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Bosnia and Herzegovina - The 1998 Flag Change - Westendorp Comission

Last modified: 2003-07-05 by dov gutterman
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The High Representative of the United Nations issued a press release on the matter this Monday:

OHR Press Statement

Sarajevo, 12 January 1998

The Bonn Peace Implementation Council has invited the High Representative to establish a process leading to a decision on a new flag and symbols if the parties cannot agree on their own by 31 December 1997. With the expiration of this deadline, the High Representative announced his intention to establish an independent commission to propose alternatives for the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as outlined in his statement of 31 December 1997.

The High Representative hereby declares the establishment of the aforementioned independent commission. The members of the commission are as follows; Mr. Mladen Kolobaric, Professor. Nedo Milicevic, Dean. Sado Musabegovic, Professor. Marco Orsolic, Mr. Ranko Risojevic, Mr. Vehid Sehic and Professor. Gajo Sekulic.

The High Representative welcomes the participation of representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina's academic and intellectual community in the implementation of the peace agreement.

The commission shares the sense of urgency of the Peace Implementation Council on adopting a flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At a first informal encounter of the Commission on 10 January, chaired by SDHR Hanns Schumacher, the commission has agreed to submit already by 30 January 1998 its proposition for the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the High Representative.

The High Representative, following appropriate consultations, will then give consideration to the question of which procedure would best ensure that the decision on the adoption of a flag is reached in a fair and democratic manner until 15 February at the latest.

The press release is available at <>.
Jan Oskar Engene, 14 January 1998

I continue to inform on all the news regarding the Bosnia-Herzegovina flag. The latest piece of news was given in tonight's evening news of Croatian TV. As Murphy works well, I just left the room when this piece of news was on, so I got it only partially. However, I believe that this would be of your interest also.
It was said that the Westerndorp's commission have come out with three final solutions of the new flag designs, and that they will be given to the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina (if I understood it well) for adoption of one of those. If none would be adopted by the Parliament, it was said that Westerndorp would choose one of them and impose it as the new national flag.
The three proposals where shown quite well - but I was not in good place at the moment to see them well. :-( It seems that all of the three are quite new (that is, they have not been "in the game" before, at least not publicly). All of them seem to have neutral colours, probably deliberately. I'll restrain myself to say anything about them at this moment.
All proposals seem to have been made as 2:3 in proportions. All of them have been made as real flags of polyester (or some other light fabric), and were pinned against the wall (though the sleave for the flagstaff, the usual way of hoisting flags here, was clearly visible).
Zeljko Heimer, 27 January 1998

The news report I mentioned is from ONASA (Oslobodjenje News Agency Sarajevo), ONASA reported yesterday the following on the flag:

Three proposals given for Bosnian flag; OHR

SARAJEVO, January 26 (ONASA) - An independent commission under the patronage of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to Bosnia late Monday presented three proposals concerning the design of the country's future joint flag, the OHR reported in a release.

The High Representative to Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp, told a news briefing that after the presentation of the proposals, the designs will be sent along to a February 3 scheduled session of the Bosnian parliament on approval.

It will be up to the delegates to adopt one of the three proposed designs. The design adopted by the parliament will be sent to the Bosnian presidency for approval on February 4, said Westendorp, adding that if a decision is not reached he would act in the framework of his authorities and bring an appropriate decision.

The commission decided that the background in each of the three proposed designs is light blue, similar to the colour of the Organization of United Nations. Commission members said this would express Bosnian membership to the world community of states, said Westendorp.

The decision concerning the use of the color yellow in certain elements of each of the proposed designs was motivated by an equal acceptability of this color for all, as well as its association with the sun as the source of all light and symbol of life, said Westendorp.

A triangle is used in two of the three proposals. It is a universal geometric symbol and can be associated with the geographic shape of Bosnia and its three constituent peoples. While the third proposal contains a certain number of stars, similar to those on the flag of the European Union, the High Representative told the conference.

"One of the reasons we hurried with the design, we wished it to be displayed with other flags at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Nagano on February 7," said Westendorp, adding that if the parliament should propose certain amendments to the proposals, and all the delegates are in agreement, it will accepted.

The Deputy High Representative, Hanns Schumacher, called on all the member of the Bosnian parliament to be conscient of the historical moment at hand, and to decide on one of the proposed designs.

Jan Oskar Engene, 28 January 1998

I was kind of hopping that you will find any such source available on the net, and I was not wrong :-)

I will translate the text from the URL where the picture is:

Tuesday, 27 January 1998

Three proposals for the new flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina presented

A multiethnic commission for the development of the new flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina, formed by Carlos Westerndorp, proposed three versions of design-to-be the new state flag. The commission have not decided to include combination of the national symbols of Bosnia and Herzegovina nations, but, according to a member of the commission Sadudin Musabegovic, have taken into account the idea of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The High Commisioner of the international community and his deputy have told yesterday evening that all three proposals of the new state insignia will be proposed to the Parliament and the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I have not noted any mention of the dates when the flag will be considered in the Parliament, nor in the Presidency. This might be another non-time-limited "joke" and might come to nothing. The comment considering Nagano Olympics might help. At least it is not so far away in future.
Zeljko Heimer, 28 January 1998

I'm sure that I won't be the only person to notice that the colours of all the proposed flags are the same as those of the current flag - one might quibble about the shade of the blue, but azure is azure.
Vincent Morley, 28 January 1998

I have hunted some more news, this time from Bosnian television news summaries made available on the web site of the United Nations' High Representative. A short item on BiH TV News 27 January 98, 19:30, said:

The High Representative Westendorp presented the new Bosnia and Herzegovina flag yesterday. All three designs presented had a light-blue background. The first solution contained a triangle and nine stars, the second proposal had three yellow and two white lines, and the third one depicted five yellow and five white alternating lines making a yellow-white triangle. Westendorp said that Krajisnik was reluctant to accept a common flag for the whole country. Westendorp added that Krajisnik proposed a flag with the federation symbols on one side and the Republics Srpska symbols on the other. The Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina will decide which solution will come into force.

Jan Oskar Engene, 29 January 1998

Also from the OHR web site, a news item from BiH TV News 28 January 1998:

The SDA and the SDP held separate press conferences. SDA spokesman Grbo expressed dissatisfaction with the esthetic design of the Bosnia and Herzegovina flag, and said that the flag with lilies will remain in the hearts of those who defended Bosnia under it. SDP Co-president Avdic said that the proposal of the Bosnia and Herzegovina flag is the compromise that puts under the question the Bosnia and Herzegovina statehood. Avdic added that making the flag in such a manner shows complete blockade of the Bosnia and Herzegovina state institutions that the SDP does not accept.
Jan Oskar Engene, 30 January 1998

I just received by fax the report of the Bosnia and Herzegovina flag commission. The report is short, three pages of text and three pages of construction sheet drawings. It is in English.
Commission held four meetings between 12 and 22 January. One member did not participate in the meetings because he was out of the country. The commission comments about its task and the fundamental principle of its work: "Aware of the significance of the flag, there was full agreement within the Commission that all its elements and the symbol as a whole must be equally acceptable to every citizen and every group in Bosnia and Herzegovina." The commission concluded that it would be "very hard" to include in the flag elements from the symbols of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It concluded that "Instead, the Commission decided that elements of each of the selected solutions should be geometric figures and colors equally acceptable to all." It said of the three suggested designs, proposed unanimously by the commission, that these have the shapes and colours arranged "in such a way that they are harmoniously connected and imbued, symbolizing in that manner the fateful connection between all citizens and peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, their joint life, equality and tolerance."
The colour light blue was chosen, as we have heard before, because this is the colour of the United Nations "thereby expressing the membership of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the global community of states." Yellow was chosen because "this colour is equally acceptable to all and it is associated with the sun as the source of light and symbol of life." The symbolism of the white colour is not explained in the commission report.
Two of the commission's proposed designs have a triangle, "which as a universal geometric figure can be associated to the geographic form of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its three constituent peoples" the commission explains. The stars in the third design are explained with reference to the flag of the European Union, but the neither the significance of the number of stars nor the two half stars is explained.

Details valid for all three proposals:

  • Proportions: 1:2
  • Light blue colour = Pantone Matching System 637C
  • Yellow colour = Pantone Matching System 116C

Jan Oskar Engene, 2 February 1998

News from Bosnia is that the parliament failed to agree on a flag design yesterday and that consequently Westendorp, the High Representative, will make the decision.
Jan Oskar Engene, 4 February 1998

At <> (defunct) you can find:

Summary BiH TV News 03 February 98, 19:30
The House of People and the House of Representatives of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliament held sessions in Lukavica. The House of People did not accept any of the High Representative proposals on Bosnia and Herzegovina flag. High Representative deputy Schumacher appealed to the representatives to adopt one of proposals produced by the Westendorp commission, but the flag law was not adopted, nor were the flag design proposals. The Law on Customs Tariffs was adopted, as well as the changes of the Law on Passports.

Mark Sensen, 4 February 1998