Republika Srpska (RS) 9 Jan celebrated RS Day, in defiance of Constitutional Court (CC) ruling that it is discriminatory and unconstitutional; RS President Dodik repeated calls for greater autonomy for RS and again raised prospect of secession. Celebrations in RS capital Banja Luka included presence of army’s Third Infantry Regiment, despite lack of state govt authorisation and warning by NATO that their involvement would violate Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA); Serbia’s president also attended celebrations. U.S. 17 Jan imposed sanctions on Dodik for obstruction of DPA over his defiance of CC; Dodik asked govt to declare U.S. ambassador “persona non grata”. Following Dec CC ruling that electoral system for Federation entity House of Peoples is unconstitutional, largest Bosnian Croat party HNS 28 Jan repeated call for establishment of third, Croat entity; main Bosniak SDA party said call unacceptable, would further divide country.
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.