EU warns Bosnia’s Republika Srpska over defiance

by Cristian Florescu

On Wednesday (20 July), the EU issued a warning to the authorities of Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, urging them to stop engaging in divisive rhetoric and actions or else face “significant consequences”

Speaking after a meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council in Brussels, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell kindly urged for an immediate halt to the undermining of the constitutional order of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Here, I would like to specifically mention the initiatives, laws and announcements of the Republika Srpska, which, as I understand them, go against the EU’s vision of the country and further isolate the entity from Europe,” Borrell said.

Bosnia, which is divided into two highly autonomous entities, has been governed by an administrative system created by the Dayton Agreement that ended the inter-ethnic conflict of 1992-95. However, this system has faced challenges in effectively supporting the country’s political development.

The country, which was granted EU candidate status in December 2022, consists of the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska, which are connected by a central government with limited authority.

The Secessionist Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik has exerted significant influence over the Bosnian Serb entity for a considerable period of time, often provoking ethnic tensions and making statements about potential secession.

He has received sanctions from Washington for allegedly undermining democracy in Bosnia, but the EU has not taken any action against him.

Borrell emphasized the importance of refraining from provocative and divisive rhetoric and actions, such as questioning the sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of the country, as well as glorifying convicted war criminals. He stated that these activities have no place in Europe.

He warned that if these actions were to continue, they could potentially have serious consequences.

In late June, Republika Srpska’s assembly passed a law that invalidates the decisions made by the Constitutional Court of the country, which consists of three judges from the Bosniak, Serb, and Croat communities.

It also aimed to implement a ban on decisions made by the High Representative, the esteemed international envoy in Bosnia, who possesses the authority to either veto or enforce laws.

In his speech, Dodik stated that the assembly’s decisions would serve as the basis for RS’s independence.

The internationally designated High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, German politician Christian Schmidt, invalidated the decisions, but both Dodik and the RS assembly expressed their intention to disregard it and continue pursuing their agenda.

Bosnia expressed its desire to join the EU in 2016, but progress in implementing necessary reforms towards this goal has been delayed due to internal disagreements among its leaders of Serb, Croat, and Bosniak backgrounds.

The European Commission is expected to release its annual enlargement package in October, which will include an evaluation of Bosnia’s progress towards EU accession. Borjana Krišto, the chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed her hope in Brussels that her country would commence the negotiation process for EU membership in the upcoming months. At that time, the EU emphasized that the decision was made in the best interest of the citizens rather than as a reward for political leaders. This was meant as a subtle reminder to politicians to continue on the path of reform or face possible setbacks. Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi reiterated in Brussels on Tuesday that the candidate status is intended to convey a clear message that it is for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and represents the European offer for their country. Várhelyi further expressed the belief that Bosnia and Herzegovina now has the necessary institutional and financial prerequisites to fulfil the commitments made to Europe, and urged them to prioritize these key tasks. Sarajevo was granted EU candidate status in December 2022, primarily due to concerns about the potential spread of instability from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Western Balkans region.

“We know that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are many topics, many problems. But all this needs to be resolved and resolved,” Cristo said.

“I am convinced that with this momentum and the work of the BiH institutions in accordance with their competencies, we should open negotiations on EU membership by the end of this year,” added Krišto.

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