Following the open letter by the three former High Representatives for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, Carl Bildt and Christian Schwarz-Schilling, dated December 6, addressed to the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and to ministers of foreign affairs of EU member states, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia issues the following statement:
As a signatory of the Dayton Peace Agreement, as a neighboring country sharing more than a 1,000 kilometers long border, as a state that has a constitutional obligation to care for Croats living abroad, as a responsible member of the EU and NATO and as one of the most devoted supporters of the European integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia has a number of reasons as well as an obligation to follow very closely developments in B&H. Unlike the three former High Representatives for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia is not “meddling” in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia is fulfilling its international responsibilities and obligations while fully respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its constitutional and legal order.
The Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution of Bosnia and Hercegovina define Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single country with two entities and three equal constituent peoples and the Others. Unfortunately, due in part to the decisions taken by some High representatives, the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Hercegovina are not equal, which is a cause for serious concern and may affect the functionality and stability of the country.
The last example of this inequality were the presidential elections in October when the Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Hercegovina was for the third time elected mostly by Bosniac voters. In that way, unlike the other two constituent peoples, Croats were prevented from choosing their legitimate representative, although one of the candidates got more than 80% of their votes. Such a paradoxical outcome is not only unjust and illegitimate, it is also contrary to the spirit of the Dayton Peace Agreement and is contrary to the rulings of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina that confirmed proportionality and legitimacy of the representation of constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina as “the overarching principles stemming from the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and applicable at all administrative and political levels of authority”.
The next occasion that will test the respect of the rule of law by B&H institutions, including decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the formation of the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Constitutional Court of B&H in its decision in the Ljubić case annulled certain parts of the Election law precisely because they were not ensuring the legitimate and proportionate representation of constituent peoples in the Federation House of Peoples.
It is now of utmost importance that B&H institutions, in filling in this legal gap, adopt rules that will follow the Constitutional Court decision in the Ljubić case. Any other solution would be a serious defeat of the rule of law with very negative consequences.