BOSNIAC DEMOCRATIC UNION: NEW POLICIES IN MONTENEGRO





A new political party has been established in Montenegro to represent the Bosniac population called the Bosniac Democratic Union (BDZ). We have spoken to the BDZ’s leader Hazbija Kalac about Montenegro’s policies, the issues of Bosniacs in Montenegro, their projects, their expectations from the future and Turkey’s interest in the region.Hazbija Kalac is a founder and former Vice President of the Bosniac Party (BS) which currently has three MPs and is a part of the governing coalition. By his own account he founded the party Bosniac Muslim Union in 2002 as a former member of the SDA under Harun Hacic, when the SDA left the political arena. The BS was founded in 2004 with the inclusion of three other parties. Kalac left the BS after its congress in fall 2011. Kalac gives his reason for leaving the party as the BS’ reluctance to voice and call for the enforcement of the agreement signed between itself and the Montenegrin administration in 2006, which stipulated that Sanjak would remain a single entity after the completion of Montenegro’s split from Serbia. He summarises his position by saying “I do not accept that others should get to decided what rights we will get.”We asked for an interview with the question of why the need for a new party was felt on our minds. It is clear that the founding of a new party alongside another already representing the Bosniacs would divide the vote and lessen the representational power of the minority. Indeed, divisions and divisions within divisions have been taking place frequently in the Balkans recently. However, taking into account the example of the Rights and Freedoms party in Bulgaria, it may be said that long spells as “key” partners of coalition governments can sometimes lessen the resolve of the leadership of minority parties for seeking rights for the electorate their party represents.In the 14th of October 2012 elections in Montenegro, the European Montenegro collation of parties headed by the Socialist Democratic Party (DPS) under Milo Cukonovic had come first with 46 per cent of the vote. The DPS has been in government in Montenegro either on its own or as part of a coalition since the first multiparty elections were held in the country in December 1990. From 1997, the party started to distance itself from Milosevic. The DPS was in government on the 21st of May 2006, when the separation from Serbia was put to a referendum. The Bosniac vote was critical during this referendum. The independence of Montenegro would mean the splitting of Sanjak. The Bosniacs, who make up 12 per cent of the total population[1] determined the outcome of the referendum. In a sense, Montenegro owes its independence to Bosniacs. The Bosniac Party, which won three seats in parliament in the 2012 elections supported Cukonovic conditionally and the new government was established with minority support. The conditions were a greater share of employment for Bosniacs in state organisations, more investment in Bosniac regions and the development of closer ties with Bosniacs abroad and Turkey. However, not only have these conditions not been met but the Bosniacs had demands other than those voiced by BS.Such demands have been voiced in the interview we have carried out with Hazbija Kalac. The most important point here is the agreement signed with Bosniacs in 2006. While no one denies this agreement, there are no initiatives to implement it either. The priority has been given to this agreement in the party programme of Kalac’s BDZ. The demand is that Sanjak, which has been divided between Serbia and Montenegro should be a single entity as a cross-border region. This means that Sanjak will be declared a European Region. Cross-border regions have been in effect in Europe since the 1970s and at present there are 172 such European regions. Although each of them has a different status, the most important point for Sanjak is the ease of access over the Montenegrin-Serbian border. This would, for example, mean that someone who is a Montenegrin citizen but lives and works in the Serbian Sanjak will not have to travel to Montenegro for access to healthcare. Or for example, the children of a household resident in the Serbian Sanjak can attend a school in the Montenegrin Sanjak. The demand is for a special identity document for the population of Sanjak, who can them cross the border easily without having to pass through border and customs regulations. The benefits of Sanjak being declared a single zone will not only accrue to Bosniacs but also Montenegrins, Serbs and Albanians from Sanjak. Furthermore, the new region will have option of benefiting from European Union funds for cross-border regions, thus developing the region to which Montenegro and Serbia devote minimal resources. The system is not unlike the planned Serbian Municipalities Union of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo. For example, if Sanjak does become a single region, an administrative mechanism will be formed which will allow for the municipalities on either side of the border to coordinate their activities. However, rights similar to the authority of the Serbian Municipalities Union over some duties of the security forces or the Union being in direct contact with Serbia are not envisioned for the Sanjak Cross-Border Zone.The interview with Hazbija Kalac is also significant in that a party which is also called the BDZ exists in Serbia. The Serbian BDZ was founded with the initiative and support of the Mufti of Sanjak Muammer Zukorlic, came third in Sanjak in the 2012 elections and had its leader Emir Elfic elected as a member of parliament. However, relations had become dampened between Elfic and Mufti Zukorlic, probably due to the issue of who had ultimate control over the party, and attempts were made to remove Elfic from leadership. These attempts failing, a new Bosniac Democratic Union called BDZ-Sanjak was founded under the leadership of Jahja Fehratovic. Now a party with the same name is being founded in Montenegro with the support of Zukorlic. In our previous interviews with him, Mufti Zukorlic, who has established a Bosniac Cultural Union (BKZ) in every region with a Bosniac population had stated that a BDZ formation would be realised everywhere with BKZ presence. The issue therefore touches on the Bosniac awakening and their attempts to take their future into their own hands. Bosniacs who are not allowed to have a state in Europe due to their Muslim identity; Bosniacs who are victims of genocide are reawakening in Sanjak. In the former Ottoman province of Sanjak, Bosniacs are trying to establish their own future. GKY: You have often demanded Sanjak being declared a cross-border region and uniting Sanjak which has been divided between Serbia and Kosovo. Can you elaborate?Hazbija Kalac: The Sanjak Contract was made between the Bosniac Party BS and the governing party DPS in 2006, before the referendum ratifying the independence of Montenegro from Serbia. The BS promised the support of Bosniacs for the independence of Montenegro in exchange for the contract. I was then Vice President of the BS. The contract defined the future status of Sanjak, among other places. The government, that is the DPS government which was in office then and which is in office now accepts Sanjak across the border and Sanjak on this side as a single region. This was the first contract to be made since the region was left to Serbia-Montenegro in 1912 and takes the entire Sanjak as a single region. In 1991, when the state of Serbia-Montenegro still existed we had held a referendum in which more than 90 per cent of the participants agreed that “Sanjak should split as a whole”. With the 2006 agreement we have guaranteed the unity of Sanjak. Everyone knows that without the Bosniac vote in Montenegro, Montenegro would not have become independent from Serbia.GKY: Did the Bosniacs benefit or lose out from the outcome of the referendum for the independence of Montenegro from Serbia which they supported?Hazbija Kalac: I was involved with this project. Looking at the present situation I think the Bosniacs made the correct choice back then. After the contract we explained the situation clearly to all Bosniacs and they voted in favour of Montenegro becoming independent from Serbia. Now the same party is in government, but they are avoiding implementing the agreement, In 2006 every vote for Montenegro counted. It was one of the most important moments in history for the Montenegrin government. Now they have to pay the price, because without the Bosniac contribution, they would not have had a Montenegrin state. Now that they control all Bosniacs, they think that they do not have to honour their promise, they think “now we have it all, we might as well not carry it out”.GKY: In which other fields did the 2006 agreement stipulate regulations?Hazbija Kalac: The rights of minority peoples were being guaranteed, it was stipulated that the state would employ Bosniacs in keeping with their proportion of the population and we were supposed to have a share of the media in acceptance of our culture, language and religion. The present Montenegrin Constitution contains these conditions which they agreed to in the past. Bosniac language and literature and culture have entered the constitution. The Montenegrin Constitution recognises Montenegrin as the official language and Croatian, Serbian, Albanian and Bosniac as usable languages. While they accepted the rights of the minority peoples before and after the referendum, they did not carry out implementation. Recently governing parties have started to take up the Sanjak issue again. However, it is not for having signed such an agreement in 2006 that they are talking about Sanjak. It is because the BKZ (Bosniac Cultural Union) talks about the contract a lot and because Zukorlic, the elected Mufti of Sanjak has forced them to face the contract. They can no longer avoid it. The government now needs to solve the problem, for otherwise Zukorlic will.GKY: Does not Sanjak becoming a single region necessitate an agreement between Serbia and Montenegro? Furthermore, will Sanjak not be united anyway once these two countries become EU members? Hazbija Kalac: The Montenegrin and Serbian governments say that they will enter the EU first and then solve the Sanjak issue but we think the contrary. As politicians we must keep bringing Sanjak up because if these two states become EU members without solving the Sanjak issue, then they will never solve the problems of Sanjak. GKY: You now lead a new party. Is it the BDZ’s primary aim to realise the 2006 agreement?Hazbija Kalac: Yes, among other things. The NATO issue is important for us. While the Montenegrin government says it is making progress towards the EU, but they do not want to become EU members for other reasons, to protect themselves. We have seen through this and that is why we have founded the BDZ. We think that progress towards the EU should be very rapid. We have seen that our national policies are being determined by others, they are no longer controlled by Bosniacs. The Montenegrin Prime Minister has said “Our path to the EU is the path of Peter Petrović-Njegoš”. A glance at history shows that Peter Petrović-Njegoš was a person who tried to force Bosniacs out of these lands and was a strong proponent of Islamophobia. Let alone denouncing it, our former party BS did not even issue a statement on this comment. We thought that if they can be quiet in the face of this, they can remain quiet at anything. That is why we have decided to speak out. A new political movement was necessary. At the start of the year we penned a project as the BKZ, in which we said they have tried to destroy us in the past, they are trying to do the same now and the oppression against us has not ended yet. 20 Bosniac organisations signed this declaration. We have circulated it to all the important addresses in the world including the heads of government of the USA, Germany, France and Turkey. The US Ambassador called us to learn the details. European states have taken us very seriously. They now know how we intend to proceed as a party. That is why they take us seriously. In the Bosnian War Serbia and Montenegro fought on the same side. Militarily and politically Serbia and Montenegro are jointly responsible for genocide and massacres. However, not a single Montenegrin person has been tried until now. Serbia and Montenegro did not touch us at the time because they did not want war within their own borders, but had they succeeded externally, it would have been our turn. The Dayton Agreement did not end the war, it simply replaced the rifle, the gun and the knife with other things. Once Turkey finds the determination to aid us it may be too late, it may not find us here. It should hurry up.GKY: What are your plans?Hazbija Kalac: We know that there are two influential political factors here: the Bosniac Party and the Islamic Union. But neither one nor the other looks out for the Bosniacs. The EU may help us but the state does not seek EU membership. We do not expect the state to do anything for us, if it had intended to, it would have done something long ago. We will first gain the trust of the public and then we will tell everyone the greater plan. By telling everyone that this government does not mean well about the Bosniacs, that it is no friend to them, we will help both the EU and the Bosniacs. We see that this state has been severing our ties with our Turkish brothers. We will strengthen these ties. GKY: Would you become a coalition partner with the DPS after the new elections, should it ask you to?Hazbija Kalac: The ideology of the DPS and the BDZ is distant to us. However, a rule of politics is that you should never make enemies. Friendship may be possible around shared objectives. If we have shared points and if they honour our demands, we will not judge our partners. We have a plan and we will support anyone who expresses support for the plan. GKY: Let us assume that you get three seats in parliament and the DPS makes you an offer to join the coalition. What will be your clear demands?Hazbija Kalac: Integration with the EU and the NATO and the status of Sanjak. This is our main objective. On the other hand we have strategic targets regarding our culture and the Bosniac language. We want to be treated democratically and we want religious freedom. We want freedom for the Islamic Union. According to the constitution, on paper, it has autonomy. But this is not so in practice. We are the first political party to accept the World Bosniac Congress. We will run all our plans through the filter of the World Bosniac Congress. GKY: can you talk about Turkey’s investments in the region inhabited by Bosniacs?Hazbija Kalac: This is an interesting question. I want to approach it differently. We are not satisfied with the projects Turkey is implementing here through the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) and other organisations. I do not mean that Turkey is the guilty party but it is not entirely without blame. The people who maintain contact between the Turkish and Montenegrin state are at fault. These people do not make an effort to have the Bosniacs benefit. On the other hand Montenegrins and Serbs get the benefits of the projects. They should have come here first and gone elsewhere later. Unfortunately Turkey has invested in other places. We hope that Turkey will realise this and change its approach. Turkey does not know that the Montenegrin state has so far not carried out any policies which may benefit Bosniacs. It has tried to destroy the Bosniac people using its own politicians. The state filters investment coming through TIKA or directly from the Turkish state and prevents Bosniacs from getting any benefits. Every other group reaps more benefit than the Bosniacs do. We believe that Turkey can rectify these mistakes through Bosniac institutions and it can ensure that Bosniacs gain more from the same amount of investment by taking the correct steps. There will be no additional burden on Turkey but Bosniacs will get more.GKY: Who maintain contact? Are Bosniacs not already involved in investment talks?Hazbija Kalac: The Turkish state has made contact with Bosniac institutions here and carries out its investments through them. However all of these institutions are connected to the government and the investments are essentially controlled by the Montenegrin state. Turkey has never made contact with an institution which does not have ties with the Montenegrin state. If it really wants to help Bosniacs, Turkey needs to change its old habits. Our people here do not think the same of Turkey as they used to. What surprises and saddens them is that Turkey treats the Bosniacs here as being synonymous with the Montenegrin state. It comes across as wanting to make contact with the Montenegrin state rather than Bosniacs. Montenegro has not treated us well since the Ottomans left in 1912 and Turkey’s support for the latest laws upsets our people. The BDZ has a different view of the Bosniacs’ targets, national objectives and future than the Montenegrin government and the parties which form it. Up until now Turkey has not noticed any of the Montenegrin government’s faults. On the contrary it supports the government’s actions as they are.GKY: Could this be because the BS, which represents Bosniacs and is a government partner has been leading Turkey so?Hazbija Kalac: We have a realistic assessment of the situation. We cannot accept that Turkey can approach the rights of Bosniacs through the perspective of a single political party. It does not stand to reason. Today the Milo Cukonovic government is protected. They in turn tell the Turks “they will hurt Bosniac interests” should there be any new political formation, such as our party. This is why the Turkish state has a negative attitude to new movements.GKY: Is it not normal for turkey to refrain from interference in the internal affairs of a state on principle? There are centres in Serbia which claim that Turkey wants to separate Sanjak and rule over it like Kosovo. Hazbija Kalac: Turkey has a mistaken point of view on Montenegro and the Islamic Union in Montenegro because it gets wrong intelligence. Almost the same applies for Serbia. Either there is not enough information or there are fabrications. If the Islamic Union is one, Muslims in the Balkans will be one, if it is divided, then the Bosniacs will be divided. GKY: Which other countries are in a position to invest other than Turkey and which of them are investing at present?Hazbija Kalac: Montenegro’s policies are determined by three factors: the USA; Europe, that is Germany, and Russia. All three want the current ruling party to stay in power. They think that its policies do not matter but it suffices that it should stay in government. Montenegro sought integration with the EU. The EU should invest here, this is what we want also. We think that an important component of Montenegro’s integration with the EU is Turkey. We want Turkey to be more active in bringing democracy and economic freedom to the region. What we are upset at is that Montenegro has recently turned away from integration with the EU and the EU objective. Unfortunately, closing this door means closing the door to Turkey. This is why we are upset at Turkey only making contact with the government. If only it had made more comprehensive contact, it would have been able to enter the region through other means once the state closes the door on it. GKY: What are you differences with the policies of the Islamic Union?Hazbija Kalac: It is a very strategic point for us. In the Balkans Turkey makes contact with Bosniacs and the Balkans as a whole through these strategic connections. In Balkan countries with Bosniac populations, the condition of the Islamic Unions is different to the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey. In our region the Islamic Union is fully independent of the state according to its own constitution and can act unilaterally. This is a major difference. In Montenegro, the Islamic Union did not see its error because of Turkey’s incorrect perspective. The Montenegro Islamic Leader Rufat Feyzic and the former Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic signed an agreement in 2011. With this agreement the Islamic Union was directly tied to the state. This violated and damaged both the constitutions of the Islamic Union and of Montenegro. Turkey did not see the error and thus became a party to the mistake. What surprises us the most is that Turkey is named in the agreement. It is recorded that in the case of a dispute Turkey and the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs will arbitrate. They did not ask Turkey when adding this and Turkey accepted it as it stood. Does Turkey not have the inclination to ask what might be behind this? The Montenegrin state will lose, the Montenegro Islamic Union will lose the most from this but after a while Turkey will also lose. Turkey will have to interfere when problems arise here. An exchange is the case here and only the Montenegrin government stands to gain. During the war in Bosnia, the Islamic Union here had to split up from the Islamic Leadership in Bosnia. After the war the two should have reunited. Montenegro was clever enough to add Turkey’s name to the agreement. Thus, while the Montenegro Islamic Union grew distant from the Bosnian Leadership, it did not come closer to the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs. We were fooled completely. During the 90s, in the war in Bosnia, Belgrade and Potgorica had the secret plan of dividing Bosniacs. The plan, insofar as it concerned the Islamic Union in Potgorica succeeded. The same project applied to Belgrade but it did not work out there; the Serbian Islamic Union did not sever ties with the Bosnian Leadership. Here, though people took the “Turkish bait” in the package and ties were severed. The greatest blow against the unity of Bosniacs in the Balkans was struck the moment Montenegro Islamic Union split away from the Bosnian Leadership. When we turn away from our main centre, we are left alone. When we are alone, every government and politician tried to tear us apart further. Now they have us entirely under their control. This was our greatest loss. GKY: What is the extent of Turkey’s right in the agreement you have mentioned?Hazbija Kalac: If a disagreement arises within the Islamic Union which it cannot solve on its own, Turkey may interfere. It will make an offer stating a possible solution. The offer will not be made to us but to the Montenegrin government which will decide whether to accept it or not. So Turkey also took a bait. If Montenegro does not want to, it will not accept Turkey’s offer. It is a rights on paper, in effect Turkey has not gained anything. The Islamic Union is a political issue. More than 90 per cent of the Islamic Union consists of Bosniacs. There are some Albanians. The Islamic Union is influential in electing politicians. Once the Islamic Union is under control, political parties also come under control. The government has seen this and instead of dealing with politicians it has decided to take the Islamic Union under control. Having decided its direction, the government has also decided the people’s direction.GKY: What is necessary for the Bosniacs to live in peace and security?Hazbija Kalac: Interesting; this is the main question. Looking at the process in Sanjak and the Balkans we see that nothing has yet been solved here. All the major problems remain. At night we g  to bed thinking of EU integration and in the morning we wake up to Russian policy. This is why we see the EU and integration with the EU as a long and stable policy. We see the EU as a great chance. The EU is an opportunity to gain the rights which belong to Sanjak and Bosniacs within this state. We do not want to alter the regions of the state or its borders; for us this process is over. We want full democracy within EU integration. In this path we believe we will be involved with the EU process. We believe that regions rather than states are important within the EU and therefore the status of Sanjak should be established before EU membership. Nothing is ever a gift, one can only gain one’s freedom oneself.GKY: Any other messages you would like to add?Hazbija Kalac: We Bosniacs especially want Turkey to be on our side. We want Turkey to understand us better and to directly concern itself with our problems. The manner in which this has been undertaken up until now was not correct. Aid and investment carried out through the state do not reach Bosniacs. We want the Turkish state to approach the Bosniac people through the right channels. It is important and necessary to establish contact over independent organisations. We want Turkey to know of all that we are doing and why because Turkey matters to us here. There are many reasons for this but most importantly becuas we are brothers with the Turkish state and people. [1] According to the results of the 2011 census, there are 118,477 Muslims in Montenegro. Consisting of Albanians, Bosniacs and Turks, Muslims form approximately 20 per cent of the total population. Gözde Kılıç Yaşın 

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