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NEWS 30 Jan 17

Bosniaks Slap Down Calls for Bosnian Croat Entity

The mainly Bosniak Party for Democratic Action, SDA, has condemned the latest call for the creation of third entity in Bosnia, mostly comprising the country's Croats.

Eleanor Rose
Bozo Ljubic addresses the Croatian National Congress of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: HNS

Bosnia’s Party of Democratic Action, SDA, the country’s main Bosniak party, has rejected calls for the establishment of a third entity, made at a meeting on Saturday of the Croatian National Congress of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Such calls were “unacceptable”, the SDA said, referring to a statement issued by the Congress following its seventh session in Mostar.

“If Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to become self-sustaining, then it is necessary to have an administrative-territorial reorganization, which would include a federal unit with a Croatian majority. It remains the permanent aspiration of the Croatian people of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the HNS said on Saturday.

On its party website, the SDA – which is headed by the Bosniak member of Bosnia's presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic – said the party would “never accept any constitutional reform that would lead the country into further divisions”.

Calls by the HNS for a third entity for Bosnian Croats were “unrealistic maximalist demands”, it said, pointing out that Croats make up a smaller proportion of the population than either Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs. 

Such calls undermine the country’s constitution, according to the SDA, and follow offers by Bosniak parties to help resolve issues of Croat representation in the country’s institutions. 

“The [main Croat-led party] HDZ obviously does not want anything other than division, and thus we are moving away from institutional solutions that would benefit the Croatian people. A third entity and ‘administrative-territorial’ reorganization as advocated by the HNS will not be,” said the SDA. 

Bosnia has a complicated system of government prescribed in the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war of 1992 to 1995.

It comprises two semi-autonomous entities, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is home to Bosniaks and Croats but in which Bosniaks are de facto dominant. There is also a special "district", Brcko. 

The 2013 census in Bosnia showed that Croats make up 15.43 percent of the country’s population. Just over 91 per cent of Bosnia's Croats live in the Federation entity.

The issue of Croat representation in the country’s institutions has become a major grievance for Bosnian Croat politicians, who argue that the Dayton agreement – which mandates equal representation for each of Bosnia's three “constituent peoples” – is not honoured by the current complex systems of electing delegates to the houses of the Federation entity parliament.

Bozo Ljubic, president of the General Council of the HNS, won a case at Bosnia's Constitutional Court in December 2016 in which the court ruled that the current method of electing delegates to the Federation’s House of Peoples was unconstitutional. 

Ljubic argues that the current system allows Bosniaks to manipulate these elections and select their own favourites for seats that should be held by Croats.

Croat nationalists are aggrieved that Bosniaks - who are in the majority in the Federation entity - were able through the current rules to help ensure the election victories of the former Croat member of Bosnian presidency, Zeljko Komsic, who held the post for eight years until 2014. They claim it is unfair for Bosniaks to be able to use their superior numbers to effectively choose the Croat member of the Bosnian presidency.

The Constitutional Court ruling lent further weight to calls for a Croat-led third entity, long championed by the Croat member of the country’s tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic.

This latest spat between Croat nationalists and the SDA follows increasing secessionist rhetoric from leaders in Republika Srpska, including the entity president, Milorad Dodik, who recently orchestrated the holding of a referendum on the entity's public holiday, the Day of Republika Srpska, despite a ban by the Constitutional Court.

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