By Anes Alic
Nearly half a million citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) who reside abroad and hold dual citizenship will be forced to relinquish citizenship in one country if the BiH parliament misses the January 1st 2013 deadline to amend the country’s citizenship law.
The law — which originated in the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement and was put in force four years later — stipulates that Bosnians living abroad may maintain their BiH citizenship together with another one only if BiH concludes a bi-lateral citizenship agreement with that state.
In 2002, the then High Representative Paddy Ashdown extended the deadline until January 2013 to give the BiH authorities time to conclude citizenship agreements.
So far, the BiH government has signed an agreement with Sweden.
Bilateral treaties also have been signed with Serbia and Croatia, affecting nearly 100,000 people with dual BiH and Serbian or Croatian citizenship, after lengthy negotiations burdened by much political obstruction.
However, nearly 60,000 highly trained professionals living primarily in Austria and Germany have already lost their BiH citizenship.
Sarajevo native Lejla Memisevic, who left BiH in 1992 and married and settled in Germany, told SETimes she hoped to retain both countries’ citizenships but could not.
“But because I live and work here, and my kids are German citizens, there was no way to give up our German passports,” Memisevic said.
While the BiH diaspora is united in the desire to keep BiH citizenship, many may relinquish it.
“Thousands of BiH citizens living abroad will surely lose their home citizenship as the agreements between countries on dual citizenships are long processes that can not accomplished by the end of the year,” Zaim Pasic, president of the World Diaspora Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told SETimes.
Pasic explained the three groups of nationalist politicians are obstructing progress.
“While preparing the agreements on dual citizenship with a particular country, all three groups of politicians are considering only whether it will benefit the interests of their ethnicity,” Pasic added.
The Constitutional Court ruled in September 2011 the government has six months to revoke the law’s two articles, 17 and 39, that condition dual citizenship on bi-lateral agreements, but the government has not acted yet.
Still, a potential solution may be for the court to reinforce its 2011 decision and extend the implementation deadline another six months. Progress, however, would not be guaranteed given past missed deadlines despite granted extensions.
Similarly, the Office of High Representative may possibly step in again and extend the deadline.
For many, like Ademir Music, a Bosniak student from Zavidovici, the political obstruction adds insult to injury. Music also pointed out the largest number of people holding BiH citizenship abroad are Bosniaks who were expelled from their homes during or as a result of the 1992-95 war.
“That which genocide did not complete, politics is completing, because BiH’s demographic picture will never again be the same,” Music told SETimes.