BRUSSELS – European Union foreign ministers on Monday discussed ways to ease tensions in Bosnia and prevent a possible break-up of the ethnically divided Balkan country, as a peace deal signed more than 25 years ago continues to fall apart.
“Nationalist and separatist rhetoric is growing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and threatens the stability and even the integrity of the country,” he said. Josep Barrel said in Brussels, where he chaired a meeting of the foreign ministers of the 27 bloc countries.
He said “ministers will need to decide how to halt this dynamic in Bosnia and Herzegovina and avoid the country falling apart. This is a critical situation. “
The United States announced last month new sanctions against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodikwho for many years has advocated that Serb-ruled parts of Bosnia leave the rest of the country and unite with neighboring Serbia.
The United States has accused him of “corrupt activities” that threaten to destabilize the region and undermine the US-mediated Dayton Peace Accords. Dodik says he and Bosnian Serbs are being unfairly targeted and mistakenly accused of corruption.
The 1995 agreement ended the war in Bosnia, which killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless. The agreement established two separate governing bodies in Bosnia – the Republika Srpska, which is ruled by Bosnian Serbs, and another, dominated by Bosniaks, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, and Croats. These two are linked by common national institutions, and all actions at the national level require consensus of all three ethnic groups.
Most EU countries also want to impose sanctions on Dodik, but Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia are particularly opposed and are likely to abandon any attempts to impose restrictive measures on him.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schalenberg said that “the statements of Dodik and the Republika Srpska are extremely dangerous and play with the integrity of the state, and for us it is unacceptable.”
He warned that Bosnia and the Balkans should not become “a platform for actors outside Europe”. Russia has especially promised to support Dodik and his allies.
The EU also calls for electoral reform ahead of elections in Bosnia later this year.
What the EU wants to see, said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Cowney, is “a full package of reforms agreed and implemented before the election so that we can hold elections that will successfully lead to a functioning government that can function.”
“We want to see peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I think this package of reforms will definitely help make that happen,” Coveny told reporters.
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