Obstructions by some Serb leaders and their confusion about the division of powers between different levels of government in Bosnia are keeping the country away from prosperity and democracy, a top international official said.
“There is confusion in (Bosnia’s Serb-dominated part) Republika Srpska over the nature of the entity and the nature of the state,” the international community’s High Representative to Bosnia Valentin Inzko told the UN Security Council on Monday according to a statement issued by his office.
“The RS leadership has failed to grasp that the state and entity authorities have separate and clearly defined mandates and that each must do its work without interference from the other,” Inzko said.
“The RS has created a problem at the state level and then criticized the sate for having the problem,” he added.
Under the Dayton peace agreement that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war the country had been divided into two highly autonomous entities – the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and Croat-Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) federation. Each part has its own government, parliament and presidency, but the two are linked by weak central institutions.
The international community has for long insisted that more powers be transferred to central institutions in order to make the country more functional, but Bosnian Serbs strongly reject that and insist on retaining their autonomy.
Inzko said that “persistent obstructiveness by some Serb political figures” has helped delay key reforms in Bosnia.
Bosnian Serbs often block the work of central institutions and prevent the adoption of important reform laws required to accelerate the country on its way to membership in the European Union.
Inzko noted that while tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in Bosnia this year as a result of the world recession and the failure to enact key laws, “this existential crisis for hundreds of thousands of families has been ignored by the political establishment.”
“This litany of administrative failure, parliamentary gridlock, government ineptitude and general misery has a political, not a structural or an administrative root,” Inzko said.
“A small group of confused individuals cannot be allowed to ignore the hopes and the common effort of millions of Bosnian citizens,” he added.
The post of the High Representative was been created under the Dayton peace agreement and has the authority to fire local officials and impose laws when they cannot agree.
However, Bosnian Serbs have recently stepped up their opposition to the OHR’s continued presence in Bosnia accusing Inzko of abusing his powers and have refused to accept his decisions.