Croats are the oldest constituent people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and one of the pillars of the modern Croatian state, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Saturday at Open Day for Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina in her office.
“You are not guests, newcomers or an ethnic minority in BiH but its oldest constituent people which wants nothing more than peace and equality as the other two peoples in the common homeland of BiH,” she said, adding that BiH is not a state of one but three constituent peoples, which has been “a fact in BiH for decades and centuries.”
This fact “guarantees your constitutional rights and we have the duty to defend, interpret and promote that fact,” she said. “That is the threshold of your constitutionality and equality, and there is no retreating from that threshold. Together with you on that threshold stands Croatia.”
Grabar-Kitarović said Croats in BiH had the right to elect political representatives who would “legitimately represent them at all government levels,” as well as the right to ethnic, cultural, educational and media institutions and the right to the equal use of the Croatian language. In demanding those rights, Croats demand “nothing more than others” and that is the best way to preserve BiH as a state and that is how European values are built into BiH, she added.
She went on to say that BiH Croats, along with their “fellowmen and all patriots in Croatia” and expatriates, “are one the pillars of the modern Croatian state and our victory in the Homeland War.”
The president said her meeting with Croats from BiH was “an expression of the continuity of the policy of building national unity” as set out by Croatia’s first president, Franjo Tuđman. “Not just you Croats who live in BiH as its native people, but also Croats who emigrated from BiH, as well as those who emigrated from Croatia, are part of the indivisible Croatian being.”
She called for the establishment of mechanisms for connecting Croats in Croatia, BiH and abroad so as to make it possible to put all “national resources to use for demographic renewal and survival in our homelands, the boosting of our economy, and political and cultural recognition in the world.”
Grabar-Kitarović pushed for more intensive accession negotiations between the EU and BiH, provided that Croats are an equal people. The EU needs BiH and its accession would be of great political, cultural and security value, she said, Hina reports.