The leaders of the main Bosnian Croat parties Tuesday (April 18th) called for amendments to the constitution that would open the door for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) into at least three entities, one of them for their ethnic community.
The renewed call for a separate Croat entity came in a resolution adopted during a meeting in Mostar, where the Croatian Democratic Union of BiH (HDZ), the Croatian Democratic Union 1990 (HDZ 1990), and several smaller parties established the Croat National Assembly (HNS).
The gathering was called by the leaders of HDZ and HDZ 1990, Dragan Covic and Bozo Ljubic, and was attended by 500 Bosnian Croat politicians.
Under the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the 1992-1995 war in BiH, the country was divided into two semi-autonomous entities — the Federation of BiH (FBiH), dominated by Bosniaks and Croats, and the Serb-controlled Republika Srpska (RS). Advocates for the Croat community argue that such a scheme marginalizes them and denies them the same rights enjoyed by Bosniaks and Serbs.
“Only a thorough reform of the constitution, providing for full institutional equality and a new administrative-territorial arrangement of the country on the basis of several federal units, of which at least one would be for the Croatian majority, can guarantee actual equality of the Croatian people in BiH,” Tuesday’s resolution said.
The administrative bodies of the potential new federal entity would be based in Mostar, according to Covic, who was elected on Tuesday as chairman of the HNS presidency, while Ljubic heads the assembly’s main council.
The initiative to re-launch the HNS – first created in 2000 in a bid to establish Croat self-rule in BiH — comes in response to the formation of a new FBiH government without the HDZ and HDZ 1990. Those two parties received most of the Croat votes in the October elections.
Previous attempts to establish the assembly met with criticism by the international community, which termed it illegal. In March 2001, former High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch removed several officials, including Ante Jelavic, the Croat member of BiH’s tripartite presidency at the time, over their role in the project.
Tuesday’s resolution was adopted amid the continuing interethnic wrangling in BiH, which has pushed the country into a deep political crisis and has impeded the formation of a new central government since the October 2010 general elections.
Participants in Tuesday’s meeting stressed that they would not recognise the recently established coalition government in FBiH, accusing mainly local politicians of ignoring the will of the Croat voters. They also criticised the international community, holding it partly responsible for “the unfair actions and discrimination” that has led to the constitutional and legal crisis in BiH.