Bosnian Serb Leader Threatens Secession Over Holidays


President Milorad Dodik said Serb-dominated Republika Srpska will have no reason to remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina if the country’s Constitutional Court approves state holidays not celebrated by Serbs.

Milorad Dodik warned on Wednesday that Republika Srpska coud leave Bosnia and Herzegovina if the state Constitutional Court doesn’t rule against the country’s Independence Day and Statehood Day after already ruling the annual Day of Republika Srpska holiday unconstitutional.

“If the court consents to the March 1 [Independence Day] and November 25 [Statehood Day] celebrations, then we have no place in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Dodik told a press conference in Banja Luka.

“The judges said that January 9 as RS’s statehood day endangers others. Since it is very clear that March 1 isn’t celebrated by Serbs, they are therefore endangered,” he said.

Dodik was referring to a decision by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitutional Court in 2015, which declared the January 9 Day of Republika Srpska unconstitutional as it is discriminatory against non-Serbs in the entity.

MPs in RS’s National Assembly then lodged a motion with the Constitutional Court in response, asking it to review the constitutionality of March 1 as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Independence Day and November 25 as its Statehood Day.

The MPs argue that the March 1 and November 25 holidays are not “representative of a will of all three [of the country’s] constitutive peoples [Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs]”.

The court is due to deliberate the motion on Thursday.

March 1 is commemorated in the Bosniak and Croat-dominated Federation and marks the 1992 referendum which saw Bosnia and Herzegovina succeed from Yugoslavia. Serbs, however, boycotted the referendum and therefore do not consider March 1 as their holiday.

November 25 – the day Bosnia was re-established in 1943 by the state’s Anti-Fascist Council – is also shunned by the Serbs.

They instead celebrate January 9, the day when they declared the establishment of RS in 1992 – a move which is seen by non-Serbs in the country as a precursor to the war that followed.

RS held a referendum on the holiday in September last year, in which 99.8 per cent voted in favour of keeping the date the same.

The referendum however was also declared unconstitutional by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court.

Dodik has repeatedly threatened to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However, in an interview with Politico last week, he said that no referendum on independence will be held next year, despite describing Bosnia and Herzgovina as a “failing state”.

“A referendum in 2018 would cause many reactions, and we still want to build up the momentum to have it legitimised as our right,” Dodik told Politico.

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The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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