Think-tank warns UN vote on Srebrenica genocide could trigger Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia

Think-tank warns UN vote on Srebrenica genocide could trigger Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia May 7, 2024

The secession of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska could destabilise Balkans and has the potential to spark conflicts in the whole region, the US Hudson Institute says in report published on May 4.

Republika Srpska’s leader Milorad Dodik has been threatening secession for years, and over the last few years took steps to undermine the authority of state-level institutions.

The report from the conservative Washington-based think-tank warns that the draft resolution being debated by the UN General Assembly that proposes to designate July 11 as the ‘International Day of Remembrance for the Genocide in Srebrenica’ is a potential flash point that could "serve as a pretext for fresh instability in the region". 

In 1995, Bosnian Serbs and paramilitary units from Serbia killed more than 8,000 Bosnian boys and men in Srebrenica after the UN has declared the city a safe area. That was recognised as genocide by many international institutions and the international court for ex-Yugoslavia.

Dodik and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic fiercely oppose the adoption of the UN resolution, claiming it would condemn all Serbs as genocidal and that the number of victims was much lower.

“Dodik has stated that should UN General Assembly adopt the resolution, he will seek out the next opportunity to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Considering his previous rhetoric on the issue of independence for Republika Srpska, his threats should be taken seriously,” the report reads.

It assessed as highly likely the possibility of Republika Srpska – one of the two autonomous entities in Bosnia along with the Muslim-Croat Federation – and Serbia attempting to form an alliance in line with the vision of their leaders for a ‘Serbian world’ with Belgrade as its centre.

The Hudson Institute expects that the vote in the UN General Assembly due later this month, combined with the staging of the so-called Easter Assembly in Serbia, could convince Dodik that the time is right to declare independence from Bosnia and form a union with Serbia.

“Such a move would be disastrous for the region. Redrawing borders based on ethnic and sectarian lines would open up a Pandora’s box. The Balkans already went through a tidal wave of border changes in the 1990s. During this period, more than 100,000 people died and millions were displaced during sectarian conflicts,” the report noted.

It added that the effects of redrawing the borders of Bosnia and Serbia would be felt elsewhere in the Balkans.

“This is particularly true in other regions of the Balkans, such as Kosovo, with its Serbian minority, [North] Macedonia, with its ethnically Albanian regions, and even Serbia, with the Muslim-majority Sandzak region and Vojvodina region,” it noted.

The report called on international community to keep an eye on the region, claiming that it is the other European region, apart from Ukraine, where a security crisis is brewing.

“The Balkans region in southeastern Europe is prone to instability. It faces many economic challenges. Ethnic, religious and sectarian differences remain a source of friction in society. And for better or worse, it is also susceptible to the influence of outside actors; Russia, the US, China and Turkiye, among others, all have interests and hold sway in the region,” the report says.

As one of the reasons for the instability in the region the Hudson Institute cited the unfinished Euro-Atlantic integration. Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia are members of the EU and Nato.

North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro are only Nato members and have still not been accepted into the EU. Kosovo aspires to membership of both the EU and Nato, while Serbia “remains firmly in the Russian sphere of influence, serving as Moscow’s toehold in the region, but occasionally sends signals it wants to get closer to the EU”.

Bosnia got a green light to start EU membership talks once it completes all requirements, but Dodik has been blocking both the needed reforms for the start of negotiations and the possibility of membership in Nato. He is also among the most loyal allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and lately has been travelling more often to Russia.

“Like its neighbours, [Bosnia] faces many social and economic challenges and, as you might expect, these challenges are exacerbated by sectarian divisions inside the country that are being fuelled by those outside it,” the report also noted.

The report concluded that, while being focused on Ukraine, Iran, Taiwan and Gaza, the international community should not ignore the Balkans as over the next few weeks, things could start to heat up in the region.