“European Path” Will Be Put on Hold if Needed, Bosnian Croat Leader Says

Bosnian Croat leader threatened to obstruct Bosnia’s effort to join the European Union over perceived pressures following the guilty verdicts for six war time leaders of Bosnian Croats, handed down by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague this week.

“Our job is to encourage our people and say with enough confidence that we are part of the government in Bosnia (…) and that our support for (Bosnia’s) European path has a price. (…) If the European path needs to be put on hold, it will be put on a long hold before we make sure that (the rights) of every honorable HVO member and of Croats in BiH are respected,” said Dragan Čović, the leader of main Bosnian Croat party HDZ BiH and a member in the Bosnian Presidency, after a meeting with the prime minister of Croatia and the leader of country’s HDZ party, Andrej Plenković, in Zagreb.

The appeals panel of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia upheld the guilty verdicts for six former leaders of the Bosnian Croat statelet. They were jailed for war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims from 1993 to 1995. The court also said that the crimes were part of a “joint criminal enterprise” with then president of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman, with the aim to ethnically cleanse parts of Bosnia and merge them with Croatia.

The verdicts were widely criticized and even rejected by Croatia’s and Bosnian Croat politicians.

Čović said that the Bosnian Croat leadership will respond to the implications of the “unjust” verdicts with “political means” and seek solutions to achieve equality for Bosnian Croats with Serbs and Bosniaks.

“We will have to restore the balance that some might want to disrupt. We must do it together and move on with life (in Bosnia), and achieve equality of Croats with the other two groups. That is a process that has been ongoing for some time now,” said Čović, alluding to his party’s effort to push through a reform of the Bosnian election law that would effectively guarantee success in polls for the HDZ BiH, according to analysts.

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