West Undecided over Bosnian Serb Challenge

resizer55Phone lines are melting between EU and US diplomats as countries around the world hunt for a solution to the latest Bosnian Serb challenge.

According to media reports, a group of diplomats led by the US and UK have been increasing pressure on the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. They demand his consent for stronger action against leaders of the Serb-dominated Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska, which have legalised disputed Assembly conclusions by publishing it in the Official Gazette.

“Everybody eagerly expects OHR’s decision,” reads Wednesday’s front-page article on Sarajevo news web portal, Sarajevo-x.com.

The disputed Republika Srpska Assembly conclusions from May 14 call for Bosnia’s Office of the High Representative (OHR) to stop using its governing powers and to reverse its previous decisions — including dismissals of local officials and transfers of responsibilities from entity to the state level.

OHR declared those conclusions to be in violation of its authority and Bosnia’s constitution. They ordered the Republika Srpska Assembly to abolish or rephrase them by June 11. The Bosnian Serb leadership ignored these pleas and, on Monday, published the document in the Official Gazette, which makes it official and legally binding.

OHR failed to immediately react to this challenge, as most European countries and EU leaders failed to support eventual new uses of OHR’s governing powers. Furthermore, the EU commenced plans to shut down OHR and the EU peace-keeping mission, EUFOR, by the end of the year. This is despite repeated warnings of escalating tensions in the country and the rest of the region.

This situation delivered a new humiliating blow to the OHR’s waning authority. Some media reported on Wednesday that the head of the OHR, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, was ready to resign from his post if the West denied him needed support.

“Inzko has prepared his resignation,” reads the front-page article in the Sarajevo daily SAN on Wednesday.

In a similar situation, Inzko’s predecessor, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, has also lost international support and has left Bosnia early. Prior to departing in February this year, Lajcak compared international presence in Bosnia with a “dead horse” which he was unwilling to ride any more.

According to local media and western diplomatic sources, discussion within and among EU and US diplomats is ongoing. A final solution should be reached by June 29-20, when representatives of the top western countries engaged in the peace-implementation process, meet at the so-called Peace Implementation Council, PIC.

Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik continued to challenge the international community. He told journalists on Tuesday afternoon that any OHR sanctions against Republika Srpska were “impossible” and added that OHR “will certainly close” by the end of the year.

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