Thirteen years after its signing, a border deal between Bosnia and Croatia, although not yet ratified, is the target of criticism by the public and politicians in both countries.Although Bosnia and Croatia share an about 1,000 kilometers long border, they have never ratified the 1999 border agreement signed by two former presidents, Alija Izetbegovic and Franjo Tudjman.
The agreement defines the territories of the two countries differently from what the maps are currently showing – it stipulates that Croatia is to give Bosnia two small islands and a part of the island of Klek near the only Bosnian coastal town of Neum.Recently, both the Bosnian Foreign Minister, Zlatko Lagumdzija, and his Croatian counterpart, Vesna Pusic, said they intend to solve the border issue.
The first criticism came from Croatia, from the opposition party Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, who said that their country should not give away the islands in the south, even though the 1999 agreement was signed by Tudjman, who was leader of the HDZ and first Croatian president.
A professor at Bihac University, Munir Jahic, told the Sarajevo based newspaper Oslobodjenje, that he sees the proposal as a trap for Bosnia since Croatia is rushing to solve its problems prior to its EU membership in 2013.
“If the agreement is confirmed in the Croatian Parliament, then they will not be obliged to ask Bosnia for a permission to build the Peljesac bridge,” Jahic explained, adding that ‘the gift’ of two islands to Bosnia and a part of Klek is just a trap.The President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, told the media last week in Belgrade that his entity will condition the acceptance of the Tudjman-Izetbegovic agreement by demanding that the border on the north in the town of Kostajnica passes in the middle line of the river Una, which will mean giving more territory to Bosnia.
The ratification of the 1999 agreement is a solution for one of the many open questions between the two countries which they will eventually have to solve as a part of their EU obligations, especially prior to Croatia becoming an EU member on July 1 next year.
“That agreement would prevent Bosnia from accessing the open sea,” said Jahic, adding that according to the Law of the Sea Convention, the Adriatic Sea belongs to all the countries that have coast but none of those countries can be prevented from accessing the open sea.
The president of the Bosnian Borders Commission, Zeljko Obradovic, said that the confirmation of the Izetbegovic-Tudjman agreement would only be one of the solutions, adding that the other might be the confirmation of 95,5 per cent of the border.
“The disputable is only 5,7 kilometers of the border,” Obradovic said, “The Croatian Government wants the Tudjman-Izetbegovic agreement, but it is a question of what will happen within Bosnia, since the Republika Srpska entity raised the question about the border on the river Una [northwest Bosnia].”