Lars-Gunnar Wigemark.jpg
Lars-Gunnar Wigemark
Photograph: HINA / Almir RAZIĆ / FENA / mm

The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, reiterated on Thursday that a referendum which Bosnian Serb leaders plan to hold on Sunday was unnecessary and called for defusing the tensions and avoiding incendiary rhetoric.

Wigemark, a Swedish diplomat, held talks in Banja Luka with Mladen Ivanic, the Serb representative to Bosnia's tripartite presidency and said that anyone who used incendiary rhetoric was irresponsible.

The talks were held in Banja Luka in the anticipation of the referendum which local Serb leaders plan to hold regarding the celebration of Republika Srpska (RS) Day despite the ruling of the country's Constitutional Court to ban the referendum. The Sarajevo-based Court has ruled that the Serb entity's "Statehood Day" was illegal since it coincides with a Serbian Orthodox Christian holiday and so discriminated against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats living in that part of Bosnia. The court also temporarily banned the planned referendum.

A few days ago, the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SB) warned that the decisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) Constitutional Court must be respected and that the referendum on Republic of Srpska Day scheduled for September 25 was against the constitution and the law.

Ambassadors of Western countries making up the PIC SB said there was no legal basis for voting on whether January 9 would continue to be marked as the day of the Bosnian Serb entity, which the Constitutional Court ruled to be unconstitutional.

"We once again urge the RS authorities not to hold the referendum," the ambassadors said in a statement, adding that "no referendum can change the final and binding nature of decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court," including the one of September 17 banning the September 25 referendum.

"The decision of the BiH Constitutional Court will remain fully in force and must be respected," the statement said.

Bosnian Serb leader  Milorad Dodik travelled to Russia on Thursday for consultations with President Vladimir Putin on the matter.

On 1 September, Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said they did not support the disputable referendum in the Bosnian Serb entity but in no way wished to influence a change of the political positions of legitimately elected entity officials.

The referendum will not be allowed in the territory of Brcko District, which is a separate territorial unit within Bosnia and Herzegovina, US diplomat Bruce Berton, who is the international community's supervisor for Brcko, decided recently, sending the first concrete warning that the vote, which is considered to be a breach of the Dayton peace agreement, will not be tolerated.

In the referendum, residents in the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia and Herzegovina are expected to vote on whether to recognise a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina that declared the marking of January 9 as the Serb entity's day as unconstitutional.

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