The EU must stand firm on Bosnia

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Following the stalling of talks on the future of Kosovo, the danger of break-up is also hanging over Bosnia – which the EU must prevent by all means, write Charles Grant and Tomas Valasek for the Centre for European Reform (CER).

Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska (RS), the majority Serbian part of the country, is currently blocking attempts to unify Bosnia’s police forces, which EU High Representative Miroslav Lajcak has countered with measures that would allow the government to take decisions even when some ministers are absent, the CER bulletin explains. 

Dodik saw this as a threat to his ability to sabotage Bosnia’s central authorities, and forced his ally, Bosnian Prime Minister Nikola Spiric, to resign in November – leaving the country in “disarray”, according to the authors. 

Dodik has threatened to withdraw all RS representatives from Bosnia’s central institutions if Lajcak’s measures come into effect, the authors write. The High Representative now has to choose “between restoring direct international rule over Bosnia or seeing the country disintegrate”, according to the CER analysis. 

If the country fragments, the rest of the world will not take EU foreign policy seriously, the authors warn. 

Thus the EU must stand firm on Bosnia and stress that “Kosovo is a unique case and must not serve as an excuse for secession elsewhere in the Balkans”, urge Grant and Valasek. The EU should send the message to Bosnian leaders that “if the country holds together, it can expect to join the EU”, they add. 

They recommend three steps that the EU should follow to reinforce the message of Bosnia’s unity:

  • It should push for an extension of the mandate of its High Representative in Bosnia beyond June 2008. 
  • It must give clear support to Lajcak and urge him to use his powers to run the country, if necessary. 
  • It needs to make it clear that it is willing to strengthen its military presence in Bosnia as the current number of 2,500 troops “may not be enough to intervene decisively in case of hostilities”. 

The CER paper concludes that if EU governments demonstrate resolve over Bosnia’s future, they can convince Bosnian Serbs, Serbs and Russians not to undermine the agreements that ended “Europe’s worst war since 1945”. 

Then a majority of Serbs might see that in the long run, the EU has more to offer than Russia, the authors hope. 

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