Citizens of the Republic of Srpska will decide on whether to join NATO in a referendum and the right to do so was affirmed in the Reform Programme the country sent to the Alliance recently, Milorad Dodik, the leader of Bosnian Serbs, said on 13.01.2020.
Bosnia sent the document at the end of December, overcoming a deadlock between the three members of the country’s Presidency which kept the country from forming a new government for more than a year after the October 2018 election.
According to earlier decisions, the country was supposed to send the Annual National Programme (ANP) to the Alliance, which would represent the next step toward membership.
But at the same time NATO remains unpopular with Serbs in both Serbia and in the Republic of Srpska (RS) since the alliance launched airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and against the Serbian military in 1999 during the conflict between Belgrade and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
The President of Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, was opposed to sending the document, while his Bosniak and Bosnian Croat colleagues insisted on it.
The three finally reached a compromise in mid-December 2019 and the country sent a ‘Reform Programme’ instead of the ANP.
Bosnian Serb opposition parties sharply criticized Dodik, arguing that the Reform Programme is the same as the ANP, and accused him of leading the country to NATO membership.
“The Republic of Srpska has the intention to have any decision regarding the military integration with NATO be the subject of a referendum for the people to decide”, Dodik said during his speech at an event at the Kozara barracks for Orthodox Christmas.
He reiterated the Republic of Srpska decision on military neutrality.
The Reform Programme which Bosnia recently sent to the Alliance “affirms the right to decide on the issue and that no decision on integration will be made without the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Parliamentary Assembly of RS”, he said.
Dodik explained that there are several reasons for his opposition to NATO membership, with the primary one being that Serbs had a “negative experience” with the Alliance.
“If we would forget that they bombed us, then we would justify it”, he said.
Dodik firmly stated that “RS will not allow the establishment of the NATO border on the Drina River, which is the border with Serbia.”