BiH Marks 25 Years of Dayton Peace Agreement

The Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war was signed on December 14th, 1995 in Paris. 

The peace treaty put an end to the four-year bloody conflict and organized Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country of three constituent peoples and others, dividing it into two semi-autonomous entities – the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH) and the Serb-majority Republika Srpska. 

The main actors of the peace negotiations and the signing of the agreement were late President of what was then called the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic, President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, and Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic. 

All three states were created by the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. 

“This is not just peace, but it is fairer than continuing the war. In a situation like this, and in the world as it is, a better peace could not have been achieved”, Alija Izetbegovic said after the signing of the Dayton Agreement in Paris. 

The final agreement was preceded by talks in Dayton, Ohio, led by then US Secretary of State Warren Christopher and negotiator Richard Holbrooke, with representatives from the European Union. Those who witnessed the signing of the document in Paris included the senior officials of the USA, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Russia. 

Twenty-five years later, some foreign diplomats are raising the issue of the necessity to upgrade Bosnia’s Constitution, which is contained in the Dayton Peace Agreement, so the country can move forward as an equal member of the European community. 

“The change is possible. It can happen within the Dayton system. Great progress was made during the first ten years and it can happen again in the years to come. Let’s open a new chapter in 2021”, said High Representative Valentin Inzko, the international envoy overseeing the peace agreement’s implementation. 

“At the time the Dayton Accords were reached, we knew then that they represented a beginning, not an end. Reconciliation is not a finite process, it’s something you must begin again and again – day after day, year after year”, said Bill Clinton, the former US President, whose presidency was marked with the military intervention and subsequent peace negotiations in Bosnia as the most important achievements. 

European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, stressed the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies within the Union, but in order for that to come true, the political leadership of the country will have to take responsibility and enable the reforms that the country needs.

The Decline in Fighting Corruption Leads to Complete Lawlessness in BiH

Transparency International in Bosnia (TI BiH) called for urgent reforms of Bosnia’s judiciary and laws on conflict of interest, public procurement, the electoral system, and financing of political parties in a statement on Wednesday (09.12), International Anti-Corruption Day, warning that further decline in the fight against corruption and rule of the law would lead to “complete lawlessness and the collapse of institutions”. 

The organization pointed out that Bosnia has experienced a significant decline according to the latest Corruption Perception Index and has experienced the worst result since 2012. It also said that the European Commission in its latest report on Bosnia “very directly emphasizes the lack of any progress in implementing reforms, such as reform of electoral legislation, the judiciary, and other anti-corruption mechanisms, as well as the political captivity of the state, which affects the daily lives of citizens”. 

It also noted that an OSCE report on the prosecution of corruption highlights a “culture of impunity”, while a report on Bosnia’s judiciary said that the judiciary does not fight crime and corruption seriously. 

It also criticized the fact that Bosnia’s top judicial institution, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), has not been reformed, adding that the judiciary is facing “unprecedented corruption scandals in its ranks, lack of integrity, political influence, and a complete lack of accountability”. 

“Political parties in BiH have once again shown not only that they do not want to improve the fight against corruption, but also that they are direct instigators of corruption, compromising the electoral process and the will of the voters and devastating all institutions through their patronage networks.  

It noted that the fight against corruption is a precondition for the implementation of all other reforms in Bosnia and urged EU representatives to ensure that meeting the conditions for EU candidate status “includes the adoption of adequate anti-corruption mechanisms in accordance with the best practices and standards” and not to allow ” the collapse of the legal framework and law enforcement institutions under the guise of implementing reforms”. 

Montenegrin New Government Aims Recovering Relations with Serbia

The government of Montenegro will build relations with Serbia based on mutual respect, Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic has said on Wednesday, December 9th. 

In an interview with the Podgorica Dan newspaper, Radulovic said the aim of the new Government, which is constructed without the Democratic Party of Socialist (DPS) led by President Milo Djukanovic for the first time in 30 years, was to “recover all relations with Serbia based on the principles of sovereignty, independence, and without interference into internal issues.” 

He said that the Foreign Ministry’s decision to declare Vladimir Bozovic, Serbia’s ambassador to Montenegro a persona non grata, was irreversible after the 72-hour deadline. 

“The abolishment of hospitality to the ambassadors is not a good neighborly but a hasty act”, of the previous Government, Radulovic said, adding his Ministry in the new mandate would use all mechanisms to help to resolve the issue. 

Croatia’s FM Presents a Report on the Status of Croats in Bosnia

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman on Tuesday (08.12) presented the first report on the implementation of the Declaration on the Status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) saying that there is no doubt that a stable and functional BiH is Croatia’s strategic national objective. 

“Croatia’s support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina is unquestionable. It is unquestionable that the main precondition for the existence of a functional and stable BiH is satisfaction with the overall quality of life for all three constituent peoples and other citizens based on the constitutional principles agreed under the Dayton-Paris peace agreement 25 years ago”, Grlic-Radman underscored. 

He warned, however, that Croats in BiH are faced with difficulties in exercising their rights, “a sort of institutional violence”, as shown by their being denied legitimate political representation and other negative social consequences arising from this fact. 

Hence Croatia’s institutional support that the Declaration deals with is more than necessary so that Croats can continue to live in BiH where they have lived for centuries, said Grlic-Radman, adding that in 2019 Croatia did “quite a lot.” 

The minister said that institutional support for Croats in BiH was provided with the participation of the prime minister and government members as well as other officials and state bodies who, within their remit offered significant political, financial, and operational support to numerous education, science, and religious institutions. 

The issue of facilitating the exercise of rights by HVO personnel who participated in the Homeland War was resolved as was the issue of obtaining Croatian citizenship, he said and underlined the enhanced cooperation in absorbing available European funds. 

Grlic-Radman informed the parliament that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had participated in numerous political and social activities aimed at contributing to stability in BiH, he supported reforms in that country and in fulfilling accession criteria for the EU and NATO. 

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs was also very active. In all aspects of foreign policy and diplomatic activities, Croatia continued to affirm the principle of equality of all three constituent peoples in BiH, including the necessary reform of its election law, said Grlic-Radman. 

He said that last year BiH received the largest amount of Croatia’s development aid of HRK 85.6 million for 106 projects. 

Grlic-Radman boasted that in 2019 trade with BiH amounted to €2.2 billion, which was 5.9% more than in 2018, noting that Croatia achieved a surplus of €823.7 million in commodity trade. 

That fact often goes unnoticed in the Croatian public and it is without a doubt that Croats in BiH make a big contribution to that. It is clear that the survival of Croats in BiH and their good economic prospects make a strong contribution to Croatia’s economy too, underscored Grlic-Radman. 

He said that the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, as the main state body that operationally implements the Declaration advertised a tender to finance cultural, education, and science projects, allocating HRK 25.8 billion for these projects, the highest amount so far. 

Grlic-Radman listed activities according to ministries noting that the Ministry of Labor in cooperation with the Veterans Ministry regulated pension rights for HVO personnel and their families. 

I consider those legislative amendments to be of exceptional significance facilitating the regulation of the status of HVO defenders which corrected an injustice said the minister.  

He noted that based on bilateral cooperation the Defense Ministry provided military training for Bosnian Defense Ministry personnel and that as many as 22 out of a total of 37 bilateral military activities with Southeast European countries conducted in 2019 related to cooperation with BiH. 

A Threat to Bosnia’s RS Entity is a Threat to Serbia

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said during a visit to Banja Luka on Thursday (03.12) that his government is willing to continue and boost cooperation with authorities in Bosnia’s Serb-majority entity because anything that happens in Serbia affects Republika Srpska (RS) and vice versa. 

“Every threat to security and peace in Republika Srpska is also a threat to the security and peace in Serbia. Every misfortune that happens to Serbia is equally a misfortune for the citizens of Republika Srpska”, he said. 

Vulin said that his visit was the result of an agreement between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, adding that every Serbian Minister must visit “his people and his Banja Luka”. 

“I have the honor to be in Banja Luka now as the Minister of Internal Affairs and I emphasize my readiness for continuing and improving the cooperation between the Interior Ministries of Serbia and Republika Srpska”, he said. 

He said that the first joint connection between the special police units of Serbia and Bosnia’s RS entity police will be organized in 2021 and joint training of police forces, as well as the exchange of information on organized crime groups, will continue. 

“When any kind of training is needed that Serbia can provide, all security capacities of Serbia are available to the RS. The RS is our priority, the safety of citizens is just as important to us as the safety of Serbian citizens”, said Vulin. 

He also commented on the migrant crisis, saying that the problem should be approached jointly, especially since the EU does not have a unified stance on the issue. 

“We are here and we have to fight this evil and troubles together. The threats of terrorism are never small, the modern world is a global village where any evil can happen”, Vulin said. 

The minister said that the RS and Serbia have many areas in which they have to work together and that Serbia will do anything it can for Republika Srpska, stressing that Vucic has done a lot during his terms as Prime Minister and President to make RS more economically developed and protected, and politically more secure. 

A Quarter of Youth Plan to Leave Serbia

Belgrade Investigative and Publishing Center Demostat said its latest study showed Serbia’s people view on the vaccination against coronavirus “to some extent coincides with their political affiliation”, with 46 percent of respondents saying they would receive the vaccine if it was doctors’ recommendation, while 31 percent would not take it under any circumstances. 

The research showed that the respondents who said were not linked to any of the political parties, had the most trust in the medical staff, with 44 percent of them saying they would receive the vaccine if an expert recommended it, and 34 percent would not accept that under any circumstances. 

The study also showed 51 percent of the polled who supported the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) said they would receive the vaccine if recommended by the doctors. In comparison, 17 percent would agree to be vaccinated if Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic asked them to. 

An umbrella youth organization, KOMS, study showed slightly over 40 percent of young people in Serbia were unhappy with the authorities’ reaction to the coronavirus pandemic during the state of emergency, while almost 60 percent were not glad about the measures after it. The survey also showed that over a fourth of the respondents planned to leave Serbia and 46 percent thought about it but were still undecided. 

On the other hand, 11 percent of them would not receive the vaccine for coronavirus under any circumstances. 

According to the survey, 40 percent of polled who support the parties that boycotted the last parliamentary elections would not receive the vaccine under any circumstances, while 34 percent would receive the vaccine if suggested by doctors, and two percent if Vucic recommended. 

The results of the study showed that 53 percent of those who supported the opposition parties and voted in the June general elections, would receive the vaccine if recommended by the professionals, 29 percent would not accept it under any circumstances. 

Three percent of them said they would take it if recommended by the President. 

Bosnian Soldier Sues Defense Ministry For Not Allowing Her to Wear Hijab on Duty

Emela Mujanovic, a member of Bosnia’s Armed Forces, sued Bosnia’s Defense Ministry arguing that she is being discriminated against after she was not allowed to wear her hijab, Radio Free Europe reported. 

Mujanovic is a professional soldier who has been wearing a hijab or headscarf for nine years. Due to her decision to cover her head under Islamic regulations, she was first suspended and then relocated to a single-ethnicity barracks in Ustikolina, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

She sued the Defense Ministry on grounds of discrimination in March this year. 

Her lawyer, Emir Kovacevic, told Radio Free Europe that, regardless of the fact that she is a member of the Armed Forces, she has the possibility to initiate a civil case before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina if her human rights were breached. 

“We sued them on two grounds. The first ground is the violation of the right to freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Convention on Human Rights. The second is discrimination, also based on religion”, he explained. 

According to the rules on uniforms in Bosnia’s Armed Forces, “military personnel are not allowed to wear certain parts of military uniforms in combination with civilian clothes and/or equipment, as well as combinations of parts of different sets of military uniforms”. 

“It is not allowed to arbitrarily change the appearance, size, cut, and composition of a military uniform. Religious insignia can be worn with the uniform in such a way that it is not visible”, the rulebook that was adopted in 2017, says. 

Mujanovic started working in the Armed Forces in 2008 in the barracks in Zenica. After that, she went to school in Greece, where she remained until 2011 when she decided to start wearing a headscarf. 

When she returned to the barracks in Pazaric, near Sarajevo, her superiors suggested to her that she should remove her headscarf. 

She refused to do so and has first received a disciplinary note and was then relocated to a Bosniak-only barracks. 

According to Radio Free Europe, the Defense Ministry has still not replied to any inquiries about the case. 

Her lawyer said that the Armed Forces argue that, by wearing the headscarf, Mujanovic breached the rules on uniforms. 

“With this lawsuit, we are challenging the rulebook that restricts Muslim women from wearing the hijab”, he explained, arguing that this restriction is not in accordance with the European Convention. 

According to available data, almost 270 women in the Armed Forces declare themselves as Bosniaks. Among them are a significant number of those who practice their religion regularly. 

Bosnian Armed Forces Proved Their Readiness in Peacekeeping Missions Abroad

The adoption of the Law on the Service in the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina 15 years ago, initiated the process of the formation of the country’s armed forces regardless of their ethnic or religious background, cadets can join and be equal with others in bearing the load of the profession required by the Armed Forces, the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, said Wednesday (02.12), marking the Day of Bosnia’s Armed Forces. 

“Our soldiers have proven their capabilities in solving the greatest challenges by serving within UN and NATO peace missions, taking part at very complex and demanding tasks, which led to them receiving high marks in these supranational organizations.”, Komsic said. 

The Croat Presidency member congratulated the Armed Forces and Defense Ministry on fulfilling over 70 percent of the country’s reform program in difficult circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Despite many difficulties, primarily in financial terms, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina are making continuous progress from year to year, and are proving to be a guarantee for the stability of the state and protection of the territorial integrity of the country. I am convinced that you will continue to perform your tasks successfully, both in the country and abroad. I wish all members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina a happy Day of the Armed Forces of BiH”, Komsic concluded. 

North Macedonia Increasing Presence in NATO, EU, UN Peacekeeping Missions

North Macedonia will increase its presence in the KFOR mission in Kosovo in 2021 and extend its engagement in the Althea Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska announced. 

Speaking at a virtual press conference, the minister said the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia will intensify its international presence in the NATO, European Union and United Nations missions. 

“We are increasing our international presence. We are starting the next year with 73 peacekeeping officers and will end it with 199. We are staying to contribute to the peace and safety in the missions led by the NATO, EU, and UN”, said Sekerinska, presenting the budget of its ministry for 2021. 

She specified that the members of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia are present in Afghanistan now but that their number is reducing.