International envoy to Bosnia fears war as Dodik demands separate Serb state
The international community’s leading envoy in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, has warned of a crisis in the Balkans unless the US and western Europe intervene.
The former German transport minister said the Bosnian-Serb president Milorad Dodik had suspended plans to establish a separate, ethnically Serb military.
But he said it is a small victory in a wider crisis.
“I do not actually see a danger of war,” Schmidt told the Guardian. “Fortunately, there are too few military assets available.”
In contrast in 1992, ahead of the Bosnian civil war, the former Yugoslav republic was loaded with military hardware, the 64-year-old said.
But Dodik is committed to severing the legal and tax system in Republika Srpska and he will not be able to back down “without losing face”, the envoy said.
The separatist rhetoric from the ethnically Serb half of the fragile state “needs a very clear answer from the international community”, Schmidt said.
“I would say the challenge of such a dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is that this can not be limited to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
European Union enlargement commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has warned regional leaders that rising tensions could jeopardise Bosnia’s institutions and significant investments from Brussels.
Bosnia is applying for EU membership and hoping to gain access to several programmes and funds.
Russia is seen as a destabilising force in the Balkans and the Kremlin opposed Schmidt’s appointment and does not recognise his authority.
Russia and China had all references to “high representative” removed from a recent United Nations Security Council resolution on Bosnia. Dodik has also refused to meet Schmidt and questioned his legitimacy.
Schmidt has been in Washington to meet national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other White House representatives about the danger of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement falling apart.
The peace agreement divided Bosnia into two administrative entities — the Serb-majority Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation.
The two zones have some autonomy with umbrella national-level institutions, including a three-member presidency, parliament and a council of ministers, an army, judiciary and tax administration.
The Biden administration says it is reassessing the US role in Bosnia, which has been focused largely on electoral reform.
Pedro Marques from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats warned the European Parliament: “Twenty-five years after the civil war, in which over 100,000 people lost their lives, Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the brink of collapse yet again. This could mark a return to the violence of the ‘90s.”
He called for EU sanctions to be considered to preserve Bosnian territorial integrity.
War damage in Sarajevo. Picture credit: Wikimedia