Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Balkan Dialogue: A New Exchange between Republika Srpska and Croatia

Adelina Marini, May 30, 2016

What would the Balkans be without provocative statements and words exchanges? After Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina recently enraged the Croats by not having the Croatian flag displayed in the press conference room in Banja Luka (the part of Bosnia and Herzegovina that is dominated by Serbs) for the visit of the speaker of the Croatian Sabor, Željko Reiner, a new situation followed – a words exchange between Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik and representatives of the Croatian government from the senior coalition partner, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). The cause of the verbal skirmish was the statement of Bosnian Bishop Franjo Komarica, who likened the hardship of Croats in Republika Srpska of BiH during the war with the Bleiburg massacre. The statement caused a series of sharp reactions in the Serbian state entity in BiH.

Croatia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko (HDZ), who is in a difficult political situation at the moment and is facing a vote of no confidence, backed in a Facebook status the Bishop’s statement: “Let Mr Dodik answer how many Croats have come back to the Serbian part, that he is president of, how many Bosniaks have come back there, how did this creation come to be in the first place. The Dayton agreement stopped military actions, but did not solve any of the problems in BiH”, wrote Mr Karamarko. Milorad Dodik’s return reaction was that Serbs have Republika Srpska and Serbia, Croats have Croatia, which leaves just the issues of war crimes and property to be resolved. 

"This is why I think there was absolutely no need for Karamarko and Komarica to recycle this issue in this way. Heavy issues of the past should be left to the competence of justice and reparations payments and relations should continue to be handled in the best possible way”, added Dodik. His words that Croats only have Croatia bitterly enraged many in the country.

Such words are customary in the process of relativisation of the region’s history, but clashes are rarely direct. There was a direct clash last week, however – between Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovač and a Serbian journalist. She asked the minister during the meeting of EU’s foreign ministers in Brussels at the beginning of last week what he thought about Mr Dodik’s statement that problems of the past between Serbia and Croatia keep getting recycled. Setting the start of a new euinside section, we present you with the full dialogue between Mr Kovač and the journalist: 

Miro Kovač: I did not know that ... as far as I know Mr Dodik is not a representative of Serbia ... Mr Dodik is a representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the moment, he is president of one of the two entities. It is named Republika Srpska, right, so he can discuss BiH and Croatia, as far as I know, not Serbia and Croatia. 

JournalistBut our question concerns Serbia and Croatia. How would you qualify...

Miro Kovač: In that case you should quote someone from Serbia – maybe Prime Minister Vučić, the foreign minister... 

JournalistHe was speaking on behalf of Serbs.

Miro KovačWell look, I don’t know, if he has received some kind of authority from President Nikolić or Prime Minister Vučić to speak on behalf of the Serbs, I am not aware of it. If it is so, please inform me. 

JournalistOur question is simply how would you qualify the relations between the government of Croatia and Serbia at the moment?

Miro KovačWell, that is a question I can answer. The new Serbian government is not formed yet. We expect the new government to be pro-European. Our wish will be to form long-term friendly and partnership relations, which need a strong foundation, a rational foundation. We need to resolve the issues connected to the legacy of the war and we need to talk about the fact that there are some good things in the relations between Croats and Serbs, between Croatia and Serbia. We need to explain these to the media, like for example the fact that economic relations are well developed, relations in civil society are well developed, and political issues we will resolve by dialogue. I have already agreed with Foreign Minister Dačić, back in February of this year, that I will visit Serbia, provided this invitation remains open after the formation of the new Serbian government, of course.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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