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26th Sep 2022

International envoy expresses concern over Bosnia

  • Mr Lajcak is "deeply concerned" by calls for secession (Photo: Slovak representation to the EU)

The international community's high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajcak, has expressed concerns over the "deteriorating" political situation in the country, amid calls for secession from segments of Republika Srpska – Bosnia's Serb entity.

"It is worrying that the positive constructive atmosphere [in Bosnia] which led to the initialing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement [with the EU at the end of last year] is deteriorating so quickly", Mr Lajcak told journalists on Wednesday (27 February).

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"There have been renewed tensions between political actors over the future constitution of the country, as well as the role and the competences of the state. State level institutions have been called into question", he added.

Speaking after a meeting in Brussels of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) steering board - comprising the countries supervising Bosnia since the end of the war in 1995, Mr Lajcak also said the PIC had expressed "deep concern over official calls for secession" in Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia's Serbian entity.

His comments come as unrest hit the region following Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on 17 February.

Thousands of Bosnian Serbs gathered in Republika Srpska's main city of Banja Luka on Tuesday, with their prime minister, Milorad Dodik, saying: "We only have a little patience left and this will not last for very long."

In addition, the Bosnian Serb parliament a few days ago warned it would use Kosovo as a precedent and consider a referendum to secede from Bosnia, if a significant number of UN countries recognise Kosovo's independence.

Mr Lajcak said that Republika Srpska would have "absolutely no right" to do so, however.

"It is clear that an entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no right to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina (…)There must be no question that Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities and that Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are constituent peoples [of the same country]", Mr Lajcak said.

"There is no excuse to use Kosovo" and its recent declaration of independence to justify the country's own problems, he added.

The semi-autonomous entity of Republika Srpska, mainly populated by Serbs (88%), together with the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, make up the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bonn powers will be used if needed

Asked if he is considering making use of the so-called Bonn powers conferred upon him by the Dayton Agreements – the peace treaty ending the 1992-1995 Bosnia war - the top diplomat said he would have "no hesitation" to do so if he felt it was needed.

Mr Lajcak's post as an international representative – or High Representative – in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was enshrined in the Dayton Agreements.

At a meeting in Bonn, Germany in 1997, the international community also granted real authority to the High Representative – the "Bonn powers", making it possible to impose legislation and sack officials judged to be obstructing the peace implementation process.

Mr Lajcak said he would not hesitate to use these powers.

Initially, the Office of the High Representative was planned to be closed by June last year, but the international community then decided to extend it for one more year, as Bosnia and Herzegovina was judged not ready to govern itself.

Mr Lajcak said closing his office remained a priority but only when Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes a "peaceful, viable state irreversibly on course for European integration".

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