Serbs Seek More Autonomy in Post-War Threat to Bosnian Unity
(Bloomberg) -- Ethnic Serbs adopted a roadmap to take more control over the judiciary, taxes and security in their state within Bosnia-Herzegovina, triggering the biggest challenge to the fragile unity of the Balkan state since war in the 1990s.
Lawmakers in Republika Srpska, the Serb-run half of Bosnia, voted on Friday on their plan that can unravel a delicate power-sharing system established under a U.S.-brokered peace deal in 1995.
The drive is spearheaded by Milorad Dodik, top Bosnian Serb politician who represents his community in the former Yugoslav republic’s collective presidency and defies Western calls to refrain from moves that can destabilize the country.
“If problems are not overcome, there’s a risk that Bosnia falls apart and Republika Srpska heads for the exit,” Dodik said in the assembly. “We’re not looking for a better deal just for Srpska, but for everyone in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
Under the peace pact, Bosnia-Herzegovina is comprised by two entities, Republika Srpska and one by Muslims and ethnic Croats, linked by a central government. An international envoy, appointed by United Nations, oversees Bosnia’s development and can impose reforms to help the country function.
Dodik wants to annul most of the reforms that have partly centralized governance since the war, demanding a return to the original setup, or a full split of the entities. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week in Moscow to secure support for such stance.
Bosnian Serb lawmakers are approved the documents that envision creating own institutions that would handle indirect taxation, defense, intelligence and the judiciary.
Top opponents of the Serb initiative are Bosnia’s Muslims, the biggest ethnic group in the country, while Croats also want to overhaul Bosnia’s often dysfunctional administration.
“Dodik likes to play on the brink and has threatened secession for years,” said Zarko Puhovski, political science professor at the University of Zagreb. “The difference is that he now has the support of the Bosnian Croat leadership.”
Bosnian Croats, who share the other entity with Bosnian Muslims, have protested that their candidate for the country’s tripartite presidency has in several ballots lost to an ethnic Croat who was elected by Muslim votes.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.