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News 09 Jan 18

Croatian President Seeks Erdogan's Help Over Bosnia

On a visit to Ankara, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic will seek Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for Bosnian Croats’ plan to change Bosnia’s electoral law to give them more political power.

Sven Milekic
Zagreb
BIRN
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic in Zagreb in April 2016. Photo: Beta.

Grabar Kitarovic will use her meeting with her Turkish counterpart Erdogan on Tuesday to try to enlist his influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina to support electoral reforms advocated by the Bosnian Croats.

Grabar Kitarovic’s office told N1 TV on Monday that the two presidents will talk about the role of Croatia and Turkey “in encouraging Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina to engage in dialogue and agreement on key issues, in particular on the issue of amending electoral legislation which is at this moment of utmost importance”.

Bosnian Croats want election legislation amended to ensure that predominantly Bosniak communities elect a Bosniak representative, while Croat ones elect a Croat representative.

This would involve dividing the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Federation entity into ethnically-based electoral units.

After the Croatian National Assembly, a body that brings together all the Bosnian Croat parties, proposed the amendment to the law in April last year, the Bosnian Constitutional Court ruled in July that the proposal did not damage the ‘vital national interest’ of the Bosniak people.

From the beginning, top Croatian officials have supported the amendment to the election law to secure the better representation of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Now Grabar Kitarovic plans to organise a trilateral meeting between top-level representatives of Croatia, Turkey and Bosnia to resolve the issue.

Many officials in Croatia, and many Bosnian Croats, still advocate the formation of a so-called ‘third entity’ in Bosnia, which would be Croat-dominated, similar to the Serb-led Republika Srpska.

On winning in the second round of Croatia’s presidential elections in January 2015, Grabar Kitarovic said she would support the decisions of the legitimate representatives of Croats in Bosnia, and would even back the idea of the ‘third entity’.

During Erdogan’s visit to Zagreb in April 2016, the issue of Bosnia also came up during the talks, after which Grabar Kitarovic said that two countries “share responsibility for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Mate Granic, Croatia’s 1990s Foreign Minister and a foreign policy adviser to Grabar Kitarovic, also said after the visit that Turkey played an important role in bringing peace to Bosnia in the 1990s and that he believed that it could help with changes in the country again today.

Croatia’s 1990s President Franjo Tudjman had close relations with his Turkish counterpart at the time, Sulejman Demirel.

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