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Balkan Report: December 17, 1997

17 December 1997, Volume 1, Number 21

A Tale of Two Citizenships. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, signed an agreement on dual citizenship in Belgrade on December 13. The pact allows Bosnian citizens to hold Yugoslav citizenship as well.

The text is based on provisions of the Dayton agreement that provide for certain special ties between the Republika Srpska and the Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic on the one hand and the mainly Muslim and Croat federation and Croatia on the other. For several years, Croats from Bosnia-Herzegovina have not only been entitled to Croatian passports but have also been able to vote in Croatian elections.

Many Bosnians, however, have long argued that the local Croats' automatic right to Croatian documents undermines the unity of Bosnia and the concept of Bosnian statehood. Predictably, objections were immediately expressed to the Milutinovic-Krajisnik pact as well. In Sarajevo, an advisor to Alija Izetbegovic told an RFE/RL correspondent on December 13 that no agreement on dual citizenship can be legally binding until Sarajevo and Belgrade establish diplomatic relations.

Hanns-Heinrich Schumacher, a deputy to High Representative Carlos Westendorp, said that same day, however, that the new agreement is indeed legal and in keeping with the Dayton agreement. But then on December 14, he reversed himself and called the Milutinovic-Krajisnik document invalid on the grounds Krajisnik has no authority to sign international agreements on behalf of Bosnia.

Critical Reactions from Bosnia. RFE/RL pointed out on December 13 that the real reason behind the Milutinovic-Krajisnik pact might be found in the two men's respective political troubles. Milutinovic faces the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj in a runoff for the Serbian presidency on December 21 and might want to improve his nationalist credentials in the meantime. Krajisnik, for his part, lost his legislative majority in the recent Bosnian Serb parliamentary vote and may want to show his voters that Belgrade still regards him as the man in charge.

Some Bosnians thus concluded that the agreement is simply a private deal between two politicians in trouble. Muslim Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic added that the pact is nothing more than a "poker game" on the part of Milosevic, who stands behind Milutinovic.

Other Bosnians suggested that the international community should firmly oppose such moves to undermine the unity of Bosnia lest the country head farther down the road toward partition. Still others argued that perhaps a Yugoslav or a Croatian passport is, in the final analysis, better than a Bosnian one, because they feel that Bosnia is nothing but a weak state with inadequate leaders.