By Biljana Pekusic and Drazen Remikovic
Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic may cause “irreparable harm” in relations between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) by his analysis that BiH does not function as a state and is “slowly disappearing ahead our eyes,” BiH Presidency Chairman Bakir Izetbegovic said.
Izetbegovic said that Nikolic’s pronouncements cause “irreparable harm relations between Bosnia and Serbia and the normalisation process which began in the region.”
Nikolic, speaking on relations with the Republic of Serbian and BiH, to Macedonian TV Sitel, said that BiH does not function as a state and is “slowly disappearing ahead our eyes.”
Azra Hadziahmetovic, vice president of the Party for BiH, said that this is not the way that a leader should express his attitude and thinking towards neighbouring states if he wants peace and stability in the region.
“If Nikolic thought to say something good and constructive, then he should certainly pronounce it differently. In this way, everybody gets an impression that he wants to cause tension and stress that is not good for anybody,” Hadziahmetovic told SETimes.
Nikolic, meanwhile, fired back at his critics.
“Although Serbia has been committed to restoring stability in Southeastern Europe, some politicians in the region think they can make themselves more important in the eyes of the West by, drawing my words out of context and by crude forgeries, try to create a bad image of the policy Serbia has. The latest example of this is Bakir Izetbegovic letter. Serbia has done much to restore stability in this part of Europe and its policy on this issue will not be changed,” Nikolic said in a statement.
Officials in Republika Srpska (RS) accused Izetbegovic of speaking for the Serb people in BiH.
“Izetbegovic is not the representative of the RS and has no rights to speak on behalf of its citizens especially when it seems he intended to worsen relations with Serbia and its top officials,” RS President Milorad Dodik said.
Nikolic has been criticised for statements since taking office earlier this year. He has twice denied that the 8,000 civilians killed in Srebrenica in 1995 was an act of genocide, although the killings were declared genocide by the Internaitonal Court of Justice and the UN. He also drew ire when referring to Vukovar, a town in Croatia, as a “Serbian city.”
“He has undermined the relations in the region since taking office as president,” Sonja Biserko, director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, told SETimes.
But some, like Asim Mujkic, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, said the reaction to Nikolic is overblown. “I think everybody should calm down the passions and that heads of states should sit down at the table and talk to reach agreement and consensus,” he told SETimes.
Nikolic’s cabinet said in a statement that the comment should not be interpreted as anything other than “concern about the poor functioning of the institutions of BiH, what is the unanimous opinion of the entire international community.”
Dusan Janjic, of the Institute of Social Sciences of Belgrade, said although Nikolic’s comments are not an announcement that Serbia wants to redraw borders in the Balkans, they cause worry.
“Brussels is very concerned about some statements of Nikolic and Serbian Prime Minister Dacic,” Janjic told SETimes.