The Balkans was best known for minority problems. Today, the most bitter conflicts are between parties that appeal to majority ethnic communities. As recent turbulence in Macedonia shows, Eastern Europe could face new dangers if majority populism ends the current stigma against separatism for oppressed small groups.
Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS)’s creation of new gendarmerie police unit prompted concerns, while state-level govt formation remains stalled. RS govt 24 Sept unveiled new gendarmerie police unit, prompting criticism from Bosniak politicians. During unveiling ceremony, Bosnian Serb member of tripartite state presidency Milorad Dodik said in statement perceived as controversial that establishing reservist police force was best way to “protect and defend” territory. State-level govt formation still in deadlock a year after Oct 2018 elections, despite 5 Sept deadline set in Aug between three main parties. Bosniak Party of Democratic Action congress mid-Sept adopted pledge to reorganise country based on economic regions, prompting criticism from Croat and Serb parties and high representative for Bosnia Valentin Inzko and U.S. embassy.
While the physical scars of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war have healed, political agony and ethnic tension persist. Real peace requires a new constitution and bottom-up political change.
Occasional violence notwithstanding, Islamism poses little danger in Bosnia, whose real risk stems from clashing national ideologies, especially as Islamic religious leaders increasingly reply with Bosniak nationalism to renewed Croat and Serb challenges to the state’s territorial integrity.
Only thorough constitutional reform can resolve Bosnia and Herzegovina’s deep political crisis and implement a landmark European Court of Human Rights decision to put an end to ethnic discrimination.
The international community should start a process to close its supervision of Bosnia’s Brčko District at its meeting next week and develop a new strategy to better help domestic institutions address governance challenges and corruption, while retaining the ability to sanction any attempts to undermine security.
If the leaders of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) continue driving every conflict with Sarajevo to the brink, they risk disaster for themselves, the country and the Western Balkans.
Bosnia faces its worst crisis since war ended in 1995. Violence is probably not imminent, but there is a real prospect of it in the near future unless all sides pull away from the downward cycle of their maximalist positions.
Political instability keeps growing in the Western Balkans amid geopolitical contests and increased tensions with Russia. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to engage intensively to ensure the political space for avoiding more serious crisis does nto entirely vanish in the Western Balkans.