BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - The prime minister of Bosnia’s Serb half said on Friday he would pull out of talks on constitutional reform led by the United States and European Union set to speed up Bosnia’s path to EU and NATO membership.
Milorad Dodik was the first among Bosnia’s Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders to reject a EU-U.S.-proposed constitutional reform package this month, calling it “unconstitutional and biased against Serbs.”
Dodik then invited rival leaders to come to Banja Luka — a town 200 km northwest of Sarajevo — on Friday to start negotiations without international mediation. But only officials of two small parties appeared.
“This is not my defeat,” Dodik said. “It’s a defeat of politicians from the federation who agree to meet only in the presence of the international community. I will never again take part in any talks mediated by the international community.”
Postwar Bosnia is made up of the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation under the Dayton peace accords that ended the 1992-95 war that accompanied Yugoslavia’s collapse.
Continued tensions between those two halves has stalled the country’s progress and some fear the lingering tensions there could delay the EU integration process for the entire region.
“This is the beginning of political chaos in Bosnia- Herzegovina in which local leaders have become disoriented and the international community is losing patience,” said Gojko Beric, an analyst who is the author of “Letters to the Celestial Serbs: Reflections on an Ethnic Conflict.”
Beric said further dialogue involving the leaders and international community is badly needed to break the political deadlock but that constant bickering between rival leaders does not leave much reason for optimism.
Parliamentary party leaders offered various reasons for rejecting Dodik’s invitation to talks and many cast doubt over his plan by insisting on international presence.
“I’ve just tried to ensure that local politicians get together and try to agree on some issues that would speed up the European path,” Dodik told a news conference. “That is something the international community wanted us to do.”
The U.S. and EU-proposed reforms package included measures to end Bosnia’s status as an international protectorate and constitutional changes to help make it a credible EU and NATO candidate.
The leaders of the main ethnic and opposition parliamentary parties subsequently rejected it for different reasons and the talks on Bosnia’s future mediated by EU and U.S. senior officials ended without breaking the stalemate in the country.
Additional reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Adam Tanner