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Bosnia on the brink

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by Adam Shaw, assoicate partner
13 January 2022

Good morning,

News

The most sinister, horrifying cosplay of the lead up to the war in the 1990s and the genocide”. That was Jasmin Mujanović’s assessment of Sunday’s illegal armed parade by Republika Srpska forces in Banja Luka. The parade commemorated the 30th anniversary of the failed secession of the majority Serb Republika Sprska from Bosnia and Herzegovina. That secession precipitated the Bosnian War and the genocide of more than 11,000 Bosniaks, 8,000 of them during the Srebrenica massacre.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is denying the atrocities of the 1990s while setting the stage for their repetition. Dodik’s recent agitation – asserting Republika Sprska’s statehood while withdrawing from nation-wide institutions – is a response to a recent ban on genocide denial.

The parade was a showcase for Republika Sprska’s increasingly militarised police force. Mujanović, a US-based Bosnian foreign policy analyst, told the Global Dispatches podcast a return to violence was “more likely today than at any point since the end of the war”.

Despite Dodik’s belligerence, he is heavily reliant on external support. That chiefly comes from Serbia and Russia, though he is strengthening links with China too. Hungary’s Viktor Orban is also providing support to Dodik, whose rhetoric increasingly resonates with the Islamophobia of the broader European far right. Nigel Farage’s recent Novak Djokovic-supporting clown’s errand to Serbia was another example of how Serb nationalists are connected to the far right across Europe.

Along with Slovenia’s Janez Janša, Hungary’s Viktor Orban is providing diplomatic support, effectively incapacitating the consensus-driven EU. Bosnia-Herzegovina now finds itself facing down the autocrat-backed destabilisation alone.

The US has had sanctions in place against Dodik since 2017 and stepped these up earlier this month. For the UK, this is a clear opportunity to help to prevent violence while taking a diplomatic lead. The Foreign Office has stated its support for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last month, ministers visited the country and the issue was debated in parliament. This is positive, but Bosnia needs more.

The UK government should provide a clearer plan to support Bosnia-Herzegovina’s integrity and the safety of the country’s people. Our best hope of preventing a repeat of the atrocities of 1990s is for western governments to stand up to the autocratic coalition forming around Dodik. That will happen when more of us start to pay attention.

With thanks to Sabina Kadić-Mackenzie for her contributions

News

Senior Conservatives have called on Boris Johnson to resign after he confessed to and apologised for attending a social gathering in Downing Street with around 30 others in May 2020, during the first lockdown. Those who have publicly called for his resignation include Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, former minister Carline Nokes, committee chair William Wragg, and Sir Roger Gale. The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees Mogg, called critics “the people who are always unhappy” and dismissed Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as “quite a lightweight figure”.

A US judge has refused to throw out a sexual assault case brought against Prince Andrew by Virginia Giuffre. The prince must now either settle out of court or face giving evidence in an open trial scheduled for the autumn.

Novak Djokovic has been entered into the draw for the Australian Open. This is despite the fact that the Australian federal government is yet to reach a decision on whether the Serb can remain in the country. Djokovic had earlier won an appeal against the cancellation of his visa after he entered Australia due to questions over his Covid-19 vaccination exemption.

A man has been arrested after attacking a statue on the façade of Broadcasting House with a hammer. The statue, Ariel and Prospero, is by artist Eric Gill, who was posthumously exposed to have sexually abused his young daughters.

Business and economy

The UK and India have announced the initiation of negotiations on a trade deal between the two countries. Trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan welcomed the negotiations as a “golden opportunity”. India is on course to become the world’s largest economy by 2030.

A new survey has found profits in the City of London have grown at the fastest rate since 2017. The survey by PwC on behalf of the CBI has also found 43% of banks reported an increase in business. The figures are helping to dispel concerns London could lose its status as Europe’s leading financial centre post-Brexit.

US inflation reached seven per cent in December. The figures from the US Department of Labour show the steepest increase in 40 years as well as the seventh consecutive month in which price rises have topped five per cent. The Biden administration and the Federal Reserve have argued the phase is “transitional”.

Columns of note

Last month, Twitter suspended the account Politics for All. In The Guardian, Jim Waterson looks at how a Bath teenager manipulated Twitter to create one of Britain’s most popular politics accounts, irritating both the tech giant and journalists.

Two years and three vaccinations later, Helen Lewis is done. In The Atlantic, the columnist makes a plea for governments to set out a clearer Covid endgame as the virus becomes endemic. She also calls on fellow liberals to end their performative worry and self-policing.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Despite evidence US inflation has reached its highest rate in 40 years, US markets rose slightly yesterday. The S&P 500 closed 0.28% higher while the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 0.23%. The markets have been buoyed by expectations price rises will soon peak.

The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 share index added 0.65% and London’s FTSE 100 gained 0.81%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed up 2.79%.

The pound was trading at 1.37 dollars and 1.20 Euros.

In company news:

Amazon’s plans to stop accepting UK-issued visa cards remain on track after the online retailer and the financial services company failed to reach an agreement.

Just Eat Takeaway’s orders grew 33% year-on-year in 2021 to €1.1bn and gross transaction value increased 31% to €28.2bn.

What’s happening today?

Trading announcements
Hilton Foods
Tesco
Halfords

Source: Financial Times

did you know

When, in 1891, France standardised the country’s clocks to Paris time, the railways remained five minutes behind for the benefit of late passengers.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House

Select Committee Statement
Government response to the Transport Committee’s Third report on The Roll-out and Safety of Smart Motorways

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Various

Legislation
Health and Care Bill – committee stage (day 2)

Orders and regulations
Taking Control of Goods (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – motion to regret

Scottish parliament 

General questions
First minister’s questions

Portfolio questions
Rural Affairs and Islands

Ministerial Statement
Reducing Scotland’s Car Travel by 20% by 2030

Scottish government debate
Tackling Drug Related Deaths Through the First Year of the National Mission

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