Juncker to US: If the EU collapses, there will be war in Balkans

Jean-Claude Juncker, Mike Pence, and Federica Mogherini. [European Commission]

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned US Vice President Mike Spence of another war in the Western Balkans if the EU collapses, including as a result of Donald Trump encouraging member states to leave after Brexit.

Mike Pence was in Brussels on 20 February, but details of what was discussed were only disclosed by Juncker, who spoke to the Financial Times in an exclusive interview published today (24 March).

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“I told the vice-president, ‘Do not say that. Do not invite others to leave, because if the European Union collapses, you will have a new war in the Western Balkans,” Juncker said.

Trump staff asked EU officials which countries will leave the EU next

Aides to US President-elect Donald Trump recently asked EU officials over the phone which countries will be next to leave the bloc after Britain, outgoing US ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner said. Gardner was told about the conversations by EU institution staff members, but was not in on the calls.

Juncker said it was important to offer countries in the region the prospect of EU membership: “If we leave them alone – Bosnia-Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Macedonia, Albania, all those countries — we will have war again.” Republica Srpska is the Serbian entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The US has introduced sanctions against Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dodik has shrugged this off as futile vindictiveness by the outgoing US administration.

The Yugoslav Wars were a series of ethnically-based conflicts and insurgencies fought from 1991 to 2001 inside the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Often described as Europe’s deadliest since World War II, they have become infamous for the war crimes involved, including ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and rape.

The Yugoslav Wars were also a humiliation for the European Union, as the role of the US for putting an end to them, although controversial, was decisive.

The situation in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia) raises growing concerns and was the focus of the 8-9 March EU summit.

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EU leaders voiced concern yesterday (9 March) about “external influences” fueling division in the western Balkans, as Britain announced a summit to focus efforts on stabilising a key region vulnerable to Russian meddling.

Juncker also said he plans to visit Washington next month, but added that he was uncertain about whether he will meet Trump.

“They’re trying to fix it, but he has other priorities. By the way, he does not understand anything about Europe,” he said. “He had Tusk [Donald Tusk, president of the European Council] on the phone and he thought it was me.”

Trump yet to speak to EU leader

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s spokesperson’s service gave muddled accounts of the first trans-Atlantic conversation between their boss and America’s new leadership.

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