24 January, 2010

Croatia: “If you want a fight, we’ll give you one”

Croatia’s president Stipe Mesic has informed Bosnia’s Serbs that if they attempt to secede from Bosnia then he will despatch Croatian troops to crush them. At the moment, Bosnia is federated into two regions, one for ethnic Serbs and one for ethnic Croats and Bosniaks*, but the country remains grossly dysfunctional and still under international supervision. President Mesic of neighbouring Croatia seems to believe that the sulky Serbs of Bosnia plan to organise a referendum on secession, after which they will seek to unify with their pals in Serbia proper. Should they try such a thing, his plan is not to launch an all out war against them, but to send forces to cut the narrow corridor that links the two sub-units of the Bosnian Serb region.

Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of Bosnia’s Serb region, has reacted angrily to Mesic’s threat.

I do not know how likely the Bosnian Serbs are to declare independence, nor if Mesic is serious about intervening militarily against them. Mesic is coming to the end of his term of office, with his successor already elected, and he may be engaging in a bit of sabre rattling to give posterity something to remember him by. At the same time, Mesic has hitherto demonstrated an interest in maintaining the integrity of Bosnia, forcibly rebuffing the pretensions of Bosnian Croats who wished for a closer union with his country.

Even if the former Yugoslavia is not quite ready to descend into another bout of war, the incident also demonstrates the problematic nature of the Bosnian state. Its constitution seems based on a series of externally imposed compromises that ended the war of the early 1990s but did not create anything approximating to viable institutions of governance. How to get the country into some kind of shape that allows it to govern itself will be one of the great conundrums of the years ahead.


*you know, Bosnian Muslims

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