BELGRADE (Reuters) – Relations between Bosnia’s Serb and Muslim-Croat halves are more poisoned today than at any time since the 1992-95 war, according to the architect of the Bosnian peace accords, who also regretted a flaw in the deal he crafted.
“I think there is probably more tension than there has been at any time since Dayton, more tension, less cooperation,” Richard Holbrooke, the American who forged the Dayton agreement ending the 1992-1995 war, told Reuters on Thursday night.
Most of the countries of the former Yugoslavia and Albania are seeking to join the European Union to boost prosperity and guarantee against future conflict.
But diplomats in Sarajevo warn instability in Bosnia could make the EU more wary and delay accession progress across the region.
The Dayton agreement divided Bosnia into a mostly Serb half and a second region of Muslim Bosniaks and Croats, all of whom live under a weak central government.
About 100,000 people died in the Bosnian war, the worst fighting in Europe since World War Two.
Holbrooke said Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of the Serb Republic, was a key reason for instability. “Dodik is trying to destroy the central government,” Holbrooke said in an interview from Zagreb, where he is attending a conference.
“One very high-ranking Croatian official told me today that he thinks Dodik is trying to accomplish Karadzic’s objective by peaceful political means,” he said, referring to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic who is awaiting trial at the Hague on war crimes charges.
Washington once hailed Dodik as an alternative to Karadzic’s policies but it is now growing concerned over his separatist rhetoric. Holbrooke said Dodik had explicitly raised the issue of seceding from Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was not allowed under the Dayton Agreements.
Dodik is engaged in a rivalry with Haris Silajdzic, the chairman of Bosnia’s collective presidency who was a negotiator at the Dayton peace talks in 1995. “Dodik and Silajdzic have a poisonous interaction which is polarizing the country,” he said.
Holbrooke said it was dangerous for the world to ignore Bosnia and he suggested strong action could be taken through the office of the High Representative to revoke laws and to dismiss officials if they were in violation of the peace deal.
Earlier this month Bosnian Serb lawmakers moved closer to a showdown by demanding the right to call a referendum on independence.
He said the Dayton peace accords blundered in allowing the Serb half of Bosnia to be called the ‘Serb Republic’ rather than something that sounded less like a free-standing entity.
“We should have insisted on a different name, a name which did not have the word ‘republika’ in it,” he said.