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Does Republika Srpska exist?

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A megjelenés dátuma

Szerb Köztársaság Szarajevó / Republika Srpska
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On March 17, 1994, I visited Sarajevo, which was still under Serbian siege, on a military transport plane of the international peacekeepers. In an armored combat vehicle, wearing a bulletproof vest and a helmet, I was taken to the ruined government building where I was received by Irfan Ljubijankić, the Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time. (A year later, his helicopter was shot down just like Prigozhin’s plane recently.) It was a shocking sight to see the city, suffering from Serbian shelling and snipers for two years, where not a single intact building remained. My hosts recalled how much Bosnia had developed before World War I, especially when the Hungarian statesman Béni Kállay was the governor.

Today – thanks to God and the Dayton Accords – there is peace, and Sarajevo is not a military target but a tourist destination. However, beneath the surface, there is constant tension in the country, and who is most responsible for this is none other than Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska. His unspoken goal is to loosen the unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and eventually unify its “entity” with Serbia. While his relationship with the European Union is strained, his ties with the Orbán government are growing stronger. As a sign of this, besides kind words, he has gained significant financial and practical support during his visit to Budapest on August 20. Nevertheless, the proposed working group’s establishment is illegitimate without the approval of the central government (the presidency).

Legally under international law, the Bosnian Serb Republic does not exist as a sovereign state; it exists only as a constituent part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, like a region or administrative unit. Similar to Scotland in the United Kingdom, Bavaria in the Federal Republic of Germany, Catalonia in the Kingdom of Spain, or the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic before 1991 within the Soviet Union.

Unlike modern-day Scotland, the Soviet Ukrainian (and Belarusian) republics had their own foreign ministries and even UN memberships, but they didn’t possess independent statehood, foreign policy, or diplomatic apparatus. These two Soviet republics couldn’t establish independent relationships or agreements with other states, not even with their constituent provinces or regions. Neither Scotland nor Catalonia – only through the central government. However, regional cooperation between parts of independent states can exist, as seen in the Alps-Adriatic Working Community in the 1980s involving certain Italian, Austrian, Yugoslav, and Hungarian regions for economic and cultural cooperation.

However, historically and presently, I do not know of any example where a part of a state pursued an independent foreign policy contradictory to the central government. While there were separate Bavarian and Saxon Kingdoms between 1871 and 1919 with foreign diplomats, it never occurred that in 1914 they wouldn’t march alongside the German Empire into the World War that finally eliminated the remnants of their independent existence.

Before 1918, Hungary had its own parliament, government, and even a national football team. It had influence over the common foreign policy of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and could have vetoed the fatal ultimatum sent to Belgrade – unfortunately, it didn’t.

When in 1905 the Norwegian parliament dissolved the union with Sweden and declared its independence, Sweden considered a military action against it but dismissed the idea. Since then, peace and friendship have prevailed between the two Scandinavian nations. (They will soon become NATO allies, as soon as Turkey and Hungary consent to this.)

Lastly, a contemporary example: when the United Kingdom exited the European Union, there was a strong voice in Scotland to remain, but since the 1998 devolution, the Edinburgh Parliament lacked the constitutional power to do so.

Szerb Köztársaság Szarajevó

Milorad Dodik, Željka Cvijanović and Viktor Orbán in Budapest (Source: X-platform, Milorad Dodik)

It seems that not only Dodik but also the majority of citizens in the Bosnian Serb Republic would like to separate from the Bosniak-Croat Federation and join the Serbian state centered in Belgrade. However, due to the firm opposition of foreign powers and the Dayton Accords, this is not feasible. The Serbian “entity” can engage with states, including Hungary, make agreements, but only with the approval of the three-member presidency of the common state. Hungary has strong economic and cultural ties, primarily for historical reasons, with Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Burgenland, and other regions and administrative units of other states, but these are welcomed and supported by those governments.

If we seriously consider the right to self-determination of nations and apply it to Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, then, in principle, the attachment of the Bosnian Serb entity to Serbia could be acceptable and even supportable. However, looking at the map of Republika Srpska, this is physically inconceivable. We see a thin corridor between the Bosniak Federation and Croatia; its independence would economically and in terms of transportation strangle the territory and its population. Sarajevo would once again be exposed to the Serbian weapons from the surrounding hills.

The Dayton Agreement separated the warring parties, ensuring that no one would be subjected to hostile administration, but people could move freely and work within the historical borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A better solution would only arise if the entire Balkans were members of the European Union, with state borders enabling free movement, economic activities, a common currency (the Euro), leading to gradual healing of old and new wounds, and the elimination of political conflicts.

This is a utopia today, though it’s not difficult to see that this would be in the interest of the population. It should be supported not only by Brussels but also by Budapest.

A BALK Hírlevele


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