HDZ between changing sides and radicalisation

Why is Canton 10 the "black hole" of the B&H Federation?


SUN, 12 MAR 2000

LIVNO, February 29, 2000 - In the past, the highest officials of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union of B&H (HDZ) in Canton 10 (the Herzeg-Bosnia-HB District) have repeatedly pointed that neither the decisions of the Constitutional Court of the B&H Federation nor of the High Representative for B&H relating to the F B&H coat of arms and the flag, establishment of multi-ethnic police forces and the implementation of other decision of international organisations and institutions were binding for them. Such statements were confirmed in practice, i.e. on the territory of six communes - Livno, Tomislav Grad, Kupres, Glamoc, Bosansko Grahovo and Drvar - which is why the highest officials of the international community in B&H have named this Canton the "black hole" of the B&H Federation.

As a reminder: already on March 26, 1998, the Constitutional Court of the B&H Federation adopted a ruling proclaiming a part of the Constitution of the Herzeg-Bosnia District contrary to the Federal Constitution and ordered its amendment. The procedure for the evaluation of constitutionality and legality of the Constitution of the HB District was initiated before the Constitutional Court of B&H Federation in September 1997, by Edhem Bicakcic, President of the F B&H Government.

By his action before the court, the Prime Minister contested the name "The Herzeg-Bosnia District" as the territory of Canton 10 did not geographically belong to Herzegovina so that it was the duty of the Assembly to decide on the Canton's new name. The decision of the Constitutional Court also contested the District's coat of arms and flag, which the District Constitution defines as "historic Croatian coat of arms in the shape of a stylised shield with 25 red-white squares". However, the Constitutional Court was of the opinion that such coat of arms and flag could not be used since the territory of this District, or more precisely Canton, was, apart from Croats, populated by members of other two constitutive nations of the B&H - the Bosniacs and the Serbs.

The decision of the Constitutional Court contested the title "prefect" for the Cantonal president (governor) as in Court's opinion this is an "imported" term which must also be changed. Although almost two years have passed since the Constitutional Court of F B&H adopted this binding and final decision, it has not been enforced yet because the Cantonal Assembly, in which over two thirds of delegates belong to HDZ, persistently refuses to put this problem on its agenda. Actually, after obstructing the implementation of the Constitutional Court's ruling for months, the Cantonal Assembly formed a Commission for Constitution and Constitutional Issues and entrusted it with the task of giving an expert evaluation of the Court's ruling and of proposing an adequate solution to the Assembly.

Last October this Commission proposed to the Assembly to exercise its right of filing an appeal against the decision of the Constitutional Court of the B&H Federation. With four opposing votes (of the delegates from the Coalition for Integral and Democratic B&H, i.e. SDA) the Assembly accepted the Commission's proposal.

Although, early last August the High Representative's Office (OHR) brought a decision on the use and presentation of "common, neutral and inoffensive signs and symbols" - including, among others, insignia on police uniforms, shoulder signs and strap buckles, flags and coats of arms, including administrative seals which have to be replaced with signs of the B&H Federation - that decision has not yet been enforced in the Herzeg-Bosnia District (more precisely in the Canton No.10). Namely, the HB District is the only Canton with the Croatian majority in the B&H Federation in which the police still wears the disputed one-national insignia, i.e. insignia which has been proclaimed unwanted and offensive for the members of other constitutive nations by the OHR decision.

The final deadline for the enforcement of this decision was November 15, 1999 which is why late last month representatives of the UN Mission in B&H sent a letter of warning to the HB Minister of the Interior Ante Barisic, as well as other chiefs of Police Departments in the territory of this District. However, despite cautions and two warnings addressed to Minister Barisic that he would be relieved of duty if he continued to obstruct the OHR decisions, the police insignia remained unchanged. In this connection Minister Barisic stated that the MUP of the HB District, or better said, Minister himself, had no right to change or remove the existing police insignia since that was the Assembly's task.

To threats about replacement - which had already happened to his predecessor Barisa Letica who obstructed the implementation of the Agreement on the Establishment of Multi-Ethnic Police Forces - Barisic replied that he was not afraid of being relieved of duty, nor could he influence such a decision. Nevertheless, he confirmed that of the all other Districts with the Croatian majority only the HB District did not remove the existing police insignia "which doesn't mean that other Districts have implemented the decision of the High Representative's Office because the police in these Districts wears no signs at all", triumphantly concluded the Minister.

Early last November the HDZ District Board for this Canton also issued a statement that it was "appalled by the contents of the decision according to which national insignia were proclaimed nationalistic and which demands the use of common, neutral and inoffensive signs and symbols".

"By this decision, the High Representative has proclaimed invalid all legal and other statutory enactments, including the Constitution of the B&H Federation, which specifies that the established police forces will wear the same federal uniforms, but with cantonal insignia. This is in violation of the Constitution, the Dayton Accords, as well as the International Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms", claims Josip Peric, President of the HDZ B&H for this District, while his party colleague, Mirko Mihaljevic, also President of the District Government, thinks that this decision of the High Representative means a "total revision of Dayton and the protectorate of the international community over all these areas, especially on the territory on the Herzeg-Bosnia District".

As far as the establishment of multi-ethnic police forces is concerned - according to the Bonn-Petersburg Agreement on the reconstruction of police in Canton 10 - the Ministry of the Interior of the HB District was supposed to establish joint police forces with federal insignia already in May 1998. In the meantime, the police forces, albeit unrecognised by the IPTF, consisting of several recruited Bosniacs and Serbs who did not undergo the obligatory IPTF training, and without the support of even Federal MUP (Ministry of the Interior,) were inaugurated. On the other hand, on April 15, 1999 the international mediator for B&H, Christian Schwarz Schilling, in the presence of international representatives, ombudsmen and cantonal officials, signed the Agreement on the Employment of new Police Officers, which precisely specified deadlines for the reconstruction of the police and the judiciary, as well as for the implementation of the decision of the Constitutional Court of the B&H Federation.

Naturally, until this day nothing contained in the signed Agreement has been implemented in practice. Last June, Special UN Envoy for B&H Elisabeth Rehn and President of the District Government and Minister of the Interior had even signed a Plan on the Employment of Police Officers, which was to be carried out in three stages by the end of 1999. According to that Plan, the multi-ethnic police forces of the MUP of the HB District should have already had 65 Serbs, 18 Bosniacs and 14 members of "other" nationalities, but that Plan also was realised only partially.

It is a fact that neither legislative nor executive authorities are functioning in Canton 10. The ruling party -HDZ (which is shaken by months-long crisis because of the confrontation of factions and inter-party schism) is considered the main culprit for the existing situation.

Namely, numerous replacements (the following officials were relieved of duty: Drago Tokmakcija, President of OO HDZ and Deputy Prefect for Drvar, Barisa Letica, Minister of the Interior, Justice Minister Stipo Babic, Drvar Prefect Mile Marceta and Borivoje Malbasic, Chairman of the Communal Council of Drvar) carried out by the UN Mission in the last two years, were followed by resignations of a number of HDZ members from Drvar, Bosansko Grahovo and Glamoc, who were dissatisfied with the situation in the party and resigned from their functions. Josip Peric, President of the District HDZ and his Vice-President, Drago Tokmakcija, did the same.

Stories about a deep crisis within the ranks of HDZ of the HB District were confirmed by resignations of the first men of Drvar and Glamoc HDZ, who explained that they were forced to do so by "harsh relation" of the District authorities towards these communes and the fact that there were two HDZ Boards in Bosansko Grahovo: one that belonged to local Croats and the other formed by Croatian exiles who were settled in that commune by means of HDZ's ethnic engineering. Bearing in mind the fact that HDZ has the largest number of mandates in the legislative and executive authorities in this District (out of 30 delegate places in the District Assembly, HDZ holds 18 and in the District Government eight ministers out of the total 10 belong to this party members), then it is clear that the crisis in the District authorities is a direct consequences of conflicts within the ruling party.

Although it has the greatest power, HDZ cannot boast of having achieved special results. All pre-election promises given so far, as a rule, remained unfulfilled and the overall situation in the District grew worse by the year. The local economy, which employed over 16 thousand workers before the war and today only half that number, is in especially difficult situation.

Many enterprises which were stable and successful before the war have stopped working, while several thousand workers have either lost their jobs or are on the so called "waiting lists" without any pay. Directors and members of Executive Boards of over 200 former public enterprises are HDZ cadres, and the additional capitalisation in these enterprises was mostly carried out by people loyal to the ruling party with fictitious documents, without any really fresh capital and at unrealistically low prices. After the majority of Bosniacs and Serbs lost their jobs because of their nationality and in the process of rather suspicious additional capitalisation and privatisation, many Croats were also fired, although the HDZ officials promised that ownership transformation would leave no one without a job but would rather increase the employment.

The results that HDZ has achieved in this respect are best seen in the number of employed in the HB District which is two times lower than in 1992, while the number of job-seekers registered at the Employment Office has tripled. At the same time, the number of social cases and those living below the subsistence level is rapidly growing, while the data that in the last eight years over 20 thousand Croats have left this District for good, speaks for itself.

The ruling HDZ is starting the electoral race for local elections with the mentioned political-economic burden which is coupled with the apparent fear of social-democratic zeal which is profusely spilling over to B&H from the neighbouring Croatia.

It is therefore not surprising that the factionalism within the HDZ for this part of B&H, has infected those who, for the sake of their own survival, will try to change political colours as soon as possible, but also those who will, with newly erected national fences and fresh radicalisation, attempt to defend their "apartheids" in which the word responsibility has lost all meaning.

Original article