The former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations (UN), Mirsada Colakovic, warns that Milorad Dodik’s ties with the Russian president pose a threat to the region.
Colakovic in an interview for The Geopost emphasizes that Europe has changed and the countries of the Western Balkans are already feeling the consequences.
“Europe has definitely changed and we will feel the consequences of all this for a very long time, not only from economic relations, but also because we have political crises that I am not sure will end so quickly and easily”, warns Colakovic.
She adds that even though Dodik was the winner in Republika Srpska, he had invited the citizens to protest in his support.
“In Sarajevo there were demonstrations against the decision of the high representative Shmid, while in Banja Luka there were demonstrations in support of Dodik, who won the elections for president of Republika Srpska and invited all his people to come to the demonstration”.
According to Colakovic, the citizens of the Balkans are special, but they are easily manipulated.
“We have to understand that we are special and in a good way, but on the other hand we are manipulated very quickly and easily to turn into something that I would never say in my life that it will be your neighbor tomorrow”, Colakoviv emphasizes.
In this interview, she also spoke about Russian influence in the UN, showing how a Resolution condemning the Serbian genocide in Srebrenica was not approved.
The Geopost: You were Ambassador to the UN, can you tell us about the confrontation with Russia and other countries and their expanding influence at the UN?
Colakovic: In addition to being the Permanent Representative to the UN, I was previously Deputy Head of Mission for six years, and that was at a time when we were lobbying for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry into the Security Council, which we entered and were an unstable elected member, and where, in fact, it is possible to gain the most diplomatic experience and to see the direct influence of the big countries and the superpowers.
We were a member when the crisis in Libya and Syria started, and you can see how the negotiations and these talks are going. In my time, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation was Vitaly Churkin, who was a very well-known and respected diplomat and, in a way, represented his country well. He was a man with whom I could talk personally and have a decent contact. But I will give you one example, during my term as ambassador in 2015, it was the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica and a resolution was put on the table, the one that carried the resolution was the United Kingdom, and usually with the support of the other members of the Security Council, there was a vote, Russia vetoed it, and it was not adopted. Which is interesting when you ask me “what are the impacts? ‘, a year earlier, in the same body called the Security Council, an almost identical resolution was adopted with almost identical wording referring to Rwanda, in this case, the resolution was not adopted, although in that resolution it did not mention or accuse any nation as a whole, but talked about what had happened ten years before, in 1995, and how the UN should have reacted, and, in fact, it was also a mistake on the part of the United Nations, which was on the ground and did not react.
The resolution did not pass, and this shows how things happen when there are interests, in this case one of our neighbouring countries, the Republic of Serbia, the President at the time wrote to the Queen and to everybody, and in the end he got the support of one of the five veto-wielding Members, which was Russia, and we got a veto on this resolution.
The Geopost: How do you comment on Russian influence in the Balkans? According to our analysis, Russia has the most influence in Republika Srpska, how do you comment on that?
Colakovic: Now I don’t know if it has the biggest influence in Republika Srpska. Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into two entities and there is one structure in power which, as I explained today and here, people cannot watch all the independent media and find out what is really going on, and then it is very easy to manipulate. However, the entire political establishment in Republika Srpska, and not only the ruling structure and not only Mr Dodik’s SNSD, but also the opposition, has said that we must be neutral and has insisted that direct sanctions must not be imposed on Russia, they also said that in their foreign policy they want to follow the Republic of Serbia and their decisions..
As you know, the Republic of Serbia has so far been balancing between East and West and between trying to be a neutral, non-aligned country. Yugoslavia was non-aligned, but in a different political climate, in a different environment… that is no longer the case, that is the situation after 24 February this year, when the aggression against Ukraine took place. Europe has certainly changed, and we will feel the consequences of all this for a very long time, not only through economic relations, not only because we have no gas, not only because prices are rising, our citizens are living harder and harder, which is the worst thing of all, but also because we have political crises which I am not sure will end so quickly and easily. I hope that there will be enough wisdom to avoid any conflicts, we had a bad experience once, in the 1990s, and we do not need that any more.
The Geopost: How much do the ties between Dodik and Putin threaten security in the Balkans?
Colakovic: Let me tell you, it threatens in one way that you have increasingly strong statements that there should be institution of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the state level, which happened during Mr. Dodik’s time when he was a member of the Presidency, the blockade of those institutions, the blockade of the work of the Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the non-acceptance of laws that should be adopted because of our desire and aspiration to join the European Union, this can be very dangerous, because you never know, things can escalate at the slightest conflict. Today, there was a demonstration in Sarajevo against the decision of High Representative Schmidt, and tomorrow, there will be a large demonstration in Banja Luka in support of Mr Dodik, who won the elections for the Presidency of the Republika Srpska and has invited all his people to come to the demonstration. The man who has won is giving a demonstration tomorrow.
The Geopost: Finally, do you have a message for the people of the Balkans?
Colakovic: You know what, my message to the whole Balkans and to all the countries in the Balkans is that they really understand that we are special and in a way good, but on the other hand we are very quickly manipulated and easily transformed into something that in life you would not normally say will be your neighbour tomorrow. Unfortunately, young people are leaving and when they go to one of these beautiful countries where we have beautiful nature and wonderful tourism opportunities, they make some careers that need to be recognised. How will the Balkans be going forward? I think we have to agree. The only way is to talk. There was a conference in Pristina today and there was a way of saying what is happening, of listening to each other and understanding some of the frustrations that my colleague from Montenegro expressed, so that you might understand the frustrations that I have been talking about, and to hear what the people from Kosovo are saying, what somebody from Belgrade has said. That’s the way, there’s no other way and nothing will happen if we don’t sit down and talk./The Geopost/