THE BOSNIAC DEMOCRATIC UNION: A NEW PARTY AND APPROACHES IN MONTENEGRO
Montenegro is one of the six former republics of Yugoslavia. Following the split up of Yugoslavia it became part of the loose federation of Serbia-Montenegro. On the 21st of May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum on whether to split up from Serbia, which was approved by a majority of 55.5 per cent and declared its independence on the 3rd of June 2006. According to the results of the 2011 census, there are 118.477 Muslims living in Montenegro. Consisting of ethnic Albanians, Bosniacs and Turks, the Muslim population makes up approximately 20 per cent of the population of Montenegro. The largest minority is Bosniacs. They make up 12 per cent of the total population and are represented by three MPs in the Montenegrin parliament. The Bosniac Party is currently a partner of the governing coalition.
A new party called the Bosniac Democratic Union (BDZ) has been established to represent Bosniacs in Montenegro. We have spoken with Hazbija Kalac and other party heavyweights about the reasons for a new party to represent the Bosniac minority in Montenegro, and about Montenegro’s policies, expectations of Bosniacs from the future and opinions on Turkey’s interest in the region with Edib Saljic, member of the BDZ’s central executive committee and party president in charge of the diaspora. GKY: Could you assess the economic situation in Montenegro? I am especially interested in learning how the economic conditions reflect on Bosniacs?Edib Saljic: In Montenegro economic conditions are poor in areas populated by Bosniacs, such as in Rozaje, Plav, Gusinje, Petnica and Bar. In Bijalope, for example, more than 50 per cent of the population used to be Bosniac and the town was one of the most impoverished places in Montenegro. In time Bosniacs left the city due to economic hardship and were replaced by Montenegrins. As the Bosniacs left and the Montenegrins came to settle the economic structure of the town has also changed. Now Bijalope is one of the wealthiest towns. The Montenegrin government is planning to do the same in Rozaje and other Bosniac areas. As economic conditions worsen, Bosniacs will leave and will be replaced by others. One of our primary aims in founding the BDZ was to find a way to keep Bosniacs together. Until 1993 there was a party first called SDA and then IDU (Islamic Democratic Union) with seats in the Montenegrin parliament. It is not possible to say that the Bosniacs have been well represented in the 20 years that have passed since 1993. In 1993 war broke out and our party left government. New parties were established. The Bosniac Party (BS) was set up. The BS got votes from Bosniacs by blaming the government before each election and supporting the same government after the elections. They forgot about the people as soon as the elections were over. Thus the grounds for the establishment of the Bosniac Democratic Union BDZ were formed. GKY: How many MPs do Bosniacs have in Montenegro? Will not the Bosniac vote be split?Edib Saljic: Bosniacs can take three seats. Most vote for the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS). Many Bosniacs have poor economic circumstances and in the small state of Montenegro party allegiance is important for getting even the most menial job. This party has been in government for 20 years and the Bosniacs have been forced to support it. When we enter the elections as BDZ, we may take some of the vote the BS has but we will take a lot of the vote which would have otherwise gone towards the DPS. We will awaken the Bosniac people. We are certain the people will support us once we tell them our economic programme. This is why we have been bold enough to enter politics. Undoubtedly, the BS will see us as rivals. They know that we are the kind of people who will suddenly shed light on things which have remained in the dark. We do not like the way they have carried on and we will do things differently. We have respect for the Montenegrin state. You have done things your way until now but do not be upset if we come to demand our rights now. Therefore people should speak to us directly rather than hearing things about us from them. GKY: What will the BDZ change?,Edib Saljic: We as the BDZ want to draw investment to Sanjak. We will provide services for those who want to directly aid the Bosniacs and who want to invest here. For example, we will ensure that the TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency) will reach its aims in the project it wants to carry out for Rozaje. The TIKA has donated EUR 20 thousand for the renewal of canals. The second instalment would come after the project had begun. The project did not begin, no one knows where the money went and the work on canals has not been carried out. We will devote ourselves to our job and people who work with us will know where the money goes to. The business community of Rozaje will come to us by their own accord. Almir Muratoviç carried out a lot of projects in Petnitsa region as the BKZ President. Now people want to deliver their aid and investments to us. Projects will grow larger with us. Luxembourg is sending a lot of funds for road construction but the funds are not directed correctly. There are kilometres of rural roads around Sanjak which can only be used by tractors. They do not pave them with asphalt because villages contain only ten to 15 households. Instead they keep renewing the asphalt in places with 200 households because this promises them more votes. The BDZ headquarters will be in Rozaje and not in Potgorica like all the other parties. Because as the BDZ, we will serve Bosniacs and we must be where they live. This is not so that we are away from the capital but to be closer to our own people. GKY: I understand that you intend to draw in aid and investment from Turkey?Edib Saljic: We need Turkey. Among people famous in the fields of trade, sports and politics in Turkey and among celebrities there are Bosniacs such as Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ. They are not our diaspora but we are their diaspora. These people have helped Turkey. We invite them to return to their roots and to help us as much as they have helped Turkey. We believe that Bosniacs living in Turkey do not have a light conscience. While they have everything over there, they still think about those that they have left behind here. They do not know through which intermediaries to aid us. Similarly, the Turkish state wants to aid Bosniacs but they cannot find proper counterparts here. Whatever Turkey has done in Montenegro until now, it has had little in the way of results. It could not take a share in large projects. TIKA wanted to establish a historical institute in Potgorica, but the man running the project, Adnan Pepiç was dismissed. According to the Montenegrin constitution, at least 12 to 15 workers per 100 employed should be Bosniac. Although the project was being supported by Turkey, there was only one Bosniac employee, who was fired when the project was finished. We see Turkey as the elder brother. It may have left the family so that those remaining could get along better. Now that 100 years have passed, it is time for Turkey to return and help the family it left behind. We have sworn to hold clean intentions and we are the true friends of Turkey in Montenegro. We do not know for how long we will be able to resist the pressures placed on us, so Turkey should hurry. Montenegro may one day close the door on Turkey, just like Serbia did. We will not be silent then as the Bosniac politicians in Serbia are silent now. We have no security without Turkey. GKY: What are the rights of Bosniacs according to the Montenegrin constitution? Are there any mishaps in implementation?Edib Saljic: According to the Montenegrin constitution, the Montenegrin flag to be flown in Bosniac areas should not feature a cross, but Montenegro is yet to produce a single flag without a cross on it. To add insult to injury there is now talk of limiting the right of Bosniacs to use their own flag in parliament. Yet our use of the Sanjak flag is a constitutional right. Even more interestingly, the constitution stipulates that a certain amount of funds be paid for every child until he or she turns 18 years of age. The implantation of this clause has been stopped despite there being no economic crisis. However the funds have then been transferred to religious unions, that is churches, who transfer them to their parishes. One cannot accuse the state, which claims that it does not give out funds for anyone. While funds go to churches, the Islamic Democratic Union, to which Albanians and Bosniacs are attached, gets nothing. We need Turkey for the lifting of such injustices. * Balkans Editor for the Diplomatic Observer and President of the Centre for Balkans and Cyprus Research at the Turkey in the 21st Century Institute. firstname.lastname@example.org Gözde Kılıç Yaşın*