The Bosnian Serb entity assembly is set to vote on opting out of national institutions despite the threat of new sanctions.
Lawmakers in the entity of the Republika Srpska will decide whether to begin a procedure for Bosnian Serbs to withdraw from the Bosnian army, security services, tax system, and judiciary.
The proposed measures would come with a six-month period needed to draft new laws, including changes to the entity’s constitution.
Bosnian Serb member of the threeway state-level presidency Milorad Dodik has previously made repeated threats to secede what amounts to almost half of the country.
Dodik has described Friday’s assembly session as “historic”, saying it would serve to strengthen the authority within the Bosnian Serb-dominated entity.
But opposition leaders in the entity assembly have criticised Dodik’s policies, saying they are hasty and could lead to renewed conflict, while Bosniak officials have called on the US and the European Union to crack down on Dodik and his associates.
The United States has expressed concern over the move which could potentially weaken Bosnia’s central authority, although a system of checks and balances would most likely see the proposed laws rejected, either by the upper house of the entity parliament or the state Constitutional Court.
The US has already imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on Dodik, while both American and German officials have recently threatened more sanctions if Bosnian Serbs further weaken Bosnia’s central institutions.
Drafted to bring the Bosnian war to an end in 1995, the US-sponsored Dayton Peace Accord created two administrative units in the country — the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat majority Federation of BiH.
The two regions were given some autonomy, with an umbrella state-level government overseeing the country’s main institutions, including the army, the top judiciary, and tax administration.
The Bosnian Serb leader has recently intensified his decade-long separatist campaign, pledging in September to create the Republika Srpska’s own army, tax authority, and judiciary.
The US has sent several diplomats to Bosnia in recent weeks to reiterate its support for the country’s territorial integrity and central institutions.
Dodik has repeatedly said he doesn’t care about new sanctions, adding that this would bring Serbs even closer to their “true friends” — a reference to his close ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.
He has also denied that the withdrawal from the central institutions would lead to a quick secession or a new war, stating that “the Republika Srpska would not defend itself even if attacked.”
The 1992 to 1995 war was the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 casualties, while also leaving millions as refugees or internally displaced.