s legacy would be at hand. The only question is whether this would come from the Serbs or the Bosniaks.”

Croats Abroad Seeking Correction of the Croatian Constitution

Croatian Constitutional Court Building in Zagreb

It’s General Elections time for the Croatian Parliament once again! General Elections will be held on 4th and 5th of July 2020. As in previous election campaigns the Croatian and the public in general will hear many promises people want to hear from the previously alternating HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and SDP (Social Democratic Party) governments. Be aware and be wary! Bitter and disappointing lessons from their promises have hopefully been learned and Croatian voters, by voting them out, will have the power to reel in real positive changes for the Croatian people.

Real positive changes are needed in processes to stamp out the suffocating corruption in Croatia, which has seen the economy tumbling and hundreds of thousands of young and middle-aged people leaving Croatia in search for a fairer and better life; they have in the past decade gone to Ireland, to Germany, to the UK, to the USA, Canada, Australia… The show of false willpower to deal head-on with corruption around the times of general elections has become as predictable as clockwork when it comes to HDZ and SDP! The latest is the theatrical arrest on 30 May of some 12 people (some leading HDZ figures such as Josipa Rimac, theatrically expelled from the party a couple of days ago) associated with long-standing bribery, lucrative contract recipients favouritism and influencing, illegal dealings, etc., within Croatian Forests (Hrvatske Šume)the government funded and propped company).

Another example of HDZ and SDP former government, since 2010, malfeasance is related to official Croatia’s diaspora and its rights as citizen of the country. Not only has the number of parliamentary seats representing Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian diaspora been cut from 12 to only 3, but the reasonable ease of access to polling booths at times of elections has been drastically bastardised. Polling places limited to largely inaccessible diplomatic-consular missions and those within community settings such as clubs – banned! Then comes the accessibility issue related to electronic and postal voting.

“Nothing doing!” Nothing is happening!

One of SDP’s leading politicians Arsen Bauk stated recently (April 2020) that SDP is against electronic/postal voting, that it will not support electronic and postal voting for Croatian citizens abroad “because that would increase the influence of Croatians living outside Croatia on election results…”!

HDZ’s Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, on the other hand, said a couple of weeks ago that there isn’t enough time now to introduce electronic/postal voting. And yet, he and HDZ party, as part of their election promise for 2016 elections promised to introduce electronic/postal voting!

Do not believe in promises given at elections by HDZ and SDP because the proven fact remains that they do not keep their promises to voters!

Both HDZ and SDP during their past government mandates could have instigated a crucially relevant examination of the relevant parts of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia affecting Croatians living abroad and their voting rights. They did not! Nor will they because the less Croats living abroad vote, the more powerful are their cronies within Croatia. Regardless of difficult accessibility to polling booths abroad I do trust Croatian citizens living abroad will vote in large numbers at the coming elections.

For about a year now, a group of Croatians, mainly living abroad, has been working on a project designed to bring about changes to the Constitution by the Constitutional court’s examining of the legislation (Act) relating to the election of Parliamentary Representatives for Croatians living outside Croatia. The leading organisers and instigators of this project are the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Diaspora and Homeland (HAZUDD) with dr Josip Stjepandic as its president and Croatian World Congress (CWC) with Vinko Sabljo, president. Represented by attorney Mato Knezovic from Zagreb the signatories to the case filed in the Constitutional Court in Croatia include members of HAZUDD Board (Josip Stjepandic [president], Ina Vukic [Vice-president], Emilija Herceg [Secretary]), members of CWC Board (Vinko Sabljo [president], Igor Lackovic [Main Secretary] and Diana Vukusic [Treasurer])  and 24 other Croatians living abroad and in Croatia.

We aim to show the grotesque injustice in Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia:

Article 45: “All Croatian citizens who have reached the age of eighteen years (voters) shall be entitled to universal and equal suffrage in elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament and in decision-making procedures by national referendum, in compliance with law.

In elections for the Croatian Parliament, voters who do not have registered domicile in the Republic of Croatia shall be entitled to elect three representatives in compliance with law.

In elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament and in decision-making procedures by national referendum, suffrage shall be exercised in direct elections by secret ballot, wherein voters who do not have registered domicile in the Republic of Croatia shall vote at polling stations in the premises of diplomatic-consular offices of the Republic of Croatia in the foreign countries in which they reside.

In elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament and in decision-making procedures by national referendum, the Republic of Croatia shall secure exercise of suffrage for its citizens with registered domicile in the Republic of Croatia who are outside of its borders during elections such that they may vote in diplomatic-consular offices of the Republic of Croatia in the foreign countries in which they located or in some other manner as specified by law.”

Press release 20 May 2020 issued by the attorney Mato Knezovic on behalf of the 30 Croatians before the Constitutional Court in Croatia included the following:

“Today, 30 Croatian citizens from 6 European countries, as well as Canada, the USA and Australia, submitted to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia a Proposal for the assessment of Art. 6 and 8 of the Act on the Election of Representatives to the Croatian Parliament with the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, international treaties and EU anti-discrimination provisions.

Among them are leading members of the Croatian World Congress and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in the Diaspora and the homeland.

As is a well-known fact, Croatian citizens who do not reside in the Republic of Croatia have the right to 3 members of the Croatian Parliament, and their polling stations are exclusively diplomatic and consular premises of the Republic of Croatia abroad. The Ministry of Administration has 883,042 registered voters who do not reside in the Republic of Croatia. Their percentage is 19.15%, and they elect only 3 Representatives, or 1.98% of the total number of Representatives.

At the same time, the Czech and Slovak national minorities elected a member of parliament from only 1,590 voters. The proposal, which is based on an expert analysis of three professors of constitutional and public law (Marc Gjidara, Zvonimir Lauc, Mato Palic), points to several decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights on discrimination against these Croatian citizens.

It also shows the illegality and unconstitutionality of other provisions of the said law. Since the said law and constitutional provisions, which limited the number of representatives of the said Croatian citizens to 3, have no basis in the basic constitutional principles and international legal acts, the applicants consider that they are severely discriminated against and that such a law indicates the illegitimacy of the entire electoral process, basic constitutional principles, European acquis communautaire and international treaties to which the Republic of Croatia is a signatory.

By this act, Croatian citizens who do not reside in the territory of the Republic of Croatia show that they are not willing to accept the constant harassment, insult and change of laws to their detriment, but also to the detriment of overall Croatian national interests and rights…”

We hope to succeed in this application to the Constitutional Court in Croatia since HDZ and SDP governments have not moved a finger to remove the grotesque injustices towards Croatians living abroad. Wish us luck! But in any case, we will have a reply from the Constitutional Court as to why if our application is not successful. Then, we can move onto the next platform available within the European Union and pursue justice.  It is not just a matter affecting Croatians living abroad, it is, more to the point, a matter for all Croatian people as Croatia is for years seeking to rely on Croats from abroad to return to Croatia and thus help it become a better place to live in. Ina Vukic

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