World (AP)

EU calls on Bosnian Serb parliament to reject draft law that brands NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ | AP News

EU calls on Bosnian Serb parliament to reject draft law that brands NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ | AP News

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The European Union on Thursday urged authorities in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia to without delay withdraw a draft law that brands non-profit groups funded from abroad as “foreign agents.”

The law is to be adopted by the Bosnian Serb parliament at a session starting next Tuesday. The assembly is dominated by lawmakers who are close to the mini-state’s separatist pro-Russian leader Milorad Dodik.

Critics say the draft law resembles a similar one adopted by the Russian Duma on the eve of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The EU “strongly calls upon all members of the Republika Srpska National Assembly to oppose this draft law, which aims to intimidate and suppress civil society organizations by branding their representatives as foreign agents,” a statement said.

The Bosnian Serb parliament last month passed a law recriminalizing libel. Critics say the law restricts freedom of expression and silences critical media.

The move has had “a chilling effect on free speech in Republika Srpska,” the EU statement said, adding that by adopting the new draft law, the Bosnian Serb mini-state would come closer to the authoritarian regimes instead of the European family.

The Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia and the one run by the country’s Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslim, and Croats, were formed after a 1992-95 war that left 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Bosnian Serb leader Dodik has repeatedly threatened to proclaim independence of the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia and join the territory with neighboring Serbia. There are widespread fears that Russia, acting through its ally Serbia, is trying to destabilize the Balkan region to shift at lest some of the international attention from its aggression on Ukraine.