By Bedrana Kaletovic
“It is time for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to recognise Kosovo as an independent state, leave the past behind and make this bold move forward,” Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told Sarajevo’s Dnevni Avaz newspaper recently, raising again a thorny issue.
Although Thaci maintains that the act of recognition would boost regional stability, politicians in Republika Srpska (RS), including entity President Milorad Dodik, don’t share that opinion.
“Kosovo is a source of a long-lasting unstability in the region, and as such will not get the recognition of independence by Republika Srpska. The recognition has been supported by great powers wanting to punish Serbia and the Serbian people and bring them down, and as such, Kosovo cannot get a legitimate recognition from Republika Srpska,” Dodik said.
In BiH, the political disagreement regarding Kosovo’s status has dragged on for years now, and there has never been a consensus on recognition. The decision rests with the presidency of BiH, but neither the previous nor the current presidency has had the support of the Serbian member.
”A one-sided decision could bring regional peace into question,” Nebojsa Radmanovic, the current Serbian member of BiH’s tripartite presidency, said.
But not everyone agrees that RS’s categorical “no” is echoed by Serbia. ”This hot subject is one which our politicians carefully avoid. However, if they are truly prepared to support Serbia on its way to the EU, they will seriously have to consider the question of Kosovo independence, especially after the elections,” Nikola Gajic, 38, a political activist from Novi Sad, told SETimes. The run-offs are scheduled for May 20th.
Serbia’s Minister of Labour and Social Policy Rasim Ljajic is aware that the EU will not support Serbia with the unresolved issue of Kosovo. “It wouldn’t be smart to confront Europe,” Ljajic told the newspaper Vecernje Novosti.
And if Belgrade acquieces, political solidarity between RS and Serbia should guide Banja Luka’s reaction as well, academics in both BiH entities argue.
“When Kosovo is recognised by others, in other words by Serbia, which is bound to happen, so should it be by BiH as well,” Ivan Sijakovic, professor of sociology at Banja Luka University, told SETimes.
Asim Mujkic, professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, agreed. He told SETimes, “The first country which will recognise Kosovo, after Serbia does so, will be BiH. I consider that the future status of Kosovo has been resolved and that Kosovo is a sovereign and independent country.”
Recognition of Kosovo is also an economic matter. The government introduced customs fees on goods imported from both Serbia and BiH last July, because the two countries don’t recognise Kosovo’s customs seal. That has had huge implications.
“The value of goods exported to Kosovo from Serbia amounted to around half a billion euros yearly. [That means] a loss worth millions, since we are not compatible in their market, and Kosovo is the only country with which Bosnia and Herzegovina had a surplus,” BiH’s Foreign Export and Economic Relations Ministry said in a statement.