Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that his country's approval of Sweden and Finland joining NATO must be linked to changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral law that would favour the country's Croatian minority.
Mr Milanović, speaking of the need to veto the candidacies of Sweden and Finland, stressed that “this would not be a step against these countries, but one that would take care of Croatia's interests”.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, commenting on the president's words, assured that “neither [Croatia's ruling party] HDZ, nor the parliamentary majority is considering blocking Sweden's and Finland's NATO membership”.
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday at allied headquarters, setting in motion an express accession process.
The authorities in Zagreb have for months supported the efforts of Bosnian Croats seeking changes to an electoral process they believe is dominated by a Bosnian Muslim majority.
Applications for the accession of neutral states to NATO will be considered at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, probably at the level of ambassadors of member states.
However, it happens that the North Atlantic Council is convened at the level of heads of state, when Croatia is usually represented by the president, in which case Mr Milanović would have a real opportunity to block NATO's decision.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Sweden should not expect Ankara to approve its NATO bid without returning "terrorists".