[CroExpress] MEP ŽELJANA ZOVKO on the “‘Ignorance” of the Austrian media: “Wölfl represents the interests of the radical Bosniak elite, that does not contribute to the promotion of a constructive atmosphere in BiH”
Recently, the Austrian daily “Der Standard” (10 March 2021) targeted Željana Zovko, the Croatian Member of the European Parliament, because allegedly, the MEP Zovko may not make up her mind who she represents in the European Parliament – Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Below you can read our interview with MEP Zovko.
Q: How did it happen that as a former Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina you became a Croatian Member of the European Parliament?
A: I am a citizen of the Republic of Croatia, just like 1.1 million other citizens of BiH are. I live in Split. I am an expert on foreign policy issues, i.e., issues of peace and security. The prime-minister Plenković recognized my know-how and proposed me to run for the EP on their list. Thanks to my foreign-policy background, I was elected a Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Q: The Austrian journalist Adelheid Wölfl complains that you are still mentally in Herzegovina and lobbying in the European Parliament from the “ethnic position” of the Herzegovinian HDZ, using the Nazi term “völkisch”. How do you comment on this?
A: I am not familiar with the term, but I understand that the journalist Wölfl uses several outdated terms in her report that are obviously not only the terms of the Bosniak war propaganda, but also Nazi terms. You know what they say today: When you throw yourself into Nazi terms, you lose the argument. I think that the journalist Wölfl desperately represents the interests of the radical Bosniak elite, and does not contribute to objective reporting, nor to the promotion of a constructive atmosphere in BiH.
Q: Furthermore, she also claims that you want to “revive” Herzeg-Bosnia and that you “advocate an ideology according to which people should be ruled according to national criteria and that you do not see them as citizens but as members of an ethnic group.” Here is a question for you: Is there any contradiction between individuals as citizens and as members of a nation?
A: Throughout its history, Bosnia and Herzegovina has had three majority areas – Bosniak, Serb, and Croat. Their names and internal boundaries have been changing over time, but nevertheless, these three communities exist. As I have already said – it is a special story how the journalist Wölfl sees them or calls them. I see them as an actual part of BiH: historical, current, mixed. The Croat community is as multiethnic as the Bosniak or Serb community. The example of the best team in BiH, the football club Zrinski, is instructive. It is a Croat club, but the credit for its being successful goes to all three communities. At one point, the defense was mostly Bosniaks, the middle Croats, and the attack Serbs. And that is the segment of Herzeg-Bosnia that does exist. I don’t know why it bothers the Austrian journalist.
Q: The Austrian journalist complains about your request that children in Bosnia should be “educated in their mother tongue”, meaning Croats in Croatian, with the remark that all Bosnians (no mention of Herzegovinians!) speak “the same ijekavian language variant” (which language she does not say), not being aware that the similarity between the Croatian, Serbian and Bosniak languages in BiH is manifested in ijekavian indeed, but that there are many differences that should be respected. Since a few years ago, the Croatian language has been recognized as a special language, not only among the world linguists but also in the official international cultural institutions. How do you comment on this ignorance of the said journalist?
A: The right to language is one of fundamental human rights…
Q: The Austrian journalist is also bothered by the fact that the Vice-Chair of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs included in the Report on the situation in BiH a request that the Election Law is to be changed, which she belittles by claiming that “HDZ BiH wants to preserve and strengthen its power in that manner”, however not mentioning at all that the Election Law prescribes something completely politically correct, namely, that each constituent people is to elect its political representatives separately, which is not the case in the Federation of BiH, where Željko Komšic was for the second time elected the “Croat member of the three-partite BiH Presidency by the Bosniak, and not by the Croat voters, which was also rejected by the Constitutional Court of BiH. In contrast, she advocates a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Bosnia and Herzegovina should gradually become a “civil state” in which Jews and Roma can be elected to the Presidency. “The question is: Are they, along with Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina and with what percentage do they participate in the overall population of BiH?
A: I have already said several times that a civil state of BiH is possible, but through three constituent communities. Each community is multiethnic and the new Election Law needs to be implemented. It is also a solution for the Sejdic-Finci case. The solution offered by the radical Bosniak elite, and promoted by this journalist, offers a civic state dominated by the Bosniak ruling class. Sorry, but it’s not a democracy. Europe offers a number of solutions for multiethnic states, and we are moving in that direction.
Q: The Standard’s journalist does not mention at all that Croats in BiH had the largest population decline in the last war, 35% less than before the war, and that they still do not have any rights, such as their TV programme as many national minorities in the European Union. How do you comment on that?
A: The journalist does not mention many things. But that is not her goal. Her goal is to represent the society with which she has been living in Sarajevo for years. And I understand that. I am only sorry that it uses othe utdated anti-Croat war propaganda, and I am sorry that her editors are not aware of what their reporter advocates. The issue of BiH is obviously not that important to them.
Q: It is incomprehensible that an alleged expert on Southeast Europe or the Western Balkans does not know that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been and remains a multinational country since the Turkish times and that its Croats have always been a part of a common Croatian nation, which applies to Serbs as members of the Serbian nation. In addition, she does not know that the Republic of Croatia, as a co-signatory of the Dayton Peace Agreement, but also according to its Constitution, has the right to take care of its compatriots in BiH. How do you interpret this one-sidedness of the Austrian journalist, that is, her ignorance that BiH was multinational even during Austro-Hungary and that all efforts of Budapest, specifically the imperial governor, the Hungarian Benjamin Kallay, to create a “Bosnian nation” failed? It seems that the Austrian journalist Wölfl has followed in Kallay’s footsteps into the historical wilderness. What do you say to that?
A: Few people know the name of Benjamin Kallay, but that name is crucial for today’s political workers on the issue of BiH. He started using the term Bosniaks, so that he could talk about the inhabitants of BiH in one word. He said something like this: I will call you Bosniaks until you decide what you are. A century later, the people of BiH decided: we are the same as we were in the time of Kallay: Croats, Serbs and Muslims or now Bosniaks. Unfortunately, journalist Wölfl and a large number of foreign analysts do not accept this reality. That is why their policy fails.
Q: Can you briefly outline your efforts in the European Parliament so that Bosnia and Herzegovina may finally remain what it has always been – a multinational state, and that its Croats are on an equal footing with the other two constituent peoples, Bosniaks and Serbs?
A: I have been actively working on the “lessons learned exercise”, i.e., I have been advocating the policy that after 25 years of the Dayton’s failure, we must find a new logic and policy. We must find European solutions for a European BiH. I also emphasize the importance of the stability of BiH as a neighboring state of the Republic of Croatia. Such an unstable and insecure state does not benefit its neighbors or its citizens.