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U.S., EU Call For Respect For Bosnian State Institutions After 'Divisive Rhetoric'

Lawmakers listen to debate during a session of the parliament of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka on October 20.
Lawmakers listen to debate during a session of the parliament of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka on October 20.

The United States and the European Union on October 20 expressed serious concerns about “divisive rhetoric” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and called on all parties to respect state institutions.

A joint statement from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also said that the United States and the EU are "united in their firm support for the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in their joint work to promote electoral and constitutional reform and maintain the functionality of its state institutions."

The statement was released after lawmakers in Republika Srpska, the Serb-majority entity that makes up part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, passed a new law that potentially undermines the country’s constitution.

The Law on Medical Equipment and Drugs -- adopted by the National Assembly of Republika Srpska on October 20 -- foresees the formation of the region’s Agency for Medical Equipment and Drugs as an “independent administrative organization” with the “status of a legal entity.”

The new body would essentially take over the powers and responsibilities of the country’s Agency for Medical Equipment and Drugs, a federal agency created in 2009.

Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state consists of two entities formed after the 1992-95 war -- the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with mostly Muslims and Croats, and Republika Srpska, with mostly Bosnian Serbs.

The constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, established in the Dayton peace accords that helped end the war, bars any of the country’s two entities from creating an agency that undermines federal bodies.

"There is no constitutional way for one entity to unilaterally withdraw from state institutions," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement to RFE/RL after the new law passed. All Bosnian leaders have a responsibility to reject destabilizing actions, the statement added.

The parliament’s move comes as federal prosecutors launched a probe of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik for "undermining the constitutional order" after he announced that Republika Srpska will soon pull out of the country’s joint military, its top judiciary body, and tax administration.

Dodik has repeatedly called for the secession of Bosnian Serb lands from the rest of Bosnia, which he labeled an "experiment by the international community" and an "impossible, imposed country."

Blinken and Borrell, who met last week in Washington, also said the United States and the EU have agreed to further strengthen their joint engagement in the Western Balkans in support of the region’s progress on its European path.

“EU accession, a stated priority for the whole Western Balkans, helps consolidate democratic institutions, protect fundamental rights, and advance the rule of law,” Blinken and Borrell said. “Closer integration will enhance stability and contribute to prosperity for the people of the region.”

Noting tension in the north of Kosovo with Serbia, the two diplomats encouraged both sides to engage in continued and sustained de-escalation and avoid actions that threaten stability.

They also stressed that accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia “should start without delay” and called on political leaders in Montenegro to work together to maintain a “strategic orientation” that leads to the reforms necessary to join the EU.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service

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