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Bosnia and Herzegovina - The 1998 Flag Change - Westendorp Comission - The Choice)

Last modified: 2010-12-28 by dov gutterman
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[Bosnian flag]
The adopted flag
image by Jan Oskar Engene



See also:


The Process of Choice

Just now, BBC is reporting that Mr. Westendorp decided about the Bosnia and Herzegovina flag - with no details.
Jan Zrzavy, 4 February 1998

The BBC on-line did report a few details. It said that Westendorp's choice was the flag with "a yellow triangle and white stars on a dark blue background". That sounds much like the commission's alternative 1, though the blue was light in the commission proposal. BBC said the Office of the High Representative also announced that the flag would be used at the Nagano games.
Jan Oskar Engene, 4 February 1998

You can find the details at the newsroom of the BBC World Service:

Wednesday, February 4, 1998 Published at 12:21 GMT

New flag imposed on Bosnia

The International High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carlos Westendorp, has imposed a new state flag after the country's parliament failed to agree on a design.
A spokesman for Mr. Westendorp said the flag -- a yellow triangle and white stars on a dark blue background -- represented unity, not division.
He said it would be carried by the Bosnian team at the Winter Olympics in Japan on Saturday.
Mr Westendorp's decision comes after Bosnian Serbs and Croats opposed designs without national symbols, and follows his previous decision on the final design of Bosnia's currency.

Mark Sensen, 4 February 1998

The information that I will present now is based on the "article" in the 15:00 radio news on HRT Radio 1 (Croatian national radio).
It was told that after the Parliament failed to adopt the new flag, the High Representative Carlos Westerndorp is going to decide and impose the flag. His decision is not yet officially signed, but it was said that the design is fairly certain. The design that is chosen by Westerndorp is the one with yellow triangle and white stars - it was said that this one gained the most votes (but it was not said from whom!? Possibly in the Parliament session yesterday). The main objection in Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliament was to the shade of the blue, and it is considered that the flag that will be "decreeted" by Westerndorp will have the "darker" blue background (I assume that means the "standard" FOTW blue B, not the navy blue B++).
It was also said that the final design will be known when officially presented, but it is also said that it was not specified when this presentation will be held. I guess that it will not be until tomorrow (the real flag had to be made - it takes some time, after all).
Željko Heimer, 4 February 1998

On TV news tonight it was reported that the Parliament rejected all three "Westerndorp's" designs on its session today (3 February). As it was scheduled, the Presidency (the 3 members collective highest body) of Bosnia and Herzegovina was supposed to confirm the flag adopted by the Parliament tomorow (4 February), but I am not sure if they will even discuss it now. In any case, it was said that Westerndorp (the UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, in fact the "governor" of Bosnia and Herzegovina) will make choice of a new flag if not adopted by regular means. He is entitled to do so, and there is little doubt that he will do so, especially regarding the fact that Nagano Olimpics will start soon.
Željko Heimer, 4 February 1998

I heard the BBC news about 30 minutes ago on NPR in Chicago. They said the flag chosen was Royal Blue background, yellow triangle (no details about triangle with point up or down or sideways?), surrounded by yellow stars. They said the triangle represented the three communites in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the stars represented the European Union to which they aspire to belong.
Steve Stringfellow, 4 February 1998

Even if this explanation seems easily understandable it is the first time now that I hear about it - the triangle should stand for the geographic shape of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and any reference to the nations was purposely avoided. At least, I haven't yet seen the interpretation of the Office of the High Representative this way, and I believe that this could be made up (or "overheard") by the reporter. But, surely such thought hasn't come up only to the reporter.
Željko Heimer, 5 February 1998

Actually, the spokesman for the Office of the High Representative did say the triangle represents the three peoples (see quote below).

There is a transcript of a press conference held at 11:30 yesterday, available from the Office of the High Representative web site. I will quote the parts that are about flags, leaving out the comments and questions on other matters.

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: 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. I do have copies of this for you to take away with you at the end of this morning's briefing.

There were some questions from the press about the new flag, concerning the design, its symbolism and its status:

Colin Soloway-US News: A couple questions about the flag design, First of all it is a bit long, is this proportions which you showed us accurate?

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: There is no universal standard for flags. It is 2:1 proportion as designed by the experts commission.

Colin Soloway-US News: And also the stars at the top and bottom are divided, what is the reason for that, any particular significance?

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: Strange as it may seem Colin, I am not entirely sure.

Chris Stevens, Sunday Times: Duncan, about this flag which, by the way, looks like something from corn flakes box. Is it going to be in time for the Olympic opening ceremony, because there is this rumor that the Bosnia team will not include any Serbs and will be paraded with the old Bosnia flag?

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: The flag will indeed be produced in time for the Winter Olympics.

Dan de Luce, Reuters: Just to make clear again, when will the design be imposed or when will the decision be taken to impose?

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: The flag will come in effect with the signature of the High Representative, which may be today or tomorrow, on the letter authorizing the usage. We will arrange a full press briefing and event once the flag is actually produced in significant numbers, but we will produce some flags in the next couple of days for you to look at.

Dan de Luce, Reuters: What will be the rules, for example, if a government office would fly the old Bosnian flag, are there legal restrictions in another words, does everyone have to stop using the old one?

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: It will become the only legally recognized flag for Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no restrictions to stop you flying anything within reason. But it will be the only legally recognized flag. And of course government buildings, municipal buildings will expected to follow those rules.

Dan de Luce, Reuters: Is this considered, from the Office of the High Representative stand point, a temporary solution just the way the currency was, as a temporary solution, in another words maybe in 18 months or two years there will a different design?

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative: We are quite sure that if the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina put forward a design of their own and vote on it and it is adopted, then of course, this solution may well be a temporary solution but at the moment it is very much permanent we are not expecting anything else 18 months down the road unlike the currency.

In today's on-line edition of The Times (London) there is an article reporting protests against the flag. The article said "Sarajevo's intellectuals yesterday sent an open letter of protest to Carlos Westendorp, the international High Representative, arguing that the new flag he has imposed on Bosnia is "the final way to kill" the nation." It also said that "The intellectuals, led by Muhammad Filipovic, Professor of Logic at Sarajevo University, have demanded that Bosnians be allowed a referendum to decide their new flag."
Source: Tom Walker: Bosnian intellectuals wash their hands of flag 'like soap powder box', The Times, 5 February 1998
Jan Oskar Engene, 5 February 1998

The Office of the High Representative explained the number of stars is not significant. The idea of the half stars is that there were an arbitrary number of stars and these are the ones that just happened to lie on the field of the flag. [That said the number is defined in the specification sheet as seven whole stars and two half stars.]
Graham Bartram, 5 February 1998

The flag is depicted in an updated BBC News on-line report available here.
The flag depicted is essentially Alternative 1 of the commission on flags, only with a darker blue and yellow colours and roughly 3:5 in proportions. The triangle is still yellow (dark yellow) and the stars are white. BBC's report described the design this way:

The new flag will have a dark blue background, suggestive of the European Union flag and other European emblems, with a yellow triangle and white stars along the longest side of that triangle.

Duncan Bullivant, a spokesman for Mr Westendorp, said the flag - a yellow triangle and white stars on a dark blue background - represented unity, not division.

He defended criticism of the design by saying: "This is the flag of the future," he said. It is a flag that belongs in Europe."

He said it would be carried by the Bosnian team at the Winter Olympics in Japan on Saturday.

Jan Oskar Engene, 4 February 1998

Transcript: Joint Press Conference 5 February 1998, 1130 Hours (from Nato/Ifor site - Not available now)

Duncan Bullivant, Office of the High Representative:

[...]

There was a question yesterday about the stars and why we have a half star and a three quarter star. The reason for that, I'm informed by the technical experts who designed it, is that the stars are infinite and what is represented on the flag is a continuation rather than a finite number. If you understand that, you're a better man or woman than I am.

[...]

Mark Sensen, 7 February 1998

The official image of the new Bosnian flag can be seen on the World Flag Database. The flag was drawn from the specification sheets supplied by the Office of the High Representative and uses Pantone Reflex Blue and Pantone 116C (the same as the European Union's flag). The one of the Office of the High Representative website is a resized version of the original GIF file.
The colour was changed at the last minute (this morning and I had to redo the image so that it could be released to journalists). The Office of the High Representative finally agreed that pale blue, yellow and white didn't make for a very striking flag. The original idea was that the blue was United Nations blue, but United Nations blue is actually quite a lot darker, but for some reason the flags they have in Sarajevo are very faded! The flag is 1:2. They did consider 2:3 but decided to follow the trend of Balkan countries and go for 1:2. I don't know why the BBC screwed up the flag image, they had an accurate image first thing this morning - in fact they were the first media organization to do so.
Graham Bartram, 5 February 1998

The original three proposals all used pale blue (supposedly UN blue, but actually even lighter). Only when the final design had been selected was it decided to change the blue to EU blue instead. This was to make the contrast greater and made the flag look a whole lot better.
Graham Bartram, 22 October 1998


The Involvement of Jos Poels and the Flag Institute

I was surprised that the Croatian 'government' sponsored magazine Vjesnik printed a "interview" with me. The journalist Mario Marusic never talked to me. Two weeks ago I was however interviewed by the Bosnian correspondent in Holland 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 Marusic 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.
In the next issue of the Dutch flagmagazine Vlaggentijdschrift Vexilla Nostra (issued this week) and the Flag Institute's magazine Flagmaster (issued in about two weeks) you can read the full story. But, please, don't make up that I designed the flag of Bosnia. That would be too great an honour for me.
Jos Poels, 22 February 1998