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

Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Komsic affair – restored!

Zeljko Komsic
Photo: bljesak.info

Balkan history is replete with examples of how disingenuous political tactics used to establish an ethnic hegemony lead to tragedy. Unfortunately, people who refuse to recognize history’s mistakes are prone to repeating them.

By Gordon N. Bardos/ transcoflict 

Some six years ago, the present author did a mathematical analysis of Bosnia’s 2010 electoral results which showed that the ostensible Croat candidate for the Bosnian state presidency, Zeljko Komsic, had in fact received some 70-80 percent of his votes from Bosniac voters. Two months ago, in a replay of the 2006 and 2010 elections, Komsic again won election to the Bosnian presidency by effectively disenfranchising the vast majority of Croat voters, heralding what is likely to be yet another period of political instability in the country.

To anyone familiar with the history and fate of the two Yugoslavia’s in the 20th century, historical precedent suggests that Komsic’s election under these conditions should be of considerable concern. The disingenuous political manipulation involved in Komsic’s election is nothing new—and unfortunately we have considerable evidence of the consequences such tactics have had in the past. As this year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the first Yugoslav state, it is worth reviewing Komsic’s election from the perspective of how previous such attempts have fared.

Probably unavoidably, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929) that emerged in 1918 from the breakup of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires started out as an administrative extension of the independent pre-war Kingdom of Serbia. This pre-war Serbian kingdom had the moral authority of being on the victorious Allied side, and the organizational advantage of having a fully-developed governmental bureaucracy and military force. Unfortunately, what this pre-war Serbian bureaucracy lacked was the political experience needed to understand that governing a diverse, multiethnic and multi-religious population would be significantly different than governing a largely mono-ethnic and mono-religious Serbian national state.

Thus, almost by default, the post-World War I Yugoslav state simply tried to expand and impose Serbia’s pre-war unitary political system upon the whole of the new South Slavic state. Yet the problem with this strategy, as Ivo Banac noted in his study of the first Yugoslavia’s formation, was that

unitarism was plainly opposed to the reality of Serb, Croat, and Slovene national individuality and moreover in contradiction to the empirically observable fact that these peoples were fully formed national entities of long standing…to ignore the fact that the South Slavs were not one nation, one culture, and one loyalty, or to insist that they could acquire these unitary characteristics in due course, only weakened the already fragile state and diminished the prospects for good-neighborliness based on the rejection of all forms of assimilationism and on respect of Yugoslavia’s multinational character, the only policy that could strengthen the Yugoslav polity…Cooperation was not the aim of political leaders, nor could it be as long as the centralist bloc refused to respect a principle of concurrent majority in each national community…A pretense was made that such parties as the Democratic Party were ‘multitribal,’ though in fact the Croat and Slovene Democrats had no stable support in their communities. Yugoslavia was indeed a highly diversified multinational state, but multinationalism could not promote consociationalism while the national ideologies of the principal group encouraged the notion that domination through assimilation was imminent.

Given these ideological blinders, in the first Yugoslavia neither multi-party democracy nor royal dictatorship could develop a framework for a united state which at the same time satisfied the legitimate interests of Yugoslavia’s various ethnic groups to autonomy and self-governance. After some two decades of chronic instability, the outbreak of World War II provided the final nail in the first Yugoslavia’s coffin.

Tragically, during World War II these problems came back to haunt the South Slavs in the form of the fratricidal civil war which afflicted Yugoslavia from 1941-45. Josip Broz Tito’s communist movement emerged victorious from the bloodbath, due in no small part to the fact that it was perhaps alone in formulating a political platform able to attract at least a modicum of support from amongst Yugoslavia’s various peoples.

One of the most important pillars of this platform was the creation of an ethno-federal system, and an implicit acceptance of the political equality of Yugoslavia’s constituent peoples, regardless of size (the implicit acceptance would become more explicit as time went on). For many academic specialists of Tito’s Yugoslavia, this was in fact the key reason for the Partisan movement’s successes; Susan Woodward, for instance, has claimed that “the commitment to recognize the separate existence of Yugoslav nations and their sovereign rights was critical to the communist victory after 1943.”

Nowhere was this more critical than in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), where the famous 1943 declaration of the Anti-Fascist Resistance Council of BiH (local acronym: ZAVNOBiH) claimed that Bosnia was “neither Serbian nor Croatian nor Muslim…but Serbian and Muslim and Croatian,” thereby explicitly endorsing the concept that all three ethnic groups were equal constituent peoples in BiH.

Yet even though the Yugoslav communists were more astute politically when it came to dealing with Yugoslavia’s national question, they too failed to find a formula to resolve it, just as the Habsburgs and the Royal Yugoslav government had failed before them. By the 1960s, for instance, Dennison Rusinow would claim that

the tendency to subsume all other questions and conflicts to the national one and to interpret and simplify every issue in national terms, reminiscent of old Yugoslavia and of the Habsburg monarchy before it, was again becoming nearly universal.

Indeed, as time went on, the main Marxist theoretician in the Yugoslav communist leadership, Eduard Kardelj, became more and more pessimistic about resolving the problem. By the 1960s Kardelj would claim

We have up until now tried everything possible to maintain Yugoslavia; first it was a unitary state, then it became a federation, and now we are moving towards a confederation. If even that does not succeed, then it only remains for us to admit that the Comintern was right when it claimed that Yugoslavia was an artificial creation and that we—Yugoslav communists—had made a mistake.

With Tito’s death in 1980, the terminal stage of Yugoslavia’s disintegration began. Although the country’s collapse was caused by multiple phenomenon (both domestic and international), one of these most certainly was Slobodan Milošević attempt in the latter half of the decade to impose his own designated leaders in Kosovo, Montenegro and Vojvodina, all in an attempt to build an artificial majority coalition for his chosen vision of a more centralized, unitary Yugoslav future. Predictably, the leaders of Yugoslavia’s other republics/ethnic groups objected. As Slovenian president Milan Kučan argued, “Can the imposition of majority decisionmaking in a multinational community by those who are the most numerous be anything else but the violation of the principle of the equality of nations, the negation of its sovereignty and therefore the right to autonomous decisionmaking…? “ The rest, as they say, is history.

Just as it had in the two Yugoslavia’s, disagreements over the principle of the equality of nations in a multi-ethnic state plagued Bosnia & Herzegovina from its beginnings as well. In 1991-1992 Bosnia’s Serbs justified their rebellion in part on the argument that their equal rights as a constituent nation in BiH were being violated by the outvoting of the Croat-Muslim coalition in Bosnia.

Resolving this issue would plague peace negotiators for the duration of the war; indeed, one of the prerequisites for ending the Bosnian war was for international negotiators to reconcile themselves to the necessity of applying federal and consociational principles to any post-war settlement. As the late Richard Holbrooke once noted,

Bosnia is a federal state. It has to be structured as a federal state. You cannot have a unitary government, because then the country would go back into fighting. And that’s the reason that the Dayton agreement has been probably the most successful peace agreement in the world in the last generation, because it recognized the reality.

Somewhere over the past few years, however, a new concept has crept into Bosnian politics, which Ivan Lovrenovic has described as an “epochal precedent”: a renunciation of the ZAVNOHBiH idea that Bosnia & Herzegovina was “Serbian and Muslim and Croatian, which excluded the idea the criteria of majority and minorities in governing, in claiming to have greater rights,” in favor of the notion that there is now a political majority and political minorities in BiH. Entirely predictably, the unilateral abandonment of the ZAVNOHBiH principles has thrown Bosnian politics into chaos.

Numerous motivations are driving this policy. Islamist elements in the country have for decades wanted an unchallengeable unitarist order in the country. As Alija Izetbegovic demanded some forty years ago

There exists one order, one dynamic, one well-being, one progress which can be built on this land and in this region, but that is not the order, progress and well-being of Europe and America…the Islamic movement can and must move towards taking power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough so that it can not only destroy the existing non-Islamic [order], but build a new Islamic power.

While Bosnia’s secular unitarists have a different metaphysical inspiration, the end result is largely the same. Unfortunately, few international observers have been keen enough to recognize this. Among the rare few has been Sumantra Bose, who once correctly noted that many of “the strongest opponents of diffusion of political authority and sharing of power [manifested in the Dayton Peace Accords] are very often deeply illiberal elements—ethnic majoritarian nationalists . . . who sometimes try to obscure their real agenda, centralization and domination, by invoking the principle of equality of all citizens regardless of ethnicity or nationality.” Bose would also note,

The shrill protests of many (not all) Bosnian and foreign integrationist revisionists against the Dayton settlement are inspired, in fact, not by a value-based commitment to a multi-national, civic, society but by a desire for a less decentralized, more unitary state which will put the disobedient and disloyal Bosnian Serbs (and to a lesser extent, the intransigent BiH Croats) in their place. The underlying motive is to settle accounts from the war, rather than build a forward-looking vision and strategy for the reconstruction of Bosnia & Herzegovina in the overall context of the Yugoslav region.

Somewhat ironically, although the advocates of this policy claim to be civic non-nationalists who reject “constructed” ethnic categories, they either do not understand or do not care about the intellectual contradiction at the heart of their own argument—that dividing ethnic groups into permanent political majorities and minorities does not break down ethnic identities and allegiances, it reifies and reinforces them.

Moreover, given the realities of contemporary Bosnia, what the unitarists are actually trying to impose is not a civic, non-national state and society, but a form of internal colonialism in which one group of people in one part of the country is allowed to establish political domination over other groups of people in other parts of the country.

While Komsic claims he has the understanding of the American ambassador in Sarajevo and the High Representative, most reasonable people agree that in a complex multiethnic country such policies are detrimental. As far back as September 2006, for instance, Haris Silajdzic explained the obvious to Komsic,

I believe that if we live in a system of ethnic representation and if the Bosniacs choose the Bosniac representative, and the Serbs the Serb representative, that it is not just towards the Croats that someone chooses their representative on their behalf. I believe that that is dangerous for BiH…and that will cause citizens of Croat nationality to feel revulsion towards BiH. And that could lead the Croats to ask for a third entity.

Other prominent public figures in Bosnia have voiced similar concerns. Senad Hadzifejzovic once noted that Sarajevo’s imposition of Komsic on the Croats was akin to the HDZ trying to impose the rebel leader Fikret Abdic on the Bosniac electorate, while Muhamed Filipovic has said that if Komsic had any morals he never would have even presented himself as a candidate. Meanwhile, scholars such as Mile Lasić and Sacir Filandra have argued that the unitarist nationalism Komsic represents was as dangerous to Bosnia & Herzegovina as Croat and Serb separatist nationalism.

Even individuals whose political opinions on most things are diametrically opposed have expressed similar views on this issue. On the eve of BiH’s October elections the leader of the Islamic Community of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Husein Kavazovic, explicitly stated that “I do not consider it good that the members of one people choose the representatives of another people,” while Milorad Dodik, for his part, warned that others should not make the same mistake the Serbs made in Yugoslavia. The prominent Sarajevo commentator Nedzad Latic has perhaps been most dire of all, warning that the political games Komsic and his followers are playing were “leading Bosnia to hell.”

To conclude, it is worth going back to the quote by Ivo Banac cited at the beginning of this piece. Banac’s description on the problems facing the first Yugoslavia was written in 1980s to describe what had taken place some six decades earlier. An interesting thought experiment, however, is to take what Banac wrote in the 1980s, and, by changing tenses and a few nouns and adjectives, see how his words apply today, some forty years later. What we get is the following:

…unitarism is plainly opposed to the reality of Bosniac, Croat, and Serb national individuality and moreover in contradiction to the empirically observable fact that these peoples are fully formed national entities of long standing…To act as if this is not the case, to ignore the fact that the peoples of Bosnia & Herzegovina are not one nation, one culture, and one loyalty, or to insist that they can acquire these unitary characteristics in due course, only weakens the already fragile state and diminishes the prospects for good-neighborliness based on the rejection of all forms of assimilationism and on respect of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s multinational character, the only policy that can strengthen the Bosnian polity…Cooperation is not the aim of political leaders, nor can it be as long as the centralist bloc refuses to respect a principle of concurrent majority in each national community. Instead, the centralists seek to impose a patchwork majority, consisting of Bosniac parties and their tactical allies, onto the parties that represent most of the non-Bosniac groups. A pretense is made that such parties as the Democratic Front are “multitribal,” though in fact the Croat and Serb Democrats have no stable support in their communities. Bosnia & Herzegovina is indeed a highly diversified multinational state, but multinationalism cannot promote consociationalism while the national ideology of the principal group encourages the notion that domination through assimilation is imminent.”

As the French might put it, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Balkan history is replete with examples of how disingenuous political tactics used to establish an ethnic hegemony lead to tragedy. Unfortunately, people who refuse to recognize history’s mistakes are prone to repeating them.

(Gordon N. Bardos is president of SEERECON, a political risk and strategic consultancy specializing in Southeastern Europe)

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

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