The dispute between Bosnia’s three presidents over which flags will be displayed during their meetings was resolved on Wednesday when staff removed one of the two Bosnian flags that decorated the room.
The new Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, insisted for weeks that the flag of Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb-dominated semi-autonomous region, should be displayed during the meetings of the Presidency.
But the country’s law is clear: only the Bosnian state flag can be displayed and no other.
Dodik’s other two colleagues, Bosniak Sefik Dzaferovic and Croat Zeljko Komsic, adamantly refused to allow him to bring in the Bosnian Serb flag.
On Tuesday, Dodik postponed the first meeting of the Presidency over this issue and said that, should his demand not be met, no meetings will be held at all, or he will take part in the work of Bosnia’s collective presidency via video link from the Serb part of the country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two semi-autonomous regions, called entities.
Dodik was elected from the Serb-dominated one, Republika Srpska (RS). He has for years been Prime Minister and then President of the RS, and has been advocating for the entity to secede from Bosnia.
He said numerous times that he dislikes Bosnia and believes it to be a “failed project” imposed by the international community.
The other region, which is mainly populated by Bosniaks and Croats, is the Federation (FBiH). The Bosniak and the Bosnian Croat Presidency members are elected from there.
Both Bosnian regions have their flags.
When his video link offer was ignored, Dodik offered the next compromise.
He said he interpreted one of the two Bosnian flags in the room as representing FBiH and argued that if that one is there, the RS flag has to be there as well, or the FBiH flag has to go.
On Wednesday staff removed one of the two Bosnian flags and the three new Bosnian Presidents held their first meeting.
“One (flag) should stay and symbolise this story about joint institutions until we later agree,” Dodik said.
That prompted Dodik’s opposition in the RS, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), to criticise the Bosnian Serb leader for backing out.
The SDS said in a statement that after Dodik realised that his “political circus” will not work in Sarajevo, he changed his demand insisting that the FBiH flag is removed from the room although it was never there.
The PDP said it expected that Dodik would back off.
“For quite some time his words carry no weight,” the party said in a statement. “It is a grave insult to Republika Srpska and the Serb people that the person elected to represent us honourably is creating a circus around the flag, which is one of the symbols and sanctities of Republika Srpska,” the PDP said.
The weeks-long argument over room decoration is just throwing dust into the eyes of the citizens, so they do not talk about the real problems that plague them, sociologist Slavo Kukic said.
“People have to be driven crazy with irrational stuff so they won’t think about real life issues because in real life they are living worse day by day and are packing their suitcases to leave,” he said.