SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnian Serb lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution Wednesday opposing the country's potential membership in NATO, a symbolic measure that's part of longstanding efforts by pro-Russia politicians in Bosnia to keep the country away from the Western military alliance.
The 83-member parliament in the Bosnia Serb-run part of the country approved the resolution, which insists on Bosnia's military neutrality and also states that it will coordinate all future decisions on the issue with their ethnic kin in Serbia.
Opposition lawmakers were thrown out earlier because of noisy protests over unrelated issues, and didn't attend.
Traditionally, pro-Russia Serbs in Bosnia — which NATO bombed in 1990s to end the country's 1992-95 war — are strongly opposed to NATO membership. The anti-NATO sentiment is shared in neighboring Serbia.
However, Bosniaks and Croats who account for over 65 percent of Bosnia's population are generally in favor of NATO membership.
The peace agreement that ended the war divided Bosnia in two highly autonomous parts, a Russian-backed Serb one and another shared by Bosniaks and Croats that is backed by the West.
Each part has its own parliament, presidency and police. But the two are linked by joint state-level institutions including a parliament and a tripartite presidency, which must reach consensus before decisions can be made.
A consensus on NATO membership was reached nearly eight years ago and Bosnia formally applied to join the alliance. NATO offered a conditional membership action plan — a stepping stone to full membership — but Bosnian Serb political leaders have since reversed their stance and blocked its activation, apparently to please Russia.
A top Bosniak political leader, Ramiz Salkic, said Wednesday the declaration was "more dangerous than it seems." In a clear reference to Russia, Salkic said the declaration underlined how Bosnian Serb leaders were acting "at the instructions" of a foreign power that wants to destabilize the Balkans in order to strengthen its foothold in Europe.