High Representative Says Bosnia Facing Worst Crisis Since Dayton Accords
By Nikola Krastev
UNITED NATIONS -- In a scathing report presented to the UN's highest executive organ, the international community's high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina painted a bleak picture of a country that 16 years after the end of a devastating war is again finding itself on the brink of collapse.
Valentin Inzko told the 15-member Security Council that Bosnia has experienced months of paralysis in its state institutions. What's more, he said, there is no prospect for forming a new government and the economy is on a downward spiral.
"More than seven months after the general elections, there is still no prospect of a new state government being formed and many state institutions are under serious political, institutional, and economic pressure with a clear impact on their efficiency and functionality," he said. "The European Union and the Euro-Atlantic integration processes have come to a complete halt and the economy continues to suffer."
Inzko also said Republika Srpska, one of the two semi-autonomous constituents that comprise the country, is threatening Bosnia's integrity.
Inzko was referring to the controversial decision by the Republika Srpska leadership to hold a referendum on the competencies of the judicial institutions and certain powers bestowed upon the high representative -- namely, powers that give him sole discretion to annul or impose decisions within Bosnia and to suspend elected officials.
Inzko has given the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, one week to reverse the decision on the referendum or face suspension.
"The authorities in Republika Srpska have taken concrete actions which represent the most serious violation of the Dayton-Paris peace agreement that we have seen since the agreement was signed," Inzko said.
"The conclusions and the decision on the referendum, which were adopted by the Republika Srpska National Assembly in April, are not only a clear breach of the peace agreement but also put into question all laws -- I repeat -- all laws enacted by the respective high representatives, claiming they are in violation of the peace agreement. As such, the recent actions by Republika Srpska, if allowed to proceed, will have a major impact on the functionality and sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Serbia and Croatia, two UN member states that border Bosnia but are not members of the Security Council, requested and were allowed to make statements at the session on May 9.
Opposed To 'Imposition'
Feodor Starcevic, Serbia's ambassador to the UN, told the council that Belgrade had its own lines of communication with Republika Srpska but also fully respected the Dayton peace accords as the basis for stability in Bosnia and the guarantor of the country's territorial integrity.
But Starcevic also indicated that Serbia does not support Inzko's plan to suspend Dodik if the referendum is not repealed within the seven-day deadline.
"My country is opposed to any imposition of a solution because solutions should be taken only by the legitimately elected political representatives of citizens," Starcevic said. "We consider the idea of suspending the representatives of certain peoples as dangerous."
In a nod to Dodik's aspirations, Starcevic also said the proposed referendum on the competencies of Bosnia's judicial authorities had nothing to do with the territorial integrity of the country and did not violate the Dayton peace accords.
Croatia, on the other hand, realigned itself with the European Union's position on the situation in Bosnia. Ranko Vilovic, Croatia's ambassador to the UN, said his country viewed the Dodik-proposed referendum as a dangerous and counterproductive experiment.
"We believe this decision should be reversed," Vilovic said, "as it undermines the constitutional structure of the country and could undo the positive developments achieved since the entry into force of the Dayton peace agreement. If the referendum moves forward, it may foster new tensions in the country and the region."
Bonn Powers 'Unacceptable'
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, was highly critical of the high representative's report. Russia, Churkin said, found "unacceptable" the arbitrary execution of the so-called Bonn powers, which give the high representative the sole right to resolve disputes and suspend elected officials in Bosnia.
"The high representative bears a degree of responsibility for his actions on the basis of Bonn powers by systematically deepening the tensions in the country and resisting the efforts for domestic compromise," Churkin said. "We see the main problem first of all in the unwillingness to take into consideration the views of the Serbian and Croatian representatives."
Pedro Serrano, the acting head of the delegation of the European Union to the UN, said the EU fully supported the work of the high representative and shared his view that Republika Srpska's proposed referendum is a step in the wrong direction. Serrano also said the EU was intensifying its efforts to facilitate the accession of Bosnia into European structures.
"The European Union is in the process of further strengthening its engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina as to support its progress towards EU accession through a comprehensive approach and significant financial assistance and expertise," Serrano said.
Last year, the EU contributed approximately 130 million euros ($186 million) toward Bosnia's state budget.
Inzko told the council that the direness of the situation underlined the need for a continued international presence with an executive mandate and cautioned against "international fatigue" toward the country.
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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