By Maja Zuvela and Daria Sito-Sucic
SARAJEVO (Reuters) – A pro-Russian Serb nationalist who wants the Bosnian army dismantled and pro-NATO Croat and Bosniak supporters of a multi-ethnic Bosnia were sworn in on Tuesday as new members of the state presidency, with rivalry looming among them.
Their different views of Bosnia’s place in the world seem certain to block decision-making in the state body which is responsible for drawing up and conducting foreign policy under peace accords that ended the Bosnian war in the 1990s.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, long an advocate of the Serb region seceding from Bosnia which he has labelled an “impossible state”, took a solemn oath pledging to respect the constitution, the Dayton peace deal and the rights of Bosnia’s people.
But he made clear that the interests of Serbs and their autonomous region over which he has presided for the past eight years would be his priority.
After the 1992-95 war which killed 100,000 people, Bosnia was divided into a Serb Republic and a Federation of Croat-dominated and Bosniak-dominated cantons, linked via the tripartite presidency and a weak central government.
Dodik, who will hold the rotating chairmanship of the presidency over the next eight months, called on other presidency members to work together to speed up Bosnia’s integration with the EU.
“The time when we were at war has long passed and this is a serious opportunity to progress forward,” he said during his inauguration speech.
Though Dodik says EU membership is a priority, he opposes any moves to join NATO and instead wants closer ties with Russia and Serbia. [L8N1XU5A1]
But Zeljko Komsic, a moderate Croat who is serving a third term in the presidency, and Sefik Dzaferovic, a Bosniak member who comes from the largest Muslim Bosniak SDA party, said they would push for integration into the U.S.-led military alliance.
“The future of Bosnia-Herzegovina is in the membership of NATO and EU, these are the guarantees of security and prosperity for its citizens,” Komsic said in his speech.
(Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Richard Balmforth)