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news 22 Jan 15

Bosnia-Montenegro Border Row Heats up

In light of the fresh dispute over borders, Montenegro's President has refused to appoint a new ambassador to Bosnia, while Bosnia is reportedly contemplating countermeasures.

Elvira M. Jukic, Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Sarajevo, Podgorica

 

Montenegrin opposition parties on Wednesday called on the government to deal more toughly with a new border dispute that has erupted after some Bosnian academics claimed a short stretch of the Montenegrin coast belonged by rights to Bosnia.

They have also demanded an urgent parliamentary hearing of the Foreign Minister, Igor Luksic. “Not an inch of the territory of Montenegro should be ceded to anyone," the leader of the "Positiv" Montenegrin opposition bloc, Darko Pajovic, said on Wednesday.

This border dispute is far from new and dates back to the time when both countries were republics in Yugoslavia.

However, the issue has revived in the past few months after several Bosnian intellectuals and NGOs presented documentation, which they said proved that the area of Sutorina had belonged to Bosnia until shortly after the Second World War.

Last Friday, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic refused to sign the appointment of a new ambassador to Sarajevo because of the row.

He reminded the media that Bosnia had recognized Montenegro's independence in 2006 within its existing borders.
 
Meanwhile, the Bosnian Presidency is reportedly mulling similar measures, possibly including withdrawing the ambassador from Podgorica,al though no officials were willing to confirm this.

The Serbian vice-president of House of Representatives, one of two chambers of the Bosnian parliament, Mladen Bosic, on Wednesday said the issue should be resolved calmly. “I am surprised by how Montenegro reacted,” he said, referring to the President.

“Stopping the appointment of the ambassador was too harsh. I don't see why it should be forbidden to open a discussion about the border,” he added.

The Constitutional-Legal Commission of the Bosnian parliament has been tasked with organizing a public debate on the border. Bosic said he had also written to the speaker of the Republika Srpska entity assembly to look into this issue.

This is because it directly relates to territory that once belonged to the municipality of Trebinje, which lies inside Republika Srpska. “Republika Srpska has to have its say about Sutorina,” he said.

The area in dispute comprises 75 square kilometers and include five villages and the river Sutorina.

It lies a few kilometers from the Montenegrin coastal town of Herceg Novi. If it was returned to Bosnia, it would give Bosnia a second access point to the Adriatic Sea, aside from small stretch of coast around Neum of around 24 kilometers.

Montenegro's stance is that the demarcation of the border with Bosnia is already complete. After six years of negotiation, the two former Yugoslav republics finished the technical process of determining their border in May 2014, and the two governments adopted the agreement in November.

The Montenegrin authorities, local experts on international law and former diplomats also refer to the decisions of the Badinter Peace Commission for former Yugoslavia in 1991.

This determined that the borders of the new states created after the breakup of federal Yugoslavia should follow the borders of the former Yugoslav republics.

 

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