Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of Republika Srpska, a semi-autonomous Serb political entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, reiterated his wish for greater autonomy, and even full independence, if possible.
Speaking at an event attended by Turkish businessmen and journalists, Dodik said he would sacrifice a seat in the United Nations for greater autonomy, saying: “We do not need any chair in the United Nations. We need as much autonomy as we can get,” and added, “If independence could happen, I would do it immediately.”
Bosnia is divided into two ethnic mini-states — one for Serbs, the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats. The Serbs want to maintain as much autonomy as possible, while the international community and the Bosniaks are pushing for more central institutions and the country to fulfill the conditions to join the European Union.
Dodik has repeatedly said the Bosnian Serbs would rather drop the idea of Bosnia joining the EU if it requires them to transfer more power from their regional government to federal institutions. Last year he threatened to hold a referendum on outright autonomy, but later dropped his call in the wake of pressure from the EU.
In his interview with Turkish journalists, Dodik praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and said he has helped Turkey become a more important country in its region. “Erdo?an is a good politician. His government developed Turkey economically. Turkey has become strategically more important in regional and international politics. We respect Turkish efforts in this respect,” he said. However, the Bosnian Serb leader complained that Bosnia and Herzegovina has problems with Turkey when it comes to domestic politics. “Internal questions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are our questions. Ankara supports only Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and communicates with them. If I have a chance to talk with Mr. Erdo?an in the future, I would tell him my criticisms about Turkey’s policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would be an honor for me to meet Mr. Erdo?an,” he stated.
Dodik also said he plans to visit Turkey at the end of this year.
Asked about schools opened by Turkish educators and entrepreneurs around the world, the Bosnian Serb leader said he would have no objections if Turkish schools are opened in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “There are already some foreign schools in Banja Luka [the capital of Republika Srpska]. There is one Catholic school. Everyone who has an interest can open schools. It is welcomed. But as the government, we do not support these schools financially. If the schools work with their own financial resources, I have no objections.”
He also commented on investments to be made by Turkish businessmen in his country, and said he is open to any kind of investment and there is no difference for any investors coming from Russia, Europe or Turkey. “We would very gladly accept Turkish investors,” he added.
Journalists also asked Dodik about rights granted to Muslims in his country. He said six of the 16 ministers in the government of Republika Srpska are Muslims, and Muslim citizens in the region are treated as equal citizens. “Muslims here do not have any problems. They have full freedom concerning their religion. As you can see, they have their mosques and religious objects in the region. The stability and safety of Muslims in Republika Srpska have increased in recent years. The president of the court of Republika Srpska is also a Muslim.”
Additionally, the Bosnian Serb leader spoke about the increasing violence in Syria, which began around 18 months ago after opposition forces launched a campaign to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. He said a similar tragedy was experienced in Bosnia and Herzegovina two decades ago, adding: “Everything should be done in order to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The international community should fulfill its responsibility, including military and political intervention. But we have witnessed that foreign military interventions did not have any positive conclusions in recent years.”
Dodik also commented on the current situation of the EU. “As we can see from the examples of Greece, Italy and Spain, the European Union is not a good situation. Serbia has made its own decisions and we will respect this. The European Union has become an illusion and this is very visible,” he said.