US sanctions may not be enough to reign in Dodik –

“If they think they will discipline me in this way, they are very wrong. I have now only got a motive to fight for the rights that have been taken away from us for 26 years”, said Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite BiH Presidency after the US imposed new sanctions on him. 

Sanctions are good news, but insufficient, as seen from Dodik’s reaction. They could be more sufficient if the EU were unanimous and coordinated in sanctioning the official leader of Serbs in BiH and others. It could be sufficient if sanctions were accompanied by coherent US-EU policy towards BiH. 

For that matter, a better understanding of the BiH is needed in Washington and Brussels.

Serb ethnic corpus in BiH is almost unanimous in support for Republika Srpska (RS, Serb entity), autonomy. Not necessarily independence, but a state, RS, within the state, BiH.

That is the dream outcome for Moscow allowing it to block NATO and EU enlargement on BiH. Belgrade, as well, wants RS inside BiH providing Serbian political influence in the policies of Sarajevo.

The Association of Municipalities in Kosovo are supposed to play the same role rather than protecting Serbs because more of them are living in other parts of Kosovo. 

But US and EU policy needs to broaden the scope of distractors in BiH politics to Bosniaks and Croats as well.

Leadership positions of Bakir Izetbegović, son of wartime Bosniak leader Alija, and Dragan Čović, President of the biggest Croatian party HDZ BiH (sister party of Croatian HDZ, EPP member), are uncontested for years. There are some signs of plurality on the Bosniak part, but the political corpus is prone to a unique, alleged civil state, an in practice Bosniak majority.

Calls from that group for NATO to be deployed in BiH are not constructive, considering Serbian resistance and foresee adverse reactions from Russia. 

Croat leadership in BiH is involved in a dangerous policy of supporting Dodik, putting pressure on Bosniaks to accept their proposals in reforming electoral law while at the same time opposing limited constitutional reform.

The EU and US should insist on rejecting the ethnic attributes (constituent peoples) from the Constitution, as ECHR decided in the case ‘Sejdić-Finci’. However, mechanisms for protecting ethnic groups, not only constituent peoples as vital interests should be retained.

With that step, authorised through parliament, Dayton will be reformed officially, not by outside intervention. This opens the way for possible further, not rapid, but easy and steady reforms of Dayton leading towards modern BiH. One that could fulfil 14 EC recommendations for candidate status. But membership? Let us see how the NATO-Russia negotiations will finish.  

(Željko Trkanjec |

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