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News 01 Sep 16

Croatia Elections Feed Nostalgia For Herzeg Bosna

Croat reflections on Herzeg Bosna, which have come back into the spotlight during the Croatia's election campaign, are the result of the EU's confused policy on Bosnia, an expert says.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Croatian foreign minister Miro Kovac (left) and Dragan Covic (right). Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/FENA/IVAN ROZIC/EV

Bosnian Croat ideas about Herzeg Bosna, raised during the ongoing election campaign in Croatia, are the result of the EU's enlargement policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A political analyst said fresh calls for a third, Croatian entity in Bosnia - and nostalgia for the long-abandoned statelet of Herzeg Bosna - were a consequence of political confusion in the EU.

“This has to do with the lack of clarity on the issue of the EU enlargement process and partly, of course, it has to do with the crisis that has been restored, or has arisen, since Brexit,” Dejan Jovic, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, told BIRN.

“The European perspective for Bosnia and Herzegovina is a bit lost at the moment,” he noted.

“This loss of a Western potential, of the potential for Bosnia’s accession to the EU, is encouraging both Russian and Turkish efforts in Bosnia and this, of course, has its reflections on the behaviour of the Republika Srpska [Bosnia’s mainly Serbian entity] and on Bosniaks,” he explained.

In the current parliamentary election campaign in Croatia, the main candidate on the list of centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, for Bosnian Croats and Croatian Diaspora, Bozo Ljubic, on Sunday congratulated Bosnian Croats on the 23th anniversary of the formation of Herzeg Bosna.

The unrecognised staletet, backed only by Croatia, had its origins in 1991. It lost much of its territory to the Bosniaks in 1993, and, after being subsequently abandoned by Zagreb, was abolished in 1996.

“Given the state in which Bosnia and Herzegovina is and all that is happening today ... Herzeg Bosna is more actual today than it ever was in the past 20 years,” Ljubic said in the southwest Bosnian city of Mostar.

At the same occasion, the Croat member of the Bosnian Presidency, the head of the Bosnian branch of HDZ, Dragan Covic, also recalled “the importance of the anniversary and the time and historic role of those who had the courage and wisdom to establish the Croatian Community of Herzeg Bosna".

“Without the organisation of the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we won’t accomplish what is our permanent goal; the absolute, constitutional … territorial and institutional equality of the Croatian people with the other two peoples in Bosnia,” Covic added.

Jovic noted also the issue of Croatia’s Social Democrat leader, Zoran Milanovic, details of whose controversial conversation with Croatian war veterans were leaked last week.

On that occasion, he pledged that Croatia would not leave “the Croats alone with the Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina” if the Bosnian Serbs in Republika Srpska seceded in a referendum, as they have threatened to do.

Jovic compared Milanovic’s statement to those made by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in the 1990s, when he claimed to support Bosnia's integrity - but added that Croatia would want a part of it if Serbia also took part of the country.

Jovic sees an additional reason for Croat and Serb secessionist rhetoric in the recently published results of Bosnia’s census, which showed that Bosniaks were now an absolute majority in the country, making the other two nations uneasy.

Covic also referred to the census in Mostar on Sunday.

“If you just analyse the census which was recently published, you will see that wherever there wasn’t any organisation and activity by the Croatian Republic of Herzeg Bosna, in any form, there are [today] no Croats,” Covic remarked.

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