The coalition government of Bosnia’s Federation entity was on the brink of collapse on Friday as the main players battled over control over lucrative public companies.
“Collapse in the government of BiH Federation,” the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz reported on Friday, referring to the decision of the ministers from the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, to walk out of an entity government session in a dispute about the control of public companies.
The five HDZ ministers already boycotted the previous government session for the same reason. After negotiations, the party leaders indicated that a compromise had been reached but that proved not to be the case.
“We would have to turn both blind eyes to be able to say that the [Federation] government is functioning,” Federation premier Fadil Novalic said after the abortive session on Thursday.
The problem emerged during negotiations on the formation of new governments in Bosnia and involves personal animosities as well as conflicting ideological views between the HDZ and the civic-oriented Democratic Front, DF.
Both the HDZ and the [Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action, SDA, want to distribute control over key public companies among themselves and then appoint new management – which is the usual practice in Bosnia after elections.
The DF has rejected this and wants the current managements to finish their legal mandates.
The HDZ insisted that the Federation government on Thursday discuss the case of Aluminium, Bosnia’s main export company, which has been under HDZ control but allegedly faces bankruptcy due to poor management.
The DF objected and eventually had this issue removed from the session agenda, after which the HDZ ministers left.
Bosnian Croat officials and media represented this as another example of how Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims] want to dominate over the Croats.
“Croats played again: because of broken agreement Croat ministers did not participate in session,” the Bosnian issue of the Croatian daily Vecernji List reported on Friday.
“I have a feeling that we have entered a serious crisis,” Dragan Covic, the HDZ leader and the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, said later on Thursday.
However, DF officials told Balkan Insight they would not allow personnel changes in Aluminium until judicial bodies had investigated the company and determined the exact situation.
“Both the HDZ and DF are stubbornly maintaining their maximalist positions,” a Western diplomat told Balkan Insight.
“If these two parties do not come off their war path soon, they risk toppling the ruling coalitions in the BiH Federation as well as at the state level,” the diplomat added.
Novalic, who comes from business community, said he had the asked political parties to “take this issue out of the government”.
The Federation Minister of Transport and Communication, Denis Lasic, from the HDZ, said the HDZ ministers would not be returning to government sessions until the replacement of managers in Aluminium and other two companies - which the HDZ wants to control - Power company of Herceg Bosna and Croatian Telecom - are on the session agenda.
“No one knows how will this end. There is no more faith in the government, and no more trust among the (coalition) partners,” Dnevni list quoted Lasic on Friday as saying.