Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday celebrated the day of its statehood, marked once again by deep divisions in the country that bear evidence to the fact that even two decades after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement disputes on the state's foundations keep existing.
Statehood Day, November 25, commemorates the session of the National Anti-Fascist Council of the People's Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ZAVNOBIH) held in Mrkonjic Grad on that day in 1943 when the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a federal unit in the then new Yugoslav federation, was established.
"It is one of the most important days in our history, when Bosnia and Herzegovina's statehood was reaffirmed and when its peoples expressed the commitment to making their country a community guaranteeing full equality to all, and when its territorial sovereignty, integrity and historical continuity were reaffirmed," reads a message issued on that occasion by Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Dragan Covic.
The Croat chair of the Presidency underlined that Bosnia and Herzegovina developed on the basis of centuries of tolerance and coexistence of different peoples, cultures and religions, and that that tradition had not developed without challenges as was the current challenge of building lasting peace based on the equality of all living in the country.
"That is the only way we can leave behind violence, conflicts and the destructive political logic of the winners and the defeated. Only that way can we leave the past where it belongs and turn to a brighter future," said Covic.
At a reception held for Statehood Day in Sarajevo, the Bosniak member of the state Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said that regardless of all challenges and problems in the country, its people today lived better than they had before.
"Stop counting bad news because there will always be bad news. I call on you to talk about positive things and to launch a new wave of positive energy," said Izetbegovic, calling for unity on the country's progress.
Politicians and the authorities in the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska do not mark November 25 as Statehood Day because they believe that there is no legal continuity between today's Bosnia and Herzegovina and the 1943 Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Their position is that Bosnia and Herzegovina can base its statehood exclusively on the Dayton Peace Agreement of 21 November 1995 and the Serb entity marks that day as a holiday.
Over the past 20 years it has not been possible to reach agreement on a state law on holidays so each entity marks its own holidays, the only two holidays that are marked by both entities being May 1 and January 1.
The Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Mladen Ivanic, insisted on that fact this year again, and, acting in line with his predecessors' practice, decided not to participate in the celebration of November 25, which in all previous years was marked under the auspices of the Croat and Bosniak members of the state leadership.
"Bosnia and Herzegovina has no law on holidays and for me that alleged holiday cannot and should not be marked. For someone to mark it, it would have to be accepted by all constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Ivanic.