The U.S. intelligence community gets it wrong on Bosnian Serbs.
Last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair delivered U.S. intelligence community's 2010 Annual Threat Assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The report recommends greater Western engagement to address political instability and ethnic tension in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Specifically, the report warns of growing separatist sentiment on the part of Bosnian Serbs.
Last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair delivered U.S. intelligence community’s 2010 Annual Threat Assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The report recommends greater Western engagement to address political instability and ethnic tension in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Specifically, the report warns of growing separatist sentiment on the part of Bosnian Serbs.
"Bosnian Serb leaders seek to reverse some reforms, warn of legal challenges to the authority of the international community, and assert their right to eventually hold a referendum on secession, all of which is contributing to growing interethnic tensions," the assessment states. "This dynamic appears likely to continue, as Bosnia’s leaders will harden their positions to appeal to their nationalist constituents ahead of elections this fall."
Milorad Dodik, prime minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s semi-autonomous majority-Serb region, the Republika Srpska, has written the following response to the DNI’s finding:
The Annual Threat Assessment released by the director of national intelligence on Feb. 2 correctly dismisses the prospect of widespread violence or a breakup of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Unfortunately, the report also contains serious errors of fact and presents a distorted image of the true situation.
Contrary to the assessment’s assertions, the government of the Republika Srpska (RS) has not said that it intends to hold a referendum on secession, despite calls from opposition parties to do so. The RS has made clear that it has the right, under the Dayton Agreement, to hold referenda. The topic we have been discussing for a possible referendum should not be a cause for alarm: It can only be a function of support to the Dayton Agreement and an opposition to anti-Dayton actions, and under no circumstances — not even theoretically — shall it pose a challenge to Dayton or any of its provisions.
The assessment wrongly assumes that further centralization of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s institutions is necessary to make the country more functional. It ignores the state-level institutions now in existence, which include: the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Ministry of Security, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense (and a single, B-H-level control of the armed forces), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Ministry of Communications and Transport, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, as well as a B-H parliament and presidency.
The government of the RS has stated clearly that it supports EU membership for Bosnia-Herzegovina. As we look at the present members of the European Union — Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, for example — it is not evident that more centralization should be required for Bosnia-Herzegovina to qualify. The RS government maintains its readiness to discuss institutional changes that might eventually be requested by the European Union as Bosnia-Herzegovina negotiates EU accession, but Brussels has not yet specified what its conditions will be.
Finally, it is regrettable that the assessment mischaracterizes the actions of the RS in defending the rights it is guaranteed by the Dayton Agreement, including the right to protect its vital interests, as challenges to the international community. The time has come for the international community to recognize that its relentless efforts to impose an overly centralized structure on Bosnia-Herzegovina will not succeed and to accept that a decentralized structure, but one fully capable of qualifying it for EU entry, is the best guarantee of prosperity and stability in this region.
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