Political Tensions Threaten Bosnia′s Fragile Peace | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.03.2009
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Political Tensions Threaten Bosnia's Fragile Peace

Fourteen years after its inter-ethnic war, Bosnian political tensions have reached boiling point with its Serb entity threatening a Czechoslovak-like divorce.

Young supporters of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime leader indicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, wave flags as Bosnian Serbs gather in Pale, Bosnia to pray for Karadzic on 26 July 2008.

A section of Bosnian Serb society wants self-determination

"We suggest that Bosnia be transformed into a federation in which the federal units shall have the right to self-determination," Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said.

"Why shouldn't we go the way of Czechoslovakia, and meet up in the European Union," he said Saturday in an interview with a Croatian daily, after several days of stern statements on the failure of Bosnia.

In what became known as the "Velvet Divorce," Czechoslovakia dismembered in 1993 to form the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The two new states joined the EU nine years later.

Dodik said the "federal units" of Bosnia should be able to resort to self-determination after "five to 10 years."

The Dayton peace agreement ended Bosnia's 1992-1995 war and left the former Yugoslav republic divided into two entities, the Serb-run Republika Srpska and Muslim-Croat Federation.

Under the terms of the accord, each region has its own government, parliament and police, but neither is allowed to secede.

The latest political crisis erupted last month after it was reported that Dodik and other Bosnian Serb politicians were the subject of a corruption probe.

Justice authorities have yet to confirm the existence of a case against Dodik, but Bosnian Serb leaders unanimously condemned what they called "illegal procedures" against their entity.

They have even threatened to leave central institutions, which would cause them to be blocked as the representatives of all three of Bosnia's main ethnic groups -- Muslims, Croats, and Serbs -- must be present for them to function.

Bosnian Serb PM threatens split

Bosnian Serb Milorad Dodik Prime Minister of Republic of Srpska

Dodik says that any split would be permanent

"If we walk out, we will never come back," Dodik said in comments published in Sarajevo's Dnevni Avaz on Friday.

He denounced as "farcical" the investigation that has been launched against him, adding: "I lost the little confidence I had in the Bosnian state."

Observers say the developments illustrate the fragility of Bosnia.

"Whenever we are faced with political tensions, Bosnia is confronted by the risk of collapsing and its existence is questioned," political analyst Tanja Topic told reporters.

For Srecko Latal, another political commentator, Bosnia's two entities were like the two engines of a hybrid vehicle, which meant the Balkan country was "always broken down."

The crisis emerged as the leaders of the main political parties representing Muslims, Croats and Serbs, including Dodik, were engaged in talks aimed at finding common ground for EU-backed constitutional reforms.

"This crisis has long blocked the constitutional reform," said Topic.

The former Yugoslav states of Serbia and Croatia, both involved in Bosnia's war and among the guarantors of the Dayton peace agreement, are also involved in this crisis.

Serbia offers Dodik support

Serbian President Boris Tadic

Tadic gave his support to Dodik

Serbian President Boris Tadic strongly denounced what he said was a campaign to undermine the "personal and professional integrity" of Dodik, in a statement issued this week.

Meanwhile, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said Saturday he was firmly opposed to any division of Bosnia. "This should not be permitted, for the good of Europe and peace in Europe," he said.

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