21st May 2022

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.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.


Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.


Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  2. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  3. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  4. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  5. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  6. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  7. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  8. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us