bosnia report
New Series No: 27-28 January - May 2002
'Equal Status' unmasked
by Sulejman Tihic

SDA president Sulejman Tihic has provided the public with a concise survey of those elements in the new constitutional agreements whereby full equality between Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs is achieved in the B-H Federation, while in Republika Srpska Serb domination is conserved along with reduced or partial equality for Bosniaks and Croats. ‘Until now’, says Tihic, ‘we have had an unconstitutional unequal status for Bosniaks and Croats in RS, which is legalized by these amendments. The Alliance parties have thereby given Karadzic’s "Republika Srpska" an additional seal of approval.’


1. Official languages

In RS the name of the Bosnian language is not recognized; instead it is described by the formula ‘the language spoken by Bosniaks’, which clearly derives from the Serb proposal of ‘the Bosniak language’.

In the Federation the official languages are Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

I call upon the High Representative to say what language the Bosniaks speak, since this is not clear from his Ruling, at least so far as RS is concerned.

2. Entity president

The RS president has all the constitutional attributes of the institution, while the vice-presidents [a Bosniak and a Croat] merely ‘assist’ him in such business as he entrusts to them.

Parliament in the Federation chooses the president and vice-presidents, who reach all decisions jointly and by consensus.

3. Appointment of government

In RS the entity president, who is a Serb, proposes a prime minister who is a Serb, and he proposes Bosniak and Croat ministers who are elected by the Serb assembly majority (80% of the deputies are Serbs).

In the Federation the government is nominated by the president and vice-presidents jointly, then confirmed by the house of representatives.

4. Machinery for defence of vital national interest

In RS the council of peoples has limited competencies, amounting to some 10% of those of the national assembly; while the Federation keeps its house of peoples, with competencies amounting to 100% of those of the representative chamber.

5. Issues of vital national interest

In RS these are reduced to a certain list of issues, while in the Federation the house of peoples considers every issue. The possibility of expanding this list in RS is restricted by the necessary agreement of two thirds of the judges on the council of the Constitutional Court, which means that it is theoretically possible but in practice not.

6. Interim provisions

In RS there is no obligation to harmonize existing discriminatory statutes with the amendments now adopted, while in the Federation there is such an obligation, with a set time-frame of nine months. Accordingly, all the discriminatory laws remain in force in RS, such as those giving official status to Orthodox holidays, to the mediaeval Serb anthem, coat of arms and flag, and dozens of others.

All these amendments are indeed in line with the [Sarajevo] Agreement, but they are not in line with the Ruling of the B-H Constitutional Court concerning the equal status of peoples. We regret that the High Representative should have legalized all this by his decree. To be sure, I must acknowledge that in RS this will mean an improvement compared with the existing situation. A significant advance has been made. But it is not the same as in the Federation, nor is it fully in accordance with the Constitutional Court ruling. At all events, there is no reason for euphoria, celebration or rejoicing.

Although it does not agree with amendments of this kind, the SDA must accept them and will strive in every way to implement them. However, we hereby announce that we shall use all constitutional means to modify them, beginning with a request to the B-H Constitutional Court to consider whether its Ruling has been complied with; a suit before the human rights court of the Council of Europe; and a new suit before the B-H Constitutional Court.

Sulejman Tihic’s remarks have been translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 27 April 2002


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