BiH Constitutional Court decided on Thursday afternoon that the celebration of March 1, as BiH Independence Day, and November 25, as BiH Statehood Day, are in accordance with BiH Constitution. This decision triggered sparks and a new crisis in political relations in the country which still hasn’t overcome the ethnic divisions between orthodox Serbs, catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks.
The problem in this case is the previous Constitutional Court decision that January 9, a RS Day, is not in accordance with highest legal document in the country. Serbs responded with appeals which put in the question the March 1 and November 25, which are celebrated in Federation BiH and not in Republic of Srpska, but have prefix of “state” holidays.
March 1 is the date when, the referendum on BiH independence of the rest of Yugoslavia was held. Few months earlier, in January 1992, Serbs refused to leave Yugoslavia and established the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the Serbs disagreement the other two nations decided to hold the referendum and declared independence. Just a few days later, war begun and BiH went through the darkest period of its history.
November 25, on the other side, is established as the Statehood Day since, in 1943, anti fascist partisans in BiH held a congress called “Anti Fascist Council of Peoples Liberation of BiH” (Zemaljsko Antifašističko Vijeće Narodnog Oslobođenja BiH – ZAVNOBIH). The session of this Council was held in Mrkonjic Grad, just a few days before the all-Yugoslav partisans session of Anti Fascist Council (AVNOJ) when the new Yugoslavia under Tito’s leadership was established.
Serbs, on the other side, refuse to recognize these two holidays as they celebrate November 21, the day when Dayton Peace Agreement was initialed in Dayton, Ohio.
The evening before Constitutional Court session, sparks between politicians from different nations were visible. RS president, Milorad Dodik, stated that any decision except the confirmation of unconstitutionality of these holidays will show that this Court is against the Serbs. Several Bosniak politicians warned him that his statement is putting pressure on free judiciary system in the state and that he is not eligible to comment the decisions. Some of them said that Dodik cannot say that he respects the Dayton Peace Agreement and, on the other side, disrespect state holidays. After the Court’s decision, in the first few hours, Bosniak politicians didn’t react but the Serb reactions show that a new crisis is not just beginning, but already ongoing.
RS president Dodik stated that the decision will deepen the already existing political chaos in BiH, and said that this court should be de-legitimized by withdrawing the two Serb judges from the Court.
“It will never be our holidays, nor does the minimum level of confidence in the Constitutional Court of BiH exists any longer. This is a political decision motivated solely by making harmful decisions for the Serb people. The arguments they used regarding January 9, as our holiday, now do not apply to an almost identical situation when they have March 1, as the date which insults Serbs”, Dodik said.
BiH Presidency Chairman, Mladen Ivanic, stressed that this decision is just another proof that everything in BiH is linked with politics and that there are no principles. He stated that only in BiH is it possible to challenge one date because it is beyond the will of one nation, and right after that accept another date that is also out of the will of one nation.
“I do not believe that this decision of the Constitutional Court is surprising for anyone. As far as I’m concerned, this was expected, but it is an additional complication, an additional tension and additional discussion about the past. We do not have the same position about the past, and we will not have it for a long time in the future. Instead of dealing with the future and real life, we will spend days talking about the consequences of this decision”, Ivanić said at an extraordinary press conference in Sarajevo.
There is no politician in RS, either from the ruling coalition or from the opposition, who approved of the Court decision. Most of them are afraid that all the good work that has been done on the European path will be for nothing and that BiH will make another pause on this path./ΙΒΝΑ