Republika Srpska is an entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) which was recognised by the Dayton Agreement of 1995 (source). Politically, they are also strongly pro-Russian and the majority identify as part of the Serbian ethnic group. Furthermore, tensions between the main Bosnian government and the independent entity have continued to be prevalent. The Republika Srpska government continuously blocked state-level legislation and executive institutions until Spring 2022 (source). Furthermore, BiH received EU candidate status at the end of 2022 (source). There is therefore an endemic divide between pro-Western and pro-Russian groups in BiH.
Key Judgment 1: The limitations on press freedom and support for Russia by Republika Srpska will likely impede BiH’s accession process to the EU in the next 12 months.
Key Judgment 2: A reliance on EU trade means that it is unlikely that Republika Srpska will secede from BiH in the next 12 months.
Key Judgment 3: It is probable that Republika Srpska will continue to isolate itself from the West and align more with Serbia and Russia in the next 12 months.
KJ-1: The limitations on press freedom and support for Russia by Republika Srpska will likely impede BiH’s accession process to the EU in the next 12 months.
a. On 8th January 2023, President Milorad Dodik awarded Putin with a medal of honour, causing outrage within the EU (source).
b. Republika Srpska has adopted a Defamation law which imposes disproportionate restrictions on independent media (source). However, the EU Commission defined the freedom of media as a step which BiH needed to address (source).
c. The President of the Serb-majority entity has highlighted that cooperation with Russia is a foreign policy priority despite the war in Ukraine and the stance of the EU (source). Milorad Dodik even made a visit to Moscow in September 2022 (source).
KJ-2: A reliance on EU trade means that it is unlikely that Republika Srpska will secede from BiH in the next 12 months.
a. President Dodik has been pushing for the secession of Republika Srpska for a number of years but has not yet been successful at gaining support (source).
b. Significantly, Republika Srpska relies heavily on the EU for trade and aid investments (source). This support would consequently dry if up the entity were to secede from BiH.
c. Russia provides little economic support to the Republika and their secession would also not be in the interest of Russia who aim to keep the Bosnian state divided (source).
d. According to Professor James Ker-Lindsay, a unilateral declaration of independence from Republika Srpska would be contrary to international law. This act of succession would therefore be opposed by many countries around the world (source).
KJ-3: It is probable that Republika Srpska will continue to isolate itself from the West and align more with Serbia and Russia in the next 12 months.
a. Republika Srpska cut diplomatic ties with Bosnia’s UK and US embassies in March 2023 (source). This comes as a result of the US sanctioning a leading official in the government of Serb-majority entity.
b. The Prime Minister of Republika Srpska has made statements condemning the actions of NATO during the breakdown of Yugoslavia (source). In his speech, Višković uses extremely anti-NATO rhetoric and describes them as a “murderous machinery”.
c. President Milorad Dodik has told Srna News agency that the US and the UK aimed to dissolve Republika Srpska and that they are not friends of the Serbian people (source).
We have high confidence in KJ-1 and moderate confidence in KJ-2 and KJ-3. Our analysis is primarily based on news sources and official EU documentation. We assume that Republika Srpska will prioritise relations with Russia over relations with the West. Were this assumption proven to be incorrect, we would expect to see greater dialogue between President Dodik and the U.S. Insight into the government of Dodik’s internal political strategy would provide further insight into their relations and priorities.
Intelligence cut-off date: 22 April 2023