BiH may not become the EU member unless constitutional changes are implemented and equality of nations introduced
In today’s BiH only two of three nations enjoy conformable position – Serbs in RS and Bosniaks in the Federation of BiH as dominant majority
Main topics of discussion at this week’s session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg were Turkey, moving of EU institutions and quarrels stirred by the European Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker with the deputies. However, on the margins of the session, journalists from BiH, hosted by MEP Željana Zovko, opened talks about Bosnia and Herzegovina and the country’s ambition to become a member of the European family.
You are one of co-authors of the EP Resolution adopted this spring. However, the EC position significantly deviates from the principles stated in the Resolution. Why? Can it be changed?
– The position of the European Commission is actually the position of its individual deputies, who are bureaucrats without understanding of constitutivity of nations in BiH or of a fine balance established within the Union. Lack of understanding is in case of BiH reflected in making definitions. Deputies of the EC were of the opinion that the issue of constitutivity of nations could not be integrated into acquis. The principle of equality of all humans is of course the key principle. However, we must not forget that the BiH Constitution is actually an Annex to the Dayton Peace Accords and has never been adopted by the Parliament. It is not easy to amend the Constitution and tailor the country according to ideas of those people. However, we now expect the things to restore to normal, considering that the three nations expressed willingness to live in the common country and build a European country with the joined forces. Croats, one of the three constitutive nations, suffered a serious damage along the process. All subsequent decisions were taken to the detriment of the Croat nation. Some of those decisions, which turned Croats into citizens of the second rank in the Federation and of the third rank in Republic of Srpska, were subsequently proclaimed null and void by the BiH Constitutional Court. Some decisions and processes inflicted a serious damage even onto the DPA achievements, having made the situation and constellations in the country worse than they used to be during the war-time. Unfortunately, the finesses which made the Peace Agreement and the end to the war to happen are not understandable for some bureaucrats. Equality of all nations and their personalities, decentralisation and federalisation of the country are key values in addition to equality of all citizens. These values are promoted by the European People’s Party. I would say that two concepts are clashed in BiH – the socialistic concept and the concept of the united Europe, established by people’s policy supporters.
All participants of the political process and international sponsors are highly aware that the current situation may not be maintained and that the DPA must be modified. In which direction should this process be taken?
– In today’s BiH only two of the three nations enjoy conformable position – Serbs have their own entity – Republic of Srpska, whereas Bosniaks are majority in the second BiH entity – the Federation of BiH, where they exercise dominance over the third nation. You may not influence fundamental changes to the DPA from such a position. On the other hand, the actual American administration is not prepared for large steps forward at the moment, because any big change of the DPA would require consent of all guarantors. Serbia is advancing on its path to the EU membership, opening chapter after chapter. We applaud its role in accepting reality. Dismantling of the DPA is not realistically to be expected in such context. Croatia has the biggest interest in saving peace and stability by saving Croats, the nation smallest in number, but still the most important for BiH stability. On the other hand, we must be aware of ever stronger influence of non-European countries on the Balkans, particularly the Croatian borders. The stability issue of South-Eastern Europe has been opened for a couple of months and everyone is aware of necessity of changes. Such a change is possible, according to my opinion, in order for all three nations to enjoy equal rights, given to them by the DPA.
However, there are inclinations of some European administrations to fully marginalize constitutivity of nations and their role in BiH. Is that a way to peace, stability and progress?
– When I was appointed a MEP, I requested revision of the “lessons learnt”, resp., of all wrong policies implemented in BiH, in order to see what was done wrong in last 20 years. Huge amounts of money were spent on international community administration in BiH. Nevertheless, many entirely inadequate policies put BiH back in the meantime. In 2006, when BiH was advancing on its path to the EU quicker than its neighbours, the April Package failed. It is important to view recommendations by the International Crisis Group (ICG), one of which was to destroy the Hercegovačka Bank in 2001 and then to cease operations of the Aluminij company with the purpose of exterminating the economic life of Croats and force them to adapt to the given situation. Now, after more than a decade, the conclusion of the very same ICG is that BiH has three formed communities whose specifics must be respected. BiH should be built on that basis. However, the country is fully disintegrated nowadays and it wold be entirely wrong to further pursue its disintegration by experimenting with establishing a civil state. Barry’s Rules and Petritsch’s Amendments resulted in establishment of double illegal government and election of illegitimate member of the state Presidency.
The Constitutional Court of BiH disputed provisions of the Election Law about legitimate representation and election of deputies to the House of Peoples. How do you see further development of the situation, as the sense of the elections is now disputable regardless of the position of the Central Election Committee?
– The Constitutional Court rulings must be obeyed. BiH is not an isolated case when it comes to this issue. Italy, for example, adjusts its Election Law to the given circumstances. Many EU countries are preparing for elections next year and changing the related provisions.
You know the atmosphere in the European Parliament. Do you think they are aware that BiH might slide into anarchy and misrule and destabilise the region?
– There two approaches to the problem with BiH. One is that the actual status may be changed with economic reforms without changing the legislation and the Constitution, what eventually would stabilize the country. BiH is not high on the agenda of the European administrations. It is up to us to promote a pro-active approach instead of sitting and waiting for the final outcome. The City of Mostar, which has been functioning without the City Council, is the best warning. The credit for the City’s survival as a normal city goes only to constant balancing performed by the mayor. But keeping the entire country a hostage of politics would have enormous consequences. I truly hope that representatives of the European administrations will come to understand how important this issue is.
Who is the largest obstacle?
– What we need is a judgment of Solomon. I think that the message about a mother who “gave up” her child in order to save his life is very useful in this context. Those claiming BiH as predominantly their country should take on the responsibility for its destiny.
Why doesn’t the European Commission involve more actively in resolving the problems in BiH as it was a case for example with Serbia and Kosovo?
– Issues which do not involve instability are considered internal state matters by the EU. We are not forced to become a member of the EU, it depends entirely on our free will. The Great Britain is leaving the EU, because some of its citizens voted against the membership. No state can be forced to anything, no one from the outside may negotiate the reforms to be implemented within a state. Croats in BiH are promoting the quickest approach to the EU and they are labelled as a disturbing factor, even though they appeal to application of the European values, principles and rules and sincerely desire to live in the EU. On the other hand, there are non-European policies in place in BiH under influence of non-European countries, doing their best to divert BiH from its path to the EU. Montenegro had a similar situation when there were attempts to prevent it from joining NATO. However, it is encouraging that 80% of the BiH citizens want their country to join the EU, because no one is going to the East in search for a job, everyone is going to the West, to Europe.
Are your colleagues in the EP aware of anti-European integration actors in BiH?
– That exactly is in the background of a strong wish to help BiH, regardless of the issue with enlargement. They are aware of a danger of the crisis deepening due to non-European influences.
BiH expects the candidate status next year. What does it mean for its future and its internal relations?
– Advancement on the accession path to the EU brings multiple benefits for BiH, from resolving of its internal issues to possibilities of funds usage, what will be a huge benefit for young people. However, the candidate status may also bring no changes at all. Take Turkey, for example, which has been a candidate-state for many years already, but an individual and his dictatorship and the system persecuting media and the civil society do not allow the country to make any progress. Or Macedonia, which has been facing problems with the next step for many years. So, that step may mean everything or nothing. Everything depends on the BiH politicians.
Is an accelerated path to the EU a condition for resolving serious political issue or is it vice versa?
– I think BiH may not advance on its path to the EU unless its political issues are resolved. We’ll face the wall sooner or later; by the wall I mean a necessity to tackle the internal political issues. We may not join the EU before ordering our internal institutional architecture and inter-relations of the three nations.
It was decided that Mostar shall apply for the title of the European capital if culture. What would that mean for your birth town Mostar?
– It would mean a lot. Mostar has already been recognized as a world symbol. It was a very important decision to include Mostar on the World Cultural Heritage List as a symbol of peace. Mostar has been groping in the dark with its Statute, treated by the state in a neglectful manner. Nevertheless, the citizens of Mostar are living, clearly showing huge resilience to pressures. Mostar is the city of resistance to everything what is trying to harm it. I will fight with all my forces for my birth town to become the European capital of culture. A multinational town, which survived regardless of wrong policies applied, certainly deserves to become a symbol as the European capital of culture.