The new Atlantic Charter was signed on June 10, 2021, by the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson. The document reaffirms the commitments made by the 1941 Atlantic Charter signed by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and includes new challenges that today’s world is facing. After the signing the Atlantic Charter, the G7 Group Summit was held, followed by the NATO Summit.
From the perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the joint NATO statement, signed by the leaders of the 30 member states, is particularly important, because the point 67 is directly mentioning support for the sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as its aspiration for NATO membership. Similar statements by international officials and multilateral organizations have been made so far, so there is nothing controversial in the latest statement. What attracted the attention of the international and domestic public is the position of Croatia, which reinterprets the statement, wanting to emphasize that NATO gave support to the constitutive peoples, because, as stated, the statement mentioned the General Peace Agreement which foundations are constitutive peoples. However, if the facts are followed, and the signed documents are read correctly, including the Atlantic Charter and NATO’s joint statement, it is clear that support is given to a functional and democratic Bosnia and Herzegovina, its integrity, but not to the collectivism dominance over the citizens.
The statement from NATO summit and the B&H Constitution do not mention constitutivity
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been in the reform processes for years, which should bring the country closer to membership in the European Union and NATO. Along the way, one of the conditions is the implementation of the verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases Sejdic – Finci, Ilijas Pilav and others, requiring that the Election Law must be adjusted to European and democratic standards, so that each citizen can be elected to any position. Instead of enforcement of the verdicts without any comments, Croatia is trying to impose a change in the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina by inserting the exclusive right of a single group (Croats) to elect its representative, leading to new divisions rather than state integration. Such a request is precisely contrary to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, and it is especially inadmissible for a neighboring country to interfere in the internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the past few years, the Republic of Croatia has made significant diplomatic efforts to impose to the European Union and NATO the topic of collective representation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In those efforts, Croatia is trying to persuade NATO and European Union members to abandon their own democratic principles and put pressure on Bosnia and Herzegovina to subordinate citizens’ rights to collective rights. This diplomatic offensive crosses the boundaries of correctness trying to compromise even NATO alliance, which, as Croatia pointed out, by mentioning the General Peace Agreement, indirectly gave support to the constitutive peoples. This means that the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina have dominance over the state, and that they have established it, which is quite the opposite of the truth. The Constitution states that Bosnia and Herzegovina is an indivisible whole that continued its existence, changing only internal administrative system. Bosnia and Herzegovina was not constituted in Dayton, nor was it established by its three separate peoples, but a decision on independence was made on citizen’s referendum in 1992, and then was internationally recognized and became a full member of the United Nations that same year. After the recognition, the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina began, which was stopped by the military intervention of the international community. At the end, a General Peace Agreement was finally reached.
The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t mentioning the constitutive peoples in the way represented by forces who don’t want a democratic and civil Bosnia and Herzegovina. The English version of the B&H Constitution is the only valid and authoritative one, mentioning the word “constituent”, but not “constitutive”. The difference is that the word “constituent”, as stated in the B&H Constitution (www.ohr.int), means “to be a part, or a component of a whole”, while the word “constitutive”, which is not in the B&H Constitution, means “to have power or authority to constitute, establish or bring something.” So, peoples are only constituents, ie. parts of a whole and indivisible state, but not the constitutive peoples who made it.
Therefore, the mentioning of the General Peace Agreement in the joint statement of NATO is certainly good for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens, because nowhere is mentioned anything what could be misinterpreted. The NATO statement states:
„Allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a stable and secure Bosnia and Herzegovina in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other relevant international agreements, encourage domestic reconciliation, and urge political leaders to avoid divisive rhetoric. We commend Bosnia and Herzegovina, an aspirant country, for its contributions to NATO-led operations. We are committed to maintaining strong political dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and offer our continued support to the implementation of all reform efforts, including through NATO HQ Sarajevo. We encourage the leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take full advantage of the breadth of NATO cooperative security and partnership tools. Allies welcome the work of the Commission for Cooperation with NATO. Allies urge political leaders to work constructively and to demonstrate political will for the benefit of all in Bosnia and Herzegovina in advancing Euro-Atlantic aspirations by implementing the much-needed political, electoral, rule of law, economic, and defense reforms, including through the country’s Reform Programme with NATO, without prejudice to a final decision on NATO membership.” (www.nato.int)
In a similar way, it has been manipulated for years by sending messages from Zagreb and Belgrade that Croatia and Serbia are “guarantors” of the Dayton Agreement. It is quite the opposite, Croatia and Serbia are the parties that participated in the military campaigns in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, as such, both signed many obligations, including withdrawing their military units from the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Atlantic Charter and support for the rights of individuals, sovereignty and integrity of countries
The signing of the new Atlantic Charter preceded the NATO summit. Bearing in mind that the United States and Great Britain are signatories to both, the Atlantic Charter and the joint NATO statements, then it is clear that the published conclusions will reflect on overall international relations, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was difficult to expect that America and Britain would trample in the NATO statement what they had previously stated in their charter. The Atlantic Charter sends a strong message through established principles of future action, but the two points are particularly important for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The first point of the Atlantic Charter states: “First, we resolve to defend the principles, values, and institutions of democracy and open societies, which drive our own national strength and our alliances. We must ensure that democracies – starting with our own – can deliver on solving the critical challenges of our time. We will champion transparency, uphold the rule of law, and support civil society and independent media. We will also confront injustice and inequality and defend the inherent dignity and human rights of all individuals.“ (www.whitehouse.gov)
Building democratic institutions and applying true democratic values are essential to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The policy of collectivism protection has brought destructive aggression, devastation, killings, rapes, expulsions and finally, genocide to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Every ordinary citizen in Bosnia and Herzegovina will accept with relief what is stated in the first point of the Atlantic Charter.
The third point is also extremely important for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, among other things, states: „We remain united behind the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.”
If we read carefully the messages that have been sent to the world public in recent days, from the society of the most developed countries in the world, then it can be concluded that there is a reason for optimism. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity is unequivocally emphasized. The Atlantic Charter mentioned the inalienable right of individual, who is a main fundament of democratic system, and later the NATO statement supported the General Peace Agreement, which nowhere mentions collectivism in the way that somebody wants to present it.