Plenković is leading a government delegation on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. On arriving in Sarajevo on Monday morning, he met with his counterpart, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija, and his ministers.
The visit comes at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing the biggest internal crisis since the 1992-1995 war caused by the attempts of the Bosnian Serb authorities to separate the Republika Srpska entity from the country’s constitutional and legal system.
Speaking to the press after the meeting between the two government delegations, Plenković said that Croatia is closely following developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that his message is that Croatia is a friend and partner seeking to promote cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and support its territorial integrity and the equality of its two entities and three constituent peoples.
“We would like the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be functioning,” Plenković said.
Commenting on last week’s conclusions by the Republika Srpska parliament that laid the ground for repealing some of the important state-level laws, the Croatian prime minister said it is yet to be seen to what extent this is a maneuver and to what extent it is the actual wish of the Bosnian Serb authorities to endanger the existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Plenković said that Croatia by no means wants to see any separatist tendencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and expects full compliance with the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the country’s 1992-1995 war. He noted that Croatia is one of its signatories and that its late president Franjo Tuđman was one of its authors.
The Croatian PM added that it is very important for Croatia to see that the Croats, as the smallest of the three constituent peoples, have all their rights guaranteed, including a new election law that should be the result of an internal agreement. He said that he expects this to happen no later than May next year when a general election is to be called.
“We are not pleased with the practice that has existed since 2006 and that represents an obstacle to institutional cooperation between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Plenković said, alluding to the fact that there have been no high-level meetings between the two countries for years because Croatia does not recognize the legitimacy of Željko Komšić as the Croat member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency.
Asked whether he has come to “iron out” the relationship between the countries following reactions to statements by Croatian President Zoran Milanović, including one in which he downplayed the Srebrenica genocide, Plenković said there is no need for such an intervention because the two countries have a good relationship and Croatia’s position on the Srebrenica genocide was and remains clear.
The Croatian PM reaffirmed Croatia’s readiness to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in Euro-Atlantic integration, improve economic cooperation, and work on improving infrastructure and energy connectivity.
He noted the importance of the construction of the motorway along the pan-European corridor Vc and the connection of the two countries’ natural gas networks via Zagvozd to Posušje in the south. He added that diversification of supply sources has become very important and that this will pave the way for gas delivery from the LNG terminal on the northern Adriatic island of Krk.
Plenković estimated this year’s trade between the two countries at over €2 billion.
Tegeltija said he shared Plenković’s view that the constituent peoples should have their legitimate representatives in government, adding that “someone is now trying to shirk the agreement in principle that was reached” during negotiations on new election rules for the southern city of Mostar. He said it would not be good for next year’s election to be held according to the present rules.
Tegeltija said that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have good economic and political relations “despite attempts by individuals to portray them differently.”
Speaking of unresolved issues, he cited the status of property owned by citizens of the two countries, arbitration over the Gacko thermal power plant, the agreement on borders, and Croatia’s plan to build a radioactive waste disposal facility on Mount Trgovska Gora near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Tegeltija said his personal opinion is that Croatia should look for another location for radioactive waste disposal, while Plenković said that there is continued dialogue on the matter and that there is no reason for safety concerns about the Trgovska Gora site.
Plenković continued his visit to Sarajevo by meeting with the speakers of both chambers of the state parliament, after which he is scheduled to lay a wreath at the monument to the first victims of the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-1995 war. Before traveling to Mostar, he is due to meet separately with the leaders of the three largest religious communities in the country.
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