Banja Luka, December 10 (AP) The Bosnian Serb parliament met on Friday to vote on measures that would weaken central authority in the war-torn Balkan country. The session came as the Bosnian Serb leader escalates his secession campaign despite the threat of further US and other sanctions.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on opening a procedure to withdraw Bosnian Serbs from the Bosnian army, security services, tax system and judiciary. This would be another important step in the wake of repeated threats by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik to secede, potentially leading to the incorporation of around half of Bosnia into neighboring Serbia. .
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Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of the Bosnian tripartite presidency, said Friday was a historic parliamentary session that would strengthen the Bosnian Serbian mini-state – formed under a US-sponsored peace deal that has ended the Bosnian War in 1995.
Dodik called Bosnia a “paper state” and told parliament that a referendum should be held in the Bosnian Serb entity on the formation of its own army, security service, high judiciary and fiscal authority and that ‘a new state constitution should be drafted.
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Opposition leaders in parliament have criticized Dodik’s policies, saying they are hasty, bring uncertainty and even possible clashes to the still volatile Balkan region.
Dodik has advocated for years the separation of the semi-autonomous Bosnian Serb mini-state from Bosnia and its integration into neighboring Serbia.
With the tacit support of Russia and Serbia, Dodik recently stepped up his campaign.
Bosnian officials have warned that Dodik’s policies could lead to clashes and called on the US and the EU to crack down on him and his associates.
The United States has already imposed a travel ban and an asset freeze on Dodik, and US and German officials recently threatened new sanctions in case the Bosnian Serbs further weaken Bosnia’s central institutions.
Dodik has repeatedly said he does not care about the new sanctions, adding that it would bring Serbs even closer to their “real friends” – Russia and China. He also denied that the withdrawal of central institutions would lead to rapid secession or a new war.
There will likely be a six-month delay before assembly decisions take effect as Dodik tries to renegotiate Bosnia’s fragile makeup with the country’s Bosnians and Croats from a stronger position.
The Bosnian War began in 1992 when the Bosnian Serbs, with the help of the Serbian-led Yugoslav army, attempted to create ethnically pure territories in an attempt to join Serbia. More than 100,000 people were killed and millions were left homeless in the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II.
The war pitted Bosnians, Serbs and Croats against each other and ended with the US-sponsored peace agreement that created two regions, the Republika Srpska and the Bosnian-Croat Federation.
The two regions were given a large degree of autonomy, but retained certain common institutions, notably the army, the higher magistracy and the tax administration. Bosnia’s three-member rotating presidency is made up of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian members.
In a sign seen in Bosnia as support for the Joint Bosnian Armed Forces, the United States delivered four new Bell Huey 2 multipurpose helicopters to its air force on Friday. (PA)
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