Bosnia’s Serb member of the tripartite Presidency asked the parliament of the part of the country he comes from to support him in blocking a presidential decision his other two colleagues passed concerning the construction of a bridge in neighbouring Croatia.
Milorad Dodik disagrees with his two colleagues in the tripartite presidency of the country who requested neighboring Croatia to agree to a border demarcation and halt the construction of a disputed bridge or Bosnia will file a lawsuit.
The law allows Dodik to ask the parliament of Republika Srpska (RS) to support his claim that the decision of his two colleagues is violating the interests of the semi-autonomous region, which his opponents dispute as neither the disputed border nor the bridge are anywhere near the territory of Republika Srpska.
However, Dodik argued at the extraordinary session of the RS National Assembly dedicated to this issue that it was not so much about the bridge as it was about proving that important decisions should be made by the authorities of Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous regions rather than those at the state-level.
“I think that the only and the most important place for making decisions for the Serb people is the RS National Assembly," he said.
Although he is the chairman of the three-member presidency of the country, Dodik has for years advocated its dissolution and the secession of Republika Srpska.
The disputed bridge is meant to connect the Croatian mainland and the Peljesac Peninsula, bypassing a 15 kilometre-long Bosnian strip of the coast around the city of Neum that is located in the bay of the peninsula.
Bosniak political parties oppose the construction of the bridge, saying it might prevent large vessels from entering the country’s bay of Neum and threaten its access to the open sea.
When the Bosniak and Croat members of the country’s Presidency agreed to adopt a proposal that could lead to Bosnia suing Croatia over the issue, the, Dodik said he would not approve the move.
He said he would use the vital entity interest card which would mean that the RS parliament could block the lawsuit if it supports his objections.
Dodik is the leader of the ruling party in the RS.
In his address to the Bosnian Serb Assembly on Thursday, Dodik began by citing an article from Bosnia’s Constitution which says that, if they disagree with a decision, Presidency members can declare it destructive to the vital interest of the entity they were elected from if they do so within three days following adoption.
He said that former Serb Presidency member Nebojsa Radmanovic also used that article when he was outvoted four times and every time the RS National Assembly stopped those Presidency decisions from entering into force.
“The issue of today’s session is the protection of the vital interest of the entity. Bosnia and Herzegovina was set up by a peace treaty and its annexes and can only exist and stay based on the agreement which that peace treaty foresaw,” he said, stressing that “Bosnia and Herzegovina is a union of entities, not a unitarian state.”
The final decision-making level on all issues is the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, not the state, he said.
“I believe this conclusion entering into force would be extremely damaging for the interests of all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the RS,” he said.
Dodik argued that Bosnia’s access to the sea would not be blocked in any way by the Peljesac Bridge.
"Here we now come to the key question - do we, while insisting that nobody from the outside should interfere in our internal issues, have the right to interfere in the internal issues of the Republic of Croatia? Croatia is building the bridge on its own territory,” he said, adding that his predecessor, Mladen Ivanic, also voted against a similar conclusion during his mandate.
"I will not allow for me to be outvoted on any issue. Bosnia and Herzegovina can exist and survive only if there is a consensus. If there is no consensus, there is no Bosnia and Herzegovina, and until then we will use our rights,” he said.
However, Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Mirko Sarovic, the leader of the opposition Serb Democratic Party (SDS) in the RS, told N1 on the same morning that his party would not support Dodik.
He said Dodik’s initiative is “not a good idea.”
“It is completely clear that the SDS will not support this initiative. We think that this Presidency decision can in no way be tied to national interests,” he said, arguing that it is “more of a party interest.”
“We are not that interested in this issue and we don’t want it to be labeled a vital interest of Republika Srpska,” he said.
Dodik’s explanation for why the Presidency decision is detrimental to RS interests is “very thin,” Sarovic said, arguing that the strategic interest of the RS is rather the problem of Croatia dumping radioactive material near the border between Bosnia and Croatia.
“I think that the issue of the Peljesac Bridge is not one that the RS National Assembly should tend to,” he stressed.
“This is above all about certain party interests, partnership interests. Not about state interests in any way. We, from the SDS, do not accept that,” he said.
Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) has entered an alliance with the main Croat party in the country, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), which supports the construction of the bridge.
Dodik’s initiative would also set a precedent that would mean that in the future “an issue within the territory of Republika Srpska could be discussed in the FBiH Parliament,” Sarovic said.
“I don’t think we should play with that,” he stressed.