On October 3, the US Department of State announced the designation of two individuals and one commercial entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for undermining democratic processes or institutions in the country under the US’ Western Balkans sanctions program.
Since much of the world remains focused on the war in Ukraine and the coordinated program of sanctions against Russia, the sanctions regime has generally gone unnoticed in the past year, except by countries in the region and of course, Balkan journalists.
Undermining the Dayton Agreement risks sanctions
Washington’s Western Balkans sanctions program targets individuals and entities that, among other criteria, work to undermine or threaten the postwar agreements and institutions established as part of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In addition to travel restrictions managed by the Department of State, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) serves as the primary administrative organ for all financial sanctions, which normally entails reporting and freezing all assets owned by the sanctioned individuals/entities.
In the October 3 announcement, the US designated Fadil Novalic, Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH); Slobodan Stankovic, a businessman with close ties to Milorad Dodik, a senior Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) official previously designated for corruption and obstructing the Dayton Peace Agreement; and Stankovic’s business entity, Integral Inzenjering A.D. Laktasi (Integral).
In announcing the sanctions, the Department of State noted “under Dodik’s leadership, the ruling coalition in BiH’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity is seeking to create parallel structures that undermine state-level institutions, while ethno-nationalist parties in the FBiH are crippling the country’s democratic processes and abusing positions of power to derive improper financial and political benefit.”
The State Department further explained “Novalic is being designated for undermining democratic processes or institutions in BiH. As Prime Minister of the FBiH, where the issue of pensions has strong political salience, he misused pensioner data contrary to BiH law for the benefit of his own political party. This action is just one of many publicly reported activities in which he used his position for personal or party gain and undermined democratic processes and political institutions essential to BiH’s chosen future within the Euro-Atlantic community.” Novalic is already facing charges from the central government in Sarajevo for corrupt activities in 2020 connected to medical equipment procured during the early phases of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Dodik crony in the spotlight
The State Department took time to explain how the support structures for dangerous Republika Srpska politicians were also being designated. “Stankovic is being designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Dodik. Stankovic has long supported Dodik’s destabilizing activities. Stankovic’s firm Integral receives major construction projects in the RS without fair and open competition due to its close connections to RS leadership.”
“In return, Stankovic provided support to Dodik’s propaganda machine by transforming the formerly independent media outlet, Alternativna Televizija, into a mouthpiece for Dodik and his destabilizing and divisive activities. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Alternativna Televizija for these activities in January 2022. Integral is being designated for being owned or controlled by or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Stankovic.”
Washington’s actions came on the heels of the September 26 designation of corrupt state prosecutor Diana Kajmakovic, who was designated to demonstrate that the US will continue to promote accountability for activities that undermine BiH’s democratic processes and institutions, as well as for complicity in or provision of material support for such activities.