On Sunday, Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik voted in the Serbian local elections for the Belgrade city council, and since then, one simple question has been bugging me: What does a Bosnian Serb from Laktaši and a Bosnian Serb from Drvar have in common?
Well, not a lot. A Bosnian Serb from Laktaši can exercise his citizens’ rights in the entity of the Republika Srpska and its municipalities, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, while the Bosnian Serb in Drvar isn’t even constituent in his own canton and can’t hope to meaningfully participate in any decision making processes.
For those of us old enough to experience and remember the long shadow the Vietnam War and Watergate cast over American foreign policy and democracy overall, watching Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” can be a bittersweet experience. Sweet because of the triumph of personal courage, journalistic integrity, and the willingness of the American judiciary to allow the executive power of the presidency – including Richard Nixon’s “Imperial Presidency” – to be held to account.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn are about halfway through their Balkan tour, having visited Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia, with trips to Montenegro, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to follow. They will end with a gathering of Balkan leaders in Sofia, Bulgaria. At each stop, they are underscoring the EU’s and their own commitment to integrate the region, as proclaimed in the “new strategy” published earlier this month.
On February 16, the New York Times published a profile piece by Barbara Surk on the Republika Srpska’s President, Milorad Dodik. Entitled “Milorad Dodik Wants to Carve Up Bosnia. Peacefully, if Possible,” it provided a useful profile of the man – but seemed to sidestep the overarching potential for major violence foreshadowed in the title. This was a disservice to Times readers attempting to understand the risk – and how it might be possible to reduce it.
Watching the RS Day commemorations last week was troubling for many reasons. It was yet another snub at the rule of law or the notion that courts and the judiciary have any role at the state level. Dodik’s decision to in effect ban the BiH Armed Forces and highlight the entity police was brilliant, but not new – it was the culmination of years of effort by him to weaken state security while building up his own Praetorian guard.