[Večernji list BiH] Bosnia and Herzegovina may be a Belgium of the Western Balkans and leader of integration
Reports on four Western Balkans countries were on the agenda of the last week’s session of the European Parliament. However, the one on Bosnia and Herzegovina was not among them. Member of the European Parliament Željana Zovko expressed in an interview to Večernji TV a hope that BiH would make a step forward in the course of this year on its path to the EU, the pre-condition for that being modification of the Election Law.
VL: Why wasn’t the Report on BiH discussed on the plenary session of the European Parliament last week?
ŽZ: Reports on BiH and Montenegro were not on the agenda. The Report on BiH was postponed due to the Election Law changes and the elections in Mostar. Those are the reasons why the compromise amendments were delayed. The Rapporteur is expected to deliver them after Easter. It will then be clearer how he agreed with other political groups on the amendments we proposed. I hope that by that date we could have an additional reason to celebrate, and that means reaching an agreement on amending the Election Law that would be in line with the implementation of decisions of all courts, from the “Ljubić” case to the “Sejdić-Finci” court decisions. Then we could certainly welcome BiH as a successful project and conditions would be created for gaining the candidate status. It is possible that this is why they are waiting with this Report.
VL: Could you please explain what the mentioned compromise amendments refer to?
ŽZ: The Report is being prepared, as well as the Resolution following the European Commission’s Report. We will now have a comprehensive overview of all that the European Commission has stated in its Progress Report. The Draft Report, written by Paulo Rangel, who comes from our political group, should be supplemented by amendments from eight EP political groups in order to gain support in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and then in the planned session of the Parliament. I have tabled amendments with MEPs who share similar opinion. Here in the EP, we have completely different views on what BiH should look like, from the far left to the right. We (EPP) are a center that advocates European solutions. At the same time, the European Parliament is the biggest supporter of the enlargement of the Union and it is important how the Report will look like. Since I was born in Mostar, I am especially interested in the Report on BiH to be highly positive. BiH needs to finally function as a community that unites peoples and citizens and European values.
VL: You mentioned different political options. One of them, the Greens, is extremely partial when it comes to BiH, supporting exclusively the Bosniak positions. Why is that so?
ŽZ: The EPP and the Greens are quite different on a number of issues, most notably on migration flows. My efforts to advocate for the countries of the Western Balkans to be given assistance in preserving borders and preventing illegal migration are met by huge resistance. When it comes to BiH, that is, a multinational and multicultural country, I simply cannot understand why they behave like that. Primarily because their group includes the Independent Catalan Party and the Scottish National Party, which stands for its independence, i.e., “separatism”. On the other hand, this group around BiH is advocating for the abolition of all these multinational features that are a trademark of the EU. It is possible that such a relationship is the result of the fact that their activists have been in Sarajevo for years, where they have gained a wrong impression of BiH and its organization. But while they were in a position to help fix some things, they actually did nothing in BiH.
VL: In BiH, both secretly and publicly, talks are underway to change the Election Law. In which direction do you see the solution?
ŽZ: This solution must give rise to a compromise, as was the case with Mostar. Mostar now has the City Council and its mayor and the city is functioning. The solution sought among local parties with the support of the US and the EU must finally take BiH away from third countries that have an extremely detrimental influence there. It is also a security issue for BiH. The Election Law, which will guarantee the possibility for each nation to elect its representatives, is the key and that connection must exist. The Dayton Peace Agreement was grossly violated by the imposition of a member of the BiH Presidency who has no connection with the Croats, but also with the House of Peoples. We have a destabilized situation there, in which conflict is constantly encouraged, and BiH is not unanimous even in foreign policy. The issue of the Western Balkans will be opened next month. Everyone is aware that this is an extremely sensitive situation. It is encouraging that the new US administration is interested in regulating things in BiH.
VL: Bosniak media and lobbyists often claim that Croats and Croatia do not want a “Sejdić-Finci” solution, that they encourage division, the creation of Herzeg-Bosnia and its secession from BiH. How do you comment on that?
ŽZ: BiH has been in status quo for too long and key disputes have not been resolved for too long. The migrant and health crisis has shown that the borders of the Republic of Croatia, i.e., the borders of the EU, will be affected. For practical reasons, Croatia is interested in having stability on its borders and it is interested in not having a failure as its neighbor. This is exactly the role of the Republic of Croatia. When Croatia held the EU Presidency, Prime Minister Plenković placed BiH and the Balkans at the top of the agenda. It is malicious to criticize such an approach. Croatia is being asked from all other countries to be their advocate, and such votes are coming from BiH. In addition, 1.1 million Croatian citizens live in BiH because the Republic of Croatia has issued so many documents. Not all of them are Croats, but they are also Bosniaks and Serbs. All this propaganda against Croatia is part of the fake news that are the result of the efforts of third countries to frustrate the BiH’s and the Western Balkans’ progress towards the EU. We have also done research on this. We are clearly fighting against the harmful role of Russia, Turkey and China.
VL: Is it possible to unite and implement the court decisions on “Sejdić-Finci” and “Ljubić” cases?
ŽZ: Absolutely! Everything is possible. I am greeting you from Brussels, which is literally the seat of compromise solutions. Until 1967, the Belgium Constitution had not been translated into official languages in Belgium. Only one community had the translation, and then it arrived in Flemish. During 1981, a translation into German arrived. Belgium is a federal community, where all the specifics of the communities are fulfilled. And you have federalism that satisfies citizens, but also individual linguistic and cultural groups. It is enough to just walk through Brussels and come to the conclusion that BiH could be a Belgium of the Western Balkans and a leader in integration processes. It all depends only on the good will of politicians to reach a Solomonic solution.
VL: Last week, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman presented a non-paper on the need for reforms in BiH, but in Sarajevo it was once again interpreted as interfering in the internal affairs of BiH. Is that so?
ŽZ: Absolutely not. The Republic of Croatia has a partnership of key countries on this document in order to unblock BiH. I absolutely welcome this solution. Anyone who says it is against BiH does not really want this country to join the EU. Those who say this don’t really know how hard it is to draw attention to any external issue.
VL: What would the EU candidate status mean for BiH?
ŽZ: I am a member of the negotiating team for IPA funds, with Mr. (Tonin) Picula and we are currently coordinating the third envelope. Value of these funds is EUR 13 billion. For candidate countries, far greater funds open up. And these are opportunities for young people, for small and medium-sized enterprises, investing in education. That would be a kind of Marshall Plan for BiH and the Western Balkans. To reject such offers, that is, compromises, while you have the biggest advocates in the EU, actually means to act as the biggest enemy to your people and your country.
VL: The three nations still see BiH differently, from unitarism and domination to separatism, or greater autonomy. What is the middle ground for BiH?
ŽZ: The EP has offered federalism and for BiH, it is the only way out of the abyss of extreme desires for unitarism and separatism. Both of these roads divide BiH in two.
Source:Večernji list BiH