Promise EU membership to Western Balkan countries to solve Bosnia impasse, German MEP proposes

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Bosnia Herzegovina and other Western Balkan countries should be given a credible promise of EU membership, German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer said on Monday.

The European Parliament is expected to discuss the evolving situation in Bosnia this week, with the country’s state institutions currently blocked by the Bosnian Serbs since mid-Summer. They are protesting a measure imposed by the former peace envoy that would jail anyone who denies genocide and war crimes that happened in the 1990s.

In addition, Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik, who is pushing for the secession of the Serb-dominated region from Bosnia, has announced that the Serb Republic will withdraw from all state institutions, including the military and top judicial and fiscal bodies, and form its own instead. The Bosnian Serb leader has also been threatening to withdraw from state-level institutions, including Bosnia’s joint judiciary, military, and tax administration. He has brushed aside international concerns that such an agenda could spark renewed conflict in the ethnically divided Balkan country.

Bütikofer, who co-chairs the European Green Party, argued that such promise is the only “glue” which could keep the country together.

In parallel, reports claimed that Germany is seeking other avenues, pushing the possibility of sanctions against officials of the Serbian-majority entity that makes up part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Berlin asking the European Union’s European External Action Service (EEAS) to draft a document with proposals on sanctions against officials of the Republika Srpska according to RFE/RL.

MEPs are expected to tackle the thorny situation of Bosnia during this week’s plenary. The move by Reinhard Bütikofer echoes the position taken by Parliament earlier this Summer, in which in a resolution it called on the European Council to continue backing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European perspective, “including sending a positive political message on the granting of candidate status”.

The European Parliament had recognised the steps taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina to address key aspects of the Commission’s Opinion on the country’s EU membership application, but recall that the effective functioning of independent and accountable democratic institutions is a prerequisite for advancing in the EU integration process, including obtaining candidate status. Reforms in the areas of democratic functionality, rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration are crucial, they add.

In view of attempts to undermine the country’s statehood and constitutional values, Parliament expressed its strong support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina recalling that the path towards EU membership depends on sustainable peace, stability and meaningful reconciliation that underpins the democratic and multicultural character of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MEP Paulo Rangel, (EPP, Portugal) said that Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the heart of Europe and its diversity is at the core of European DNA. “Further reforms are needed, building upon modest progress to date. We support an inclusive dialogue involving reforms that will allow BiH to advance on its European path and to obtain candidate status. This is only possible by affirming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s pluralistic nature while ensuring a functional democracy where all peoples and citizens are equal!”

with additional reporting from Reuters, RFE/RL

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