EU foreign affairs chief warns ‘restrictive measures’ may be used in Bosnia

EU foreign affairs chief warns ‘restrictive measures’ may be used in Bosnia
Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaks after the EU Foreign Affairs Council that focussed on Bosnia and Ukraine. / European Council
By bne IntelliNews February 22, 2022

The EU does not rule out using restrictive measures in Bosnia & Herzegovina as a last resort as separatists threaten the integrity of the country, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said following the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on February 21.

While the main focus of the international community is on eastern Ukraine — where later the same day Russia recognised two breakaway republics and sent in so-called ‘peacekeepers’ — Borrell told reporters on arrival at the council meeting the gravity of the situation in Bosnia must not be dismissed. The situation has worsened in recent months after MPs in the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, voted to quit the Bosnian army and other state institutions in what was seen as a move towards the secession of the entity and the potential breakup of Bosnia.

Nationalist and separatist rhetoric are “jeopardising the stability and even the integrity” of Bosnia, said Borrell ahead of the meeting. 

“Today we have, as always, a very intense agenda. Two hot spots: Russia-Ukraine on one side and Bosnia & Herzegovina on the other,” Borrell said. 

“Do not dismiss the importance of what is happening in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is going to take an important part of our meeting today, because the nationalist and separatist rhetoric is increasing in Bosnia & Herzegovina and jeopardising the stability and even the integrity of the country,” he added. 

Following the meeting, Borrell said ministers had discussed how to preserve Bosnia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity, and expressed their “full support” for efforts to facilitate the political dialogue in order to reach an agreement on electoral reform and constitutional reform in Bosnia.

He added that the EU is “ready to use all the instruments available, if the situation requires so. This certainly includes financial assistance and restrictive measures, but this will be used as the last resort and certainly we would prefer the dialogue and the agreement between parties in order to ensure the reforms needed to develop the forthcoming elections.” 

“We have urged the political leaders to take responsibility for preserving the constitution, ensure the full return to the state institutions and deal with all open issues,” Borrell said. 

“There is no place in Europe for a divided Bosnia & Herzegovina and those who work in this direction are strongly wrong. They are depriving their people of a prosperous European perspective and life.”