Referendum in Republika Srpska "threatens sovereignty" of Bosnia

EU, US oppose vote on the authority of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina over Bosnian Serb territory · Srpska president believes the Court violates Bosnian Serb judicial independence · Russia argues referendum should not be attacked, but roots of the problems should be addressed

The National Assembly of Republika Srpska yesterday approved the holding of a referendum on the authority of the Court and Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) over Bosnian Serb territory. The EU and the USA believe the decision challenges the unity of the Bosnian state.

The Republika Srpska, which has a majority population of Bosnian Serbs, is one of BiH's two constituent entities, alongside the Federation, with Bosniak and Bosnian Croat majority. Both entities have their own government, parliament and judiciary.

Republika Srpska president and referendum promoter Milorad Dodik argues the existence of the Court of BiH is contrary to the Dayton Agreement, which in 1995 put an end to the Bosnian war and set the the country's current federal structure. According to Dodik, Dayton provides that the judiciary must be independent for each of the two constituent entities.

Dodik announced in April that if Srpska's autonomy was not respected and the Court of BiH continued to be operational within two years, the Bosnian Serb territory would pursue a referendum on independence in 2018.

EU, USA oppose referendum, Russia says it is an internal affair

Before the National Assembly of Republika Srpska passed the referendum, the European Union and the United States had issued a joint statement showing their "concern." Both said the referendum would "pose a direct threat to the sovereignty and security of the country as a whole," a situation that, the US-EU statement argued, "cannot be tolerated."

By contrast, Russia believes the dispute is an internal affair of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and points out that it is well known that Bosnian Serbs have complaints regarding BiH's judicial system. According to the Russians, the root of the problem should be solved, rather than attacking its consequence -the referendum.