Bakir Izetbegović.jpg
Photograph: HINA

The new Croatian government should contribute to strengthening economic cooperation and stabilising political relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosniak member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina tripartite Presidency and leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegovic, said in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

"I expect a businessman to solve economic problems and not generate political ones," Izetbegovic said at a party news conference when asked what he expected of Croatia's new government, to be headed by Tihomir Oreskovic, a businessman from the pharmaceutical industry.

Izetbegovic noted that outstanding issues between the two countries remained such as border demarcation and the exploitation of natural resources, adding that these could be resolved if there was good will to do so.

"I expect a good relationship (with the new government)," said Izetbegovic.

Commenting on the overall situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015, he said that the process of integration with Euro-Atlantic associations had finally started and that "mild progress and recovery" had been achieved on the economic front.

"The positive processes were overshadowed by growing opposition by the Republika Srpska leadership as well as by growing extremism that culminated in the killing of two members of the country's army," Izetbegovic said.

Speaking of changes in the country's government and the SDA's search for new partners, Izetbegovic said that the Democratic Front's (DF) policies were marked by whims and defiance and that it was necessary to turn to the Alliance for a Better Future (SBB), led by Fahrudin Radoncic, as a new partner.

Izetbegovic said that in early 2016 the Council of Ministers - the country's government - would be completed and that one ministerial position and one position of a deputy minister would be filled by SBB candidates who would replace DF officials but that Radoncic would not be among them.

Izetbegovic said that the Council of Ministers and the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Bosniak-Croat entity), led by SDA members Denis Zvizdic and Fadil Novalic, had achieved "clear and visible results".

He pointed to opposition from the Serb entity as the biggest problem.

"That entity is overindebted, its banking system is collapsing, public companies are about to fold," Izetbegovic said, adding that unconstitutional activities by the entity government were particularly worrying, including those challenging rulings by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and threats of a referendum.

As for announcements of grand celebrations of January 9 as Republika Srpska Day, which the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has ruled to be unconstitutional, Izetbegovic said that this was "a show of irrational defiance" that would not help solve any problems.

He said that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's statement that he would visit the Serb entity capital of Banja Luka on January 9 was "disappointing", but noted that work on strengthening good relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia should continue.

He dismissed speculation that the SDA was ready for a territorial reorganisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina that would contribute to ethnic homogeneity in some areas, but said that it was reasonable to merge some cantons in the Federation entity in order to reduce administration and simplify decision-making processes.

"That should be prepared for the 2018 elections," Izetbegovic said, resolutely dismissing ideas about a third, Croat entity.

"Nothing in this country will go against the will of Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks," he said.

He stressed that the SDA would resolutely oppose Islamic extremism and terrorism.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina, a member of the global anti-terrorist coalition, is making an active contribution and will continue to do so," the SDA official said, noting that Islamic radicalism posed the biggest threat to Islam and Muslims, notably those in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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