Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing its worst crisis since fighting stopped in 1995, with no prospect of a new state government being formed, a stalled economy and a direct threat from Republika Srpska to the country’s very existence, the Security Council heard today.
Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, told a Council debate that Republika Srpska – one of two semi-autonomous entities that comprise the country – has taken “concrete actions which represent the most serious violation of the Dayton Paris Peace Agreement” since the pact was signed at the end of 1995.
Last month Republika Srpska’s National Assembly decided to hold a referendum in June on the validity of the powers of the High Representative and many state-level institutions, including the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“The recent actions by Republika Srpska, if allowed to proceed, would have a major impact on the functionality and sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Mr. Inzko said, citing the “significant number” of decisions taken, laws enacted and reforms made by his office since the 1995 peace deal.
That agreement, created after almost four years of deadly inter-ethnic fighting, established Bosnia and Herzegovina with two constituent entities – Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – with each entity having significant autonomy in their respective area.
Mr. Inzko warned today that unless Republika Srpska authorities withdraw the referendum, “I will have no choice but to repeal the conclusions and referendum decision.”
The High Representative noted that Republika Srpska’s authorities, particularly President Milorad Dodik, have also “continued openly to question the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina by repeatedly threatening the sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by frequently advocating for the dissolution of the country.
“The authorities of Republika Srpska have also continued to undermine and question other state-level institutions in the country. The policy behind [this] is to show that these institutions are dysfunctional – and therefore not needed at state level.”
Mr. Inzko added that the authorities continue to deny that genocide took place in the town of Srebrenica in 1995, even though this fact has been confirmed by international war crimes tribunals.
The High Representative stressed that the recent developments underline the need for a continued international presence with an executive mandate and he cautioned against any “international fatigue” about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We should have sufficient tools to prevent attempts aimed at rolling back the previously agreed reforms and at creating instability.”
He noted that there is no prospect of a new state government being formed, seven months after elections were held, with political parties continuing to play zero-sum politics.
The legislative process has stalled, resulting in no progress towards integration with the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the economy is under severe pressure.
“The current situation in the Federation is also a dispute between the ethnicity-based politics and a more civic-oriented version, and follows the overall division of the society in the country,” Mr. Inzko said.
“These approaches have so far been impossible to reconcile, and those Bosnian Croat parties which have been excluded – or rather excluded themselves – from the Federation authorities are now refusing cooperation with the Federation government. This will inevitably lead to further division and difficulties in the Federation.”
Representatives of nearly 20 countries, including those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, are slated to also address the Council debate today.