Insufficient support from politicians to the regional reconciliation

Izetbegović, Grabar Kitarović, Čović, Vučić and Ivanić; Photo: Tanjug / Zoran Žestić

Political will of the European Union and the leaders of the region will be of decisive importance for the further improvement of the reconciliation process and transitional justice, but while the EU offers encouragement and clear support to these processes (defined in the latest Strategy for a credible enlargement for the Western Balkans), support of the heads of states in the region is not clear or public enough. Post-war reconciliation in the region was therefore not achieved in decades after the end of the conflict.

The political segment of the upcoming London summit will be addressing the resolution of bilateral disputes and overcoming the heritage of the past in the region, strengthening democracy and gender equality, as well as the progress of the war crimes prosecution in the Western Balkan. Political consent (even declarative) for democratization and advancement of the rule of law is comprehensive, but lacking when transitional justice is in question.

Although the Coalition for RECOM, which advocates the establishment of a Regional Commission for establishing facts about war crimes and other serious violations of human rights committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia from January 1, 1991 to December 31, 2001, appealed to the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to continue the support to the Initiative, which was provided by former Croatian President Ivo Josipović, a clear answer on the institutionalization of the reconciliation process from her Cabinet still does not exist.

“President of the Republic of Croatia believes that each victim deserves piety and respect and that the historical truth about the crimes and their victims must be determined, because it is a pledge for the future”, the statement from her cabinet says, but also adds that the question of establishing RECOM is “within Berlin Process, in which the President does not participate”, and that this issue is in the scope of the Croatian Government.

A statement by the member of the BiH Presidency of the Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanić, states that each of the nations of the former Yugoslavia have their own explanation of what happened, that each of them perceives himself as a victim, and the other as culprits, and that this “clearly states that true reconciliation is still lacking” .

“Real reconciliation is possible only when it comes from the people and not from politicians. The overwhelming influence of politicians can only hurt the entire process because it is viewed through the prism of one’s self-interests. Reconciliation should be discussed by professors, intellectuals, people who have had difficult experiences. I oppose the exclusive entry of politicians into that discussion”, concludes the statement from his cabinet.

The answer to the questions – how satisfied are you with the current situation in the process of reconciliation in the region and interstate cooperation in establishing the facts about the wars of the nineties and what should be done additionally in this process – from the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s Cabinet are missing. While he was Prime Minister, Vučić has pledged to support the organization at a meeting with representatives of the RECOM Initiative.

At the presentation of the Road Map for the implementation of the project by 2025, the Coordinator of the Initiative for RECOM Nataša Kandić stated that the Initiative will insist on a firm commitment to this project by the regional politicians.

“The four Presidents (Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo) have already given the political promise to support the establishment of RECOM, the Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina has also extended his support, and the task of our public representatives in the coming period is the return of Croatia and the inclusion Bosnia and Herzegovina in the process of reconciliation”, said Kandić.

Vesna Teršelič, Director of Documenta – Center for dealing with the past from Croatia said at the same event that Documenta will “participate in the work of RECOM and make its data available to other countries, even if the Commission does not receive support of the Croatian authorities” because, she continued, “this is the only way to approach the reconciliation”.

While it is true that the presidents of the countries in the region have the main role in implementing the agreements reached within the framework of the Berlin Process, the significance of the President’s support is not only symbolic, because the RECOM Initiative has started exactly with presidents and their representatives. The Draft for Statute of RECOM has been prepared and agreed upon at the level of special presidential envoys in 2014, and within it, the objectives, functions, competencies, powers and structure of the future commission is described in detail. In addition, the Roadmap for RECOM envisages that “in the early stages of the process, the key actors will be the presidents, their cabinets and expert deputies”.

Coalition for RECOM was established in 2008 and now consists of more than 2,200 organizations and individuals, more than 580 thousand citizens of the region have signed the petition to support it, and the signing of a Declaration on the establishment of RECOM is expected at the upcoming summit in London, held within the framework of the Berlin Process.