The leaders of the three main national parties in Bosnia who won the election met on Wednesday in Sarajevo to try to resolve a deadlock and finally form a new government. According to Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, "things are going smoothly," while Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic said the job might be done by the end of the month.
EU officials have been urging Bosnia to finally form a new government following the October 2018 General Election so the country can continue implementing the necessary reforms that would bring it closer to EU membership.
According to the current Chairman of the tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, there is no disagreement over who the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, effectively Bosnia's government, should be - Zoran Tegeltija, from Dodik's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD).
"But it was put on hold the moment the issue of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) was raised as a priority to the forming of the Council of Ministers," Dodik said.
The Membership Action Plan Dodik is an essential step toward Bosnia's accession to NATO, but politicians of the three majority ethnic groups are divided on the topic.
While the Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats want the country to become a member of the alliance, most Bosnian Serb politicians are against it.
According to Bosnia's political system, representatives of the three major ethnic groups in the country must reach a consensus in order for any decision to be made.
The Bosniak and the Bosnian Croat member of the Presidency, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic, respectively, said they would not support the naming of Tegeltija if he does not implement earlier decisions which paved Bosnia's way toward NATO.
"We will try to put together a document which will satisfy all three sides, it is up to us to make an effort," said Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the main Bosniak party that Dzaferovic is also a member of, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA).
He added that the "entity level cannot be above the state, or command whether this can or cannot happen."
Bosnia is composed of two semi-autonomous entities, the Federation (FBiH), mostly shared between Bosniaks and Croats, and Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb-majority part.
Before he took over the Serb position in the Presidency, Dodik was for years either President or Prime Minister of the RS. He at the time often advocated the secession of the entity from Bosnia, and he continues to advocate as much autonomy as possible for the RS as Presidency Chairman.
In 2017, the RS National Assembly adopted a "Resolution on Military Neutrality," which means the entity does not want to enter any military alliances.
Dodik said he is aware that the SDA, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) and "everybody in FBiH thinks they are heading toward NATO."
He said that his party cannot support Bosnia's path toward NATO due to an array of reasons, but also that it is "rational" to know that the issue "will not just disappear because we from Republika Srpska believe it should be different."
Setting conditions, in general, is not rational, he said.
Forming a Council of Ministers is important "for sending a message to the EU and European countries," he added. "It is connected to everything that is a priority here, and there are no differing stances about it, and it is the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A consensus on that, as well as the coordination mechanism, is not questionable."
HDZ leader Dragan Covic said the meeting was "constructive" and leads toward "us having a new Council of Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of this month."
No agreement was reached on MAP, however.