Ethnic divisions threaten Bosnia again as Prime Minister quits over 'interference'

The Prime Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina resigned yesterday, claiming that interference from the international community had made his job impossible. The exit of Nikola Spiric, a Bosnian Serb, plunged the ethnically divided state into its worst crisis since the war ended in 1995. "For 12 years, foreigners have run this country and this is not good," Mr Spiric said. "I resign and this is the only right decision."

Mr Spiric's departure comes after Miroslav Lajcak, the High Representative to Bosnia appointed by the United Nations and the European Union, introduced measures aimed at improving the efficiency of Bosnia's government. Mr Lajcak, a Slovak diplomat, reduced the number of ministers needed to be present to pass laws, preventing any one ethnic group from creating a deadlock by walking out. He called Mr Spiric's resignation "too emotional" and "completely irresponsible".

The arrival of Mr Lajcak was intended to help Bosnia achieve its long-term goal of joining the EU by speeding up the decision-making process in the country's often fractious central government. Instead of consensus, Mr Lajcak introduced the simple majority principle, which was fiercely opposed by Bosnian Serbs. They fear they will lose influence to the country's other ethnic groups and their semi-autonomous mini-state within Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The crippling legislative system was established in 1995 by the Dayton Peace accord, which ended three years of war between the Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs in Bosnia. The agreement divided the country into two mini-states – a Bosnian-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic – each with their own police, judiciary, parliaments and governments. In an attempt to unite the two factions into one state, centralised institutions and a rotating, three-person presidency were grafted on top. However, deep ethnic rivalries have impeded the work of central government ever since and no international effort has been able to glue the country together.

Critics say one key reason for this is that the war ended without a clear winner or loser, and the Dayton accord served only to cement the ethnic divisions which were so brutally apparent during the war. Multi-ethnic cities turned into mono-ethnic ones, as their populations moved to parts of Bosnia where one ethnic group dominated, taking their hatred and intolerance with them. The two mini-states have separate education systems, the country remains poor and economic recovery has been slow because of the persistent divisions. Full integration is fiercely opposed by the Bosnian Serbs, who look to Belgrade as their capital, rather than Sarajevo.

On Wednesday, Mr Lajcak's reforms won support from the steering board of Bosnia's Peace Implementation Council, which comprises more than 40 countries and overseas organisations and oversees the conditions of the peace agreement. However, his decisions were criticised by the nationalist government of the Serbian Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who described them as another conspiracy against Serbs in the Balkan region, which would lead to independence for Kosovo and the "disappearance" of the Bosnian Serb Republic.

Earlier this week, Bosnian Serb leaders organised protest rallies against Mr Lajcak and appealed to Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, to "help endangered fellow Serbs". They may call a referendum on independence once Kosovo proclaims its autonomy. Analysts say this could destabilise the entire region.

The crisis in Bosnia cannot be solved by new elections. Under the law, the presidency – which alternates between a Bosniak, Serb and Croat leader – has to nominate a candidate for prime minister to be approved by the central parliament. Bosnian Serb MPs are unlikely to support any new candidate, meaning the country will in effect be left without an acting administration.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road