A Foot Out the Door

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Lawmakers in Bosnia’s autonomous region, Republika Srpska, voted this week to suspend rulings from the country’s constitutional court, a move that risks deepening the ongoing political and ethnic divisions in the fractured Balkan nation, Reuters reported.

The region’s separatist President Milorad Dodik ordered the vote a week after the top court decided to modify the regulations enabling sessions and decision-making without the presence of Serb judges.

Bosnian Serb lawmakers agreed to suspend the implementation of the constitutional court’s decisions in their region until a nationwide law on the court is passed.

They also decided that Serb representatives in state institutions will not participate in reforms talks needed for Bosnia’s integration into the European Union until the constitutional court is reformed and the international peace overseer’s office is closed.

After the 1990s war, Bosnia was divided into two self-governing regions: The Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the latter shared by Bosniaks and Croats.

These regions are connected through a limited central government.

The 1995 Dayton peace agreement established the constitutional court and granted it the sole authority to resolve disputes that may arise between the regions, between the state and the regions, or among state institutions.

The court is comprised of nine members: Two Serb judges are appointed by the Republika Srpska legislature, while the rest are picked by the president of the European Court of Human Rights and the other regional parliaments.

But Dodik – who has called for the secession of his region from Bosnia – has criticized the court for having foreign judges and accused it of acting against Serb interests.

The recent dispute comes as Republika Srpska’s parliament has yet to nominate a new candidate to fill a vacancy in the constitutional court.

Bosnian leaders criticized the move and called for sanctioning Dodik and his allies. Christian Schmidt – the international peace envoy who oversees the implementation of the Dayton agreement – warned that the move marks a serious violation of the peace deal.

Meanwhile, analysts described the move as “a long-announced legal secession,” adding that it could trigger the “deepest crisis since the Dayton peace deal.”

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