The 14th Dubrovnik Forum, which is focused on the impact of the coronavirus on geopolitical relations and the global economy, came to a close on Saturday. This year's forum gathered numerous international political leaders, including 10 foreign ministers and high ranking EU and US officials.
In his address Prime Minister Andrej Plenković discussed Croatia's efforts to fight the coronavirus, with an emphasis on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and vaccination campaign: "We believe that this crisis of COVID-19, with its unprecedented character, has really tested the capabilities of states, capability and intensity of international cooperation, of global governance, of our ability to respond jointly to a literally global threat. No one was really saved from COVID-19, and this makes the crisis that we are still going through indeed unique from a global perspective. It required leadership, it required resilience, it required very quick decision making, but also the vision of how to move forward."
The second keynote speaker was European Commission Vice-President and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. In his address he noted that serious changes to Western society were coming in the near future as a result of the coronavirus: "We still have a long fight in front of us. And the world that will come after, will be a different world. It will be less Western and more Asiatic. It will be more digital and much more unequal. Between countries and inside the countries."
Another key issue discussed at the forum was the resolving existing problems in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically the reform of its election law and its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Currently the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina allows Bosnian Muslims to outvote Bosnian Croats in their own ridings, and thereby elect Bosnian Croats’ political representatives. Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian political leadership in Zagreb has long been calling for this unjust situation to be changed through a reform of the election law. The issue has already been through the Bosnian courts, with the Constitutional Court in Sarajevo ruling that the current election law is biased against Croats and in favour of Bosnian Muslims, and has ruled that the election law must be changed. However, the dominant Bosnian Muslim political structure has refused to implement the ruling. The European Union and United States have all also come on board, urging for the situation to be rectified. For Bosnia and Herzegovina not remedying the situation could seriously hamper its Euro-Atlantic integration.
Prime Minister Plenković raised the issue during his meeting with the new High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, who will assume office on August 1st, replacing the outgoing Valentin Inzko. Plenković made it clear that Croatia insists on a fair election law that will honor the basic rights of all three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina: "We obviously expressed our wish that the discussions initiated in recent days regarding the reform of Bosnia's election law, reach a conclusion that will enable Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina to have their legitimate representatives in political bodies and Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency, so that one ethnic group cannot have an unfair advantage and be able to outvote another in its own electorate," Plenković said after the meeting.
For his part Schmidt said that it was important to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration: "I think it's very important to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina on track, as European Union access for all states in the Western Balkans is important. So, the Croatian and Slovenian example should serve to make people more aware of what needs to be done. And there's a lot which has to be done, in order to come to a situation where they can become full members of the European Union."
On the margins of the forum, Prime Minister Plenković also held talks with the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer and the EU Special Envoy for Belgrade-Priština Dialogue Miroslav Lajčak, regarding relations between Serbia and Kosovo: "The situation is, of course, not simple, because the normalization of relations is not a simple issue. But the process continues and the parties understand that it is important, and they are responsible, so that's what I can say," concluded Lajčak after their meeting.
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