25th Mar 2023

EU hopes sanctions threat will stop Bosnia breakup

Listen to article

Those pushing the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska to have its own army and other institutions risked seeing the country "fall apart in pieces," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Monday (21 February).

Borrell said the EU was "ready to use all measures available should the situation require it" after a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He was referring to potential EU asset-freezes and visa-bans on Republika Srpska leaders, such as its president Mirolad Dodik.

Borrell did not say whether sanctions were to be triggered after Republika Srpska secedes or if it were to take further steps toward that goal. But he did say they would be a "last resort".

"The EU will definitely react very strongly", Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg said in Brussels on Monday. "They will feel the consequences," he said, referring to Republika Srpska's leaders.

The EU is already withholding some €600m of road and rail investments from Republika Srpska until a "return to full functioning of state institutions," the European Commission said Monday.

EU officials, who were not authorised to speak on the record, called the situation in the region "probably the most serious crisis since 1995", when an ethnic conflict in Bosnia killed more than 100,000 people.

According to a recent internal EU report, the 600 European peacekeeping soldiers in Bosnia were on high alert to tackle "local outbursts of violence" in the event Dodik went ahead with secession.

Dodik is a close ally of Russia and so a flare-up in the Western Balkans risks playing into Moscow's hands, not least by distracting European policymakers while they also focus on trying to stop Russia from invading Ukraine.

"We have to be very careful that Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans as such don't become a playground for actors outside the EU, outside Europe," Austria's Schallenberg said, alluding to the role played by Moscow in the Bosnia crisis.

But for all that, Hungary, one of the most Russia-friendly EU countries, has threatened to veto any Bosnia blacklists.

"The threat of sanctions by some of our allies and friends against Milorad Dodik is not contributing to stability and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but is exacerbating the situation," Hungary's foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said Monday according to Hungarian news agency MTI.

Szijjártó also used social media to make his views clear in recent days.

"The sanctions policy has failed, it only incites hostility," Szijjártó wrote on Facebook after holding a phone call with Dodik — a close ally of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán — on Friday.

"Instead the European integration of the Western Balkans must be accelerated, which will be the real solution," Szijjártó wrote.

The US administration announced sanctions in January against Dodik, whom it accused of "corrupt activities," which he denies.

EU peacekeepers face testing times in Bosnia

Whilst the world's eyes are firmly fixed on Ukraine, EU peacekeeping troops in Bosnia are "at high readiness" in another test of Europe's geopolitical standing.

MEPs seek probe into EU commissioner over Bosnia

Enlargement commissioner Várhelyi "openly colluded [with Dodik] in potentially breaking up Bosnia and Herzegovina", according to dozens of MEPs who wrote to Várhelyi's boss.


Bosnia & Herzegovina - where is EU leadership in this drama?

Let there be no doubt: a possible secession of Republika Srpska is the deathblow to the Dayton accords and to peace and stability in the region. The spill-over of such a disaster scenario for the EU is hard to foresee.

A chorus of warnings about Russian meddling in Bosnia

In a thinly veiled warning to Russia, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pledged to "continue deterring those who would feel emboldened to undertake destabilisation actions" during a trip to Sarajevo.


The last thing Europe needs is another war on its doorstep

If the international community cannot fulfil its promises in Bosnia — given it's in the very heart of Europe, the leverage the EU and Nato possess, and the massive money invested — prospects for international state-building elsewhere are extremely grim.


EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Solar panels, wind-turbines, electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies require minerals including aluminium, cobalt and lithium — which are mined in some of the most conflict-riven nations on earth, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Kazakhstan.


How much can we trust Russian opinion polls on the war?

The lack of Russian opposition to the Russo-Ukrainian War is puzzling. The war is going nowhere, Russian casualties are staggering, the economy is in trouble, and living standards are declining, and yet polls indicate that most Russians support the war.

Latest News

  1. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict
  2. Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all
  3. Von der Leyen pledges to help return Ukrainian children
  4. EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
  5. Polish abortion rights activist vows to appeal case
  6. How German business interests have shaped EU climate agenda
  7. The EU-Turkey migration deal is dead on arrival at this summit
  8. Sweden worried by EU visa-free deal with Venezuela

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us