Serbian president downplays Bosnian tensions and rewards
Aleksandar Vucic (dark costume), President of Serbia and Milorad Dodik (right), Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency. Photo: EPA / Vladimir Stojakovic
A high-level delegation from Serbia headed by the President visited Banjka Luka, the administrative center of the Bosnian-Serb entity Republika Srpska, where President Aleksandar Vucic received the honorary city award.
The visit comes at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina faces various internal conflicts, but after meeting with its ally, the Serbian member of the Bosnian presidency, Milorad Dodik, Vucic took a conciliatory note and focused more on economic issues.
“I have listened carefully to what my hosts think about the situation here, but it is important for us to preserve peace and stability, to develop our economy, so that the people of RS and Serbia can see that they will have jobs and their children can stay and not be overwhelmed by the worries that we were overwhelmed with 30 years ago, ”said Vucic, referring to the bloody war in Bosnia in the 1990s.
Dodik, however, pointed out the latest political disquirts in the countryside caused by a controversial non-paper allegedly drafted by the Slovenian Prime Minister, which mentions the dissolution of Bosnia and RS joining Serbia solution to the ongoing crises in the country.
“The Republika Srpska will not go to war, not even for its independence, but we will defend ourselves,” Dodik told the media, accusing Bosnian politicians in Sarajevo of plotting to get rid of the predominantly Serb entity.
“From Sarajevo we only hear demands for the elimination of the RS. And their problem is Serbia, because it has grown stronger. What do they want from us? They want to abolish RS, ”he said. “We did not, nor Serbia, placed the history of the non-paper,” continued Dodik.
The so-called non-paper drew dramatic reactions from Bosnian politicians. Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the strongest Bosnian party, the Democratic Action Party, SDA, said he couldn’t say there wouldn’t be another war in the country – and would rather die instead than to let “those who committed genocide rule over part of the country”, presumably referring to the Bosnian Serbs.
But some analysts doubted Vucic’s gentle tone on the situation in his neighboring country, noting that his ministers spoke very differently.
“When he talks about Bosnia, Vucic is very measured. But his Minister of Defense [Aleksandar] Vulin, said that all Serbs should live in one state. Who to trust – Vucic or Vulin? Srdjan Puhalo, a veteran analyst based in Banja Luka, told N1 television, adding that Vucic had never distanced himself from Dodik’s statements about the disintegration of the Bosnian state.
On Thursday, Vucic received the key to the city of Banja Luka on the occasion of City Day, as well as an honorary citizen charter of Banja Luka – the city’s highest honor.
“Getting recognition here is definitely one of the greatest recognition I have received, and I thank you very much for it. Due to my obligations and responsibilities, I become a resident of Banja Luka, ”Vucic joked at the award ceremony, adding that he was proud that, despite different political views, the decision regarding his recognition was unanimous.
However, the award ceremony was shrouded in some mystery as it was the first time that the city’s mayor did not present the award.
The ruling majority in the city assembly, led by the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats of Dodik, SNSD, this year gave the president of the assembly, a member of the SNSD, this honor, and not the mayor Drasko Stanivukovic, who is from the Democratic Progress Party, PDP, one of the two largest opposition parties in the RS.
Stanivukovic previously called this a bad precedent and a shame for a city. However, Vucic, outside of protocol, still met Stanivukovic after the awards ceremony.