"I did not go to Zagreb as a member of Bosnia's (tripartite) presidency, but as a Serb representative, and I did not need to explain that in Zagreb," Bosnian Serb leader and Serb member of Bosnia's presidency, Milorad Dodik, told the state broadcaster of Bosnia's Republika Srpska region RTRS. Dodik, known for his secessionist rhetoric, added that "not a single harmful word against Bosniaks was uttered during the meeting."
During his visit to Croatia's capital Zagreb on Wednesday, Dodik met with Croatian President, Zoran Milanovic, and Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic. Thanking his guests for the support they provide for Bosnia's EU accession process, he said they talked about cooperation and that he "familiarised them with the situation in Bosnia from the Serb perspective."
The Bosnian Serb leader was in Zagreb in what seemed to be an official visit to the Croatian capital, even though Zagreb had not extended an invitation to Bosnia's three-member presidency since the current officeholders were elected in Bosnia's 2018 election.
Unofficially, the reason for this is in the fact that the Bosnian Croat leader and head of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) in Bosnia - itself an offshoot of Croatia's HDZ party led by Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, had lost his bid for the ethnic Croat member of Bosnia's presidency in 2018 to his rival from the centrist Democratic Front (DF), Zeljko Komsic, also an ethnic Croat.
Bosnian law stipulates that members of the presidency must belong to one of the three major ethnic groups in the country - Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. However, while the Serb member is elected by voters in the Serb-dominated Republika Srpskahalf of the country, the Bosniak and Croat members are both elected by voters in the other Bosniak-Croat half of the country, where predominantly Muslim Bosniaks outnumber mostly Catholic Croats.
Even though Komsic is an ethnic Croat, he ran on a centrist platform and is widely believed to have won thanks to votes from ethnic Bosniaks, causing leaders of nationalist Croat parties to doubt his legitimacy to represent ethnic Croats as the country's collective head of state.
Dodik also told RTRS that in his meetings with Plenkovic and Milanovic the migrant situation was also discussed. Bosnia has to cope with thousands of migrants travelling westward, mainly congregating in the northwestern corner of the country, where they hope to cross into Croatia. Although the Bosniak-Croat half of the country set up several centres to hold asylum seekers, the Serb half of the country - formerly ruled by Dodik - took a hardline stance against migrants, and simply expels any migrants found in their jurisdiction.
However, any content of the meeting itself was overshadowed by condemnations of the visit itself, issued by the largest Bosniak party in the country, the other two members of Bosnia's presidency in Sarajevo, as well as some Croatian officials.
“I did not come here to represent the Bosnian presidency, nor did I come here based on its decision. I did not need to explain that to them (Milanovic and Plenkovic). It is within my remit to represent the interests of the (Bosnian) Serb people. This is indeed a pathological situation of the political Sarajevo. In my opinion, not a single word harmful to the Bosniak people, or to Bosnia, was uttered here,” Dodik said.