Republika Srpska Rejects Memorandum on Security Cooperation with US

The parliament of the Republika Srpska vetoed on Wednesday July 29, a memorandum aimed at improving the security cooperation between the US and Bosnia and Herzegovina, calling it harmful to vital interests of Republika Srpska, the semi-autonomous entity of BiH dominated by Serbs. 

Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader and the Serb member of tripartite Presidency of BiH, said the agreement which was passed by his Croat and Bosnian counterparts on July 22, was “very harmful” to the Serb-dominated entity’s vital interests, calling on members of the parliament of the Republika Srpska to support his decision and reject it with a two-thirds majority vote. 

The security memorandum in question deals with further enhancement of cooperation between Bosnia’s Security Ministry and the US Department of Homeland Security in the use of travel information. 

The memorandum is especially important as it strengthens Bosnia’s cooperation with the US in the field of organized crime and counter-terrorism. 

Dodik believes that the exchange of travel information is contrary to Republika Srpska interests and Bosnia’s Constitution. 

“This Memorandum excludes any possibility of engaging the police and any other agency of the Republika Srpska on these matters, and that is the main reason why I thought this Memorandum should not receive our support”, Dodik said addressing the emergency session. 

The Interior Minister Dragan Lukac said that his Ministry supports all initiatives contributing to the fight against terrorism and organized crime, but that “the Memorandum approved by the Bosnian Presidency neither protects the basic human rights of Bosnian citizens nor does it respect the constitutional structure in Bosnia”. 

Apart from this agreement, the Republika Srpska National Assembly also rejected the Agreement on Bosnia’s participation in the International Student Assessment Program (PISA) 2021 and the Decision on Bosnia’s accession to the International Reading Literacy Development Survey (PIRLS) 2021. 

Thus the Republika Srpska parliament rejected three decisions adopted by the collective head of state of Bosnia and Herzegovina aimed at improving the educational system in the country and the security cooperation between the US and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Dodik: It is Time for Serbs to Hold a Referendum on Secession from BiH

BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik said it’s high time to rehabilitate the United States’ 1995 idea for Serbs to hold a referendum on secession from BiH, advocated by then-US President Bill Clinton.

Commenting on the declassified documents from 1995, at the time of the events in Srebrenica, Bill Clinton had a plan for the Muslim-Croat federation to get a little less than half of BiH, while the Americans would put pressure on the Muslim side to agree for Serbs to hold a referendum on secession from BiH two to three years after the end of the war. Dodik said that the time had come to rehabilitate the idea and for Serbs to finally get the right to self-determination, as all other nations have.

“It is obvious that there is no will of Bosniak political representatives in BiH to respect the original Dayton and that we are hostages of that Bosniak sidedness, whose goal is to create a unitary BiH. The time has come for Clinton’s idea to be renewed and for the provisions on civil rights and freedoms to be applied, which stipulate that the peoples of BiH have the equal right to self-determination, as they have in all normal countries”, said Dodik.

He emphasized that BiH in the actual political shape has no future, no better life for its citizens, no progress of any kind until things move from the deadlock.

“It is time for Republika Srpska to affirm its right to self-determination and to live normally and peacefully next to each other, because all these years it has been shown that BiH has no chance of any agreement that would respect the rights of all three constituent peoples”, Dodik insisted.

“It has been 25 years since the Dayton Agreement, and nowhere is BiH where it is. It was only confirmed that it was a failed experiment of the international community. It is time to affirm Clinton’s idea and for Serbs to get the right to choose where and in what country they want to live. This is not their state, nor do Serbs perceive it that way. Their state is Republika Srpska”, said Dodik.

According to documents that removed the seal of confidentiality, former US President Bill Clinton asked the government in Sarajevo in 1995 to cede territory to Serbs in order to end the war in BiH, but it was only one of the few ideas to finish the Bosnian war.

Missing and Internally Displaced First Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Topic

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told that the first issues in the negotiations with Pristina on the normalization of relations in Brussels on July 16 would include the problem with missing and internally displaced people from Kosovo during the 1998-1999 war there and its aftermath.

“We are ready; I see the Albanians are as well, according to their media. We’ll fight”, he said.

Meanwhile, the US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton consider that it seems USA lost opportunity in Belgrade – Pristina dialogue.  In an interview with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, he said it seemed that Belgrade and Pristina had withdrawn from positions with some greater prospect they could bridge their differences.

Commenting on idea about the territory swap between Belgrade and Pristina, Bolton said that “It was the administration’s policy – if the parties themselves felt that as part of an overall solution adjustments to territory made sense, then the United States would support that.”

He added that “at the time in question, Europeans were looking at that as well, and many took exactly the same view. I understand from others in the Balkans, the concern that if some borders are changed all borders are at risk. I understand what they’re saying, but I think that fear is exaggerated.”

“If Kosovo and Serbia were to agree to land swaps as part of an overall solution, really are outsiders, whether from the United States or elsewhere, in Europe, going to tell them that the solution isn’t satisfactory? I don’t think so”, Bolton said.

“Within Kosovo, within Serbia, a land swap would be controversial on both sides, although obviously for different reasons. But if the leaders thought this was a way to reach an agreement and could persuade their respective parliaments, I just can’t see outsiders saying we’re not going to let you do that”, told Bolton and added “there were serious enough Europeans that convinced the experts both at the State Department and the NSC [the U.S. National Security Council] that it was worth allowing the process to play out”.

According to him, “We were far from certain that, with all of the other obstacles, the total agreement could be reached, and as we can see today it didn’t happen, but the progress of the negotiations was not negatively affected by the land swap idea. It gave space for Serbia and Kosovo to explore further. And, you know, failure is always a possibility, and failure is what we have here. Continued failure.”

Bolton thinks that the Balkans are not so unimportant for the Trump administration: “I think quite the opposite. I think we have focused on efforts by Russia to cause disruptions in the Balkans. Not necessarily to return to the days of the Cold War but certainly to extend and enhance Russian influence in the region which I think would have been harmful to US interests, but also to the interest of the Balkan countries themselves.”

25th Anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide

Srebrenica genocide Memorial Centre held a prayer for the nine victims whose remains were found over the past 25 years – some complete, some incomplete.

So far, 6,643 genocide victims have been buried in the Srebrenica genocide Memorial Centre.

During the 1992-1995 Bosnian war for independence from the former Yugoslavia, the country lost over 100,000 people, over 8,000 of which were lost in July 1995 in Srebrenica, when Bosnian Serb forces, which received financial and logistical support both from Serbian authorities and individuals during the war, overrun the then UN-protected zone of Srebrenica.

The International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice later ruled that the massacre was an act of genocide. International and regional courts have sentenced 45 people for what happened in Srebrenica to a total of more than 700 years behind bars.

Those who the ICTY sentenced to life imprisonment are Ljubisa Beara, Zdravko Tolimir, and Vujadin Popovic. But the most well-known alleged masterminds of what happened in Srebrenica are former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic and ex Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, and both have been sentenced for it but have appealed.

Even though “a serious crime has been committed against Bosniaks in Srebrenica”, Bosnian Serb leader and Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik said Sunday he was against the imposition of a law banning the denial of genocide in Bosnia.

He said he respects the pain of the mothers from Srebrenica “both in white and black headscarfs (Muslim and Orthodox), that crimes against anyone must be condemned, but that one truth can’t be favoured over another. Truth must be built on facts and not speculation”, Milorad Dodik said.

“Lately I have heard a constant request to ban something and to deny it. The truth cannot be built on that. Whether something happened or not. If there is something suspicious, such as their story, with which they want to say that genocide happened, then it cannot be forced by law. It is just a story about a new verbal offence or something similar”, Dodik stated.

Many officials and prominent people from EU, USA and around the world condemned the genocide in Srebrenica.

The Srebrenica genocide was not only the worst war crime in Europe since World War II but also a collective failure that European countries must be deeply ashamed of, David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament said Saturday, marking the 25th anniversary of the genocide that took place in this east Bosnian town in 1995 after it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.

Even today, 25 years after the genocide, we hear the narratives that led to these shameful actions, and the revisionists minimizing or even denying it, European Council President Charles Michel said addressing the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

Srebrenica remains an open wound on the European conscience and burden for mothers still looking to lay their children to rest, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said Saturday.

There is no place for the glorification of war criminals and historical revisionism in any OSCE member state, Thomas Greminger, Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said in his message on the occasion.

The United States pledges never to forget the Srebrenica genocide, grieving with the families who tirelessly seek justice for the 8,000 innocent lives lost, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday, marking the 25th anniversary of the genocide in this east Bosnian town.

The horrors of the conflict and violence as seen in Srebrenica in July of 1995 are too often present in different parts of the world, said the head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

The events that took place in Srebrenica in July of 1995 are some of the most tragic chapters in modern history, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, said in his video message on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this genocide.

“Today we remember the victims of one of the most tragic and saddest events in our region and in modern history.

On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people, allow me to join most sincerely in the grief the relatives of the victims of the inadmissible and inhumane act of violence committed 25 years ago in Srebrenica.

This grim event will be recorded as one of the most tragic chapters in the modern history of mankind and will serve as a warning to all of us who show responsibility and wisdom and never allow such atrocities to be committed again in the modern democratic history of Europe or elsewhere in the world.

Honouring the memory of all innocent victims is a way to achieve true reconciliation and is a measure of the maturity of democracy.

Lessons drawn from the painful truths of the past are at the heart of overcoming divisions.

It is our shared responsibility to bring up the younger generations in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance.
The Balkans are a dynamic region that continues to face a number of challenges, related to the delicate inter-ethnic relations.

We live in a time of unprecedented global challenges, which requires us to put aside nationalist rhetoric and hate speech and work together to face the challenges of a changing world.

The power of unity becomes increasingly tangible and its importance grows in turbulent times of trial as it is today, as we face one of the gravest disasters in recent decades – the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

Though nothing is more precious than human life and though its salvation is our key priority, we should spare no effort to address the grave economic consequences of this yet another crisis in human history.

Therefore, I do believe that there is no other guarantee for a better future for the Western Balkans region than achieving European integration because connectivity and sharing common European values are a key factor for stability, security, economic growth in the region and the establishment of a united and strong Europe.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European perspective is a powerful driver for investing in reconciliation and political and economic transformation.

Now is the time to show political courage, pragmatism and consensus.

Bulgaria will continue to support the efforts of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the large European family and to build a peaceful and united future for present and coming generations”, Bulgarian Prime Minister said in his video message.

Serbian Election Commission Published the Final Election Results

The Serbian Republican election commission (REC) released the official results for the June 21 parliamentary elections which showed that less than 50 percent of the electorate turned out to vote.

The REC said that a total of 6,584,376 adult Serbian citizens have been registered to vote and that 3,221,908 votes were cast at 8,433 polling stations on June 21 and the repeated vote at some polling stations on July 1. According to those figures, a total of 48.9% of the electorate turned out to vote.

A statement said that the final report on the election results was adopted on July 5 and added that seven parties and coalitions won seats in parliament. It specified that three coalitions crossed the three percent threshold and that four minority parties and coalitions won guaranteed seats.

It said that the coalition headed by the Serbian Progressive Party (SPP) Aleksandar Vucic – For Our Children won 1,953,998 votes or 60.65% of the total votes cast and will have 188 seats, followed by the Ivica Dacic – Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) – United Serbia (US) – Dragan Markovic Palma coalition which won 334,333 votes or 10.38% of the votes cast and will have 32 seats and the Aleksandar Sapic – Victory for Serbia coalition which won 123,393 votes or 3.83% of the votes cast and will have 11 seats.

The national minority parties and coalitions in the Serbian parliament are the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians – Istvan Pasztor which won 71,893 votes or 2.23% of the votes cast and will have nine seats, Academician Muamer Zukorlić – Just Straight – Party of Justice and Reconciliation (PJR) – Democratic Party of Macedonians (DPM) coalition which won 32,170 votes or 1.00% of the votes cast and will have four seats and the Albanian Democratic Alternative – United Valley with three seats and the list headed by Sulejman Ugljanin with three seats.

The most of the opposition parties boycotted the elections. Those of them, which have decided to go on elections received less than 1%. The only town with opposition’s local authority remains Sabac, where the mayor Nebojisa Zelenovic won the second mandate with his party “Together for Serbia”.  

Russia is Undermining Kosovo’s Independence and Bosnia’s Sovereignty

Russia has undermined the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and has played a destabilizing role in the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, says the National Defense Authorisation Act for 2021, which the US Senate Committee on Armed Services adopted.

The document said that the committee “remains concerned about activities of the Russian Federation that could have a destabilizing impact on the political and security environment in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility”.

“The committee notes that the Russian Federation has played a destabilizing role in the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, undermined the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided support to transnational extremist groups, and consistently worked to undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance and European Union”, it said.

The document also noted that Russia had supported a coup attempt in Montenegro and that it was “promoting discord in North Macedonia as each country was preparing to join the NATO alliance”.

The committee directed the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing on US European Command efforts to promote US Security cooperation with Western Balkan countries and to “reduce their dependence on Russian weapon systems” by October 30, 2020.