EU urges Bosnia to introduce visa regime for Russians

EU urges Bosnia to introduce visa regime for Russians
Mostar is the preferred destination for Russians in Bosnia. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews January 29, 2023

Bosnia & Herzegovina must harmonise its visa policy with that of the European Union and introduce visas for Russians, the French ambassador to the country, Christine Toudic, said after a two-day visit to Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Republika Srpska.

Bosnia was granted EU candidate status in mid-December and is now urged to align its sanctions and visa policy with the bloc.

“When we say that European legislation must be adopted, it includes everything. I can speak for France. Mr [Johann] Sattler [head of the EU delegation to Bosnia] met with [Bosnian Foreign Minister Elmedin] Konakovic and it is clear that the legislation includes everything,” Toudic said, referring to sanctions on Russia, N1 reported on January 28.

However, Republika Srpska’s parliament speaker, Nenad Stevandic, said it was unacceptable for the entity to be pressured on topics it disagrees with.

“I have a couple of emails from colleagues from the EU Parliament. It is unacceptable to be pressured on topics we disagree with. No conditions will start that process,” Stevandic said, according to N1.

Bosnia comprises two autonomous entities – the pro-Russian Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the pro-Western Muslim-Croat Federation.

Recently, there were reports that many Russians seeking to avoid mobilisation are fleeing to Bosnia due to the visa-free regime. Hundreds of Russians have reportedly arrived in Bosnia over the past two months, attempting to avoid mobilisation and to enter the EU to seek asylum. 

According to statistics office data, the number of Russians visiting Bosnia jumped to 898 in October from 299 in September. It stood at 859 in November, nearly four times higher y/y.

The two countries have a visa-free regime and Russians can stay in Bosnia for up to 30 days. Moreover, the country is one of few in Europe where tourist flights from Russia are not banned.