POLITICS

Borrell: A Call for Partition of BiH has triggered a push for Inflammatory Reactions

Josep Borrell Fontelles

Ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council on 10 May, I have sent a clear message to the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) during an important discussion with the Presidency of the country: they must stop using divisive nationalist rhetoric and instead focus on rapid progress on reforms.

Tomorrow at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, we will discuss the situation in the Western Balkans. This region, in our immediate neighbourhood, has a high priority on the EU agenda: we want to accompany these countries towards a future EU membership. However, the Western Balkans are currently facing several serious difficulties, such as tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the relations between Belgrade and Pristina, the lack of progress in the accession negotiations of Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia and the current problems in Montenegro. We will discuss all these issues tomorrow. However, I would like to emphasise in this blogpost the particularly difficult situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated today.

The political atmosphere in Bosnia and Herzegovina has deteriorated recently.

Ten days ago, I had a video conference with the three Members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović, and Željko Komšić. Building on my strong engagement over the last months, I asked for this meeting because the political atmosphere in Bosnia and Herzegovina has significantly deteriorated recently.

We have witnessed a disturbing migrant crisis at the end of last year with very dysfunctional responses from the BiH authorities. In recent weeks, a negative spin around the ongoing talks on the necessary electoral and constitutional reforms culminated in various ‘non-papers’, some of which criticised the EU/US for their facilitating role in these efforts.

“A call for redrawing borders in the region and partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines, has triggered a push for inflammatory reactions.”

One of them also called for redrawing borders in the region and partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines, which has aggravated the atmosphere and triggered a push for a secessionist agenda and the inflammatory reactions.

A difficult meeting with the BiH presidency

I therefore decided to call the members of the Presidency together. It was a difficult meeting, with many attacks and recriminations between the three members of the BiH Presidency. For my part, I sent them a strong and clear message.

First, the Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, are the priority on the EU agenda. This is why I have scheduled a discussion on the region at the next Foreign Affairs Council on 10 May. Our commitment to the region and its EU perspective is reflected in the unprecedented levels of EU financial support – including to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

“The EU funded 213,822 doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines for Bosnia and Herzegovina come with no strings attached – we do not sell them, we donate them.”

Last week, alongside other Western Balkan countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina received the first batch of the EU-funded vaccines from the specific arrangement we have made for the region: 213,822 doses of BioNTech/Pfizer out of a total of 651,000 for the entire region will be delivered until the end of August. The EU vaccines come with no strings attached – we do not sell them, we donate them.

When we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement in Sarajevo last November, the BiH Presidency committed to step up efforts to ensure that all citizens can live in dignity, with mutual acknowledgment, respect and understanding. Rhetoric calling into question the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina goes in the opposite direction and it has to stop. Talking about secession, new borders, further ethnic divisions or war, is dangerous and unacceptable.

“Rhetoric calling into question the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina has to stop. Talking about secession, new borders, further ethnic divisions or war, is dangerous and unacceptable.”

The EU’s position has not changed and will not change: we support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its future lies within the EU as a united and sovereign country. I have strongly encouraged my counterparts to put an end to any counterproductive discourse and actions.

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