SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnia’s Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders averted a crisis at the 11th hour on Friday by agreeing to back a controversial voting reform measure requested by the country’s international peace envoy.
The agreement will pave the way for the continuation of stalled talks on police reform, a key condition for Bosnia to sign a first pre-membership pact with the European Union.
“This is a strong positive message to Europe from Sarajevo,” envoy Miroslav Lajcak told reporters. “I am sure that the reaction of the EU will be very positive.”
Bosnia’s two ethnic-based halves, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation, have had an uneasy relationship since they were created as part of a peace deal that ended the 1992-95 war between ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims.
The Serb sector has steadfastly resisted any erosion of its autonomy in favor of a stronger central government.
Prime Minister Nikola Spiric quit earlier this month in protest at Lajcak’s plan, and Bosnian Serb MPs had threatened to block the work of the parliament through a boycott unless the envoy amended the plan.
Lajcak had said he would impose the measures outright unless they agreed to accept them by December 1.
“My request (to the leaders and parliament) was that the new voting rules should enable parliament to work faster and without obstructions,” Lajcak said.
He added he was glad the leaders agreed to the rules themselves.