Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday marked yet another Independence Day that was observed in only one half of the country, that is in the Bosniak-Croat federation. while the other half -
Independence Day commemorates the referendum of 29 February and 1 March 1992, held at the recommendation of an international arbitration commission for the former Yugoslavia, and its outcome was the basis for the recognition of the country's independence by the international community. Close to 65% of the country's citizens took part in the 1992 vote and 99% of them voted for Bosnia and Herzegovina's independence.
The overwhelming support in favour of the country's independence from the rump Socialist Yugoslav Federation (SFRY) angered Bosnian Serb leaders, notably the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) that sent its paramilitary units to the streets of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on 2 March 1992 and paralysed the city. This was the prelude to all-out war.
Despite the opposition of Serb leaders, the Bosnian parliament declared the referendum outcome valid and binding on 6 March and the EU recognised Bosnia as an independent country on 6 April 1992.
The current chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency, Croat Dragan Covic, on Tuesday sent a message of congratulations on the occasion of the country's Independence Day.
"We must build Bosnia as a space of mutual respect, trust, understanding and cooperation," Covic wrote in his note.
On the other hand, the authorities of the country's Serb entity keep challenging the legality of Independence Day.
Bosnian Serb strongman Milorad Dodik reiterated his opinion that March 1 was not a state-level holiday, insisting that the decision on independence made on 1 March 1992 had been imposed on local Serbs, forcing them to wage the war.
Even though he is Dodik's fierce political opponent, the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mladen Ivanic, shares Dodik's position on the matter.
"To me, that day, which is celebrated in one part of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Independence Day, simply does not exist," Ivanic said.