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Bosnian Serbs Mark Controversial 'Statehood' Holiday

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, denied the federal Constitutional Court in holding a referendum on the holiday.

Bosnian Serbs have marked a controversial "statehood day" holiday over the objections of Bosnia-Herzegovina's government, which says the holiday promotes separatism.

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, the head of the Bosnian Serb entity, said in Banja Luka on January 9 that the holiday celebrated the fact that "Republika Srpska has managed to survive under almost impossible conditions."

The holiday marks the 25th anniversary of the region's 1992 declaration of independence, which ignited the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The festivities include a police parade in Republika Srpska's capital, Banja Luka.

Although Bosnia's federal government refused to allow Bosnian Serb troops in Bosnia's national army to participate in the event, one regiment did appear at the celebration and presented itself to Mladen Ivanic, the Bosnian Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency.

The nationalist president of neighboring Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, also participated in the events, as did Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej and several Belgrade government ministers.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who is spearheading his country’s bid to join the European Union, did not attend the events.

Vucic said on January 5 that Serbia insisted on "protecting the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina" in order "to maintain peace and stability."

Dodik, in an interview with neighboring Serbia's state RTS television, said Bosnia was "a useless state."

He described it as "a failed international project" and "a monster that does not function."

Dodik Defies Court

In September, Bosnian Serbs voted overwhelmingly to maintain the holiday on January 9 in a referendum that led to the most heated debate between Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Serb officials since the end of the war.

Most Bosniaks and Croats opposed the referendum out of fear that Republika Srpska could be preparing to secede, destroying the delicate federal structure put in place after the war.

Bosnia's Constitutional Court had canceled the vote, ruling that the holiday is illegal because it discriminates against non-Serbs.

However, Dodik held the referendum despite that ruling as well as considerable pressure from the United States and the European Union.

"No one can make people's feelings disappear, or prevent us from celebrating on January 9. It's completely legitimate," Dodik said on January 6.

With reporting by AFP
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