Bosnian Serb leader calls for confederation

May 2012
Alaska, USA

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Emboldened by events in Ukraine, the leader of Bosnia's Serbs called on Tuesday for Bosnia to become a confederation of three states, and again threatened a referendum on secession if the proposal fails.

Milorad Dodik, president of Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic, has long advocated Bosnia be scrapped as a state, but has grown increasingly bold as elections approach in October that threaten to shake his 8-year grip on power.

Dodik, who has courted Russian political backing, has seized on Crimea's referendum to split from Ukraine - which was followed by Russian annexation - as a prime example of self-determination in action, unnerving Western capitals uncertain about his true intentions.

"Our next step is the opening of a dialogue ... on the restructuring of Bosnia as a confederation consisting of three states," he told a news conference in the Serb Republic's administrative center, Banja Luka.

"If this proves impossible, Republika Srpska retains the right to hold a referendum on its status."

A confederation is a non-starter for Bosnia's Muslim Bosniaks - the chief victims of Bosnia's 1992-95 war - but may win some support among ethnic Croat hardliners who have long called for their own entity within Bosnia.

After a war in which some 100,000 people were killed, a U.S.-brokered peace deal split Bosnia into two highly autonomous regions - the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation, populated mainly by Bosniaks and Croats.

The two regions are joined by a weak central authority, while the Federation itself is split into ten cantons, creating a highly-decentralised and unwieldy system that is frequently paralysed by ethnic bickering.

Under the peace accord, neither region has the right to secede or can be scrapped.

The Bosnian Serbs have resisted any reforms at the state level that they see as infringing on their autonomy, slowing progress towards the European Union and NATO, which fellow ex-Yugoslav republics Croatia and Slovenia have already joined.


British politician Paddy Ashdown, a former international overseer in postwar Bosnia, accused Russia last month of stoking Serb separatist sentiment, citing among other things Moscow's offer of a loan to the Serb Republic after the International Monetary Fund halted funding for the country.

Dodik said he expected a first installment of 70 million euros ($95 million) in April. Another 200 million euros were available over the coming year, he said, but did not specify the terms of the loan or whether it came from the Russian state or through a commercial bank.

Most analysts say Dodik's rhetoric has more to do with playing the nationalist card among voters than any real intention. Serbia, which fomented the war in Bosnia but has swung behind the goal of EU membership since the fall of strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, will not want to be seen to be encouraging the breakup of Bosnia.

Crimea was "convenient" for Dodik, said Sarajevo-based Kurt Bassuener, a senior associate at the Democratisation Policy Council think-tank.

"But obviously this is unlike Ukraine - Bosnia does not border Russia, there is no Russian troop presence here, and I don't foresee the Russians flying paratroopers to Republika Srpska to support its independence bid."

Aleksandar Trifunovic, editor of the Banja Luka web portal "Buka", said Dodik's comments should be seen in the context of parliamentary and presidential elections due in mid-October, with Dodik's party losing ground in opinion polls.

Dodik has threatened a referendum "so many times in public, and so many times it has proven fruitless", he said.
Nov 2012
I highly doubt that Dodik and his party are loosing ground in Republika Srpska. In fact, taking into account his popularity in Serbia, and even among CROATS, I think he will once again do fairly well. Media prophesies his fall from day one, but he always came back stronger than before.

To put it short - Bosnia and Herzegovina is an abomination. It's a country in who half of its population don't want to live in, it's a country whose inter-cantonal and inter-province borders are much bigger and better guarded than non-existent border with Serbia and it's a country whose decisions are being made in Brussels, not in Sarajevo. Country such as that, should not exist. If Yugoslavia was not good enough, then why is Yugoslavia-lite (that is B&H) ok? Me thinks because it was a first post-Cold War NATO/Western action and because of their credibility, they need it to succeed - if only by not admitting that it's a failed project.

Dodik IS right, whether you like it or not. Bosnia and Herzegovina should be reorganized into three ethnically based republic based on popular vote, and allow them to start the negotiations on the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

My personal belief is that (unfortunately) only ethnically and religiously homogeneous countries in Balkans, for the time being, can exist.
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May 2013
Glowin, I tend to agree with you. But such proceedings shall create even larger reactions in the West than the result of the Crimean referendum. Both because the area in itself is closer to the West and the Bosnian Serbs have less possibility of support from the outside now that Serbia proper has been subdued. This is all a part of the century-long struggle between East and West. Just my opinion.

Nov 2012
Yes, I agree with you fredleander, I don't really see this happening either in the near future, but that's not to say that it isn't a good idea.