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Old April 17th, 2009 #18
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Bosnia Serb Leader Interview

IRENA KNEZEVIC
April 15, 2009 7:52 AM

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina-The leader of the Bosnian Serbs said he believes Bosnia can enter the European Union only as a loose federation of two or three ethnic-based ministates but under no circumstances as a unified country.

Milorad Dodik told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that the Bosnian Serbs will rather give up EU membership than their separate ministate within Bosnia.

"We want to enter Europe only if we can keep our specificity, our autonomy" said the prime minister of the Bosnian Serb ministate, Republika Srpska, which comprises Bosnia-Herzegovina along with a Bosnian-Croat federation.

For years the country's Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks have argued over how Bosnia's political setup could be changed to make the country more functional and fit EU membership requirements.

This has delayed reforms and Bosnia has made very little progress since it signed a pre-membership agreement with the EU last year.

"It's difficult to find a compromise," Dodik said, comparing the situation to the one in former Yugoslavia where various nations could not find a way to live together and ultimately the country fell apart into six separate national countries. The seventh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, was an ethnically mixed Yugoslav republic where Christian Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians lived together.

A war that took 100,000 lives was fought between 1992-95 over the country's future.

The United States brokered a peace agreement in 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, that preserved the country's international borders but divided it in two ministates - one for the Serbs the other shared by Bosnians and Croats.

The two are linked into a state by common institutions. The agreement proved to be good enough to stop the war but not to ensure a functioning country.

"Only Bosnia was given the destiny of former Yugoslavia. Nations that could not find a way to live together in Yugoslavia were supposed to live together in a hybrid country in which everybody is pursuing his own agenda," he said.

All three sides continued to pursue their wartime goals though political means - the Bosnians to eliminate the ethnic division, the Croats to get their own ministate and the Serbs to keep as much autonomy as they could, Dodik said.

"The entire political debate and all relations in Bosnia are moving in this circle," he added.

"I have no objections to the creation of a third (Croat) entity but it cannot cross over into Republika Srpska," Dodik said.

In general, the Bosnian Serbs "believe that Bosnia can be a federal state, comprised of federal units," where most of the power lies with the federal units, not the central government.

His biggest opponent, Bosniak leader Haris Silajdzic has repeatedly said the Serb ministate was created through ethnic cleansing and genocide. To the outrage of the Bosnian Serbs, he last year asked the U.N. to erase the results of genocide by erasing Bosnia's ethnic division.

But to any international or domestic efforts to transfer authority from the Serb ministate to the central institutions, the Serbs replied with threats to block the functioning of the country entirely by withdrawing their representatives from the central institutions.

"Only then the foreigners realized we were serious," and gave up, Dodik said. This is how the Serbs prevented the melting of Bosnia's two police forces into one.

"We see that as our big victory," Dodik said.
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