Republika Srpska’s Constitutional Role With Respect to Treaties

October 19, 2017

The RS National Assembly on Wednesday approved a resolution proclaiming military neutrality “in relation to the existing military alliances until a possible referendum to make a final decision on the issue is held.”

Some media reports on the resolution, such as the articles by Reuters and BIRN, have claimed that Republika Srpska has no authority to make decisions about BiH’s potential membership in NATO. Reuters quotes political analyst Tanja Topic as saying that Republika Srpska “cannot decide in any capacity about Bosnia joining any military alliance . . . because it is an entity within the Bosnian state which is the single authority for these issues.”

Such claims continue the common pattern of ignoring or negating Republika Srpska’s rights under the BiH Constitution. BiH’s accession to NATO would require BiH to ratify a protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, and the BiH Constitution gives the RS National Assembly an important role in the ratification of treaties.

Under the BiH Constitution, the BiH Presidency negotiates treaties and ratifies them with the consent of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly. However, under Article V(2)(d) of the BiH Constitution, a “dissenting Member of the Presidency may declare a Presidency Decision to be destructive of a vital interest of the Entity from the territory from which he was elected . . . Such a Decision shall be referred immediately to the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska, if the declaration was made by the Member from that territory . . . .”

This provision gives the RS National Assembly a clear constitutional role in the ratification of treaties. If the BiH Presidency were to attempt to ratify the North Atlantic Treaty—or any other treaty—the question of ratification could well come directly before the RS National Assembly.

It is appropriate for the RS National Assembly to pass resolutions laying out its convictions on issues of importance to RS citizens and to solicit those citizens’ views through referenda. This is especially the case with issues, such a potential treaties, that may come before the RS National Assembly.

The RS National Assembly’s constitutional role with respect to treaties is among the reasons why it was appropriate for the RS National Assembly to pass a resolution about military neutrality and why the National Assembly would be justified in holding a referendum to determine the views of RS citizens on the issue.

Even if the RS National Assembly did not enjoy this constitutional role, which it incontestably does, a referendum by Republika Srpska would clearly be consistent with the rights Republika Srpska enjoys under the Constitution and the Dayton Accords. The referendum would play an important democratic role of informing members of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly representing Republika Srpska and the member of the BiH Presidency from Republika Srpska about the views of RS citizens on whether the North Atlantic Treaty should be ratified and whether it is destructive of a vital RS interest.