The leaders of three Bosnian Croat parties on Monday supported Croatian President Zoran Milanovic's policy "regarding issues burdening Bosnian Croats," state agency Hina informed the Croatian media, adding that this "includes his idea to block Finland's and Sweden's accession to NATO unless the election law in Bosnia gets changed."
Earlier on Monday, Milanovic, who raised eyebrows recently by threatening to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO unless the US steps in to change election law in neighboring Bosnia, called on “representatives of Bosnian Croats to clearly state if they agree with his policy” so that he can continue pursuing it.
“I support President Milanovic’s policy and call on institutions in Croatia to help in finding a solution to the issue of Bosnian Croats and to take all the necessary steps, regardless of how difficult they may be,” the leader of the HDZ 1990 party, Ilija Cvitanovic, was cited by Hina as telling the Bild.ba news website.
He added that ‘this’ – presumably, the opportunity to leverage Croatia’s influence in order to change the law in Bosnia – was a ‘historic moment’ for Bosnian Croats and that ‘it has to be utilized.’ The leader of the Bosnian branch of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS BiH), Mario Karamatic, posted on Facebook that he can “see the point, the interest, and the advantage’ in what Milanovic is doing, and asked that he continued doing so.
“Mr President, please do not give up on us, like many others who have done so in the past, for whatever reason,” Karamatic wrote.
Leader of the Republican Party, Slaven Raguz, said that “over the past 15 days, Zoran Milanovic has done more to internationalise the issue of Bosnian Croats than HDZ had in the past 20 years.”
Hina did not offer any clue shedding light on the scale of relevance given to Cvitanovic, Karamatic, and Raguz in Bosnian Croat politics.
Milanovic has been repeating for days that Croatia’s ability to block new members joining NATO should be used until the election law in Bosnia is amended. By doing so, Milanovic is thought to be courting right-wing voters in Croatia as well as Bosnian Croats – who also vote in Croatian elections – as they have been complaining for years about the more numerous ethnic Bosniaks “outvoting” ethnic Croats in their half of the country, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) created following the 1995 Dayton peace agreements.
Bosnia is scheduled to hold regular elections in October this year. Meanwhile, NATO, the United States, Finland, and Sweden, have all successfully ignored Milanovic’s statements, and it remains unclear whether he has the ability to make good on his threat as international agreements have to be voted and decided on by MPs in Zagreb.
Croatia’s Prime Minister and leader of the HDZ, Andrej Plenkovic, also distanced himself from Milanovic rhetoric saying that it has “damaged attempts for an agreement to be reached over the election law reform.”