Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) - Republika Srpska
Serbian hardliners in the Republika Srpska have never buried their plans to accede to Serbia; such ambitions have only ever temporarily been put aside. Republika Srpska [Serb Republic] is a constituent part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an internationally recognized state. While the Republika Srpska is not recognized as an independent state by any other state, some Republika Srpska officials at the highest levels dispute and question the existence of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and have predicted and advocated for the state’s dissolution, and challenged the functionality of the state and its responsibilities under the Constitution of BiH.
Tensions have flared in Bosnia since the Constitutional Court ruled in February 2020 that unclaimed agricultural land automatically became the property of the central Bosnian state rather than Republika Srpska -- contradicting Bosnian Serb law. Lawmakers in Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia's Serb entity, have given a 60-day deadline for the reform of Bosnia's Constitutional Court, threatening secession following the court's rejection of a move by Bosnian Serbs to claim federal agricultural land.
During an extraordinary session on 17 February 2020, Bosnian Serb lawmakers voted 72-2 to suspend the work of all RS representatives in Bosnia's institutions until the federal parliament terminates the mandates of the three international members of the Constitutional Court. Addressing Republika Srpska’s legislature in Banja Luka on February 17, Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s multiethnic presidency, said: “Goodbye [Bosnia], welcome [Republika Srpska's] exit. We will see each other in 60 days." Following the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war, three foreign judges serve on the court along with two Croats, two Muslims, and two Serbs.
The RS President Milorad Dodik continued to be the most frequent and vocal – although certainly not the sole – exponent of state dissolution. His statements have touched on self-determination as well as seeking to make links between Republika Srpska and developments elsewhere in Europe. In April 2013, the RS President said that BiH “has absolutely no possibility to survive”. He called BiH “a premature baby that was created and thrown on the territory of the Balkans to cover up earlier decisions about illegal recognition… In any case, it is an inevitable process. BiH will not survive! When will it fall apart? We shall see… That means that, hypothetically speaking, inasmuch as the demolishment of the Dayton Agreement continues, the RS can peacefully walk into Parliament and take a decision on its independence or to say let’s have a binding referendum. I am convinced the RS will one day measure its strength, its moment, its capacity, and will go for a referendum and be independent”.
Despite the absence of any provision anywhere in the Dayton Accords permitting or foreseeing dissolution or self-determination, the RS public campaign for dissolution has also sought to emphasize the RS’s alleged right to self-determination. The RS President visited Belgrade, where he addressed Serbia’s Parliament and sought to advocate “self-determination” for Serbs as a “constituent people”. He also noted in February 2013 that “[t]he right of the RS to self-determination is a right from the UN Convention… I keep no option closed.” He repeatedly threatened to hold an independence referendum, asserted that the RS wants to participate in EU integration only insofar as it reinforces the entity, and has stated that the RS will “proclaim confederation” and eventually secede.
The fundamental problem in Bosnia remains that the state lacks legitimacy. Serbs, after years of attacking the Dayton Accords, have grudginly acknowledged Dayton's entity-based structures and weak central state. But, over the years, they have sought to roll back reforms designed to make Dayton work and advance Bosnia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations, arguing that such reforms were not explicitly provided for in Dayton. Many Serbs would prefer the dissolution of Bosnia in favor of the independence of the RS. Even the most enlightened Bosnian Serbs continue to demand that the RS's status remains unchanged, i.e. that none of the relative autonomy of the RS vis-a-vis the state be surrendered, regardless of the demands of EU or NATO accession.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) consists of two Entities within the state, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Federation) and the Republika Srpska, and Brcko District. The Federation has a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat majority, while the Republika Srpska has a Serb majority. The Republika Srpska has a centralized government and is divided directly into 62 municipalities. The population of the Republic of Srpska is estimated to be in the region of 1,400,000 of which approximately over 90% are of Serb ethnic origin and the remaining 10% are mainly Croats and Muslims. The official language is Serbian. Some 50,000 residents of the Republic work abroad, mainly in EU countries (Germany, France, Austria, Sweden).
The Republic of Srpska is situated in the central part of Balkan Peninsula (South-East Europe) within the borders of ex-Yugoslavia. It covers an area of 25.053 sq. km. The territory is grouped in two main regions, North-Western part of Srpska (consisting of Banja Luka Krajina region and Posavina region), and Eastern part of Srpska (consisting of Semberija and Majevica region, Drina region, Sarajevo and Romanija region and Herzegovina region). Some 55% of its territory is covered by forest mountains, and the highest peak is Maglic (Herzegovina region) at the altitude of 2.350 m above sea level. The climate in general is the continental one with long snowy winters and dry hot summers, with the exception to the Herzegovina region which enjoys the benefits of the Mediterranean climate.
Republika Srpska leaders continue to challenge the Dayton Agreement with rhetoric that advocates Republika Srpska independence or secession for the Republika Srpska. State-level institutions are very limited in their capacities, and there are only a few such institutions that have national-level competencies and authorities that merit support (including the Ministry of Justice and State Parliament). What is highly problematic and, in present form, unsustainable, is the way in which the continued functioning of the state institutions and the exercise of exclusive state competencies can be seriously undermined by Entity/constituent people-based quorum and voting rules. As well, competencies shared between the state and Entities are configured such that there are inadequate mechanisms to ensure Entity compliance with state or joint policy.
Bosnia has been heading in the wrong direction since 2006. There has been a sharp and dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric, reforms have stalled (in some cases there has been backsliding), and Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats have laid out sharply different visions of Bosnia's future as a state. By far the biggest challenge are the Serbs, who have no incentive to engage constructively, and who, without serious pressure or even the threat of sanctions, remain unyieldingly intransigent.
By 2009 the greatest danger was efforts by the RS to de-legitimize and undermine the state. RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, regularly raised the prospect of an RS future outside of Bosnia and the possibility of an RS referendum on secession. He began a campaign to roll back previous reforms -- the very reforms that prompted NATO to invite Bosnia to join the Partnership for Peace and the EU to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Bosnia. At a minimum, the aim appeared to be to restore to the RS the level of autonomy it enjoyed at the end of the 1992-95 war, which would ultimately result in the collapse of the BiH state. The relative immaturity of Bosnia's democracy, exacerbated by Dodik's almost total control of the RS media, complicates efforts to promote needed reforms.
The conclusions adopted by the Republika Srpska National Assembly in 2011 presented a fundamental challenge to the Dayton Accords, and constituted the most serious of a disturbing pattern of actions by the Republika Srpska in violation of this agreement. They represented a setback to progress made on the 5+2 agenda toward closing the Office of the High Representative. And they would have a chilling effect on the Republika Srpska’s ability to attract much-needed foreign investment, complicating the already difficult road to economic recovery. The leadership of Republika Srpska planned to hold a referendum on the validity of the High Representative’s decisions and state judicial institutions, which are outside the competency of Republika Srpska. These actions are destabilizing to the overall situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and could paralyze the functioning of its state institutions.
In early 2008, when Dodic was prime minister, the parliament of the Serb Republic adopted a resolution, which said that Bosnian Serbs could leave Bosnia and Herzegovina if the majority of the UN member states and the EU member states acknowledge Kosovo's independence. By the end of 2012 those conditions were satisfied.
By 2013 some representatives of Republika Srpska (RS) continued the policy of the last several years of open and direct challenges to the fundamentals of the Peace Agreement and the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Statements made and actions taken continued to raise doubts about the commitment of the current RS leadership to the most fundamental aspect of Dayton – the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as set forth in Annex 4 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), including in particular the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH.
The RS President Milorad Dodik continued to be the most frequent and vocal – although certainly not the sole – exponent of state dissolution. His statements touched on self-determination as well as seeking to make links between Republika Srpska and developments elsewhere in Europe. In April 2013, the RS President said that BiH “has absolutely no possibility to survive”. He called BiH “a premature baby that was created and thrown on the territory of the Balkans to cover up earlier decisions about illegal recognition… In any case, it is an inevitable process. BiH will not survive! When will it fall apart? We shall see… That means that, hypothetically speaking, inasmuch as the demolishment of the Dayton Agreement continues, the RS can peacefully walk into Parliament and take a decision on its independence or to say let’s have a binding referendum. I am convinced the RS will one day measure its strength, its moment, its capacity, and will go for a referendum and be independent”.
According to mandatory disclosures provided to the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, the Republika Srpska spent almost $5 million in the US in 2010 and a total of almost $13 million from 2007 and 2011. In the first half of 2011 the government spent over $1.7 million on one firm, Picard Kentz and Rowe. In 2009 the Republika Srpska was the third highest spender on lobbying in the US of all foreign governments. The Cayman Islands came top that year, spending $7.8 million, mainly on boosting tourism. The United Arab Emirates, the UAE, came in second, spending $5.3 million, lobbying primarily for economic interests. Republika Srpska came third with over $4.6 million.
Republika Srpska (RS) opened a representative office for trade, investment and cooperation with the United States in Washington on 12 October 2013. This is Republika Srpska's eighth representative office in the world. The objective of this representative office is to explain that Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska as its part (one of the two entities in BiH) are not just part of the political story, but also an investment destination which has much to offer to the world.
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