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New Series no.13/14 December 1999 - February 2000
'Croats from Bosnia-Herzegovina will never again vote in Croatia'

Interview with Stipe Mesic

Would you change the provision in the Croatian constitution whereby Bosniaks living in Croatia have lost their status as a national minority?

It is first necessary to make all Croatia's citizens, regardless of national origin, equal in their rights and duties, and to make it possible for `vulnerable' groups to achieve the protection that would encourage their development. National minorities are obviously among them. Since Bosniaks are not mentioned in the constitution, it is obvious that we must correct this and name them as a national minority. Both Bosniaks and Slovenes.

What will be the attitude of the new Croatian government to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the HVO and the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Last year Budisa spoke of a `third entity', while the SDP says it would respect Croatia's constitutional responsibility to help the Bosnian Croats.

The entities are finished. We can speak of that politics as something that belongs to history, to an unhappy past. As regards helping the Bosnian Croats, the best one can do for them is to advise them to turn to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is their country, to `re-awaken' in themselves their homeland. This is the best form of help. As for how much financial aid the Croatian component of Bosnia-Herzegovina can expect, that will be decided by the Croatian Sabor with the participation of Croatian public opinion. The existing model of financing the HVO is out of the question, since the Federation now has - and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the future must have - a unified army. Without an army there is no state.

In your view, are the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina part of the Croatian diaspora or a constituent people in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

The two are mutually exclusive: if they are a constituent people, they cannot be part of the diaspora; if they are part of the diaspora, they cannot be a constituent people.

Following that logic they should not be able to vote in Croatian elections.

Nor will they again. These are the last elections in which the Croats from Bosnia-Herzegovina will have voted. They will never again vote in Croatia. They can only vote in Bosnia-Herzegovina, because that is where they live, which is why the only thing left for them to do is to turn to Bosnia-Herzegovina and stop looking towards Croatia.

If you win, what will be the attitude of Croatia to Bosnia? What should be the relationship between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina?

There should be maximally good and sincere relations, without any double dealing as has been the case thus far. We have compatible economies, we also have a common goal which is to join the EU and NATO. Since we have the same goals and a territory that connects us, we have no reason not to cooperate - but sincerely and without double dealing or eventual territorial aspirations. This means that the forces in Croatia which have tried to destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina will no longer play any role.

How often will you be receiving the representatives of the B-H Croats?

I shall not receive them at all, since there will be no need for that. I shall be the president not of all Croats [as Tudman claimed to be], but only of the citizens of Croatia. From now on, every future president of Croatia will have to be only the president of Croatia, not of all Croats.

Extracts from an interview given by Croatian presidential candidate Stipe Mesic to the Sarajevo weekly Ljiljan, 17 January 2000, shortly before the first round of the elections he won with 56% of the popular vote in the second round on 7 February 2000.

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