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60 Days And Counting? Republika Srpska Threatens Secession From Bosnia

Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s multiethnic presidency (file photo)
Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s multiethnic presidency (file photo)

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Lawmakers in Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia's Serb entity, have given a 60-day deadline for the reform of Bosnia's Constitutional Court, threatening secession following the court's rejection of a move by Bosnian Serbs to claim federal agricultural land.

During an extraordinary session on February 17, Bosnian Serb lawmakers voted 72-2 to suspend the work of all RS representatives in Bosnia's institutions until the federal parliament terminates the mandates of the three international members of the Constitutional Court.

Addressing Republika Srpska’s legislature in Banja Luka on February 17, Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s multiethnic presidency, said: “Goodbye [Bosnia], welcome [Republika Srpska's] exit. We will see each other in 60 days."

Following the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war, three foreign judges serve on the court along with two Croats, two Muslims, and two Serbs.

Tensions have flared in Bosnia since the Constitutional Court earlier this month ruled that unclaimed agricultural land automatically became the property of the central Bosnian state rather than Republika Srpska -- contradicting Bosnian Serb law.

Bosnia's Bizarre System Of Government
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Dodik has repeatedly called for a referendum on the status of the Serb-led entity, saying Bosnian Serbs had a right to decide their own future.

In reaction to the move, Valentin Inzko, the European Union's high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, warned on February 17 that "secession would cross the red line."

Bosnia remains deeply divided along ethnic lines.

The country emerged from a 1992-95 war as two autonomous regions -- the Bosnian-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska -- united under a weak central government.

Last week, the United States and the EU office in Sarajevo joined Britain, Germany, France, and Italy in saying that “unilateral withdrawal from institutions, or blockages of decision-making within them, are unacceptable and counterproductive.”

The decisions of the Constitutional Court are “final and binding and must be implemented,” they said in a joint statement.