Bosnia stalemate turning into ‘frozen conflict’

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The political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is "extremely worrisome" and now appears to be turning into a "dormant frozen conflict," Hido Biš?evi?, secretary-general of the Regional Cooperation Council for South Eastern Europe (RCC), told EURACTIV in an interview.

Biš?evi?, a Croatian diplomat in charge of the Sarajevo-based RCC, the successor to the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, said that if the political stalemate in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were to persist, it would have a negative impact on regional cooperation in the Western Balkans and on the countries' EU accession prospects.

"To be very honest, I think the political situation in BiH at the moment is very worrisome, extremely worrisome. It appears to be a dormant, frozen conflict," said Biš?evi?, implicitly comparing the situation in the former Yugoslav country with unresolved conflicts in the post-Soviet space, such as Transnistria or Nagorno-Karabakh.

Crucial talks on the future of BiH, a country propped up by the West following the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, marked a hardening of the positions of the country's Serb, Croat and Muslim leaders (see EURACTIV 21/10/10). In particular, the leader of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, has been pushing for a referendum, putting in doubt the country's constitution and the future of a multi-ethnic Bosnia, as envisaged under the Dayton agreement.

"Reaching a self-sustainable constitution based on the Dayton Agreement is of crucial importance for durable stability in the entire region," Biš?evi? said. He admitted, however, that BiH is no closer to self-sustainability now than it was when the Dayton Agreement was struck 15 years ago.

The diplomat said durable stability and regional cooperation in the Western Balkans and SEE could not be envisaged as long as BiH remains an unresolved issue. BiH must remain a country in which the current security and stability architecture, including territorial integrity, is preserved, he insisted.

"It is hard to imagine that neighbouring countries such as Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro can move towards the EU if BiH remains a sort of black hole in the region. I believe that true, durable stability in the Balkans is closely linked with BiH," Biš?evi? said.

"If the situation in BiH remains unresolved, this could open a Pandora's Box and create a pebble effect throughout the Western Balkans. This would be a shameful result of almost 25 years of dealing with the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. The rest Europe would be united, free and democratic but there would be the opening of a new crisis in the Balkans," the RCC secretary-general warned.

To read the interview in full, please click here.

If you would like to react to this inteview on the Western Balkans, please click here.

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