Bosnian Serb Lawmakers Scrap Controversial Referendum

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Bosnia's Serb Republic parliament has voted against holding a disputed referendum on the region's future.

Bosnian Serb officials had planned to hold the referendum this month, asking people in the region whether they accepted the federal judiciary and an international envoy overseeing Bosnia's fragile peace.

The Bosnian Serb Assembly shelved the planned referendum Wednesday following a deal with the European Union on a review of Bosnia's central judicial institutions. The lawmakers said that with the opening of a dialogue on Serb complaints, the plebiscite is not immediately necessary.

Bosnian Serbs have rejected the authority of the country's central institutions, claiming they are heavily biased against them. They have especially criticized Bosnia's national court, which prosecutes war crimes suspects.

EU officials had condemned the planned referendum, saying it would deepen ethnic divisions in the Balkan country, still recovering from the bloody conflict of the early 1990s.

Under the 1995 Dayton peace accord, Bosnia was divided in two entities – the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Muslim Croat Federation. Each has its own government and security forces. Efforts by the international community to strengthen federal institutions have had little success.

Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik met with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last month in the northern Bosnian city of Banja Luka to discuss Serb complaints. He said afterwards that he was satisfied with the talks and that the referendum was not necessary “for the time being.”

Mr. Dodik has frequently suggested that his region might secede from Bosnia.