Diplomacy: An advantage in the pre-election process

Diplomacy: An advantage in the pre-election process

RS President Milorad Dodik: “I invited Sergey Lavrov to visit Banja Luka!”

BiH Foreign Minister, Igor Crnadak: “No, you did not! I invited him to visit Sarajevo AND Banja Luka!”

BiH Presidency’s Bosniak member, Bakir Izetbegović: “I will invite Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Sarajevo!”

Dodik: “I will invite Vladimir Putin to visit Banja Luka!”

Crnadak: “I already invited the Turkish and Serbian Foreign Ministers, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Ivica Dačić respectively, to visit Banja Luka!”

Childish lines? Well, unfortunately, they are not some kind of joke since they were uttered by Bosnian politicians, and this is how the press in the country published them

It is not a joke that Dodik, the leader of the ruling RS Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) party and Crnadak, the vice president of the RS opposition Democratic Progress (PDP) party are trying to earn credit over the already confirmed visit of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov to BiH, which has been arranged for mid September. Dodik claims that he will come exclusively upon his invitation, the one he sent at the meeting they had in Moscow, a few months ago. Lavrov is expected to attend the ceremony when the future Russian Church and the Centre of the Serb-Russian Friendship foundation stone will be laid. But, as it happened in the case of Valentina Matvijenko’s visit, Dodik and Crnadak are arguing who was the one that sent the invitation. Crnadak explained to the BiH media that the country’s foreign policy is a responsibility of the government, thus, entity officials, even if they are presidents, have no right to invite foreign diplomats to official visits to BiH.

“After his arrival, we will have a joint dinner. The next day we will have an official meeting and a joint press conference. It will be held in Sarajevo. According to the plan, afterwards Lavrov will travel to Banja Luka, a trip that was my suggestion. I think that this is important because of the traditionally friendly and good relations between the Russian and the Serbian people; this will be an opportunity to strengthen the existing ties”, Crnadak told journalists.

This bizarre dialogue was continued when the media published information about an invite by the Bosniak member of BiH Presidency and leader of the biggest Bosniak party – Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegović, to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to visit BiH before the October elections. Although the report is unconfirmed, it could be possible. A few months back, in May 2018 when all EU countries refused to allow Erdogan’s (AKP) party to hold pre-election rallies outside of Turkey -in cities of foreign countries where Turkish citizens live- Izetbegović helped him organise one in Sarajevo. More than 20 000 members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdogan’s supporters gathered to show loyalty to their leader. Now, it looks like the Turkish head will return Izetbegović the favour by visiting the country, this way demonstrating his strong support to him and his party ahead of the general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A day after the news became public, Dodik said would invite the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to visit Banja Luka, the Republika Srpska capital. It is also the city that Dodik sees as the capital of the future independent Serb state, which will be separated from the Federation BiH. However, based on the state’s diplomatic protocol, this would be a visit outside of Dodik’s “reach”. At the October polls, the RS politician will fight for a place in the tripartite BiH Presidency representing the Serbs. If he is successful, he will be entitled to invite Putin to an official visit, while the exact places of the visit would be agreed after Putin accepts the invitation. According to rumours, if the visit takes place, it will be on the occasion of the Serb-Russian Centre opening. Nobody ever doubted that the building’s construction work would start shortly before the upcoming election.

Media’s “answer” to this story was that Crnadak will host the tripartite meeting of the Bosnian, Serbian and Turkish FMs. Based on reports, the meeting will be held in Banja Luka. Crnadak, Dacic and Cavusoglu have been having regular meetings since their predecessors established a tripartite co-operation and similar meetings a few years ago. However, in response to IBNA’s relevant question, BiH’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they cannot confirm the meeting yet.

Despite the fact that the above reports have not been confirmed, they have provided the springboard for taking the pre-election campaign to a higher level; one that includes foreign officials…. / IBNA