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news 10 Jan 14

Law on Holidays Exposes Bosnia's Deep Divide

Attempts to agree on common holidays in divided Bosnia are likely to prove highly controversial - as the dispute over the Bosnian Serb entity's 22nd birthday has revealed.

Elvira M. Jukic

As Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, marked its 22nd anniversary, moves are afoot to find agreement on holidays that all of Bosnia's divided citizens can celebrate.

Sending a proposed law on holidays to Bosnia's parliament for the second time, the speaker, Denis Becirovic, on January 9 said the law on state holidays was intended to win consent on common holidays that both Bosnia's entities would mark.

Becirovic said that his proposed list included several state holidays as well as five religious holidays suiting every religious affiliation.

The proposed state holidays are New Year on January 1 and 2, March 1 – Day of Independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslavia, May 1 and 2 as Labor Day, May 9 as the Victory over Fascism Day and Day of Europe as well as May 22 when Bosnia joined the UN.

Becirovic also called for state holidays on July 27, as the day of the uprising against Fascism in WW2, and November 25 as Statehood Day.

Finally, Becirovic also suggested that July 11 should be included in the law as a day of remembrance of the Serbian genocide committed in Srebrenica in 1995.

While the speaker said that around 80 per cent of the proposed holidays would be acceptable to everyone, it was hard to imagine Bosnian Serb leaders agreeing to mark the day of the Srebrenica slaughter - or the day of Bosnia's independence.

The Serb-dominated entity, has meanwhile, celebrated its own 22nd anniversary.

In spite of the criticism from Sarajevo, Republika Srpska marked the anniversary of its foundation in 1992 with high-profile events attended by top Serbian politicians and clergy as well as local officials.

Addressing a reception in Banja Luka, the entity’s President, Milorad Dodik, said the Republika Srpska intended to strengthen its autonomy and eventually achieve independence.

In a sign of how far Bosnia is from agreeing on joint holidays, Bosniak [Muslim] and Croat leaders in the other entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, called the celebration offensive.

Becirovic himself described the holiday as "illegal", saying it was against the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the 1992-5 war in Bosnia.

“The Dayton Accords are not a menu from which you can take what you like and dismiss what you do not like,” Becirovic said.

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