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Serb lawmakers vote in favour of quitting Bosnia, despite global condemnation

31st Dec 2021
Serb lawmakers vote in favour of quitting Bosnia, despite global condemnation

Bosnian Serb separatist Milorad Dodik is pushing for Serb-dominated Republika Srpska to break away from Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Credit: Doğukan Keskinkılıç/Anadolu Agency)

Harun Nasrullah

Serbian lawmakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska – voted on December 11 to pull out of the country’s armed forces, judiciary, and tax system in what is, for now, a non-binding recommendation. The approval comes despite warnings against such a move from the international community and an opposition boycott.

(Map credit: WikiCommons)

“This is the moment of conquering freedom for Republika Srpska,” Serb Leader, Milorad Dodik, told the lower house. “Bosnia is an experiment … I don’t believe it can survive,” said the former Western protégé turned nationalist.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Dodik, who is serving as the seventh Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the collective federal head of state, warned that Republika Srpska will leave the country should the Government fail to resolve the challenging political situation.

“It is inevitable that Bosnia and Herzegovina will break up and Republika Srpska would leave the country if we cannot overcome the difficult situations we are in,” said Dodik. Republika Srpska is one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The National Assembly of Republika Srpska convened an extraordinary session in Banja Luka, the administrative capital. “The Republic of Serbia will not take military measures and if it comes under military attack, it will fight to resolve it by political means,” he added.

“We will only continue our path through political means. Just because we lack military might does not imply that we have lost. I reject war,” Dodik said during the session, and reiterated, “I call on this assembly to reject war.”

During the session, it was decided a new Constitution would be drafted, with Banja Luka proposing to become the capital of Republika Srpska.

In addition, within six months, the government of Republika Srpska must create legislation and regulations governing the security, defence, tax administration, and judicial system.
Meanwhile, members of the opposition walked out of the conference, claiming that Dodik’s speech was a “pure election campaign.”



Germany and Turkey have been the most vocal in condemning the non-binding vote to break-away Republika Srpska. And last month, the Dutch Parliament officially adopted a resolution calling for sanctions against Dodik and his clique.

German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, called for the European Union (EU) to slap sanctions on Dodik. Speaking following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Baerbock said the EU should put Dodik under more pressure and described the situation in Bosnia as “worrying.”

Turkey branded the vote “wrong, dangerous”. “The environment of stability established in the Balkans for 30 years is under serious risk,” said Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Parliament. “The decision taken by the parliament of the Serb Republic entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina is wrong, dangerous, and against the constitution.”

The international High Representative in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, has told the UN that Dodik’s plans represent an “existential threat” to the country. “The prospects for further division and conflict are very real,” warned Schmidt.

Bosnia’s opposition leaders warned the moves may lead the Serb Republic into a new war. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said the Western Balkans are “experiencing the biggest threat to their stability and security in over two decades.”

“We have a responsibility to do all we can to preserve the gains achieved through peace and dialogue – we cannot allow any return to the violence and division of the past,” he added in a statement.
Bosnia’s Ambassador to the UK, Vanja Filipović, said it felt “unimaginable” to be speaking on the potential renewed conflict in the wider political issues faced in his country with rising nationalism.
Speaking on November 29, at a roundtable event in East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre, Filipović described the current unfolding crises a “security issue”, and called upon the international community to help combat this new form of political aggression which had crossed clear “red lines”.

“Those of us who lived through the 1990s have learnt to recognise signs of a coming storm.” Filipović said divisive hate speech, which has been on the rise in Bosnia for 15 years, has moved from rhetoric to politics and threatens the country’s peace.

He went on to describe the resolution achieved under the Dayton agreement as a “difficult peace and unjust peace… it accepted the new division based on war and ethnic cleansing of the country.”

The Ambassador said the only reason the democratic system worked for the past 26 years was because of the international presence, which was built into the Dayton Peace Agreement. However, he expressed that the agreement failed to address the underlying issues that led to the war. Bosnia’s former Education Minister, Dr Enes Karić, argues that the Dayton Constitution of BiH does not provide for any possibility of legal secession of the two entities from BiH.

“The Dayton Constitution does not recognise (does not mention) any legally valid mechanisms for the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With that in mind, Republika Srpska cannot carry out secession in a legally valid manner. Of course, there is a danger of doing so violently. But in that case, such secession will not only concern Bosniaks but also all the great powers that guaranteed the Dayton Peace Accords.

I believe that even the Russian Federation would not recognise the secession of the Republika Srpska, because the Russian Federation knows that it would be very badly received in the Islamic world, but also in the EU and the US, said Dr Karić

“No matter what happens, I am absolutely sure of one thing: Bosniaks or Bosnian Muslims, their political and religious elites, will never accept the secession of the Republika Srpska. For acknowledging that secession would mean as if we were digging our own grave for ourselves,” he said.


In conversation with Bosnia’s former Education Minister, Dr Enes Karić on his country’s political crisis

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