Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

  • At the most recent EU summit, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands blocked enlargement talks with North Macedonia and Albania (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Croat member of Bosnian presidency, Zeljko Komisic, said he will request an interview on Friday (8 November) with the French ambassador to Sarajevo, Guillaume Rousson, for an explanation of the recent comments of French president Emmanuel Macron.

Macron said in an interview with The Economist magazine on Thursday that "if you're concerned about this region, the first question is neither North Macedonia nor Albania, it's Bosnia-Herzegovina. The time bomb that's ticking right next to Croatia, and which faces the problem of returning jihadists."

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Earlier this year, the Sarajevo Times published an interview with Rousso, in which the French ambassador said he was convinced that "Bosnia and Herzegovina's place is in the EU".

"President Macron also clearly said that the EU should welcome all the Western Balkan countries when they are ready, and when the EU itself is ready to welcome new members," he said then.

However, according to a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre, Paul Butcher, Macron's idea of the Balkans seems to be stuck in the "old cliches" of the last century.

Macron's position "could encourage other member states to become more sceptical, which is not very helpful for the region, in geopolitical terms," Butcher said.

"It is important that other important actors who are in favour of enlargement, such as Germany, do not assume Macron's views, as they are not useful," he added.

A spokesperson for Bosnia's Muslim community, Muhamed Jusic, described Macron's comments as "scandalous" and said that the French president was criticising Bosnia to justify blocking the accession aspirations of Balkan countries with "significant Muslim populations" to the European Union.

"Some 300 Bosnian citizens, most of them women and children, went to the battlefields in Syria and Iraq - compared to over 1,900 French," Jusic said on his Twitter account.

"These days, France awaits the return of 450 jihadists. I don't see how this is a bigger problem in Bosnia than in France," he added.

In 2014, Bosnia became the first country in Europe to introduce prison terms of up to 10 years for its citizens who decided to fight in a conflict abroad - most of the fighters who have returned to the country were tried and jailed.

The coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, Florian Bieber, commented that "the more Macron explains his views on the Balkans, the more it is clear that it is based on ignorance, bias, and arrogance".

"Europe's ticking time bomb is not in Bosnia but in West European unwillingness to understand that Europe is bigger than just its Western half," he added.

During the last EU summit, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands blocked enlargement talks with two Balkan countries, North Macedonia and Albania, in what was considered a "historic error" by senior EU officials.

The issue of enlargement will be raised again during the next EU summit in December, but more especially at the next EU-Balkans summit that will take place in Zagreb next year.

Croatia, which will hold the next EU presidency, plans to make enlargement one of its priorities.

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