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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Selection of the flag by High Representative Carlos Westendorp

Last modified: 2023-12-09 by ivan sache
Keywords: westendorp (carlos) | proposal |
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Set up of a Commission

Quoting the OHR Press Statement released on 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 Kolobarić, Pr. Nedo Milčević, Dean Sado Musabegović, Pr. Marco Oršolić, Mr. Ranko Risojević, Mr. Vehid Šehić and Pr. Gajo Sekulić.
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.

Jan Oskar Engene, 27 January 1998

Proposals made by the Commission

Quoting news by the ONASA agency, 26 January 1998:

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

First alternative

[First alternative]

First alternative proposed by the Commission - Image by António Martins, 10 May 2016

Second alternative

[Second alternative]

Second alternative proposed by the Commission - Image by António Martins, 10 May 2016

The second alternative has a light blue field with five bars in turn coming out of hoist and fly ends and not reaching the other end, and also in turn yellow and white.
The bars are separated by a blue fimbriation 1/9 of the bars' width.

Željko Heimer & Graham Bartram, 5 February 1998

Third alternative

[Third alternative]

Third alternative proposed by the Commission - Image by António Martins, 10 May 2016

The third alternative has a light blue field wit then bars forming a triangle in the centre of the flag.

Jan Oskar Engene, 2 February 1998

Rejection of the proposals by the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Quoting BiH TV News, 3 February 1998:

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.

Mark Sensen, 4 February 1998

Selection of the flag by Carlos Westendorp

Quoting the press conference by Duncan Bullivant, OHR, 4 February 1998:

Yesterday's Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliament session failed to unanimously adopt one of the three designs for the Bosnia and Herzegovina flag, offered by the expert commission appointed by the High Representative. However, one design did receive a considerable number of votes. It is the design with the stars and the triangle. In the absence of any absolute decision from the Parliament session, the High Representative has selected this flag for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The final version will be slightly different from the original proposal, the colors have been changed to match those of the Council of Europe, which in effect represents a darker blue and yellow. It is this design, copies of which I have got for you to take away at the end of press briefing.
This flag is a flag of the future. It represents unity not division, it is the flag that belongs in Europe.
The triangle represents the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the yellow the sun representing the symbol of hope. The blue and the stars represent Europe, a Europe that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a constituent part of.

Jan Oskar Engene, 5 February 1998

Involvement of the Flag Institute

I was surprised that the Croatian 'government' sponsored magazine Vjesnik printed a "interview" with me. The journalist Mario Marušić never talked to me. Two weeks ago I was however interviewed by the Bosnian correspondent in the Netherlands for the Sarajevo magazine Slobodna Bosna. In that magazine was my involvement in the new Bosnian flag printed, as far I can see correct. In that magazine is clearly stated that I was involved in the new flag, and not that I was the designer. Vjesnik nicked the story from Slobodna Bosna. And it seems that Vjesnik journalist Mario Marušić doesn't read well.
I haven't designed the new Bosnian flag. The design was made by a Bosnian committee which included Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. That made three designs. On 3 February the Bosnian parliament couldn't reach agreement on one of these designs. My involvement - as office holder of the Flag Institute in Chester, since the death of William Crampton - was that I was consulted by the High Representative on proportions of flags in the Balkans. The question was if the flag should be 1:2 or 2:3. The original designs were made in proportions 1:2. I advised to keep the flag in those proportions. The second time I (for the Flag Institute) was involved was about an hour before the announcement of the High Representative which design he would choose. But he wanted to change the colour UN blue into Europe blue. He asked for the right colours shades of the flag of Europe. I could give them. Probably I was the first vexillologist in the world who knew which would be the new Bosnia flag. My colleague Graham Bartram made for the Flag Institute an EPS image of the flag design, which was used by the High Representative as the official EPS image. That is my whole involvement. No way that I designed that flag.

Jos Poels, 22 February 1998

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