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Turning Strife to Advantage: A Blueprint to Integrate the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 PDF version of Turning Strife to Advantage: A Blueprint to Integrate the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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The current attempts by the leadership of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) of Bosnia and Herzegovina to secede from the legal and constitutional structures of the state are the most serious challenge yet to the post-war order established by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords.

These actions are themselves a response to recent international measures that weakened the HDZ position. The international community�s High Representative (OHR) in Sarajevo has taken steps, in line with his mandate to drive forward the implementation of Dayton, that cut into the HDZ� financial and political muscle. The November 2000 elections, which for the first time gave a non-nationalist coalition a plurality in the Federation and at the state level, have made it more difficult for the HDZ to influence policy-making in Sarajevo. At the same time, the government of Croatia has ended key elements of its support to Croat extremists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

These developments in turn have caused the support by the Croat community to begin to peel away from the HDZ. Exploiting a controversial decision by the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly before the November 2000 election (its so-called House of Peoples decision), the HDZ hopes to halt the erosion of its power.

The HDZ expected the OHR to react by removing several high-ranking HDZ officials, in particular the party�s president, Ante Jelavic, from their public and political positions. This was duly and appropriately done on 7 March. The OHR should, however, deny Jelavic the satisfaction of banning the HDZ. While the party�s hostility to the spirit and much of the substance of the Dayton Accords, as well as its links to criminal activity, could justify such a radical step, it would serve to entrench support for the secessionist cause.

The HDZ now relies upon the international community�s long-standing inclination to evade sustained confrontation with any of Bosnia and Herzegovina�s extreme nationalist parties. The party expects � and needs � the international community to shrink before the double challenge of, on the one hand, compelling the HDZ to clean up its act while, on the other hand, showing full respect for the legitimate concerns of the Croat community.

If the international community reverts to form and backs down from a long-term struggle, as the HDZ expects, the extremists will maintain their grip on the Croat community and continue to block the development of a stable, democratic state. This in turn would have consequences beyond the Croat community. It would alienate citizens who are already disillusioned by the glacial speed of reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And it would signal to the other entity, the virtually mono-ethnic Republika Srpska (RS), that it can continue to defy efforts to make Dayton work and retain hope of eventually splitting away. The international community should rise to this challenge. It has a rare and crucial opportunity to strike a strong blow for Dayton implementation. The removal of Jelavic and his associates should represent only the first move in a much longer game of outflanking the secessionists.

A three-fold strategy is required. Administratively, the OHR needs to carry out consistently and consequentially a series of technical measures that, while avoiding the creation of more martyrs, strike at the ability of the party and its key supporters to finance their activities and otherwise maintain political power. Politically, OHR should reach out to start a dialogue that engages the Croats in a discussion of their community�s legitimate interests -- interests that until now neither the HDZ nor the international community have addressed satisfactorily. Diplomatically, the international community should work in Zagreb to ensure that Croatia continues to distance itself from the secessionists.

ICG presents a blueprint for such a strategy in this report. It is designed to provide genuine rewards for individuals and institutions co-operating with the Dayton Accords while applying low-key but legitimate and effective sanctions on those who defy the development of a democratic, stable Bosnia and Herzegovina. It offers a way to engage the constructive elements among the Croats while dividing them from the secessionists, thus giving new impetus to the flagging efforts to build a viable state.


1. Build Trust with the Croats

a) The OHR and OSCE should open a public debate about the House of People's decision and the Permanent Election Law with Croat representatives from a spectrum of parties and other civic and religious institutions and organisations, including the HDZ.

b) The OHR and OSCE should open a separate public dialogue with a variety of Croat representatives from the political, civic and religious communities about other legitimate Croat interests and concerns. This should focus on vital collective group interests vis-�-vis individual human rights, as well as the institutions needed to protect both.

c) The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) should conclude its investigations into war crimes against Croat civilians at Grabovica, Uskoplje and elsewhere, and issue indictments against those responsible.

d) The international community should focus its aid efforts on direct support to Croat returnees to central Bosnia and the Posavina (north-western Bosnia) and on the institutions that would support sustainable return, circumventing obstructionist HDZ-controlled institutions.

e) The international community should consider giving special aid to any Croat-majority municipalities and areas that continue to participate in the legitimate Federation institutions.

f) The OHR and the Federation government should restructure by June 2001 at the latest the long-delayed Federation Television so as to give liberal Croat voices a media outlet.

2. Control Bosnia and Herzegovina's Borders

a) The Federation government should assert actively its right to control customs terminals throughout the Federation.

b) SFOR should assist the legitimate Federation customs authorities to take control over customs terminals in areas where the local authorities refuse to recognise the constitutional legitimacy of the Federation.

c) Both the Federation and Republika Srpska tax and customs authorities should refuse to honour customs declarations issued by customs officers and organs operating outside Bosnia and Herzegovina's legal constitutional framework.

d) The Federation should require all companies wishing to import and export to use customs terminals under Federation control, until such time as the Federation is able to control all customs terminals on its territory.

e) The OHR and the European Union�s Customs and Fiscal Assistance Office (CAFAO) should transfer responsibility for issuance of customs numbers (carinski brojevi) identifying traders to the state level in order to increase transparency in importing and exporting through the Federation and Republika Srpska.

f) The state government should require all companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina to register with its treasury ministry in order to receive a customs number.

g) The OHR and CAFAO should merge the two entity customs authorities into one state level customs authority by the end of the year.

h) OHR and CAFAO should work with the state government to facilitate collection of all customs revenues by the state government by the end of the year.

i) The OHR, SFOR and the United Nations Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMiBH) should ensure that state border service officers are at all border crossings within two months.

j) The EU should immediately provide adequate funding for full deployment of the state border service in order to curtail smuggling networks and reduce human trafficking into the member states of the European Union.

k) SFOR should work closely with the state government and state border service to secure Bosnia and Herzegovina's borders.

l) The state border service under UNMiBH supervision and SFOR should rotate officers away from border crossing points where their loyalty might be compromised by ethnic considerations.

m) The OHR, the Federation and the state government should decertify Federation customs and border service civil servants who support illegal �self-governing� structures. n) The state government, the OHR, and the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) members should request Bosnia and Herzegovina's trading partners to respect the state government's sole authority to grant permission for export and import of goods.

o) Croatia, as a guarantor of the Dayton Accords, should support the above administrative measures, and expand and standardise its presence at border crossings with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

3. Cut Off Illegal Revenue Flows

a) The Federation finance police, the Federation banking agency, and the internationally appointed Federation special auditor -- under Article 5 of OHR�s decision on the special auditor for the cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (5 February 2001) � should immediately audit Hercegovacka banka [the Bank of Herzegovina] and subsequently other HDZ-controlled companies such as the Croat power monopoly Elektroprivreda, HPT (telephone company), and Sume HB.

b) SFOR should physically secure Hercegovacka banka prior to arrival of the special auditor's team and subsequently provide security to the auditors.

c) SFOR should immediately release the findings of its raids against illegal HDZ parallel institutions, including but not limited to the October 1999 WESTAR raid in western Mostar and the raids in Vares, Livno and Orasje during 2000.

d) The Federation government, in co-operation with the OHR's anti-fraud department, should investigate the alleged criminal activities of leading Croat politicians and businessmen.

e) To increase financial transparency, the Croat and Bosniak elements of all budgets in the Federation should be unified immediately. This should begin with the long-awaited unification of the budgets of Canton 7 and the city of Mostar.

f) The newly formed Federation government should appoint new executives to public corporations that are suspected of funnelling funds to the HDZ and the illegal Croat �self�government� structures.

4. Take Pre-emptive Security Measures

a) SFOR should place the heavy equipment and weaponry belonging to the Croat component (HVO) of the Federation Army -- including weapons donated under the "Train and Equip" program -- into containment sites until the HVO indicates willingness to participate in Federation institutions.

5. Use Administrative Measures

a) OHR should work with the state and entity governments to transfer responsibility for issuance of the following documents to state organs: drivers� licences, vehicle registrations and licence plates, passports, unique identity number (JMB), and identity cards.

b) The state government should only issue the aforementioned documents through the constitutionally established structures as envisioned by Annex 4 of Dayton.

c) The Croatian government should, in line with its continuing obligations as a guarantor of Dayton, take away Croatian passports from Croat leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina who oppose the legal constitutional structures and implementation of the Dayton Accords.

Sarajevo/Brussels 15 March 2001

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