Earlier this month, the Republika Srpska government decided to abolish an inter-entity demarcation line in the Brcko District. This was the last condition set by the international community before it would consider withdrawal from the district.
In 2009, the PIC had already determined that Brcko District was institutionally functioning and independent to a level that no longer warranted international supervision; however, its strategic importance has remained a threat on a wider spectrum.
Earlier in December, the PIC met in Sarajevo, where it commended Republika Srpska’s move to meet the last condition for withdrawal from Brcko District, but announced it would extend the debate on withdrawal until its next session in late May 2012. Regardless of whether the international community officially withdraws from the district next year, it would continue to maintain its “Arbitral Tribunal” for Brcko to mitigate potential political obstruction.
Republika Srpska would like to see a withdrawal of international supervisors, after which it could suspend its obligatory financial support of Brcko and engineer its gradual collapse and eventual repartition. Under this scenario, the city of Brcko would be absorbed into Republika Srpska, while its southern rural areas would go to the Federation entity.
The Bosnian Serb move to accommodate the international community by helping to achieve the final condition was premeditated. Indeed, Republika Srpska officials recently have stepped up calls for the district’s dissolution, saying it is a financial burden that is too expensive to maintain.
At the same time, figures from the country’s main Bosniak parties have chosen to largely ignore the issue. Bosniaks in Brcko District have thrown most of their support not behind the Bosniak nationalist parties, but behind the moderate Social Democratic party (SDP), which won a majority of votes in Brcko in the October 2010 elections.
International envoys are of course not alluding to secession concerns, rather have mentioned practical issues behind the mandate extension, including the ongoing fight against corruption and organized crime, technical issues related to the collection of value-added tax, and jurisdiction issues concerning key utilities.
The creation of Brcko District was regulated by the 1995 Dayton peace talks, one of the most difficult points of negotiation with Bosnian Serb forces.
Both entities are afforded equal ownership over the district; however, it is under the exclusive sovereignty of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina with its status internationally supervised
The District comprises the entire territory of the City of Brcko. 48% of the city fell under Republika Srpska, 52% under the Federation.
Brcko District is arguably the only obviously successful international project in the past 15 years, with its functional multi-ethnic government, commendable education system, good track record at facilitating refugee returns and progress towards institutional reform. It will not be allowed to fail.
There have been indications of late that it could be used as a model for northern Kosovo, dominated by Serbs – an idea debated in 2008 but rejected by both Serbia and Kosovo at the time. Now it is an increasingly viable option.
by ISA Intel. Copyright 2011, ISA Intel. All rights reserved