3 May 2001, Volume 3, Number 16
NOTE TO READERS: The next issue of
WHAT ROLE FOR THE CROATS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA?
Part II (Part I appeared on 26 April)
RFE/RL's Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge), we are going to discuss the status of the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our guests are Ilija Simic, speaker of the House of the Nations of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina and president of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS); and Bozo Ljubic, vice president of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mr. Ljubic, Mr. Simic asked you about the relations between the HDZ and the Republika Srpska.
Bozo Ljubic: I am not trying to avoid Mr. Simic's question. The Croats were expelled from the Republika Srpska and some of them fled the terror they were exposed to. Therefore, one cannot possibly claim that some sort of a deal was made to displace the Croatian population from the Republika Srpska.
As far as the elections are concerned, the HDZ did take part in the elections in the Republika Srpska, but the fact is that we never had good results simply because there are no Croats there and because now the Republika Srpska is almost ethnically cleansed. This is why there is no one left to vote. I ask Mr. Simic: How many votes did his party -- the Croatian Peasant Party -- win in the Republika Srpska?
Ilija Simic: There are no more Croats in the Republika Srpska because the HDZ helped them leave and because the HDZ did all it could to hinder their return. Furthermore, Mr. Ljubic knows very well that people can vote abroad, too. The HDZ had enough money for a campaign to make the Croat refugees from the Republika Srpska in Croatia and in other countries vote for the HDZ, but, of course, they did not do so. The HDZ only participated in the last election in the Republika Srpska but without any campaign whatsoever. They consequently did not win anything.
[As to the federation,] I have become a member of the Parliament thanks to the compensatory mandate of 6,000 votes, and not the way Mr. Ljubic claims. But I know that he is not the one who invented the story. He has simply adopted this Goebbels-style propaganda of his party...
I would like to ask Mr. Ljubic to tell me why the HDZ challenges the entire world. I would like Mr. Ljubic to tell me what happened with the Hercegovacka Banka and with the DM 54 million that the Office of the High Representative found in a secret account. Does Mr. Ljubic think that at least a part of that amount comes from the state budget of the Republic of Croatia? I would like him to tell me how the HDZ bribes soldiers in Orasje and in central Bosnia to leave their barracks [and the federal army] in order to discredit the present [federal] government [led by] the Alliance.
Bozo Ljubic: Mr. Simic asked about the Hercegovacka Banka. As far as I know, what he said has been vehemently denied, rejected as untrue. And, Mr. Simic, do you think that the members of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO), simple soldiers as well as generals, would have been bribed with only DM 500 German marks if there had been DM 54 million in an account, as you claim?
Of course, this is something I cannot discuss, just as I cannot talk in the name of Hercegovacka Banka or the Croatian Defense Council, since I am not competent to do so. As far as the constitutional and the real position of the Croatian people is concerned, we are really worried. The point is that most of the Croatian representatives in the House of the Nations of the Federation and in the House of the Nations of Bosnia-Herzegovina were not elected by the Croats but by someone else, and that is the main reason for our concern.
Ilija Simic: Mr. Ljubic, if the HDZ was so concerned about the position of the Croats -- and, according to your own statement, the party could have had a majority both in the House of the Nations of the Federation and in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- why did that party fail to behave in a responsible way with the mandate given to it by the voters, the mandate that empowered the HDZ to have a decisive influence on the political image of Bosnia-Herzegovina [instead of staging a boycott of federal institutions]?
As far as the Hercegovacka Banka is concerned, neither Mr. Ljubic nor I can know more than media reported about it, but officials of the Office of the High Representative have been publicly talking about it. Soon we will see what the truth was, and I fear that then, Mr. Ljubic, you will remember your claims from this conversation with reluctance.
Bozo Ljubic: First I will say that the HDZ did not send its representatives to the House of the Nations because we consider the rules unconstitutional and illegal. Had we done so, we would have accepted the legal character of these rules. And you know how these things work: they are the rules now, the law tomorrow, and the constitution the day after tomorrow. If the HDZ had not had reacted this way, I can assure you that no one would have been concerned about the equality of the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I do not expect everybody to agree with our measures, but I would like them to understand that we were forced to take them.
Ilija Simic: I think that Mr. Ljubic is the only Croat who believes that the leadership of the HDZ is doing all these things out of concern for the Croatian people. Everything they do is eminently against the Croatian people. There were no threats whatsoever against the Croats before this.
People from the leadership of the HDZ know why they wanted this crisis and why they wanted to avoid participating in the legislative institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But they will be held responsible by those who voted for them, by the people, by history, and by their own consciences, if they have any. And after all, since they all claim to be religious, they will have to give an answer before God, since what they are doing right now is a great sin.
Omer Karabeg: Finally, Mr. Ljubic, please tell us your conclusion and then we shall hear Mr. Simic's conclusion.
Bozo Ljubic: I truly believe that at this moment the Croatian nation is not equal to the others in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- I am talking about both constitutional and real rights. I have given many arguments for that during this conversation.
Now I would like to say what I consider relevant for the future of the Croatian people and for Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state. A constitutional reorganization is necessary, and it cannot be done without an international conference. Bosnia-Herzegovina needs a more rational organization, and the rights of the [three] constitutional peoples must be standardized in an equal way, which I do not think is the case now, regardless of what Mr. Simic says.
I personally think that dividing all of Bosnia-Herzegovina into cantons would be a solution, with a two-house parliament on the national level. Furthermore, I think that members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina should be elected by the Parliament and not directly, which is now the case.
Bearing in mind that there is an immense difference in size between the three constitutional peoples, direct elections actually jeopardize the vital rights of the one that is the smallest in number. I think that every national council should have its own candidate for the Presidency...
I would also say that we should carry out in both entities the decision of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina concerning the constitutive character of all three peoples on the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Ilija Simic: The decision of the Constitutional Court must be carried out. I do not want to be malicious, but I have to remind Mr. Ljubic that, during the vote on making all three peoples constitutionally equal throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, two Croatian representatives on the Constitutional Court -- appointed by the HDZ -- voted against it. That and everything else I said shows the real concern of the HDZ for the interests of the Croatian people.
Bozo Ljubic: The HDZ did not appoint the judges of the Constitutional Court. The judiciary is independent, the judges of the Constitutional Court were elected by the Parliament, and therefore they voted according to their own consciences and not according to the instructions of the HDZ.
Ilija Simic: Yeah, right. We all know to what extent the judiciary is really independent.