Bosnia on the Brink Again: EU Threatens Sanctions as Bosnian Diaspora Protests West’s Inaction Over Crisis at Home

Written by | Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Rallies were held on Monday (10 January) in 35 cities across Europe and the United States over fears that Bosnian Serb moves towards secession could trigger conflict. Demonstrators demanded an end to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest political and security crisis since the 1990s, as Bosnian Serbs threaten to secede and fears grow about a slide towards a renewed civil war. The protests were spurred by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik’s moves towards secession when the parliament of Republika Srpska (RS) passed last month a series of laws enabling the entity to form its own parastatal institutions and its own army by May. In the latest development, RS’s administrative centre Banja Luka on Sunday held celebrations commemorating the 9 January 1992 when some members of the then Socialist Republic of BiH Parliament illegally declared the “Serb Republic of BiH”. The BiH Constitutional Court had declared this holiday unconstitutional, saying it offends the sentiments of Croats and Bosniaks. Many Bosnians are alarmed as the Bosnian Serb army committed war crimes against the non-Serb population during the war in Bosnia with the aim of achieving a Greater Serbia.
Dodik’s moves, which High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt said were “tantamount to secession”, violate the Dayton Peace Agreement signed in December 1995 that divided the country into two entities – a Serb-led Republika Srpska entity and a Bosniak-Croat dominated federation. “The secession of Republika Srpska would be a reward to the Serbs for ethnic cleansing and genocide against Bosniaks. Many fear the country is slipping back into divisions and conflicts,” warned the Netherlands-based Platform BIH, the umbrella group that is organizing the protests. “[Protesters] want to send a simple message to world officials that divisions and conflicts must not happen again. They want the EU and the USA to act in time, preventively, not reactively like in the 1990s,” it said. “Doing nothing is exactly what the international community was doing then and what the international community is doing right now”, said Alma Mustafic, one of the protesters in Brussels, whose father perished in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
Should the situation in Bosnia deteriorate further, the EU has at its disposal a wide toolbox, including imposing sanctions and reconsidering aid, the bloc’s spokesperson said on Monday (10 January). Some EU member states, spearheaded by the Netherlands and Germany, are calling for sanctions against Serb leader Milorad Dodik, while the US already adopted new sanctions against the secessionist politician last week. On Monday, the EU’s diplomatic arm, the EEAS, came out condemning the statements and celebrations in RS. “Such rhetoric and actions have further heightened the tensions among communities throughout the country and are further escalating the ongoing political crisis”, the statement reads. “They jeopardise the stability and prosperity of the country, and are in complete contradiction with its EU perspective, which can only be based on a single, united and sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina,” it adds. Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabi? and Russian ambassador Igor Kalbukhov also attended the RS events. The EEAS statement said that “the EU also regrets the support brought by other partners to such demonstrations, which threaten regional stability and affect good neighborly relations”.

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