June 20, 2009 / 4:08 PM / 10 years ago

Top peace envoy acts against Bosnian Serbs

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Bosnia’s top peace envoy said on Saturday he had annulled a Bosnian Serb parliament resolution that would have required its institutions and officials to oppose any future transfer of power to the state.

Valentin Inzko, the new head of the Office of the High Respresentative (OHR) in Bosnia, addresses reporters after taking office in Sarajevo in this March 26, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files

The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina supervises the Dayton peace accord and is empowered to sack officials seen as obstructing the 1995 agreement. He is also the supreme authority on interpreting the constitution.

“The High Representative (HR) made a detailed legal assessment and concluded the issued conclusions are mainly not in line with the Dayton agreement,” Valentin Inzko said in a statement referring to his actions.

Under the Dayton accord that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, the country was made into two autonomous regions — the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation — with a weak central government whose workings are often hijacked by ethnic and regional rivalry.

Inzko’s move came after a meeting with Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and parliament speaker Igor Radojicic.

“Inzko’s decision is contrary to modern democratic practices and is designed to suspend basic human and democratic freedoms,” Dodik’s office said in a statement.

The region’s parliament had turned a deaf ear to Inzko’s call to withdraw its June resolution that included a list of powers, such as judiciary, customs and foreign trade policy and police deployment, that Bosnian Serbs believe should belong to their region.

Inzko said the resolutions passed by the Bosnian Serb parliament would give the assembly veto rights at a state level and “undermine final and binding decisions of the Constitutional court, a Dayton institution”. He added the resolutions would also determine that the HR’s powers were unconstitutional.

Bosnian Serbs led by Dodik have repeatedly urged Inzko to relinquish his authority and say a High Representative is an outdated method of governing Bosnia.

They strongly oppose efforts to centralise power while Muslims and Croats advocate a stronger central state.

Dodik was backed by the West as an opponent of wartime hardliners but his nationalist rhetoric and threats of secession have often put him at odds with international officials since his return to power three years ago.

“After some hesitation Inzko showed his teeth and annulled the resolution, but Dodik, who is its main protagonist, remained untouched and may take an even more radical approach under a slogan that the international community is biased against Serbs,” said political analyst Gojko Beric in Sarajevo.

Inzko, an Austrian diplomat, took over the job in March from Miroslav Lajcak, who left to become Slovakia’s foreign minister. Lajcak said he did not have enough support from the European Union for tougher moves against Dodik’s separatist policies.

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