Members of the BiH Presidency, Dragan Čović, Mladen Ivanić and Bakir Izetbegović hosted the presidents of the Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, at a trilateral meeting which took place on Tuesday in Mostar. This was the first such meeting in the past six years and it is interesting that only Bakir Izetbegović participated in both meetings.
As it was stated at a press conference after the trilateral meeting, participants were trying to find the way to improve the relations between the three countries in accordance with the strategy of the European Union for enlargement including the Western Balkans. The attendees agreed that it is necessary to continue the co-operation on the six priorities set by the EU.
“I hope that the authorities in all three countries will soon be able to solve all the possible questions that are unresolved for long time. Also, we must to improve relations in order to consolidate the regional economic environment that can be better than today,” said Chairman of the BiH Presidency, Dragan Čović.
Other participants of the meeting agreed that meetings like this are helpful for resolving open issues between the three neighbouring countries and that the next meeting should be organised not long from now. In their answers to a journalist’s question about amendments to the Election Law in BiH, all of the participants of the meeting agreed that it is important but, also, an internal issue of BiH, which must be internally resolved, without interference from outside.
BiH Presidency member from the Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanić said that good relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia allow good internal relations in BiH, and added that today’s meeting itself is “a good thing”.
“We have a lot of things that are common, such as infrastructure and good economic relations. Mutual economic exchange of BiH with Serbia and Croatia is growing and the citizens of BiH greatly benefit from it,” said Ivanić and added that countries must do more in this field.
The Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović, said that a new EU strategy is an opportunity to tackle the question that is characteristic of the Western Balkans countries, and refers to the emigration of young people.
“Six of the important EU initiatives are reconciliation, cessation of inflammatory rhetoric, reforms, development of infrastructure, mutual cooperation on the issue of security,” said Izetbegović, adding that, this strategy includes all internal problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also those between the three countries.
President of the Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, said that her country supports the European path of BiH and that there are a number of problems that are common for all countries in the region but could be shared and dealt with. President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić said that the economic co-operation between countries in the region is more visible, and stressed that it is necessary to work on the enhancement of connections within the region with quality roads. He said the negotiations between Croatia and Serbia, about the restoration of traffic on the Belgrade – Zagreb railroad will start soon, just like negotiations regarding the highway that would connect Sarajevo and Belgrade.
Although, at first glance, it seemed that the meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere, at the press conference there was a new verbal incident similar to the one in Belgrade three months ago.
Speaking on establishing boundaries between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Izetbegović openly stated that there is no chance of changing the borders near the hydropower plants on the Drina river, but that a solution must be found in order to provide proper the functioning of these hydropower plants.
“Presidents of the countries can not solve such problems; the issue needs to be dealt by experts, not politicians. That’s why I sought to intensify the work of the committees which are supposed to offer solutions to such issues, Izetbegović” said, adding that international arbitration is possible and that BiH does not run from it.
Vučić reacted sharply saying that Izetbegović is not telling the truth. He noted that Serbia did not demand a big change of borders, and offered BiH fertile land in exchange for territory that belongs to it. The Serbian head told reporters that his country did all the work on construction of the hydroelectric power plants on its own, including the expropriation of the land, and now offered the territory in exchange.
“We have documents which show that, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not participated in the process of construction and expropriation. From the other side, we did not receive a single document that would challenge the process,” Vučić underlined.
He added that, after BiH refused the proposal, Serbia demanded that the borderline runs through the centre of the Drina river. He underlined that this is not about the fact that someone wants to take a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and hopes the countries will reach an agreement.
The incident shows that the relations between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, or at least the Bosniaks in BiH, remain strained and are full of uncertainty. In order for a better and greater level of co-operation to be reached, changes need to be sought in BiH, Serbia, as well as in the wider region…/ΙΒΝΑ