Although Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik announced that the Serb-dominated part of the country would declare state-level institutions established after the 1995 peace agreement invalid if the new government is not formed until September 5, Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic told N1 on Tuesday that this is not likely to happen as “nobody is prepared to seriously destabilise” the country and the region.
Bosnia has not formed a government - officially called the Council of Ministers - since the October 2018 election because the Bosniak and Croat members of the tripartite Presidency refuse to vote for the new prime minister, who is supposed to come from the ruling Bosnian Serb party, because he opposes the country’s path toward NATO membership and announced he would not allow the next step in this direction to be made.
The next step would be sending the Annual National Programme (ANP) to the alliance.
Although they agreed to Bosnia’s NATO membership before and signed off on the country fulfilling its obligations, including sending the ANP to Brussels, Bosnian Serb political leaders now vehemently oppose any activities that may bring the country closer to membership.
The leaders of the three parties which won the election signed an Agreement containing principles for forming the government on August 5 in an effort to overcome the stalemate, but the main issue, the ANP, is vaguely defined in the document and remains unresolved while the 30-day deadline set in the agreement is approaching.
The Bosnian Serb Presidency member, Milorad Dodik, said that if the government is not formed by September 5, the parliament of the Serb-majority semi-autonomous part of the country, Republika Srpska (RS), will organise a session where it will discuss declaring all decisions which are not strictly in accordance with the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement invalid.
This would mean that the RS would try to strip away the competencies of bodies that were established at the state level after the peace agreement, such as the joint state-level Armed Forces, the state-level tax office, the state court and police agency and others.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the main Bosniak party, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), said that he hopes that “certain politicians” will realise that sending the ANP does not immediately mean NATO membership and added that Bosnia will not become a member of the alliance “until we are all ready.”
“But we need to respect the Constitution, the law, and we need to continue on that path,” he said.
Izetbegovic said that his stance has not changed regarding the issue.
As for the deadline and the likely scenario after September 5, Izetbegovic said he expects the negotiations to simply continue.
“I think that there was some political bluffing and that there is nobody in Bosnia and Herzegovina who is prepared to seriously destabilise the situation,” Izetbegovic said, adding that it would not only destabilise Bosnia, but also the entire region.
“There is no going back. We will not return any of the competencies (to the entity level) nor will we go backward, because if we do, we could end up back in 1992 or 1995 and begin reconsidering the entire setup of Bosnia and Herzegovina which we accepted,” he said.
“Nobody will dominate in this country, we must put an effort into keeping this small number of youth we have left, to increase salaries, pensions,” he said.
The SDA also released a statement on Tuesday, commenting an interview Dodik gave to Russian media, where he said that he would reject Bosnia's EU membership if it would be conditioned with introducing sanctions against Russia.
The party said that this reveals the essence of Dodik’s policy which aims to stop Bosnia’s path toward NATO and the EU by breaching laws and previous decisions made through a consensus between the political leadership of all three major ethnic groups and to “serve Bosnia and Herzegovina to Russia and completely subject it to (Russia’s) interests.”
“All of this clearly shows that the policy of not backing down before Dodik’s policy of blackmail and threats regarding the ANP is correct. Because if one would back down on this issue, it is obvious that what would follow are new cases of blackmail and threats and the imposing of Dodik’s will and the will of the RS in the entire country,” the SDA said.