Bosnia's Serb, Croat, and Bosniak leaders finally agreed on Monday to form a central government 10 months after a general election. The three leaders were able to reach an agreement on Bosnia's integration into NATO — a major stumbling block during negotiations.
The heads of the country's three largest ethnic parties signed an agreement on the main principles to form a government at a meeting facilitated by the European Union mission in Bosnia.
"This agreement provides the conditions for the formation of the central cabinet ... within the next 30 days," Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's three-man inter-ethnic presidency who heads the Bosnian Serb ruling SNSD party, told a news conference.
"I think this is an important moment which allows us to move forward," said Dodik.
However, Dodik warned that the agreement had to be implemented within the agreed timeline otherwise "it will mean that Bosnia is in a deep constitutional and political crisis and that its sovereignty will come into question".
"Unless this document as agreed and signed has been implemented in the next 30 days, the SNSD will block the work of all institutions and nobody will be able to stop that, neither European or any other international institutions," Dodik said.
Dodik has repeatedly threatened with eventual secession of the Serb-dominated region.
Bosnia's government system is the legacy of the peace deal that ended the 1992-95 conflict, which pitted Bosnia’s Serbs against its Croats and Muslims.
The country is split into two so-called entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, home to the Muslim-majority Bosniaks and Croats, and Republika Srpska, for the Serb population.
Presidents and parliaments for both these entities will be elected following Sunday’s vote.
The federation is also divided into a further 10 cantons, each with their own assembly and government.
Even the national presidency is a compromise.
Instead of having one president, the office is a shared, three-member body. One represents Bosniaks, another its Croats and the third its Serbs.
The formation of the central cabinet has been blocked by the Bosniak and Croat members of the presidency who insisted that a Serb prime minister-designate, who will come from the SNSD, should plead to continue Bosnia's path towards NATO integration.
Bosnian Serbs do not support the country's membership bid for NATO, which bombed Serbia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
But under the agreement, the leaders vowed to "promote relations with NATO without prejudicing a future decision about the membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina".