Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic vowed in Banja Luka on Saturday that support to Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) Serb entity, would continue while respecting BiH's integrity and sovereignty, while RS President Milorad Dodik announced that he would not allow any changes to the BiH Constitution or a reduction of RS powers, even at the cost of BiH staying outside the European Union.

Speaking at a ceremony on the occasion of RS Day, observed today, Vucic said he came to RS capital Banja Luka to convey "genuine support to RS and its citizens" and that "there will be no barriers between RS and Serbia ever again."

"Serbia is always here and its obligation, in line with the Dayton Agreement, is to protect RS," Vucic said, adding that protecting BiH's territorial integrity was also Serbia's obligation. He said the three constituent peoples living in BiH were fatefully linked and should therefore live together instead of fighting. "We all lost in the conflicts in the 90s," he said, adding that even today there were hotheads which did not understand that. 

He called on all to look to the future and look up to developed countries, leaving behind old hatreds and adopting new knowledge. "We no longer need emotions in this region," he said, adding that his love for RS envisaged building bridges to BiH. He concluded his address with "Long live RS, long live Serbia".

In his address, Dodik referred to the Serbs' constant struggle for freedom and recalled wars. He said RS was created to protect Serbs, "but all others too," and that RS "is entitled to self-determination." He attacked the BiH Constitutional Court for declaring RS Day unconstitutional and the international community for "imposing solutions".

"We didn't get RS in a legal dispute. They shouldn't try to dismantle it in legal proceedings," he said, adding that he would defend RS "by all legal and available means" and that he would not risk its position even for a "moving target" such as possible EU membership. "That's not the only path RS should take," he said, adding that one alternative was alliance with China and Russia.

Dodik said the people in RS would decide whether to join NATO. He said the RS policy was not a denial of BiH, just the BiH founded on the 1995 Dayton peace accord, and that he would not tolerate any changes of the Constitution of 20 years ago. "This is our state and we don't have a backup one," he said, evidently referring to RS. He thanked Serbia for its support and the special ties between its and the RS government.

No BiH insignia were displayed at the ceremony. Aside from Vucic, Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic and Serb Orthodox Church patriarch Irinej also attended. Irinej also celebrated the central liturgy.

Before arriving in Banja Luka, Irinej said RS was actually a state. In today's sermon, he said RS was "founded on the truth and God's justice" and that observing January 9 was a "great day for the entire Serb people."

RS celebrates January 9 in memory of 9 January 1992, when a group of Serb lawmakers in the Bosnian parliament adopted a decision on the establishment of a "republic of the Serb people in BiH," eventually renamed Republika Srpska, a name recognised only in 1995, based on the Dayton Agreement.

The January 1992 decision, which had no constitutional basis, requested that the parts of BiH in which Serbs were the majority stay in a union with Serbia and Montenegro, which was an attempt to prevent the proclamation of BiH's independence. This attempt led to war and mass persecutions of non-Serbs from RS.

The BiH Bishops' Conference Justitia et Pax Commission said in a report on the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Agreement that more than 90 percent of the pre-war Croat and Catholic population was missing in present-day RS.

RS Vice President Ramiz Salkic said today's celebration was an insult to all victims of ethnic persecutions and that the refusal to comply with Constitutional Court decisions was a grave breach of the Dayton Agreement.

In a statement today, the US Embassy to BiH pointed to the obligation to respect Constitutional Court decisions. The head of the OSCE Mission to BiH, Jonathan Moore said RS was not a state, as it had neither sovereignty nor statehood, but an entity which existed only thanks to the Dayton Agreement.

In Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serb troops committed genocide by killing more than 8,000 Bosniaks, associations of victims' families organised a protest to remember all victims. Mayor Camil Durakovic said that January 9 as RS Day represented nothing to Bosniaks, either legally or historically. "This day represents nothing because it was imposed on Bosniaks. This entity was created for one people only and marking this day is proof of that," he told local media.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.