Vucic on Komsic’s statement about Kosovo (Tanjug/B92)
President Vucic has reacted to the Croat Bosnia-Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency member statement Zeljko Komsic that Kosovo is independent as far as he is concerned him. It is sometimes better to be silent, Vucic observed, adding he wants to build relations with B&H responsibly. Serbia wants good cooperation with B&H, and with its three newly elected members of the Presidency – Milorad Dodik, Sefic Dzaferovic and Komsic, he underlined. He stressed that he would not use every opportunity, even when it was easy to gain political points, to respond to the claims of anyone, although, he stressed, he is certainly not particularly happy about such a statement. “I want to take a responsible approach to building relations in the region and relations with B&H. It’s better to be silent sometimes,” Vucic pointed out.
Serbia receives status of associate member of Francophonie (Beta/RTS)
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic stated on Thursday in Yerevan that at the meeting of permanent members of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), Serbia was granted associate member status. Following the completion of the first day of the XVII Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Francophonie, attended by 80 states as permanent members, associates or observers, Dacic said that Serbia was granted the associate status unanimously, by all permanent members, of whom there are more than 50. He said that he used this meeting to hold a number of bilateral meetings with representatives of several countries, with whom he discussed the issues that matter most to us, such as the Kosovo issue. In our talks with representatives of other countries, we have achieved very important agreements regarding our most important issues, which is a matter of territorial integrity and we have a great understanding of these countries for the position of Serbia, Dacic underlined. He said that he expects that the number of states that recognized the independent Kosovo falls below 100 by the end of this year. Kosovo’s associate membership in the OIF does not mean it has been recognized as a state, Dacic said. “Thirteen OIF permanent member states have submitted a declaration, a so-called interpretative statement, which says that the fact that Kosovo has been granted the status of associate member does not mean that it has been recognized as a state and that their stand on Kosovo remains unchanged,” Dacic is quoted as saying. Dacic recalled that the OIF brings together countries and regions and cited the example of the US state of Louisiana and several regions of Canada which are members.
Serbian, Spanish parliament delegations walk out of Vienna conference over Kosovo (Beta)
The delegation of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Serbian parliament walked out of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU in Vienna because of the representation of interim institutions from Pristina with flag and under the name Kosovo without asterisk. According to a press release by the Serbian parliament, the delegation of the Spanish parliament also walked out of the conference for the same reason, since the organizer of the gathering, the parliament of Austria, did not wish to accommodate the request of the two delegations for members of the interim bodies of Pristina to be represented in keeping with the Agreement on Regional Representation. “The organizer has also disregarded the statute of the conference, which envisages that only EU candidate countries or NATO members can have the status of observer,” the statement reads.
Djuric: There is no solution for Kosovo and Metohija without agreement with Serbia (TV Pink/Tanjug)
The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric has told TV Pink that yesterday’s walking out of the Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU in Vienna over the manner in which Kosovo was presented at the gathering, shows that nothing has been resolved. “This shows that there is no solution for Kosovo and Metohija without agreement with Serbia. For them to be an unilaterally declared independent state and to think that they should not be making agreements with Serbia, that it is enough for them that somebody patted them on the shoulder, that doesn’t bring any solution in itself,” said Djuric. He says that Kosovo Albanians without agreement with the Serbian side can only dream of rounding off some solution or founding websites where they will be claiming that they are a state. “But they can’t join the UN and the OSCE as well. They are only showing that nothing can be resolved without agreement,” said Djuric.
Kosachov: Support to decision of Serb people and UNSCR 1244 (Radio Belgrade)
Russia will support any solution to Kosovo issue that is supported by the Serb people and which is in line with UNSCR 1244, Head of the Russian Foreign Policy Committee Konstantin Kosachov said. After meeting Serbian Minister for Innovation and Technological Development Nenad Popovic, Kosachov said that the Serbs in Kosovo could always count on Russia’s support, a statement from Popovic’s office said. Popovic thanked Russia and its President Vladimir Putin for crucial support in preserving Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “We are grateful to Russia for its respect of the international law and intention to support a solution to Kosovo within Serbia’s Constitution and Resolution 1244,” Popovic said, adding that only such solution guarantees peace and economic progress to both the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosovo.
Kosachov said that the Serbs in Kosovo could always count on Russia’s support, a statement from Popovic’s office said. “I am telling Kosovo Serbs that Russia is alongside the Serb people and Serbia,” Kosachov said, adding that Moscow would remain consistent in respecting the international law and UNSC 1244 which recognizes Kosovo as an integral and inalienable part of Serbia.
EP’s Reports on Serbia and Kosovo: What kind of solution was actually supported? (Tanjug)
Information that an amendment mentioning demarcation had been included in the Report on Progress of Serbia for European Parliament (EP) has been met with different interpretations, and the EP emphasized for Tanjug that a clear opinion on the proposal cannot be found in the amendment, while a solution that meets clearly defined conditions is not excluded. With the adoption of the amendment referring to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, MEPs “took notice” of the discussion on a possible correction of borders and clearly established necessary conditions for any acceptable solution. “The message we sent together is that we acknowledge the discussions and the debate, but also that we are very clear about it being mutually agreed upon between the two sides, that contributes to the regional stability and that it has to be in accordance with international law,” rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister stated. Sources from EP state for Tanjug that the concrete amendment was written as a subject of compromise and thus “every word in it is significant”. It is also a fact that some MEPs and even some political groups could hold a different opinion from the Foreign Affairs Committee. For example, during the debate, Socialists and Democrats representative Tanja Fajon warned about possible destabilization of the region in the case of a border change as a part of Belgrade-Pristina agreement. “I know that it is a sensitive issue and that the goal was to have an identical text for both sides in the process. From the experience of Slovenia I can only say that any border change would destabilize the region and therefore has to be avoided,” stated Fajon. President of the Parliamentary Committee for cooperation with Serbia Eduard Kukan said that intensive discussions on what kind of agreement between Belgrade and Pristina would be acceptable are still in progress. Having in mind the sensibility of this issue, we must have a careful approach, emphasized Kukan. EP is currently working on a final version of a text that would include all adopted amendments and that would be a subject of a debate and voting of a parliamentary assembly of the EP on 28 and 29 November. The text should be published officially next week, after it goes through legal and linguistic reviews, Tanjug found out in Brussels.
Stoltenberg: It’s important to cooperate in the future despite disagreement on 1999 (RTS)
“Nobody expects us to agree on what has happened in 1999, but I believe that, despite these disagreements, that it is good for both parties to be able to look into the future and cooperate, for the sake of stability, which is a prerequisite for future investments”, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview for Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS). He has stated that Serbia and NATO have a strong and good partnership, that they had the opportunity to strengthen it in the past few years, and that the proof of this fact is the largest civilian NATO exercise in managing the consequences of emergency situations “SERBIA 2018”, which has gathered 2.000 participants in Mladenovac on Monday. “The goal (of the exercise) is the protection of people, saving of lives in the aftermath of natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, floods … We have seen that the Serbian and NATO reaction forces in such cases can work together and help each other. This is the largest such exercise ever organized by NATO. Serbia was the host country, and we showed that we can work together”, Stoltenberg said. In his words, NATO and KFOR are in Kosovo in order to protect and ensure security for all the communities living there, as well as that they have carefully monitored last week’s events at Lake Gazivoda. “KFOR reported to us that there were no military activities conducted or arrests made. I have talked to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that morning, and it is important that regional leaders and President Vucic can contact me in similar situations when they need to send important messages,” Stoltenberg emphasized.
He has also said that the failure of the referendum in Macedonia does not affect NATO’s policy towards the region, and that the decision on potential Macedonia’s membership in the Alliance is “in the hands of citizens and democratically elected institutions”. “It is not up to Brussels to decide what Skopje will do. What I can say is that NATO is ready to receive a new member if it implements the name deal. There is no other way – without agreement on the name, there will be no membership. But, I repeat, it is up to them to decide,” Stoltenberg stressed. He has welcomed Serbia’s wish for a strong partnership with NATO, although this country has decided to be neutral and not to apply for membership. “We are helping Serbian soldiers participate in peacekeeping missions, we have helped to destroy dangerous arsenal of weapons, such as mines, and work together in new technologies, from robotics to biofuels, there is a NATO Science program that includes your scientists, etc. We have a similar relationship with Sweden – it is a neutral country, surrounded by NATO members, and we strongly respect it, but we also welcome the very close cooperation between Sweden and NATO, much like we welcome Serbia and NATO cooperation.”
Commenting on the conflict between Serbia and NATO in 1999, which is a potential obstacle to its integration into the Alliance, Stoltenberg said that he believes it is possible to look to the future and to work despite differences from the past. “We must not forget the past, we should be honest about the past and our differences, but we must not return to the past. Progress depends on our ability to look into the future and to overcome differences. I accept that the 1999 bombing is still something that creates painful memories for many in Serbia. The aim of that operation was to protect and save the civilian lives, but now I think it is important that, despite the differences, we will be able to look into the future, in the interests of both Serbia and NATO,” Stoltenberg said, adding that stability and cooperation are the basis for economic growth.
He has also added that it is up to the citizens of Serbia to decide whether they want partnership and cooperation with NATO, but that it is in the interest of both sides to work together. “I believe peace, stability and security are important for people in the region, but the economy is also important. The more we strengthen our cooperation (in the region), the more investment will become available, partly because stability is a prerequisite for investment, but also because trust is also important for investments. Nobody expects us to agree on what happened in 1999, but I believe that, despite these disagreements, it is good for both sides to look into the future and to cooperate,” Stoltenberg said.
Speaking about the potential border changes in the Western Balkans, he has stated that NATO is supporting Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which he described as the only way to resolve misunderstandings and problems in a peaceful manner. “NATO has supported and has helped the establishment of this dialogue, now under the aegis of the EU. NATO and the EU cannot solve problems in the region, but we can offer our support and help. We will deal with border changes if there is some progress in the talks on this issue,” Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO will deal exclusively with the outcome of this dialogue, without prior qualifications.
B&H CEC updates preliminary election results (N1)
The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) published updated preliminary results of elections in B&H. According to results of elections for Bosniak member of B&H Presidency grounded on 99.24 percent of counted ballots Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) is leading in the race for a Bosniak member of B&H Presidency with 36.45 percent of votes. The second ranked is SDP’s Denis Becirovic with 33.68 percent of votes, and he is followed by SBB B&H’s Fahrudin Radoncic (13.04 percent), Mirsad Hadzikadic (10 percent), Senad Sepic (5.17 percent) and Amer Jerlagic (1.66 percent).
When it comes to election of a Croat member of B&H Presidency, DF’s Zeljko Komsic is leading in this race with 54.17 percent of all votes; the second ranked is leader of HDZ B&H Dragan Covic with 34.56 percent and he is followed by HDZ 1990’s Dijana Zelenika, Our Party’s Borisa Falatar and Jerko Ivankovic-Lijanovic.
There have not been any changes regarding the race for a Serb member of B&H Presidency. Namely, leader of SNSD and outgoing Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik resumes to lead in the race for a Serb member of B&H Presidency with 53.84 percent of all votes, the second ranked is candidate of the Alliance for Victory (SzP) Mladen Ivanic with 42.99 percent.
Reporter commented that changes regarding elections for the parliament of B&H are related to the second position concerning the number of votes political parties won. Namely, SDP and HDZ B&H have been rotating at the second position. Leading party in the Federation of B&H regarding elections for the Parliament of B&H is SDA with 25.60 percent of votes and is followed by SDP (14.42 percent), HDZ B&H (13.88 percent), DF-GS, SBB B&H, Our Party, NB, PDA and A-SDA. As for the RS, SNSD won most votes (39.20 percent) and they are followed by SDS (25.01 percent), PDP (12.91 percent) DNS (10.46 percent) SP (4.76) SDA (3.65) and First SDS (1.17).
When it comes to the elections for the Federation of B&H parliament, SDA is leading party (25.54 percent of votes) and is followed by SDP (14.79 percent) HDZ B&H (13.05) DF-GS (9.39), SBB B&H (7.09), Our Party (5.16), PDA (3.92) NB (3.55).
Also, SNSD won most votes (32.17 percent) in elections for the RS parliament. The second ranked is SDS (18.59) and is followed by DNS (14.82) PDP (10.38) SP RS (8.14) NDP (4.16 percent), Coalition ‘Zajedno za B&H’ (3.55 percent) and United Srpska (3.12 percent).
Dzaferovic does not want to go under flag of RS (N1)
New Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic announced that he will fiercely oppose any attempt to jeopardize interests of B&H. The daily noted that Dzaferovic views as dangerous the announcement of Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik that there will have to be a flag of the RS in the office in which he will be working in the next four years. Dzaferovic told TV N1 that the idea of holding sessions of B&H Presidency in presence of the RS flag is opposite to the Rules of Procedures on Work of B&H Presidency and he added that previous Serb members of B&H Presidency did have the RS flag in their own offices “and this practice will continue. However, only flag and coat of arms of B&H can be placed in the building and where official meetings take place”. The daily reminded that Dodik announced, even before he was elected B&H Presidency member, that he will not participate in the work of B&H Presidency unless mandatory placement of the RS flag in every place he is using is introduced.
Peaceful march held in Mostar over Komsic’s election as Croat member of B&H Presidency (FTV)
An informal group of citizens organized a peaceful march in Mostar on Thursday, in order to express dissatisfaction with election of DF leader Zeljko Komsic to the post of the Croat member of B&H Presidency. Thousands of citizens joined the march, including those from Mostar, Brcko, Jajce, Odzak and all other parts of B&H. Protesters argued that there is no democracy in B&H and even lit some candles outside the Office of the Croat member of the B&H Presidency in Mostar. They explained that the candles symbolize a “funeral” for democracy and “undermined” will of the Croat people. Most of them warned that Komsic’s election to this post is “unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate”. Heads of Grude, Capljina and Posusje Municipalities, who are all members of HDZ B&H stated that newly elected Croat member of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic is persona non grata in these municipalities. They underlined that Komsic is not welcome due to the method of his election to the abovementioned post, i.e. due to the fact Bosniak political elites enabled Komsic’s election.
Dodik rejected Komsic’s proposal for relaxation of relations within B&H; Komsic is causing problems with Croatia and Serbia (TV1)
SNSD leader and newly-elected Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik rejected DF leader and newly-elected Croat member of B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic’s proposal for relaxation of relations within B&H through signing of the agreement between the state of B&H and the Islamic Community of B&H (IZ B&H). Dodik said he will not sign this agreement in its current form and he also criticized Komsic for saying that B&H should recognize Kosovo as independent. Dodik said that it would be polite of all candidates who won the elections for B&H Presidency to refrain from statements and strong words until the Presidency is formed. Asked to comment recent media appearances of Komsic, Dodik stated that Komsic has overdone himself a bit and that he identifies himself as some political messiah, since he is already lecturing the neighboring countries on how they should act. Dodik added that although Komsic still has not been officially appointed the member of B&H Presidency he already managed to cause problems with Croatia and Serbia, adding that Komsic even attempted to hold lectures to Republika Srpska. Dodik reminded that after Serbian President congratulated victory in elections to Komsic and called for cooperation, the newly elected Croat member of B&H Presidency replied by saying that Kosovo is an independent country for him. Dodik emphasized that this represents political adventurism. Dodik underlined that this type of arrogance can only be detrimental for everyone in B&H.
Inzko: Dodik should be given opportunity to show what he will do in Presidency of B&H (Vecernji list)
High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko commented for the media on the election results in B&H. Inzko is carried as saying: “We got something that we had expected, there were surprises on Sunday, especially at the cantonal level. “Our Party” posted a strong result, it has existed for some time. Now it is present in whole of the Federation of B&H,” said Inzko. The HR also said: “Politicians requested from me to suspend Milorad Dodik because of something he said, and he has been saying it for 10 years. Dodik should be given opportunity to show what he will do in the Presidency. He will listen to Belgrade and Moscow, and they are in favor of territorial integrity of B&H,” said HR Inzko.
Moscow counts on quick formation of government in B&H (Srna/Sputnik)
Russia positively evaluates the elections held in B&H, and Moscow counts on quick formation of government in order to continue the social and economic stabilization process in the country, said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry. “We are pleased with the elections held in B&H, the country is peaceful. We positively evaluate the work of the Central Election Commission, which enabled the elections to be held in accordance with democratic standards,” Zakharova has said. According to her, a high organization level for the elections has shown that the institution of the High Representative in B&H is unnecessary, which Russia has repeatedly discussed, Sputnik reports. “We are open to dialogue with B&H partners and we count on further development of constructive cooperation to increase the standard of living of all citizens, to influence the culture of both countries, and to strengthen peace and security in the entire Balkans,” she has said.
Prosecutor’s Office of B&H issues indictment against Dudakovic and 16 others for crimes against humanity in Krajina (BN TV)
The B&H Prosecutor’s Office filed on Thursday an indictment against former Commander of the Fifth Corps of the “Republic of B&H Army” Atif Dudakovic and 16 more persons, former members of the Fifth Corps. Dudakovic and others are charged of war crimes against Serbs and Bosniaks. Dudakovic and others are indicted of war crimes against humanity committed against Serbs in the area of Bosanski Petrovac, Kljuc, Bosanska Krupa, Sanski Most and war crimes against Bosniak civilians at the area of Bihac and Cazin. Besides Dudakovic, other indictees are: Ekrem Dedic, Sanel Sabic, Ibrahim Siljedic a.k.a. Siljo, Safet Salihagic, Adis Zjakic, Hasan Ruznic, Redzep Zlojic, Samir Solakovic, Fatmir Muratovic, Muharem Alesevic, Husein Balagic, Ale Hodzic a.k.a. ‘Pumparica’, Edin Domazet, Ejub Kozenjic a.k.a. Ejko and Sesirdzija, Ibrahim Nadarevic and Said Mujic. Spokesperson of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H Boris Grubesic said that they are charged with the murder of over 300 Serbs mostly older civilians, as well as soldiers who surrendered or who were imprisoned. Bodies of some of the victims were found after the war and exhumed from several individual graves and mass graves, while some bodies are yet to be found. Grubesic said that Dudakovic is also charged with crimes committed against Bosniaks, adding that they intend to call on 447 witnesses to testify, as well as six experts and present over 1,100 evidence material. Grubesic stressed that they forwarded the indictment to the Court of B&H for confirmation. RS parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic said that the charges against Dudakovic should have been raised earlier because there were numerous evidence, testimonies and video recordings of the crimes. Dudakovic’s lawyer Asim Crnalic expressed his hope that the Court of B&H will not confirm the indictment, especially if it includes the allegation of the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H that members of the 5th Corps were “conquering” Bihac, Sanski Most, Kljuc, Bosanska Krupa and other settlements in Bosanska Krajina in the operation ‘Sana 95’. He explained that the accused were not “conquering” but “liberating” the towns of Krajina. Crnalic assessed that the trial will last for years, adding that he expects an acquitting verdict after all. The Court of B&H is expected to make a decision on the indictment in about 15 days.
Montenegro is making progress in the European integration process (Pobjeda)
Montenegro is making progress in the process of European integration, and Members of the European Parliament invite political management of the state to give priority to tackling problems in the area of the rule of law, freedom of media, corruption, money laundering, organized crime. The Resolution adopted by the Foreign Policy Committee on Tuesday, assesses the progress five Western Balkans countries made on their way towards the EU. This Resolution points out efforts of Montenegro put in constructive regional cooperation and good bilateral relations. “Members of the European Parliament welcome the ratification of the Agreement on state border between Montenegro and Kosovo and invite on fast settlement of border disputes with other neighboring countries. They also remind of the strategic importance of Montenegro’s accession to NATO for the provision of peace and stability at Western Balkans. All six countries have clear European perspective and our European house won’t be complete without them”, said Member of the European Parliament, David McAllister, Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee. He added that reports on all countries of Western Balkans point out specific challenges these countries are faced with. Particularly comprehensive reforms are required in the domain of the rule of law and good neighboring relations. Therefore, the date of the accession depends on complete harmonization with all EU laws.
Zaev: We should overcome party and political prejudices and take care of country’s future (MIA)
I hope we should find courage, to overcome party and political prejudices and to take care of the country’s future, because this is unrepeatable opportunity. The decision we make bears huge responsibility and importance for the future of the citizens, and I believe that we, above all, will think of our country, the children and the generations to come, PM Zoran Zaev said Thursday, adding that important thing is that the focus remains on the serious responsibility by all political actors, political figures, MPs and above all the parliament. He said that the session of the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Issues resumes tomorrow and after its completion, parliamentary session is scheduled to be held on Monday (Oct. 15). Answering reporter’s question whether new investigations of Special Public Prosecution (SPO) are interpreted as pressure on members of parliament, Zaev said that Macedonia is in a specific period, and everything that happens can also be interpreted in one way or another. I know that the system must operate and work in parallel. I am not informed or I know the details of the investigations. I have read in the media that this is happening, I do not see any connection to what is happening in the Parliament; therefore, the debate is transparent, public and decisions will be made public.
Asked whether he will seek resignation from Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani, as he is one of the defendants in the investigations of the Special Public Prosecution, Zaev said that everyone shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty with an effective verdict. This is an investigation and I would like to know the details, I will follow the process carefully and take my actions in a timely manner if something is related to government’s reputation. “Everyone knows that the Prespa Agreement is fair and just, that it cannot be better, and without the agreement there is no EU and NATO, and without it there is no economic progress, investment, growth and development. I believe that in addition to the debate, a climate of taking responsibility is being created, everyone should tell their pain, but at the end of the day we should all be upright and make a bold decision, a decision on the future of Macedonia,” Zaev said. “This matter will be resolved and the question is only whether it will be fast, whether we will let Macedonia lose its days, months, years as it lost in the past. That is why the responsibility of every individual, MP, politician is important. I appeal again to the opposition for reasonableness, we do not have Plan B, and there is no alternative. Let’s leave aside all of our political parties and put Macedonia first, to make decisions as we are accountable to the citizens, Zaev told reporters after handover ceremony of annual state award ’11 October’ in parliament. He congratulated National Uprising Day, October 11, to all citizens wishing them happiness and prosperity.
Prespa Agreement enjoys full support of EU (MIA)
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini will brief EU member states on Monday (Oct. 15) on the situation in Macedonia and the outcome of the consultative referendum held on Sept. 30. Besides Macedonia, Mogherini will also inform about the outcome of the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mogherini’s message is that the EU still backs the agreement reached between Macedonia and Greece over the name dispute, senior diplomatic sources in the Council of the European Union said. Macedonia as an EU candidate country is usually discussed in the General Affairs Council. Although the situation is not dramatized, the placing of the Macedonian case on the ministers’ table of the Foreign Affairs Council, as well as the briefing for Macedonia in the EU Political and Security Committee held in the past days, is a source of concern among certain diplomats in Brussels who are monitoring the situation in Macedonia. Macedonia is not formally on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council, EU Spokesperson explains, Mogherini will only brief on the situation, sources of the Council of the European Union say. The Political and Security Committee discussed about outcome of September 30 referendum, EU spokesperson told MIA. “The EU is fully behind the Prespa Agreement, sources of the Council said, adding that Brussels is in constant contact with all the actors involved in the process in Macedonia. Senior diplomatic source of the Council of the European Union added that it does not want to use word “pressure” when it comes to these contacts. A senior diplomatic source in the MIA Council adds that he does not want to use the word “pressure” when it comes to these contacts. “It would not be appropriate for an external actor to pressure political or other actors and, certainly, not the voters. We have noted that we welcome the agreement reached between Greece and Macedonia and respect the democratic processes in the country,” diplomat told MIA.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Post-elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina: heavy politics (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, by Alfredo Sasso, 12 October 2018)
Nationalists celebrate in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, while doubts remain on a possible boycott of the state and federal institutions by Croatian nationalist party HDZ. An analysis
“They spent more money on tonight’s fireworks than on the motorways built in four years”. On Sunday night, this joke circulated on social networks about the SDA celebrations, just while in a Banja Luka restaurant Milorad Dodik sang folk pieces out loud together with the SNSD staff. These were the celebrations by the two great winners of the October 7th elections, the SDA (Bosnjak nationalists) and the SNSD (Serbian nationalists). In addition to the seats in the collective presidency, these two parties maintained the relative majority in the parliaments of the respective entities, with the SDA gathering about 26% in the BiH Federation and the SNSD obtaining 39% in Republika Srpska – results similar to those of four years ago. The SNSD also won the presidency of Republika Srpska, with current premier Željka Cvijanović (47%) ahead of opposition candidate Govedarica (42%). Over 48 hours after the vote, due to the exasperating slowness of the count coordinated by the Central Electoral Commission (we are still between 80% and 90% of the process), the conclusive figures are still missing and so is, therefore, the distribution of parliamentary seats. It is fair to assume, though, that the SDA and the SNSD will team up in the government coalition at the state level, which will need at least two other forces to reach the majority. The premier, by principle of ethnic rotation, should be a Serb, therefore from the SNSD. The SDA and the SNSD will also be the core of the respective entity governments.
Between conservation and “heavy politics”
It is the victory of conservation, as these are the parties that are most firmly rooted in the institutions. It is, above all, the victory of what could be called “heavy politics”, made of membership cards, social pressure, posters everywhere, identification between state and party, promises, and welfare measures – what in Bosnia and Herzegovina is generally summarised under the name of “party machinery” (partijska mašinerija). Last year, the SDA and the SNSD had 200,000 and 180,000 members respectively – the third party had 76,000 – and revenues for 2.2 and 1.1 million, at least twice their main competitors. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 20% of inhabitants are members of a party (33% in Italy). Politics is still regarded as an instrument of access to wages, welfare, or contacts to obtain them. Hence the philosophy “Vote for the Devil you know”, as brilliantly coined by political scientist Jessie Hronesova.
In the last week before the vote, premier of the Federation and prominent SDA exponent Fadil Novalić sent a letter to the 350,000 pensioners of the entity, bragging about the results obtained and inviting them to “remain a partner of the current government”. In Republika Srpska, the government went straight for the cash, handing out a one-off bonus, between 15 and 50 Euros, to all pensioners in September – such an overt propaganda measure that Dodik did not even try to hide it: “So [the pensioners] get ready for winter, go to the ballots, and vote for us”, he said in a rally amid his followers’ laughter. The call to the organic nation, well summarised in simple slogans – the SDA’s bright green “force of the people” and the SNSD’s white-blue-red “Under the flag of Srpska” – has obviously paid off. So, these two parties have cannibalised their opponents. The SBB, the Bosnjak party of publisher Radončić, fell from 14% to 6%. The opposition of the anti-Dodik Serb parties met its seventh electoral defeat in a row, with militants, cadres, and mayors fleeing to the SNSD already in the months before the vote, especially in Eastern Srpska.
What are the results of “alternative” forces to ethnic parties? A key highlight of the elections is the victory of Željko Komšić from the Democratic Front (civic centre-left) for the Croatian seat. Komšić managed to avoid the election of Dragan Čović of the HDZ (Croatian conservative nationalists), who could have created an institutional short-circuit in agreement with his ally Dodik. The clear victory (with 53%, higher than the early preliminary data) confirms him, twelve years after his first victory in the presidential elections, as the undisputed leader of the Bosnian civic camp. However, Komšić raises concerns among some observers who see him only as a “vote against” without a new strategy, after eight years (from 2006 to 2014) without great results, with a risk of an unnecessary clash with the nationalists, who accuse him of being an “illegitimate representative of the Croats”. His Democratic Front (DF), however, performed poorly in the parliamentary elections, dropping to 9% from the 14% (data only in FBiH) of four years ago.
In the field of civic parties, which ran sparse, the other important fact is undoubtedly the historic success of Naša Stranka (Our party), a liberal-socialist force that for the first time enters the state parliament (4.6%) and obtains worthy results outside Sarajevo, thanks to an innovative communication strategy aimed mainly at young people. In the canton of the capital, Naša Stranka is the second party with 13%, with peaks of 23% in the city centre. Such a result could even open the doors to the government of the canton, in the hypothesis of an ad excludendum alliance towards the SDA with the social democrats of the SDP and People and Justice (Narod i Pravda), seceded from the SDA. Another element is the revival of the SDP, which aspires to form a ruling majority in some cantons, including its former fort of Tuzla. Curiously, the SDP and the DF have actually swapped results between today and 2014 (respectively 14% and 9% against 9% and 14%), as if to show that the split between the two parties occurred in 2012 was a zero sum game, which launches yet another warning for a future reunification of the progressive forces.
Is there a future?
Now the question is whether and how the institutions will work stably. The first unknown factor is how the HDZ will behave. The Croatian nationalists had already hinted for months that, if Željko Komšić had been elected to the presidency, they would have obstructed the convocation of the various parliamentary branches. This move, in turn, would prevent the formation of federal and state governments. The HDZ could also exploit the regulatory void of the 2016 Constitutional Court’s ruling on the electoral law for the High Chamber of the Federation to impose the creation of a “Croatian electoral district” guaranteeing total control over the system, applying a rigidly ethnic-territorial principle. This ethnocratic mess risks creating a stalemate similar to that of 2010-12, when the country remained without government for 15 months. Croatia’s government quickly aligned itself with Bosnian HDZ, as demonstrated by the harsh statement by Croatian prime minister Plenković (“The election of Komšić is not good for Bosnia and Herzegovina”), but also by the fact that Zagreb’s delegation brought the “Komšić question” to the EU Council, raising the question of the legitimacy of his candidacy – as OBC Transeuropa was told by sources in Brussels. This attitude will certainly not facilitate regional conciliation, nor the resolution of the crisis.
The second unknown factor is how Željko Komšić himself will play his role. A few hours after the election, the Croatian-Bosnian president said that Bosnia and Herzegovina “has the right to sue Croatia at the Court of Hamburg” on the question of the Pelješac bridge, one of the most controversial issues in Bosnia-Croatia relations of the last few years. Regardless of whether Komšić may be right on the merits and in the legal bases, the timing of the declaration does not seem to help. In a moment of uncertainty when everyone uses aggressive rhetoric, Komšić’s pro-Bosnian sensitivity could focus on rebuilding ties and a stable context, both in the country and in the region. The constant exhasperation of the rhetoric feeds a game of confrontation that favours only the ethnic actors, not the civic solution.
The last question mark is, of course, Milorad Dodik. In these few hours as new state president, the current leader of RS has already made all sorts of declarations: he wants to recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea; he intends to immediately see Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vučić; he demands to remove the officials that last August, for security reasons, denied entry into Bosnia and Herzegovina to Russian writer and former paramilitary Zahar Prilepin. Dodik’s commitment to weakening state institutions from within has just begun. And no political force, for now, seems able to stop it.