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News 26 Jul 17

Bosnian Politicians Snub Trust-Building Get-Together

A meeting of Bosnian political leaders intended to address the in-fighting that has stalled the country's European progress was cancelled because most of them refused to come.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
Dragan Covic. Photo: HDZBiH / Facebook.

The chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Covic, announced on Wednesday that a planned working lunch in the town of Mostar with presidency members and the country's political party leaders has been cancelled.

The official reason given by Covic's office was the “inability of the participants to arrive”.

However all those invited, except Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska and leader of the Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats, SNSD party, had refused to attend.

The Bosniak member of the Bosnian presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said on Tuesday that he would not attend the meeting because he thinks “that it is necessary and only appropriate to organise a meeting in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the presidents of all political parties forming a coalition at the state level or in a wider format with the presidents of all parliamentary political parties that in 2015 signed a declaration of Bosnia and Herzegovina's readiness to implement the Reform Agenda”, according to a statement from his Party of Democratic Action, SDA.

Fahrudin Radoncic, leader of the Union for a Better Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, SBB party, cancelled because of Izetbegovic's absence.

Radoncic told Covic in a telephone conversation that “without Izetbegovic, the meeting loses the political capacity and the sense of the whole intention to talk to the widest possible extent”, Bosnian media reported.

Representatives of political parties in Republika Srpska who are part of the ruling coalition in Bosnia and Herzegovina but in opposition to the entity's government led by Dodik, refused to attend the meeting because Dodik was invited.

"A meeting in a format in which Dodik is present has lost [all] meaning to us. We are the majority at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina [state] institutions and first we need to talk, and only then do we have to notify other political entities,” Branislav Borenovic the leader of the Party of Democratic Progress, PDP told media on Wednesday.

The meeting was planned after presidency chairman Dragan Covic's visit to Brussels earlier this month and harsh criticism of the way that the country has come to a standstill over reforms that would bring it closer to the EU, with individual politicians blocking the country's progress.

During his visit to Brussels, Covic said that he would take on the responsibility of fulfilling the country's obligations and restoring confidence in Bosnia's politicians himself.

Political analyst Tanja Topic told BIRN that the political leaders' decision to snub Covic's initiative was not unexpected.

“This is nothing new. But it was naive to believe that in a poisonous political atmosphere, so easily, with one call to a working lunch, all the problems, intolerance and abusive behaviour that political leaders have addressed to each other in the past months could be erased,” Topic said.

She also suggested that the country's politicians are already “in a pre-election campaign” even though the next polls are not due until the autumn of 2018.

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