The Bosnian Serb leadership has delivered another blow to the waning international presence in Bosnia, by ignoring a western ultimatum and deadline to abolish a disputed Assembly declaration, media reported on Friday.
The Assembly of the Serb-dominated Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska by Thursday evening failed to discuss the demand of Bosnia’s High Representative Valentin Inzko to abolish or reformulate their May 14 conclusions, which are viewed as a direct challenge to Inzko’s authority and a violation of Bosnia’s Constitution.
The disputed document calls for the return of competencies transferred from the entity to the state and an end to the use of the High Representative’s sweeping powers.
“High Representative Inzko will inform the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board about the fact that the National Assembly of Republika Srpska has failed to act and will consider his further steps in the coming period,” said the Office of the High Representative, OHR, in a terse statement.
The OHR would not speculate on the nature of its possible “further steps”. Technically, the High Representative has broad governing powers with which he can impose or abolish decisions or remove local officials from office.
Some western officials and experts were speculating that Inzko could use these powers to abolish the disputed Assembly conclusions, while some local media were hoping that he could even remove some Bosnian Serb officials as a punishment for their growing disobedience. However, the international community appeared to have little appetite for further escalating the clash with the Bosnian Serb leadership, which is already threatening to destabilize the situation in the country.
The “new war” between Bosnian Serbs and the international community was initiated after Inzko reacted strongly to the challenge embodied in the May 14 Assembly conclusions. On May 25, he demanded that the Bosnian Serb leadership abolish or reformulate the disputed conclusions by June 11.
Bosnian Serbs initially snubbed the ultimatum and invited Inzko to meet with them and further explain his demands. After Inzko travelled to Banja Luka and met with the Bosnian Serb leadership on Monday, they eventually put his request on the agenda of the marathon Assembly session, which started on Wednesday.
As this item was placed at the bottom of the agenda, the Assembly failed to discuss it by Thursday evening.
The OHR statement said this meant that a decision on this issue was postponed “to the end of the month”.
The OHR also noted that the disputed decision was not published in the Official Gazette, which is required for any decisions and laws to become fully legally binding.
“The High Representative noted today that the Republika Srpska National Assembly took a rational decision not to make the conclusions legally effective by not publishing them in the official gazette,” the OHR statement said.
Yet Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik continued ridiculing the OHR, explaining that delays in publishing the disputed decision in the Official Gazette were not due to their decision but technical reasons, and that the May 14 conclusions would be published eventually.
Some experts and analysts warned that if the international community failed to respond in a kind to the Bosnian Serb mockery of the OHR, it would effectively eradicate the point of having the OHR in Bosnia any longer.