Milorad Dodik, a candidate for the President of Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, casts his vote in the country's general elections, in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 02 October 2022. More than three million Bosnian citizens are expected to vote in the country's general elections in which 90 political parties and 10 candidates for the three Bosnian Presidency members were registered. The Bosnian Presidency according to the country's constitution always has to have three members, a Bosniak, a Serb, and a Croat, representing the three main ethnic groups EPA-EFE/ALEKSANDAR GOLIC

Bosnian Serb Leader Blocks Regional Kosovo ID Travel Deal

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik has vowed to block the agreement allowing visa-free travel for citizens of Bosnia and Kosovo, referencing the alleged plight of Kosovo's Serb minority.

The freedom of movement agreement between the six Western Balkans countries, signed on November 3, 2022, as part of the Berlin Process has hit a wall in Bosnia thanks to the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

The German-led initiative is designed to facilitate regional cooperation between the six Western Balkans countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – known as the WB6.

But Dodik, president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, promised “not to let any progress happen regarding that question”.

“A few days ago, it came to us as an operational document in which it is requested that Bosnia and Herzegovina pass a law allowing this [agreement]. We refused it, the Council of Ministers did not pass it either,” Dodik said on February 28 in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

Prime Ministers of the WB6 signed three new agreements in Berlin enabling their citizens to cross borders using only identity cards and ensuring mutual recognition of college degrees and professional qualifications for doctors, dentists and architects.

Among the prime ministers was Zoran Tegeltija, former chair of Bosnian Council of Ministers, the country’s executive government, and a member of Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD.

The agreement, which drew huge public interest, was ratified by the government of Kosovo on February 23.

“With Bosnia and Herzegovina we have difficult relations due to the veto of Republika Srpska there, but the Prime Minister of Bosnia … who is a Serb, has also signed the agreement in Berlin and this makes us optimistic that the agreement could be ratified there [in Bosnia] too and allow travel from Kosovo to Bosnia and vice versa only with IDs,” PM Albin Kurti, said after the Kosovo parliament ratified the deal.

On March 1, Dodik replied to German politician Viola von Cramon’s call to unblock the ratification by referencing alleged difficulties and restrictions faced by Kosovo’s Serb minority. “First the EU should allow the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija to travel freely within its borders, and then force others to do so,” Dodik wrote on Twitter.

“We will all think about it when my fellow Serbs can also enjoy basic rights in Kosovo and Metohija, when the interim authorities in Pristina implement everything that was signed under the supervision of the EU,” he added.

BIRN tried to reach the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and the Parliamentary Assembly on this question but received no answer by time of publication.

The agreement should scrap the last visa “wall” in the region, which Kosovo imposed on Bosnia in 2014. Kosovo citizens have needed visas to enter Bosnia since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia has vowed never to recognise this.

Besides Serbia, Bosnia is the only former Yugoslav country that does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, although it has recognised Kosovo passports since 2012.

02/03/2023 - 14:35

02 March 2023 - 14:35

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