The Croat Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) is an independent political party, which together with its leadership make its own decisions and assessments, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said commenting on HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic's attendance of controversial holiday in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity last week.
Everyone should make a clear distinction here, Plenkovic said. “This was not the first time, he was there on several more occasions in the past years, and I leave that topic to Mr Covic and the HDZ BiH to comment on,” said the Prime Minister, the leader of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
Bosnia's Constitutional Court banned in 2015 the celebration of the Day of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, on January 9, as this date falls on an Orthodox religious feast and, the court decided, it is discriminatory against the non-Serbs, mostly the Muslim Bosniaks and the mostly Catholic Croats.
RS authorities never approved the decision and continued observing the date, despite the court order to find a new date for the RS Day celebration in six months.
A delegation of HDZ BiH, Plenkovic’s HDZ sister party in Bosnia, attended the ceremony organised by the RS authorities in the north-western city of Banja Luka on January 9 with Dragan Covic at the helm. HDZ BiH leader is believed to be a political ally of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik who became the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency in October and has for years advocated secession of the RS from the country.
“The HDZ BiH is independent of the HDZ in Croatia, and Mr Covic and HDZ (BiH) leadership make their own decisions and assessments on certain issues,” said Plenkovic.
Apart from Covic, the ambassador of neighbouring Croatia, Ivan Del Vechio, also attended the ceremony, which triggered strong reactions mainly among Bosniak politicians. Bosnia's Council of Ministers Chairman called it a “diplomatic scandal and a hostile act" and two days later the Government of Croatia announced it would dismiss its ambassador in Bosnia over the attendance of the celebration.
Former President of Croatia Ivo Josipovic doubts that the official Zagreb knew nothing about the ambassador’s plan to go to Banja Luka.
“It was a huge mistake, a huge gaffe that the Ambassador of Croatia went there. I highly doubt that Zagreb, at least at a certain level, did not know Del Vechio would go to Banja Luka. The culpability is shifted to one person who is not entirely and only to blame,” Josipovic told N1's 'Novi dan' talk show.
Croatia must respect the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and respect its constitutional and legal order, therefore respect the decision of the Constitutional Court which declared the celebration unconstitutional, he added.