The 9th of January marks the “Day of the Serb Republic”, a celebration banned by the Bosnia’s Constitutional Court, considered unconstitutional because it is seen as discriminatory for the non-Serb ethnicities. However, even on this occasion, President Milorad Dodik decided to go forward with the celebration of the 26th year of the Republika Srpska (RS).
“The Serbs have never been identified with BiH, and they are not even today. That is why it is important to mark the 9th of January […] with respect of the other ethnicities who live here.” president Dodik affirmed for RTRS, the TV news for RS.
In contrast with the Dayton peace agreement of 1995, the revisionist and secessionist speech of the president demonstrated once again that, according to him, RS should have the right to self-determination, which will enable the Serb population to manage their own economic resources and political will.
However, as for now, there are no concrete actions that will allow a future independence, and promises have not been made.
While the Serbian president A. Vučić and the premier A. Brnabić were absent at the illegal celebration, some international politicians participated, thus providing support to RS.
What has made the headlines was the participation of Johann Gudenus, a political member of the Austrian FPÖ – Freedom Party of Austria, a far right political party which recently joined coalition with the Austrian government. Mr. Gudenus took part at the celebration also on behalf of Heinz-Christina Strache, the leader of FPÖ.
The FPÖ is known for its anti-Muslim views, anti-immigration policies and Euroscepticism.
In light of the radical Islamism, and the threat of terrorist attacks, RS and Austrian political members stated that they should create together an anti-terrorist coalition. Strache affirmed that half of the population of BiH are Muslims, and they may bring danger to the country itself. However, this does not mean that all the Muslim are terrorists, but they are behind all the terrorist attacks committed in Europe, Strache stated (Balkan Insight has reported).
Additionally, Austria is a considerable trade partner for RS and it is important to keep good relations, both economically and politically. In fact, Dodik has told RTRS that the Serbs living in Austria, who are around 300.000, should back the FPÖ political party on the next election.
The move of the FPÖ political party in BiH and the statements by its high-ranking politicians, have arisen concerns in Austria and within the European Community. Besides inciting Islamophobia, Strache also stated that a multi-ethnic BiH cannot function in this artificial way and only the RS can really function. The FPÖ behavior contradicts the multi-ethnic BiH territorial integrity, and, with the anti-immigrant policy, distances itself from the European values.
Not less important was the representation of the president of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, who congratulated Dodik for the celebration. During their meeting they signed a protocol on “cooperation between South Ossetia and Republika Srpska”. The support between RS and South Ossetia lies in the fact that the two territories share a common path: Ossetia is divided between the North and the South in the same way as RS is divided with Serbia. On the contrary, this cooperation and the visit of Bibilov has arisen concerns in Tbilisi and Sarajevo. Georgia sent a diplomatic note to Bosnia as a consequence of the visit to RS of the South Ossetian delegation. “I came to Republika Srpska and not to BiH”, Bibilov answered.
Above all, it is worth noting that Mr Dodik has found support by most European radical right-wing parties. These, in turn, took this celebration to their own advantages, for instance. in the case of the FPÖ, to promote Islamophobia in their own country, as well as by using the Serbian Diaspora to support them in the next elections. While, in the case of South Ossetia, Dodik promised a return visit to Bibilov.
Image source: Anadolu from Balkan Insight: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/bosnian-serbs-march-in-statehood-day-parade-01-09-2018