Divisions inside of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnian Serbs against joining NATO, Bosniaks want to change the name of Republika Srpska

  • Marija Kadovic
  • 27.2.2019 07:07

The intensified NATO integration of Western Balkan states, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina, raised tensions in the region. The Bosnian dominant party proposed an initiative to change the name of a mainly Serb entity Republika Srpska, where most of the population rejects the Euro-Atlantic aspirations, because it considers them discriminatory to other peoples living in this Bosnian Entity. This action of the Bosniaks, who are pushing Republika Srpska away from Bosnia and Herzegovina, threatens to incite ethnic hatred and another conflict in the Balkans.

The NATO members support Bosnia’s ambition to join the Alliance, and in December 2018, ministers called on Bosnia to submit its first Annual National Program after previously approving the activation of its Membership Action Plan (MAP). However, the path of Bosnia and Herzegovina towards NATO is still unclear because of the current political crisis that is the outcome of the failure of the Dayton Peace Accords. It divided Bosnia into two federal entities, Republika Srpska, ran by the Serbs, and the so-called Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina dominated by Muslims and Croats. Additionally, it created a weak central government, with a tripartite state presidency, with each constituent people having a president. In this regularly called “dysfunctional” state where ethnic identity takes precedence over national identity, ethnic tensions have remained at risk of boiling over.

 

Although the majority of Bosniaks and Croats support the country's accession to NATO, Bosnia Serbs are strongly against it

 

The Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are divided about their accession to NATO, with their opinions depending on the entity they live in. Although the majority of Bosniaks and Croats support the idea, Bosnia Serbs are strongly against it. Milorad Dodik, the leader of Bosnian Serbs and the leader of the strongest party in the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, advocates the idea of military neutrality instead of joining any military alliance, especially NATO. In this respect, he enjoys the support of Russia, which views Bosnia and Herzegovina and other Western Balkans states as a new battlefield in its political war with the West. The Russian objective is to keep Bosnia out of NATO and the EU, ensuring that it stays an ethnically fragmented state in the heart of the Balkans and susceptible to Russian influence.

 

As a reaction to the Bosnian Serb rejection of the NATO accession, the biggest party of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina proposed an initiative to change the name of Republika Srpska

 

Integration into the Transatlantic Alliance is impossible without the consent of Republika Srpska. As a reaction to the Bosnian Serb rejection of the NATO accession, the biggest party of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), proposed an initiative to change the name of Republika Srpska. Its name is presented as discriminatory against Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats. Once the name changes, Republika Srpska wouldn’t cease to exist. Rather it would be renamed the Republic of Serbian, Croat and Bosniak people and with it, discrimination would be removed from the constitution. With this move, Boshniaks aim to put pressure on Bosnian Serbs and their decision about neutrality.

The Euro-Atlantic allies have been cooperating a lot with the countries of the Western Balkans because of their importance for European security. The integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina to both NATO and the EU together with other neighbor states would guarantee the stability of the region and decrease the possibility of another Bosnian war in the future, since NATO members haven’t experienced war on their territory after they joined NATO. Moreover, Russian influence in the region would be reduced. However, if the Euro-Atlantic allies don’t find the way to work with the Bosnian people and their representatives to reform the country, primarily by abandoning legalized ethnic division, these tensions could suddenly escalate into another war, the effects of which  would spill into the neighboring countries and allies would once again face a dilemma of how to cope with the Bosnian problem.

About author: Marija Kadovic

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