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News 06 Jun 17

Divided World Powers Meet to Support Unified Bosnia

Diplomats have gathered in Sarajevo for a Peace Implementation Council meeting, but diverging, sometimes contradictory positions prevent world powers from finding a common strategy on Bosnia's deepening crisis.

Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: OHR

Representatives of some 50 world powers, including the US, Russia, EU and most EU member countries, convene in Sarajevo on Tuesday and Wednesday for a regular biannual meeting of the Peace Implementation Council, PIC, the ad hoc body overseeing the work of Bosnia and Herzegovina's once-powerful international administrator, the Office of the High Representative, OHR.

At the meeting, international officials will analyse the current security, political and economic situation in the country, with a special focus on freedom of media in the country, Western officials told BIRN.

Although the meeting will bring together a number of senior international diplomats, such as the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Hoyt Yee, it is mostly being ignored by local public and media, who have long ago lost interest in the event which has mostly become a procedural meeting.

Growing divisions and opposing positions among the West and Russia, as well as other countries such as Turkey or China - which are all represented on the PIC - have effectively blocked any more concrete engagement of the OHR in the Bosnia’s deepening political crisis.

For the past several years, the main purpose of this once important event was the preparation of a joint press statement, but even that sometimes proved to be extremely difficult with Western powers, Russia and Turkey having divergent views on the Balkans, and sometimes even using Bosnia for their own global scuffles.

"PIC positions directly relate to the OHR position, and the OHR, for some time, realistically does not have power it once did," analyst and blogger Srdjan Puhalo told BIRN

"A part of the OHR [mission] has been taken over by the EU itself. So the carrots remained, but we were left without a stick [to push through any changes]," he added.

Puhalo said that members of the PIC "very rarely reach a consensus" and as a result, usually end up with lukewarm recommendations.

"The role of the PIC has now become almost unnecessary, especially if you look at the effects of this institution's work, which are very, very poor," political anaylst Vlade Simovic told BIRN.

"In addition, the PIC has often been biased in its work and almost never, when important issues were on the table, has it achieved a common position," Simovic said.

"In a state where the [Bosnian state] parliament has adopted only two laws in five months, the PIC is concerned with media freedoms. Is this really, at this point, the biggest problem?" he asked.

One of Bosnia's bigger problems is the lack of clarity about whether the country has a ruling majority on the state level. Political parties are now mostly preoccupied with fighting each other and only form coalitions on a case-by-case basis.

The failure to adopt an excise law, which was a condition for the country to receive more than a billion dollars in support from the IMF, the World Bank, and other key lenders, has revealed all the cracks in the ruling coalition, which has been facing troubles within and between its coalition partners for months.

Without the financial support of international lenders, Bosnia is likely to face a liquidity crunch.

At the same time, Milorad Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, has continued to use secessionist rhetoric, which is becoming a permanent threat to stability.

Returning from Russia earlier this week after meeting Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Dodik reiterated to Bosnian media that Republika Srpska will consider the possibility of calling an independence referendum.

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