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We must not let the ethno-nationalists play with fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina! The EU must be more active to preserve BiH’s territorial integrity

Date

23 Nov 2021

Sections

Europe's East

The Socialists and Democrats will sound the alarm tonight in the plenary and will call for a much stronger EU role to protect Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity. This multi-ethnic country is in a deep political crisis, which could even lead to the break-up of the country.

Pushing a separatist agenda, Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Serb-dominated autonomous entity the Republika Srpska has not only annulled the decision to criminalise genocide denial, but also has been boycotting the federal institutions for weeks now and has laid out a detailed plan to create parallel institutions, including an army. This goes completely against the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war 25 years ago. 

Speaking ahead of the debate, the S&D vice-president Pedro Marques MEP said:

“A quarter-century after the civil war in which over 100,000 people lost their lives, Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the brink of collapse. The separatist and genocide-denying Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is threatening to withdraw Republika Srpska from BiH. This could mark a return to the violence of the 1990s. A scenario that we must avoid. 

“I have to admit that until now, the European Union has not been active enough to calm this crisis. Instead, we saw leaders with authoritarian inclinations like Viktor Orbán or Janez Janša meeting or even paying visits to Dodik, as a sign of support for his nationalistic stances. They are playing with fire. This is unacceptable.

“The European Union cannot remain silent. It must play a much stronger role and use all instruments at its disposal, including pressure and sanctions, to preserve BiH’s territorial integrity, unity and peace. As the Socialists and Democrats we reaffirm our strong support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as its European future in the EU.”

Dietmar Köster, S&D MEP and shadow rapporteur on BiH, added:

“I have just returned from a fact-finding mission in Sarajevo. The tensions are enormous. There is no doubt that BiH is in the worst political crisis since the Dayton Peace Accords and the one person responsible for this is Milorad Dodik. His aim is to dismantle Bosnia-Herzegovina’s state-level institutions and create their own army, their own judiciary and their own indirect taxation system for the Republika Srpska.

“But what is also striking is how disappointed with the EU the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are. Trust in the EU is getting lower and lower. They expect more concrete actions to stabilise the state. The EU has to strengthen a democratic approach where everyone, no matter what their ethnic background is, must have the same rights. Civil society needs to be involved in the process of change, especially in the institutional and electoral reforms, which would be very important for the elections next year. We must support BiH to hold an equal, free and fair election.  

“A secession planned by the political class of Republika Srpska cannot be accepted. To support the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the state based on values and democracy, the EU should impose targeted sanctions on the political class of Republika Srpska.”

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