The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban has been known to have close ties with all opponents of the EU in the Balkans, but lately he is creating closer ties with Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska, one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina. In recent years, Orban has provided political and financial support to Dodik’s political party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). Orban has also welcomed Dodik to Hungary on multiple occasions and has publicly praised him for his leadership.
Orban’s support for Dodik is largely based on their shared belief in nationalism and euro-skepticism. Both leaders are critical of the European Union, as they support has been seen as following the politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But this cause is not the only cause that unites them.
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Orban uses his support for Dodik as a way to undermine the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has a complex political system designed to balance the interests of three ethnic groups (Bosnians, Croats and Serbs). Orban, however, has denied these charges and justified his friendship with Dodik as a means of fostering regional stability and economic growth. In fact, the first may be true and the second may be true in some way. Yet, the unified national policy has a longer-term plan that unites the two leaders, one that is anti-European and has to do with the Hungarian minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All nationalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be considered minorities, as they all face marginalization in areas where their ethnicity is not dominant. The Hungarians, although in a very small percentage, can cause a problem in the future, for the state, whose peace is still quite fragile, precisely because of Dodik’s destructive policies. Less than 1% of Hungarians live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which most likely is the reason that the Hungarian Prime Minister is establishing good relations with Milorad Dodik, the Republika Srpska president of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Hungarians could be an issue in the future for the state, whose peace is still in a precarious situation due to Dodik’s destructive actions.
In addition to being a strong supporter of Putin, Orban and other Putin allies in the Balkans, including Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and President of Republika Srbska Milorad Dodik, appear to frequently express this sentiment through their actions, as is the case with Vucic’s aspirations for the creation of the “Serbian world” model adapted from Russia. The Order of Saint Sava of the First Class for Merit, the highest honor bestowed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, was given to Orban by Porfirije, its patriarch, at the beginning of September. In December, Orban issued a warning that Hungary will obstruct any attempts by the EU to punish Milorad Dodik, the head of the Bosnian Serbs, for his separatist ambitions. Thus, Putin’s observations are synchronized.
Additionally, Orban’s aims to acquire the Hungarian minority in Romania give rise to the suspicion that similar goals for Bosnia and Herzegovina may result from his reconciliation with the controversial leader Dodik. President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik has generated controversy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mainly because of his nationalist and separatist stances. By pushing for more autonomy for Republika Srpska, one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, he has been accused of attempting to undermine the unity and stability of the nation.
Of the 4 million Hungarians who reside abroad, including those in Serbia and Ukraine, 1.1 million have already received citizenship. This was accomplished in 2011 through a streamlined naturalization process established by Viktor Orbán’s government, which allows anyone who resides abroad, speaks Hungarian, and can provide documentation of Hungarian heritage to obtain Hungarian papers. On the other hand, Orban’s tendencies toward the restoration of the Empire, through the aim of annexing the lands where Hungarians live, such as the case of the Székely Land in Romania, a region populated by about 50% Hungarians out of 1 million people living in the aforementioned Szekely land, constitute a security threat for the country in question. As a result, citizenship for half of the Hungarian population in Romania has been awarded since 2011.
As well as Bosnian leader Dodik, Orban is also politically close to Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia, Janez Jansa, the prime minister of Slovenia, and Nikola Gruevski, the former leader of North Macedonia who was imprisoned for corruption and granted political refuge in Hungary in 2018. It’s important to note that certain members of the international community have condemned Orban for supporting Dodik and his nationalist policies because they believe it could have a disruptive effect on the region.