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UN envoy in Bosnia suspends Serb property law

April 13, 2022

The law would have allowed for the Serb-majority Republika Srpska to take over property owned by the central government. Serb leader Milorad Dodik said he does not accept the decision.

US High Representative Christian Schmidt speaking at a press conference
The UN's top envoy in Bosnia suspended the legislation pending a review in the country's constitutional courtImage: Elman Omic/AA/picture alliance

The UN High Representative in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, on Tuesday suspended new legislation by the Republika Srpska which threatened to weaken the country's central government.

The law, passed by the Republika Srpska's national assembly in February, stipulates that the Serb-majority entity may take over state-owned property in the territory.

The UN High Representative oversees civilian aspects of the peace deal that ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. The office has the ability to sack elected officials and impose laws.

What did Schmidt say?

"I have issued an order suspending application of the Republika Srpska law on immovable property," Schmidt told reporters.

"Only the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina can dispose of state property, or regulate the ownership of state property," he said.

Schmidt added that the law was suspended "pending a review by the constitutional court."

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said that he does not accept Schmidt's decision, calling it "completely senseless in the country of senselessness which cannot function at all."

"The property of Republika Srpska is the property of Republika Srpska," Dodik said in an interview for the local RTRS television channel.

He went on to call Schmidt a "tourist" who has "no authority."

Republika Srpska soldiers celebrate the Day of the Republika Srpska
Dodik launched a process of Serb withdrawal from Bosnia's joint army in DecemberImage: Dejan Rakita/PIXSELL/picture alliance

What are the implications of the law?

Dodik has previously called for the Republika Srpska to secede from Bosnia, calling it an "impossible country."

In December, Dodik launched a process of Serb withdrawal from the Bosnian army, judiciary and tax system.

Bosnian Serbs have argued that Schmidt's appointment is illegitimate as it was not approved by the UN Security Council. China and Russia also take this position.

Bosnia is a federal state made up two "entities," the Serb-majority Republika Srpska, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is dominated by Bosniaks and Croats. The two entities were created by the Dayton Accords that put an end to the Bosnian War.

sdi/aw (AP, AFP)

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