Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Carving Up Bosnia, Again

The Serb politician who held the rotating Prime Ministership of Bosnia has resigned. Nikola Spiric quit because the international diplomat who still runs the country (it used to be Paddy Ashdown, now it's a Slovak) went ahead with EU-backed efforts to change the way decisions are made there.

The reforms will restrict the number of ministers needed to take a decision. In practice, it means that none of the three ethnic groups involved in Bosnia's complicated government can scupper anything by simply walking out, as they can do at present. The Bosnian Serbs are worried the Bosniaks and Croats will gang up on them to pass laws they don't like, which is probably true enough. What's less clear is what can be done to solve the political crisis, arguably the worst since the end of the war 12 years ago.

When that conflict ended with the Dayton Peace Accords, the deal was criticised for rewarding Bosnian Serb aggression, by giving 49 percent of Bosnia's territory to a devolved Serb statelet, the Republika Srprska. Although technically still part of Bosnia, the RS is divided from the Bosniak-Croat 51 percent by barriers of culture, language, and population - Serbs from elsewhere in Bosnia moved to the RS, while Bosniaks and Croats living there headed out. Twelve years on, Bosnia is more ethnically divided now than it was at the end of the war.

And this helps explain why Mr Spiric resigned. What the Serbs wanted from the war in the first place was a so-called Greater Serbia, grafting the Serb-dominated bits of Bosnia on to the existing Serbia. That didn't happen, but the RS is the next best thing for them. And if political divisions within Bosnia get wider, the odds on the RS eventually breaking off to become part of Serbia grow shorter. Despite Srebrenica and everything else, the Serbs are edging closer to ultimate victory.

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