High representative for BIH visits Banja Luka despite Dodik’s threats

High representative for BIH visits Banja Luka despite Dodik’s threats

The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, said he was following up on his promise to defend the Dayton Peace Agreement in every part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On September 12 Schmidt was forced to cancel his visit to Banja Luka after the office of the President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik issued an order banning the high representative from meeting with RS Vice President Jamilo Durakovic in the official premises of RS. Before that, the leaders of a some opposition parties also canceled Banja Luka meetings with the high representative, saying that they “will not participate in the acts of provocation.”

Earlier, Dodik warned Schmidt that the authorities of the entity would sign a decree banning Schmidt from entering the RS territory, and should he dare try to do so, he would be arrested. Despite the “entry ban”, Schmidt arrived in Banja Luka on September 17, where he met with Bishop Franjo Komarica. The two discussed the legal and political issues related to the project to expand the capacities of the Meeting House and the Star of Mary European Center for Peace and Cooperation, which will soon mark its third anniversary, agreeing on the need to provide care for the younger generation in BIH.

In this regard, Dodik will allegedly dismiss Minister of Internal Affairs Sinisa Karan for failing to establish in advance the location of the high representative who was being driven along the streets of Banja Luka, greeting people along the road. At the same time, the high representative said he did not feel his safety in Banja Luka was under any threat and that he never saw the “tens of thousands” of protesters announced by Dodik.

After returning to Sarajevo, the high representative said Dodik was trying to attack the two institutions that do not suit him. The first is the Office of the High Representative, and the second is the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The RS president is currently trying to force the Constitutional Court to draft and pass decisions that would cater his wishes. “But this is poison for the democratic future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Otherwise, when it comes to the conditions for the implementation of standards, the EU will not give in,” Schmidt said, adding that the decisions of the Constitutional Court are being implemented and that there can be no discussion to this end. “Mr. Dodik is also not above the law, and he did not fully understand this – after all, he is neither the sultan, nor the emperor of Austria, nor the emperor of China,” said Schmidt. He warned that those who consistently play like Dodik could be committing a criminal offence. In addition, Schmidt stated that it is not a question of putting entities, municipalities, or the state in a certain situation, be it better or worse. Decisions should be made in favor of the citizens, since the distribution of state property in the territory of the former Yugoslavia has long been completed and does not pose an issue anywhere so the only place where it hasn’t been done is BIH – and perhaps, the Moon, the official concluded with a joke.

Asked why everyone expected him to have Dodik removed from power, Schmidt said: “Dodik is not the only one I’ve been asked to remove. I still try to work with the people that are out there. At the moment when things can’t move forward, I have the authority to take all measures. If Dodik is supposed to be the extended arm of Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin – ed.), it will not help people for a second. No one wants the war in Ukraine, which is so terrible, to have any impact on the Western Balkans. The threat that Mr. Putin will employ him as a puppet is great, and in doing so he would put stability at risk.”

Thus, despite the threats voiced by RS President Milorad Dodik to arrest the high representative should he arrive in RS, he visited Banja Luka anyway, as a matter of principle. In order for the authorities of the RS not to be able to do any harm, Christian Schmidt’s visit was never announced so the local police could not even inform Dodik about the undesirable guest. This infuriated Dodik, who said he would sack his interior minister, while the latter accused Schmidt of being irresponsible, allegedly because the local police would not have been able to protect him had a crowd chosen to attack him. But the high representative dismissed the claims of any mass rallies along his way. Due to Schmidt’s unexpected visit, the RS authorities, apparently, simply didn’t have time to stage any…. In fact, the unannounced visit to Banja Luka blew a slap in Dodik’s face and proved Schmidt’s readiness to act decisively if needed. It also sent a message to all the radical forces in the RS that Schmidt would not tolerate actions that would interfere with the performance of the High Representative’s Office and him personally. In order to somehow support its protégé in the Western Balkans, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release demanding that the Office of the High Representative be disbanded as soon as possible.

However, a reaction also came from the U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michael Murphy, who said that RS President Milorad Dodik was walking a really dangerous path and provoking a confrontation with the international community. He assessed that Dodik is doing this in an attempt to avoid personal accountability for his own actions, regardless of whether this is about a violation of the BiH Constitution, his poor leadership, or the inability to exercise executive power. He also said Dodik has problems with himself, but also with the law, stressing that Republika Srpska has not and will not secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Murphy denied the suggestion that BiH is on the brink of war, but warned that the international community, including the U.S., would react when someone undermined the Dayton Agreement. He noted that sanctions could be applied, along with the increase of the EUFOR contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina.