Muslim Wire

Bosnian Officials Fear EU Withdrawal

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 29, 2009

In the wake of Tuesday’s EU Council meeting, Bosnian officials expressed fears that the Europeans were withdrawing from a diplomatic initiative to end their country’s political deadlock. “We are back to square one […] I think that there is very little chance for a meeting,” between Bosnian political leaders, the president of the strongest Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) party, Sulejman Tihic, told local media.

As part of a surprise initiative, launched by top EU and US officials, the leaders of Bosnia’s strongest Croat, Muslim and Serb parties participated earlier this month in a series of talks on how to revamp their country’s constitution.

However, following meetings held at the Butmir military camp near Sarajevo on October 9, 20 and 21, Bosnian leaders failed to agree on a reform package presented by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, and US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.

The package consisted of a set of requirements for continuing constitutional reform and for the fulfilment of remaining conditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative. In return, the EU and US offered inclusion in the former’s visa-free regime, to fast-track Bosnia’s NATO membership, and even offered the status of an EU candidate country.

Bosnian Serbs rejected the reforms as too drastic, while Muslims and Croats described them as insufficient.

While the EU and US mediators said in Sarajevo that efforts to reconcile Bosnia’s bickering leaders would continue, statements attributed to Bildt following the EU Council meeting on Tuesday were interpreted in Bosnia as a sign that the Union was washing its hands of the country.

“We will not do anything; we hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina will do something,” Bosnian media quoted Bildt as saying. “If Bosnian leaders can sit together and talk […] we will support them,” he added.

The president of Bosnia’s strongest Croat party, the Croatian Democratic Union, Dragan Covic, told reporters that it is good that “someone is encouraging us to talk”.

However, he stressed that “the international community cannot avoid its share of responsibility” for the situation in Bosnia.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who said earlier this week that Serbs were no longer willing to take part in any internationally sponsored talks on Bosnia’s future.

Over the weekend, Dodik invited representatives of all main parliamentary parties to come to Banja Luka to meet and discuss how to overcome political deadlocks, without the involvement of international officials, but his initiative was flatly dismissed by most Bosniak and Bosnian Croat leaders.

In a statement issued after the EU Council meeting on Tuesday, EU ministers called on Bosnian leaders “to take greater responsibility”.

Bosnian leaders should use “the momentum created by the [Butmir] talks and  continue with the dialogue”, they said in a statement, adding that the EU wanted to “help and work with local political leaders”.

“The message from Luxembourg is that international institutions are no longer willing to take the risk of trying to reach an agreement in Bosnia,” the leader of the Bosnian Serb opposition Party of Democratic Progress, Mladen Ivanic, told reporters.

“Stagnation is the best Bosnia can hope for,” in the current situation, he concluded.


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