The Bosnian Dodik’s questionable claims – analysis – eurasia review
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik threatens to step up efforts to sever ties between Republika Srpska and the rest of Bosnia. But to what extent are his threats and claims actually founded?
By Nermina Kuloglija, Emina Dizdarevic, Lamija Grebo and Jasmin Begic
After meeting with foreign diplomats on October 14, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik warned of the possibility that some countries would take inspiration from Washington’s book and threaten sanctions against those who destabilize the region.
Seemingly undeterred, Dodik, the Serbian member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, listed several steps he was planning to take in the predominantly Serbian Republika Srpska entity where his party is in power.
They included a decision to declare invalid in Republika Srpska all decisions taken by the Office of the High Representative, which has overseen the peace since a 1992-95 war that killed some 100,000 people.
Dodik blaming foreign powers for the tensions in Bosnia, accused them of wanting to create “a Muslim state” and warned that any move by the European Union to exclude Republika Srpska from its initiatives in the country would only “cement independence ”of the entity.
He announced the takeover of the military barracks of the Republika Srpska, now managed by the Bosnian armed forces, on the model of Slovenia during its secession from federal Yugoslavia in 1991. Everything would be peaceful, he said. , despite the fact that tens of 10 days of fighting in Slovenia before the withdrawal of the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav army.
He said a survey of soldiers from the Bosnian armed forces indicated strong support among Serbs to join a Republika Srpska army, claimed that Republika Srpska could count on Chinese support and revealed that he had asked for the support. from Russia in case the EU cuts its financial aid.
BIRN took a closer look at the veracity of Dodik’s claims.
Can entities reject decisions taken by the High Representative?
Speaking to reporters, Dodik said that in a few days the parliament of Republika Srpska will decide to withdraw its consent to reform of the army, the Supreme Judicial Council and Prosecutors, the Supreme Judicial Council, the tax system and other institutions.
“We will pass laws declaring null and void and unenforceable the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina which have been imposed by any high representative ever,” he said. “In the territory of Republika Srpska, this includes around 140 laws, including the Law on Courts, Prosecutions, SIPA, Intelligence and Other Services, and the Law on Public Procurement, as this too has been withdrawn from the Republika Srpska.
Under the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war, the signatories refrain from any action, threatening or using force or otherwise, against the territorial integrity or political independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Annex 10 directs the parties to cooperate fully with the High Representative and his staff, as well as with international organizations and agencies. He further clarified that the High Representative has the final say in the interpretation of the Agreement.
Under the Bosnian Constitution, which is Annex 4 of the Dayton Peace Agreement, entities are required to comply with the Constitution at the state level in the laws they pass.
“The Entities and all their subdivisions shall fully comply with this Constitution, which replaces the incompatible provisions of the law of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the constitutions and laws of the Entities, as well as with the decisions of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, said the Bosnian minister. says the Constitution.
In 1999, when the parliament of Republika Srpska changed the way in which five laws passed by the parliament of the Bosnian state would be applied in the territory of Republika Srpska, then high representative Wolfgang Petritsch overturned the laws. decisions, declaring that neither the government of Republika Srpska nor the government of the other entity in Bosnia, the Federation, had the competence to reject or modify the decisions taken by the Bosnian Council of Ministers.
The laws Dodik referred to – on the Prosecutor’s Office and Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, OSA and SIPA, as well as public procurement – were adopted by the Bosnian State Parliament.
Was Slovenia’s secession from Yugoslavia peaceful?
Dodik announced that the work of the Bosnian court and prosecution would be banned in the territory of Republika Srpska. Asked by reporters about how he planned to bring out the army, judges and prosecutors, he cited the experience of Slovenia’s secession from Yugoslavia.
“I refer you to how well the Slovenes did this,” said Dodik. “They blocked off the military barracks and said these guys, whom they did not consider to be good and including Bosnians, as far as I know, had to leave.”
“We won’t disturb anyone, we won’t touch a hair on anyone’s head; in the end, I think the Bosnian and Croatian soldiers will understand this.
Slovenia was the first republic to secede from Yugoslavia, but it was not peaceful. After a huge majority voted in favor of independence in a referendum in December 1990, fighting broke out with the Yugoslav People’s Army which lasted for 10 days.
According to official data, 44 members of the Yugoslav army died and 146 were injured. Slovenian forces left 19 dead and 182 wounded. Twelve foreign citizens were also killed.
Why are young people leaving Republika Srpska?
Dodik accused the EU of attracting educated and trained workers to Republika Srpska at great expense.
“As a community we have set aside a huge amount of money to educate these young and able people who grew up here, who became literate, who became experts,” said Dodik.
“To achieve this, we needed teachers, we needed schools, we needed light, electricity, computers… We had to offer free health care to all children and that’s what it did. the Republika Srpska. When we calculate what the EU has given us and what it has taken indirectly and insidiously, it is much more than what we got from them. “
The demographic situation of Republika Srpska is far from enviable.
It is no longer just the poor and the unemployed who are leaving; today, well-educated and highly skilled individuals emigrate and take their families with them, seeking not only better wages, but also better conditions to raise their children, a better quality of life and a better life. general security.
According to a 2017 study by the Center for Electoral Studies, CIS and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, unemployment is still the main driver of emigration, but other reasons include the general socio-economic environment, healthcare , instability and other problems.
Do most of the Serbs in the Bosnian Armed Forces want to join the Entity Army?
During the press conference, Dodik said that a poll had been conducted among members of the Bosnian Armed Forces, according to which around 80% of the Serbian soldiers were ready to “leave the service and join the new structures of the Republika Srpska. after the adoption of the law on the army ”.
“Regarding that 20 percent, we haven’t had a chance to survey some of them and some may not want to,” Dodik said. He did not provide any details on who conducted the survey or when.
Bosnian Armed Forces Joint Headquarters Chief Senad Masovic refuted Dodik’s claim, telling Klix.ba that no such official poll had been carried out.
“It would be a violation of laws and procedures to conduct such a survey,” he said.
Can Republika Srpska do without EU financial support?
Considering the possibility of the EU ending its loans and grants to Republika Srpska, Dodik said China would close the gap.
“In this regard, the Republika Srpska will not be left without investment,” he said.
When asked by reporters if he asked for some kind of help from Russia, Dodik said he did not ask for military help.
“I asked for [aid], This and that. Air support. Anything from Russia will come by plane. We need medical supplies, we need this and that, ”Dodik said with a laugh. He went on to suggest he was joking.
According to data from the Bosnian Ministry of Finance, Republika Srpska accounts for 3.5 billion KM [1.79 billion euros] of Bosnia’s total external debt of KM 8.6 billion.
The European Investment Bank, EIB, is Republika Srpska’s largest creditor with loans amounting to over one billion KM [510 million euros]. This equates to almost a third of all loans to Republika Srpska. The EIB was founded by the EU.
Another billion KM of loans were issued by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Creditors of the Republika Srpska include several EU countries, such as Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Poland, German and Austrian banks, the European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the BERD.
Of the total debt, more than half comes from EU countries.
According to official data from the Bosnian Ministry of Finance at the end of 2020, China and Russia were not among the creditors of Republika Srpska.
Data from the Central Bank indicate that the main investors in Bosnia between May 1994 and December 2019 were Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Netherlands, Russia, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and Switzerland.
According to a foreign direct investment report, although there has been an increase in investment from Russia and the Middle East in recent years, EU states remain the most important investors in Bosnia.
It is only in recent years that China has made larger investments in Republika Srpska, providing loans for projects, mainly for infrastructure such as highways or power plants for power generation.