After privately determining that it risks reigniting fresh regional war, senior EU officials are working behind the scenes to “fix” a new law in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) that criminalizes denial of the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica.

Milorad Dodik, a Serb member of BiH’s tripartite leadership, has been accused in recent months of attempting to split apart the country by withdrawing the country’s Serbian half from state-level institutions.
He has stated that there is a power imbalance and that it was undemocratic and symbolic of the problem when Valentin Inzko, the outgoing head of Bosnia’s office of the high representative, prohibited genocide denial this summer.

Dodik’s attempts to reclaim power have been heavily criticised by the international world, which accuses him of inciting the area to war. However, leaked minutes suggest that the European commissioner for enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, believes Inzko’s law is to blame for the current crisis.

During a meeting with the EU team in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Várhelyi – who is in charge of the bloc’s ties with the country – delivered his “honest view” that Inzko was “to blame” for the country’s current political crisis and the “delegitimization” of the high representative’s office.

“While the Inzko revisions could not be questioned in terms of the law’s substance, the fact that it was enforced on the last day of HR Inzko’s mandate was problematic,” Várhelyi said at the November 25 meeting, according to the minutes.

“Because it was such a significant decision, it should have been based on extensive debate with everyone on board.” The question now was, “How can we fix this?”

Várhelyi, a Hungarian friend to Viktor Orbán, the country’s right-wing prime minister, told EU authorities that the Bosnian Muslim leadership had expressed willingness to address the matter by the adoption of a new law that may reintegrate Dodik and the Serbian Republika Srpska entity.

After the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Dayton peace treaty of 1994 put an end to a civil war that claimed the lives of over 100,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, including over 8,000 slaughtered in and around Srebrenica.

The agreement created a new constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is divided into two parts: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is primarily made up of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and the Republika Srpska. Representatives from the three main ethnic groups make up Bosnia’s three-member presidency.

The so-called Bonn powers of 1997 also give the office of the high representative in charge of executing the agreement significant legislative authority. It has the power to make judgments or dismiss officials who jeopardize the postwar ethnic balance and efforts at reconciliation.

In July, an Austrian ambassador named Inzko made denial of genocide punishable by up to five years in prison. As part of his rationale, he noted the Bosnian Serb assembly’s unwillingness to return awards given to three convicted war criminals.

According to the minutes, Várhelyi stated that he believed there was a way out of the current problem and that he had sanctioned a special session of the Republika Srpska’s assembly on December 10 to approve a motion supporting the return of powers.

His condition, however, was that the legislation required to reclaim state responsibilities in areas such as tax administration, the judiciary, intelligence, and even the national army in order to create a Serb force be postponed for six months to enable time for negotiations.

Dealing with the genocide law, according to Várhelyi, was critical in getting Dodik to recognize Inzko’s successor, German Christian Schmidt, who has declared the region is facing its worst crisis in a quarter-century.

A representative for the European Commission did not immediately reply to a request for comment.


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