Published On: Thu, Jul 25th, 2019

An overview of disappearance of the BiH Croats from the political scene

Trapped between Serbian separatism and Bosniac unitarism, the future of the BiH Croats has been becoming more uncertain day after day. The only certain thing is that everything suggests that Croats will soon become a negligible community, both in political and demographic terms. The destroyed Aluminium Factory, the unresolved strategic constitutional and legal issues, emigration, but also a very bad starting position, interventions of the international community, the planned destruction of leverages of economic power are just some parts of the dramatic history of the BiH Croats, who are a constituent people in BiH only on paper. The Dnevnik.ba presents the chronology of the political fate of the BiH Croats since 1991 until nowadays…

The decay of the Mostar Aluminium Factory, which was one of the pillars of the Croat economy in BiH, is actually the biggest blow to the economy in the areas with the Croat majority in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) since the tanks’ intrusion into the Herzegovinian Bank and the destruction of the Bank.

The Aluminium Factory survived the war in BiH; the production was restored after the Dayton Peace Agreement had been signed. It is however questionable whether the Factory will survive the present time, after it became a victim of bad and disrupted political relations between Croats and Bosniaks.

BiH is always in a state of political crisis and latent conflict. The BiH Croats, the smallest constituent people, have been experiencing a demographic cataclysm: with the collapse of the Aluminium Factory, with the promised changes to the Election Law, which would enable them to elect their own representatives. Four political parties left the Croat National Assembly of BiH (CNA BIH), the umbrella institution that will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its foundation next year. The overall picture is bad, the perspective is even worse.

(Self-)trapped between Serbian separatism and Bosniac unitarism, the future of the BiH Croats has been becoming more uncertain day after day. The only certain thing is that everything suggests that Croats will soon become a negligible community, both in political and demographic terms.

In order to understand the gloomy present, it is necessary to go back to the very beginning – to the year in which we can find an answer to the question “How did it all begin?”.

The dissolution of former Yugoslavia and the birth of all our republics

“All Serbs within the same country” was one of the political mottos of the Serbian political leadership in the late eighties, in the wake of the collapse of former Yugoslavia. However, the Yugoslav National Army (YNA) went a step ahead of mere politicising in 1991, after Slovenia declared independence, soon followed by Croatia, when the YNA was transformed into an “All-Serbian National Army” almost overnight. The YNA simulated an “attack” on Slovenia, to withdraw after seven days; then it attacked Croatia, and occupied parts of its territory with a clear intention to seize them from Croatia. In that period, the YNA reserve units were stationed in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The political decision on “concrete actions and combat actions” was taken by Radovan Karadžić on 9 January 1992. Karadžić actually proclaimed the “Serbian Republic of BiH”, which was later renamed the “Republic of Srpska”.

The HDZ BiH, which was, together with SDS and SDA, the winner of the first multi-party elections in BiH, founded the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia (HZHB) in Grude on 18 November 1991, as a support to the Republic of Croatia, which was already devastated in the war. The HZHB originated from the earlier Croatian communities of Bosanska Posavina and Central Bosnia. In the referendum, held in March 1992, the BiH Croats, as well as the Bosniacs, voted in favour of the independence of BiH, which was strongly supported by the Catholic Church in BiH.  They cast a vote for a “sovereign and independent BiH, in which all citizens and all peoples – Muslims, Serbs, Croats and all the others living in BiH shall be equal”, although the HDZ BiH’s leadership wanted the referendum question to be changed, but as usually, gave up the request.

The HDZ’s proposal of the referendum question was: “Are you in favour of a sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, a state of constituent and sovereign peoples – Croats, Muslims and Serbs in their national territories (cantons)?”

The Vance-Owen’s Plan – a bait for a conflict between HVO and the BiH Army

It was exactly the “national areas” or “cantons” that led to a fierce war between the yesterday’s allies in the war against the YNA and the Serbian aggression in BiH. The allies, the Croatian Council of Defence (HVO) and the BiH Army, were jointly stopping the YNA convoys and tanks (in the Neretva Valley, the pocket around Orašje, Vlašić), defending the territory of BiH and its citizens. However, not even three months after the referendum on independence, the allies became “fierce” enemies in June 1992, when the first conflict in Novi Travnik broke between the members of the HVO and the BiH Army, which soon spread to the rest of Central Bosnia. The atmosphere of a series of incidents was sparked by the arrival of Bosniac refugees from the Bihać Krajina, the victims of Serbian aggression, as well as by the Mujahideens coming to BiH across the territory of Croatia, and the fall of Jajce in the autumn of 1992.

All this led to a bloody and fierce conflict, which lasted throughout the year 1993 and spilled over from Central Bosnia into the territory of Herzegovina. Truly, all three parties took part in the peace negotiations, but there was a political bait, a trigger, namely the Vance-Owen Plan, which envisaged BiH as a decentralised state, divided into 10 provinces.

Croat-Bosniak War: The darkest episode in the history and a strategic mistake of both sides

According to the Vance-Owen’s Plan, the Central Bosnia, the Province 10, with Travnik as its capital, would have a relative Croat majority. The plan was promptly rejected by the representatives of Serbs, because BiH did not exist in their political visions at all. The Vance-Owen’s Plan was officially dismissed by its creators in the summer of 1993.
No matter how morbid it sounds, the failure of that peace plan gave war a chance. Actually, it was exactly in the summer of 1993 that Croats and Bosniacs got involved into one of the bloodiest episodes of the one-year Croat-Bosniac war.

The political goal of the RBiH Army was to conquer the Central Bosnia and get an exit to the Adriatic Sea, whereas the Croats were committed to the fight for an autonomous entity with the Croat majority. Consequently, the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia has become the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia. According to the Hague Tribunal, the Croats also wanted to split Western Herzegovina from BiH and merge it with Croatia, but according to Mate Granić, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia in the war time, the Bosnian war leader, Alija Izetbegović, offered Western Herzegovina to Franjo Tuđman on several occasions, what the latter refused.

Central Bosnia changed the course of the war

The very nature of the conflict between the HVO and the RBiH Army is best illustrated by the intelligence-security estimations made by all three parties. In the summer of 1993, when the HVO in Central Bosnia was practically on their knees, and the people from Zenica, Travnik, Kakanj, Bugojno, Fojnica, Konjic and Jablanica expelled, the Croat “security experts” claimed that they would conquer the Northern areas of Mostar within hours. Likewise, the Bosniacs claimed that they could flood the enclave in the Lašva Valley within 24 hours. The Republic of Srpska Army (VRS) was at that point of time a strategic partner to both parties, needed for survival: to the HVO in the enclaves of Žepče, Lepenica and Lašva, and to the BH Army in the Neretva Valley.

However, none of this actually happened: the BiH Army failed to reach Neum, due to the situation in Central Bosnia, but also due to the fact that the HVO conquered the area of Dubrava plateau, a key point in the triangle Mostar – Čapljina – Stolac.

Furthermore, by defending the enclaves of Central Bosnia, despite the Mujahideens, the HVO defended the strategic area, and thus changed the course and the character of the war in BiH, which later led to the Washington Agreement and a truce among the “yesterday’s allies”.  In this “fight for the roads”, as the conflict in Central Bosnia is often referred to, due to bad judgments of the security and intelligence sector of Croatia, the Croats of that region were practically left completely exposed in an “open camp”, left to mercy of the BiH Army, which was eight times better equipped and thus much more powerful.

Wrong judgments of security services of all parties

Even though in December 1993, the top authorities of the Republic of Croatia organised the humanitarian convoy “The White Way to Nova Bila and Bosna Srebrna”, which provided food and medicines to the Croats of that part of BiH, the Mujahideens, whose units were the main attacking and expelling force, were entering Central Bosnia via the territory of Croatia. A photo from the village of Guča Gora taken in the summer of 1993, after  the expulsion and destruction of the Franciscan monastery, which has recently celebrated the 160th anniversary of its founding, explains everything: the “dissipated humanitarian workers” from the Middle East come out of a Toyota with Zagreb registration plates.  An “elite Islamist Mujahideen unit” was then created, and even nowadays there are attempts of explaining and justifying the arrival of its soldiers with “American pressures on Croatia”.

The “shifting” policy of the Republic Croatian towards the Croats in BiH was reflected in the Croat-Bosniac conflict. On the one hand, almost the uncontrolled armament of the BiH Army and the convoys of weapons, cooperation in Posavina and the Usora Valley in the fight against the VRS, and on the other hand, only 20 kilometres further, in Žepče – “cooperation with the VRS”. It was in fact a misjudgement of the VRS to choose the HVO as a “strategic partner in Central Bosnia”: thanks to the survival of Central Bosnia and the enclaves of Lašva, Kiseljak and Žepče, the Washington Agreement was signed, and the pre-conditions created for once again joint operations in 1995: Maestral, Skok-1-2, Southern Movement and at the end of the Storm operation, where the first helicopter at the Knin playground was the one of the HVO Air Force of the Vitez Squad, operated by pilot Goran Batalija, whose flights saved the lives of many people because it was the only connection between Central Bosnia and the “rest of the world”.

War with the purpose of interpreting the war

Despite the fragile military alliance of 1995 and the creation of a common entity of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) in Dayton, where Croats from BiH did not yet have their “representatives”, but were an instrument and “goods for trading” in the arms of Croatia, the one-year conflict between the HVO and the BiH Army is perceived as the darkest episode in the history of not just these two nations, but of the whole country of BiH. Due to the heavy heritage, including the Hague Tribunal and the Court of BiH, no one is innocent and no one is satisfied: Ahmići, Stupni dol, Vrbanja, Križančevo selo, Trusina, Buhine kuće, Bikoši, Grabovica, Uzdol, camps Dretelj, Heliodrom, Music School, Iskra, the destruction of a series of religious Islamic and Catholic objects, thousands of expelled Croats and Bosniacs – there is no political peace today and it is hard to expect to have it for a long time. Because even after the war, there is a war, but this time with the purpose of interpreting the war.

Dayton and BiH Croats: from the war winners to political losers

The constitutional structure of BiH was defined in the military base of Dayton as the state of three constituent peoples – Croats, Serbs, Bosniacs and other citizens, composed of two entities and the Brčko District.  No one in BiH is satisfied with Dayton today, especially since the original Dayton was disrupted by the interventions of the international community. The BiH Croats were deprived of their constitutional rights already in 1995 when the DPA was signed. The Serbs were rewarded by the world powers for the genocide committed in Srebrenica and the ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosniacs by getting their own entity – the Republika Srpska, which today has a negligible percentage of the non-Serb population. The Croatian negotiating delegation, led by Mate Granić, the Croatian Foreign Minister and Krešimir Zubak, the last President of the HRHB, sold the collective rights of Croats in BiH for a peaceful reintegration of Croatia within the AVNOJ borders.

They gave the OSCE a mandate to draft the “Election Rules and Regulations” according to which the FBiH will be a single electoral unit, in which the Bosniac electorate could already in 1996 at the first post-Dayton elections impose a Croatian member of the BiH Presidency. 

The role of Mate Granić in destroying the BiH Croats

The territory under the control of the HVO was sold for the unblocking of Sarajevo and the 51:49 ratio in the territorial division of BiH. The Croats lost Vitorog, the strategic point linking Jajce, that is, Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Kupres – Šipovo – Jajce route), they got the Serb majority in the area of Drvar, Grahovo and Glamoč and in turn got only Orašje – Odžak – Županja line. The negotiators, Granić and Zubak, did not even ask for a municipality with the Croat majority in the RS, which could have encouraged the return to the “cleansed territory”. Although they came with a relatively rich military dowry, Croats, the war winners, left Dayton as political losers. They were deprived of their rights and deconstitutionalised, whereas their bad starting position further worsened over years. Today, Granić claims that “it was not envisaged that Bosniacs would elect the Croat member of the BiH Presidency”. Granić forgets that the Dayton Agreement, the Constitution of BiH is a legal act, the package of laws and norms, and not a natal chart.

Jelavic and the “third entity” vs. Zubak and “moderate Bosnian forces”

At the first BiH post-war elections (1996-1998), Alija Izetbegović (SDA), Krešimir Zubak (HDZ BiH) and Momčilo Krajišnik (SDS) were elected to the BiH Presidency.  Croats in BiH elected Zubak, because Bosniac “civil” parties did not yet have their Croat candidates. This period was largely marked by the “scolding” of the international community that the elections were won by the parties who took part in the war, so they started preparing a ground for the arrival of “moderate Bosnian forces”, which they mostly sought among the Croats, where the search was actually fruitful.

The first “Dayton years” were marked by cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and the return of refugees and displaced persons across the entire territory of BiH.  As for Croats in BiH, the most significant event was the Fifth Congress of the HDZ BiH, at which the so-called “hardliner” Ante Jelavić was elected the President of the Party, despite denunciation, discreditation and sotonisation. The circumstances in which the Congress was held – one month after the death of Gojko Šušak, the Croatian Defence Minister, and shortly before the death of Franjo Tudjman – were seemingly suitable for those who tried to take over the HDZ BiH, especially the Krešimir Zubak’steam.

Jelavić and his associates, the HVO general officers were labelled as “radical” and “hard-core”. Their commitment to the idea of “establishing the third entity” was particularly problematic for the international community.  At the 5th Congress of the HDZ BiH, the destruction of the political position of Croats in BiH was announced, since Krešimir Zubak founded the New Croatian Initiative (NHI), a party under the auspices of the international community. Zubak became a synonym for “moderate forces among Bosnian Croats”, and his NHI “a desirable partner in building the civil state of Bosnia”.

The pacification of Croats 

Although the Zubak’s NHI conducted a campaign aimed at “Bosnian Croats”, who he referred to as to “left, sold and betrayed”, the Jelavić’s HDZ BiH won independently a plebiscite among the Croats and that is until today actually the largest election victory of the Party in general, especially among the electorate in Central Bosnia, which Zubak was addressing with “sentiments”.

At the same time, it was a defeat of the international community in BiH, which tried to pacify the BiH Croats through the Zubak’s NHI in the first episode.  This was also demonstrated by the ICG, the International Crisis Group for the Balkans, which already in 1998 proposed the mobilisation of the Bosniac electoral body for Zubak because the estimates said that Alija Izetbegović would win the mandate again.  The ICG plan was to destroy the Hercegovačka Bank, to dismantle the University of Mostar, to impose multi-ethnic management in Croat public enterprises in BiH, to integrate the army and the police, and finally, in the final proceedings before the Court of BiH and the Hague Tribunal, to forcibly remove Jelavić’s generals. Almost all this eventually happened several years later, thanks to Zubak, “a proud member of the Army of RBiH” from Doboj and his NHI.

 

Berry’s amendments

The starting Dayton position of the BiH Croats was bad – the Federation of BiH is one electoral unit from which the Bosniac and Croat members of the BiH Presidency are elected. It was further aggravated in 2000, when Robert Berry, Head of OSCE Mission, changed the electoral rules for the FBiH House of Peoples just a couple of weeks before the elections. Before the Berry’s electoral rules, the Croat MPs in cantonal assemblies in the Federation of BiH were proposing the delegates to the Croat Group in the Federation House of Peoples, the same was applicable for Bosniacs. However, this was perceived as a “tribal model” by the international community and the new rules for the Federation House of Peoples introduced the principle that “everyone may elect anyone”. The Bosniacs, more superior in numerical terms, can elect also the Croat delegates to the FBiH House of Peoples, and then by simple majority elect the President of the Federation of BiH and appoint the Federation Government. Consequently, the Berry’s electoral rules meant that each of the deputies in all 10 cantonal assemblies could propose delegates from all peoples to the FBiH House of Peoples. In reality, that meant that where there were no Croats, Bosniacs could propose and elect “their Croats”.

 

Establishment of the CNA BiH in Novi Travnik

Thus, in addition to the earlier Dayton election of the Croat member of the Presidency of BiH with the Bosniac votes, the election of Croats to the FBiH House of Peoples began. Jelavić and the HDZ BiH responded to the Berry’s electoral rules, that made it impossible for them to legitimise their representation in the FBiH House of Peoples, with establishing the Croat National Assembly of BiH in 2000 in Novi Travnik.

Jelavić was supported in that move by all structures of the Croat society in BiH: the Catholic Church, educational, scientific, cultural and other institutions. The Bosniac media called the Cardinal Vinko Puljić the “Cardinal of Herzeg-Bosnia” for his open support to Jelavić, and his meeting with Jelavić was characterised as a “meeting with the devil”.

On that October 28, 2000, the most important document of the contemporary Croat history was adopted in Novi Travnik – the Declaration on the Position of Croats in BiH, according to which “the sovereignty of the Croat people in BiH is unquestionable and inalienable”.

The Declaration required the full constitutional and actual equality of all three sovereign and constituent peoples in BiH, which can only be achieved through the identical constitutional and administrative-territorial internal structure of BiH. As stated: the principles of consensus in decision-making, parity in participation and rotation at the top positions of institutions, as well as the indisputable right of the Croat people to the independent election of members of the Houses of Peoples (House of Peoples of the FBiH Parliament and of the BiH Parliament) and of the member of the BiH Presidency.
In addition to establishing the CNA BiH, Jelavić filed a request for assessment of the constitutionality of the imposed Berry’s rules.

The Constitutional Court of BiH declared itself incompetent for the requested assessment of constitutionality, but the decision-making itself was questionable, as the Croat and Serbian judges (four of them), who were in favour of providing the requested assessment  were outvoted by five judges – three international and two Bosniak. At the same time, the Constitutional Court of BiH issued a decision on the appeal of Alija Izetbegović on the constitutionality of “all and everywhere”, according to which all constituent peoples, Croats, Bosniacs and Serbs, are constituent throughout the territory of BiH, that is, the Federation of BiH, the Republika Srpska and the Brčko District.

Izetbegović’s appeal to constituent peoples, “all and everywhere”, and the rejection of the Constitutional Court of BiH, with the Croat and Serbian judges outvoted, meant for Jelavić the “transformation of the Federation of BiH into an entity with a dominant Bosniac majority” and “the imprisonment of the Croat people”. The CNA BiH convened in Tuzla for the second time, when the Croat political leaders accused certain ambassadors of endangering the institutions of BiH and the rights of the constituent peoples and when the international community welcomed “the rejection of the Constitutional Court of BiH to consider Jelavić’s appeal” and described it as “favourable”.

Jelavić’s response came shortly afterwards: at the third session of the CNA BiH, held in March 2001 in Mostar, the Decision on the Establishment of the Inter-Cantonal and Inter-Municipal Council was made – a temporary form of Croat Self-government with the aim of putting an end to “majorization of Croats in BiH”, how Jelavić called it for the very first time in history. HDZ BiH refused to participate in the negotiations on the establishment of government at the Federation level and to delegate members to the Croat Group in the FBiH House of Peoples.

 

The Alliance for funerals

The international community insisted on the implementation of Izetbegović’s “Decision on Constitutionality” and found in Zubak’s NHI “eligible partners for building a civil state”.

The Croat Self-government was a temporary form of self-defence of the Croat people in BiH. At its Third session, the CAN BiH adopted the Platform for Democratic and Self-sustainable BiH. For Wolfgang Petritsch, this was a proof of the HDZ’s nationalist policy and the need to find “some Croats who are not members of HDZ BiH” to “develop a civil state”.  That is when the “Alliance for Change” was established, considered by Jelavić to be “a coalition of Bosniac parties which had no legitimacy to rule in the territory of the Croat majority”. With the support of 5% of the Croat electorate, as opposed to 95% of the HDZ plebiscite, the NHI became a desirable partner, along with Zlatko Lagumdžija’ SDP. Zubak’s “Croats” were elected to the FBiH Government, the fig leaves of the unitarist policy.

The anti-Croat institutions were met with the resistance also of the members of the Croat component of the Army of the Federation of BiH, who refused loyalty to Mijo Anić, the Defence Minister from NHI and expressed support to the Croat Self-government and its President  Marko Tokić.  The generals were actually expelled perhaps on the same morning when Zvonko Sesar, the former SIS Director, became the Commander of the First Croat Guard Corps.

In that period, the commanders of Central Bosnia were already imprisoned in the Hague and, thanks to the repenting statements given by Jadranko Prlić and Krešimir Zubak, the “Herzeg-Bosnian six” was also brought before the Tribunal.  The ICG worked out the measures against the leaders of the HDZ already in 1998 and realised them three years later. Even before the proclamation of the Croat Self-Government, they held that it was necessary to eliminate all Croats who were allegedly jeopardising Dayton.

The policy of HDZ BiH of that time was labelled as “destructive for Bosnia”, whereas Zubak’s policy was found “acceptable and loyal to the Bosnian state”. The ICG’s “divide and conquer” strategy gained momentum by the removal of Jelavić and other Croat officials from office and the prosecution of the Croat generals. It was necessary, they said, if the NHI does not win, to modify the HDZ BiH and bring those who would “cooperate”.  In the plan to destroy Croats as a political nation in BiH, they particularly relied on the official Zagreb, which happened after Tuđman’s death and the arrival of the Bosniac lobbyist Stjepan Mesić to Pantovčak.

 

Pogrom of the Croat Officials

“Effective, swift and concrete actions: arrests, punishments, prosecutions and persecution” and “the brutal disappearance of hardliners hindering the reintegration of Bosnia” because “as long as the third entity exists, the region will be destabilised” – it was stated so in the closing part of the ICG Report on BiH.  Jelavić, who was removed from office, prohibited to act and prosecuted, was replaced in the BiH Presidency by Jozo Križanović, who was elected in the Parliament of BiH with four Bosniac votes during the Alliance. It was a Komšić before the Komšić.

The Alliance for Change was the first and the most important joint project of the international community and Bosniac politicians, in which an important role was played also by the Croats from the NHI.

During the Alliance, the so-called “Zubak’s Agreement” was signed, by which Wolfgang Petritsch imposed the amendments to the Constitution of the FBiH. That was how all the principles for which the CNA BiH was founded – the consociational democracy, legitimate representation, parity, consensus and rotation, actually failed.

 

Zubak’s equality formula

Negotiations on the amendments to the Constitution of the FBiH and the Constitution of BiH included the implementation of the Decision on Constitutionality as per the Appeal of Alija Izetbegović, the “Sarajevo Accords” of March 27, 2002 was an agreement on constitutional changes, as per the Petritsch’s proposal, by which the Croats were turned into a “minority.”

Although presented as the implementation of Izetbegović’s appeal and the improvement of the position of everyone in the whole territory, in reality, it was all but that. According to Zubak’s equality formula, which he tried to justify by the improved position of all Croats in the whole territory of BiH, the Croats did not get anything, not even in a single part of BiH, and if they had something somewhere, they now lost it. The Sarajevo Accords should have been valid in both entities, the RS and the Federation of BiH. Today, in 2019, it is quite clear where the Zubak’s deal was a success and why it was supposed to start functioning there.

Equally to all: Bosniacs 13, Serbs 11, Croats 8

The 8- 5- 3 principle in the allocation of ministerial posts should have been valid in both entities under the Zubak Agreement.

Croats got 8 ministerial posts in both entities – 5 in the Federation of BiH and 3 in the RS.

Serbs got 11 posts in both entities – 8 in the RS and 3 in the Federation.

Bosniacs got 13 ministerial posts in both entities – 8 in the Federation of BiH and 5 in the RS.

Serbs and Bosniacs have thus got the prime-minister positions, each in their own entity, whereas the Croats were left empty-handed.

The SDA did not sign the Zubak’s Agreement, i.e, its representatives did not even show up for the last talks. HDZ BiH, i.e., Jelavic’s delegates, Čolak and Lozančić, refused to sign. Petritsch’s constitutional changes were signed by Krešimir Zubak, the President of the NHI, and his moves were commended by the US Embassy to BiH and the Peace Implementation Council in BiH.

Zubak found the Agreement to be “mutual and international”, and OHR stated that it was “of historical significance”. The non-acceptance of the illegal and illegitimate authorities of the “Alliance” at the Federation and the state level was further confirmed by the Croat political parties, gathered around the CNA BiH, by their refusal to take part in the election process of the delegates to the House of Peoples of FBiH and to the House of Peoples of BiH and thus by not accepting the imposed changes to the Electoral Rules and Regulations in BiH.

Before the Zubak Agreement, which had never passed the Parliamentary procedure, the Federal House of Peoples had 80 delegates. Croats and Bosniacs had 30 delegates each, in order to have parity among these nations and that number was “fixed”, whereas the Serbs and the Others had the total of 20 delegates.

The parity in the FBiH House of Peoples was abolished by the derogation of the FBiH Constitution. The number of delegates in the Croat and Bosniac Groups was reduced down to 17 each, the Serb Group was introduced, containing 17 deputies, and the Group of Others with 7 delegates.

Destruction of the Croat economy

Besides the political pacification, the ICG also drafted a plan to destroy the economic power of Croats in the FBiH. Accordig to their estimates, the Croat economic power was concentrated with the Hrvatska Bank Mostar and Hercegovačka Bank. The ICG plan recommended the international community to undertake concrete actions in Hrvatska Bank Mostar and Hercegovačka Bank, as well as in the Pensioner Insurances Fund Mostar (MIO).
“SFOR must be involved more aggressively in order for the Plan to be successfully implemented.” – says one of the items.  It all really happened. In addition, the proposal was presented to introduce multi-ethnic management in the Croat public enterprises: the Croat Post (HP Mostar, then Eronet) and electric-power supplying company Elektroprivreda HZHB.

The Hercegovačka Banka, the very heart of the Croat economy, was destroyed by tanks and explosions for the alleged malversations that have never been proven. Quite to the contrary, the national Banking Agency and the international auditing company found no illegal aspects in the work of the Bank.

The investment funds in the Hercegovačka Bank’s portfolio attracted more than 50% of the total securities owned by the BiH Croats, which amounted to almost KM 2 billion. The Bank was also the leading player at that point of time, especially after the Domestic Payments Bureau had been dismantled, because almost 40% of the total payment transactions in the Federation of BiH were performed through the Bank, for which it charged the banking fees.

It was when the Austrian banks started flooding to the local market in the Federation of BiH: the local banks, owned by BiH Croats, were sold to the international banks: Aura Bank to Hypo Bank and Croatian Post Bank (Hrvatska Poštanska Banka) to Raiffeisen Bank.

The first thing they did after “taking over the Bank” was to sell the two largest investment funds the Bank owned (CroBiH and Herbos), which held the highest number of securities owned by the HVO members.

The Aluminium Factory was another target of the international community

The ICG planned to replace “all Croats that endangered Dayton, all the way until the top level- the President of the HDZ BiH Jelavić”, but also Mijo Brajković, then the Director of the Aluminium Factory and the former mayor of Mostar. The Aluminium Factory was one of the targets defined by the plan of economic destruction, because of its “controversial privatisation and recapitalisation performed by the funds from Croatia and the foreign countries”, but it was spared this time, the credit for which goes primarily to foreign suppliers, Glenocor (alumina) and Debis, an intermediary company (electricity).

However, the Aluminium Factory was finished later – during the Platform government. Although Brajković left the Aluminium Factory with the surplus of funds in amount of KM 100 million, the Platform government made a debt in amount of almost KM 250 million.

The period from 1998 to 2002 was certainly the most dramatic period ever for both Croats and the whole country. In that period of time, the political fate of Croats in BiH was determined. Although the Croat political leaders offered answers and opposed the process of majorisation with the establishment of the CNA BiH and Jelavić’s appeal, the international community in co-operation with “moderate forces” did not give BiH a chance as a “state of the three equal peoples”.

Jelavić’s HDZ BiH opposed the joint organisation of the army and police and abolishment of the University of Mostar as the only higher educational institution in Croatian language in BiH.  Those “political games” were best illustrated by the way in which “the structure of the Council of Ministers was agreed”: at a working lunch with Petritsch, Halid Genjac, Izetbegović’s successor in the Presidency of BiH and Živko Radišić, the Serb member of the Presidency confirmed the name of the Croat candidate as per an order of the US and UK ambassadors, who was supposed to be confirmed by Jelavić in the session of the BiH Presidency. However, he went away in order to avoid being outvoted and then Genjac and Radišić confirmed Božidar Matić, to be succeeded two months later by Zlatko Lagumdžija (SDP).

Measures were undertaken to eliminate those who were opposing the “building of the civil Bosnian state” by destroying the Hercegovačka Bank, dismissing almost 300 Croat politicians, including those from the top level, and bringing the criminal charges that have never been proven. In addition, an attempt was made to accuse the top HDZ BiH officials for assassination of Jozo Leutar, the FBiH Deputy Minister of Interior from HDZ in a rigged court trial. The same attempt was made indirectly in case of the “car-bomb” terrorist attack in Mostar.

This period was also marked by terrorist attacks in Central Bosnia where the police-officers from Tavnik and returnees lost their lives, and no one has ever been indicted for their death.

The anti-Croat Alliance for Change was at the same time the beginning and the end of the Croat issue in BiH, because everything that followed was only a logical and expected consequence, but also the “holy water”.

The meaning of the sentence from the Decision on Ante Jelavić’s removal from office: “for making political decisions with the aim of establishing a Croat federal unit that endangers the constitutional structure of FBiH and of BiH” was explained to the Croat public in BiH by the Zubak Agreement and the Petritsch’s amendments to the Constitution of the Federation of BiH.
Jelavić resigned from the post of the HDZ BiH President in order for the Party to run for elections, and Dragan Čović was the presidential candidate in the 2002 elections, after the HDZ BiH had survived the pogrom of the officials.

 

“Salto mortale” – a departure from the CNA BiH

Čović was removed from the office of the Croat member of the BiH Presidency in 2005 pursuant to the decision of Paddy Ashdown, the High Representative of that time. He was accused of having unlawfully issued instructions, when he had been the FBiH Finance Minister, by which he had enabled the companies “Lijanovići” and “Meat Industry Lijanovići” to avoid paying almost KM 39 million of customs duties and thereby gain unlawful profits. The verdict in the Čović case was abolished in 2006 at the Court of BiH.

Čović’s successor in the Presidency was Ivo Miro Jovic (HDZ BiH), confirmed by the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH. In the same year of 2005, Čović won over Božo Ljubić, now a member of the Croatian Parliament and the Chairman of the CNA BiH Main Council, in a close race for the President of the HDZ BiH. Ljubić founded the HDZ 1990, with the support from Zagreb, primarily Ivo Sanader, the Croatian prime-minister, as a supposed alternative to HDZ BiH.

The years from 2002 to 2010 were marked with a “salto mortale” of Croat policy due to the elimination of the Croat National Assembly, the New Travnik Declaration and other documents adopted in the three sessions: Novi Travnik, Tuzla and Mostar and an almost given consent to signing of the so-called April package – proposal of the constitutional-legal reforms.
The April package was launched by Schwarz Schilling, the High Representative and the US Embassy. The April package envisaged the conversion of the FBiH House of Peoples into an institution modelled according to the RS Council of Peoples – a civil house in which the constituent peoples would not have mechanisms to protect their national interests. In addition, the President of BiH and two vice-presidents would be elected from the Parliament of BiH – the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH.

The mechanism of veto – vital national interest would not exist, more precisely, the opinion of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be provided for each usage of the veto. The delegates to the groups of the House of Peoples of the BiH Parliament would be elected from the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH, which automatically means that the Croat group would include those without the legitimacy of the people they represent.

The April package was disputed also because it was leading to a complete centralisation of the state level, which would reduce the rights of constituent peoples and transfer the powers of the lower levels of authority (cantons and Federation) onto the state level.

Despite the strong pressures of the international community and an agreement reached between the strongest political parties, the April package was rejected in the BiH Parliament because it was not supported by the Party for BiH and HDZ 1990.

The Catholic Church also lobbied against the “April package”, at least if it is judged by the notes of the US Ambassador of that time that were published on WikiLeaks. The United Kingdom intervened in the Vatican at the request of the United States, but the Cardinal Puljić openly criticised the “package”, claiming it was “expelling the remaining Croats from BiH”.

After Križanović comes Komšić – after the Alliance comes the Platform

Željko Komšić was for the first time imposed as the Croat member of the BiH Presidency by predominantly Bosniacs votes I 2006 and that was repeated in the 2010 elections. Also, in 2010, the Platform was established at the Federation level, an anti-Croat and unconstitutional power.

Zlatko Lagumdžija (SDP BiH) formed the FBiH government, whose coalition partners were minor pro-Ustasha parties, HSP BiH and the People’s Party Radom za boljitak of Jerko Lijanović, instead of the parties that had the legitimacy of Croats in BiH – the HDZ BiH and their coalition.  Thanks to the High Representative Valentin Inzko’s “maths”, the FBiH Platform Government was confirmed, despite the need for at least one third of the votes in the Croat Group of the FBiH House of Peoples.

Of these 17 delegates, the Platform Government won only five votes. Besides the FBiH Government, the President of the Federation of BiH, Živko Budimir (HSP BiH), as well as the Vice-president from the Serb nation, were elected in unconstitutional manner.

 

CNA restored only in 2011

The Croatian National Assembly of BiH, the roof institution of the BiH Croats, restarted its work only in 2011, when its fourth session was held in Mostar. By 2011, the Croat politics in BiH moved away from the CNA BiH. In addition, although Komšič had been imposed twice, as well as previously Jozo Križanović from the Alliance, the Croat politicians did not file any appeal, neither in this context nor in regard to the election of the delegates to the federal House of Peoples.

In 2014, Komšic did not run for the Presidency again, because it was not possible because of the legal regulations. Consequently, Čović was the Croat member of the BiH Presidency from 2014 to 2018. Martin Raguž (HDZ 1990) was another Croat candidate in the run for the Presidency. In the last elections, Komšić was imposed with the Bosniac votes for the third time, and candidates for the Croat member were: Čović, Diana Zelenika (HDZ 1990) and Boriša Falatar (Our Party from Sarajevo).

In the meantime, the individuals and parties returned to the CAN BiH, which had been annihilating and degrading its principles on each and every occasion – legitimate representation and consociational democracy. A couple of days ago, four parties left the CNA because of the collapse of the Aluminium Factory.

The three terms of Željko Komšić in the Presidency and the Platform Government were just a pale, bad copy, but also a logical sequence of the biggest political attack on the BiH Croats – Berry’s and Petritsch’s amendments: Zubak’s Agreement, Alliance, and installation of Jozo Križanović.

 

Sejdo Bajramović phenomenon – a rule, not an incident

We went to Dayton as the winners and returned as the losers. Kosovo was an autonomous province in Tito’s Yugoslavia, and Albanians were a national minority, while the Croats were a constituent people in that communist Yugoslavia of Tito’s. And today, in Dayton’s, the so-called democratic BiH, Croats are constituent only on paper. While Kosovars in Kosovo think about a degree of independence, Croats in BiH, five years after Dayton, lose the last institutions that may bring them constituency. That is why it should be stressed that the famous Barry’s decision to modify the electoral rules and regulations, by which Bosniacs elect Croats to the House of Peoples, means practically abolishing of the House of Peoples. At the end of the 80-ies, Slobodan Milošević abolished the autonomy of Albanians in Kosovo and invented a Sejdo Bajramović, having thus annihilated the political will of Albanians. But what did he get? Ten years of turmoil and conflicts. In BiH it was not enough for the Bosniacs to elect Croat MPs for the House of Peoples by amending the electoral rules and regulations. When they saw that we had the majority in the House of Peoples, and this is evident even today when we have 30 representatives from the Croat people, according to the worst Barry’s formula, they barely elected fourteen.

Ibrahim Prohić from the Bihać Canton is at the top of the list, and of the fourteen, headed by Ibrahim, nine are from the SDP, chosen primarily by the political will of the Bosniac electorate body. Can we really accept that all? I assure you that without a dramatic turnaround, without a great fracture, without fully opening the Croat issue, we have absolutely no chance to build a self-sustainable, democratic and sovereign BiH, in which Croats will be a constituent nation. Bosniacs gave over 100,000 votes to Gojer as a gift in 1998 in order to win the elections. What is going to happen tomorrow or in a year – you can judge it. The Federation is a Bosniac entity where Croats may not compete for their equality. That is why we need the decisions of CNA. This Federation, which I practically call Bosniac, would first take our public assets, the telecommunication company, Elektroprivreda …they would take the full responsibility for the privatisation process, not only of the Bosniac public assets, but also of ours. “The option of a unitary and civic BiH is simply unacceptable. It is only the balance and the equal rights for all constituent peoples in the federalised BiH with the principles of legitimate representation and consociational democracy. “- said Ante Jelavić in the BiH Parliament in 2001.

The “Sejdo Bajramović phenomenon” after Jozo Križanović has almost become a rule – three Komšić’s terms in the Presidency prove this. The election of Croat delegates to the FBiH House of Peoples with the Bosniac voices is also ongoing and will continue pending the implementation of the verdict of the Constitutional Court of BiH in the Ljubić case (appeal filed in 2014).

 

Only the political crisis is a certain thing

BiH has constantly been in a state of a constitutional-legal and political crisis. If judged by dramatic statistics of the Catholic Church, the Croats have been disappearing from BiH. The new government has not been formed either at the FBiH or at the BiH level yet. HDZ BiH as the leading party of the BiH Croats, but also the strongest within the CNA, promised that the Federation government would not be formed without the changed Election Law.

Thanks to the Platform Government, but also thanks to the subsequent Croat managerial staff, that obviously did nothing to solve the strategic issues, the decay of the Aluminium Factory further demonstrated the Bosniac force in the FBiH Government and the inability or incapability of the Croat politicians to consistently oppose this.

The support given at the last elections by the Croat voters to the CNA coalition, in particular HDZ BiH is actually a loan. The BiH Croats want concrete answers and moves in all spheres of the social and political life: the Election Law, potential restructuring of the FBiH/BiH, situation in cantons with the Croat majority, economy and finance (public revenue distribution), media, culture, prosecution of war crimes committed over the Croats in BiH – both by the BiH Army and the VRS, the position of Croats in Zenica, Tuzla, Sarajevo, Bihać and RS, resolving the status of the cities of Travnik and Mostar.

The “Croat response” should be found in the principles of the CNA BiH: legitimate representation and consociational democracy, instead of a departure from the most important political institution created after Dayton, just for the sake of the crumbs of power and the comfortable life of the party officials.

 

Croats in BiH – soon a negligible political factor

Although the BiH Croats were dying at all “war lines” in this country, just to be turned into the “Bosnian peasants” in Dayton by Mate Granić, the Croat politics of today has a historical responsibility to fight against turning the Croats into a mere “folklore group” “instead of just lamenting about that.

Otherwise, Croats will not be a demographic or a political factor in BiH anymore.

“The Federation of BiH is a prison of the Croat nation.” – Jelavić said. The Croat politicians of today must save the Croats out of that prison, in order not to become their grave diggers and reduce their own people down to a statistical error, what they have actually been in the RS since the war.

Glorija Lujanović l dnevnik.ba