Don't ignore Bosnia, EU special representative pleads
(dpa) - The European Union is concentrating so closely on events in Serbia and Kosovo that it risks losing sight of developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the bloc's envoy to Bosnia warned Saturday.
"The Western Balkans are our back yard and this is the area where the EU is supposed to play a key role, but in order to do so we do need to focus on the region first ... With all the attention on Serbia and Kosovo, Bosnia must not become a secondary issue," EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak said.
"Bosnia's success is our success, and there must be no alternative to success because it would say a lot about European credibility" if the EU failed, Lajcak said at an informal meeting with EU foreign ministers in Slovenia.
EU attempts to stabilize the Western Balkans by broadly backing Kosovo's independence while offering Serbia a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) paving the way to candidate status had caused deep concern in the Bosniak (Muslim) community, Lajcak said.
This is because Serbia has not yet managed to arrest Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, who have been indicted on war crimes charges by international prosecutors in the Hague.
"As long as they're at large, the war is not over and Bosniaks can't see our moves as fair and just," Lajcak warned.
And an EU compromise deal offering Serbia visa-free travel has also caused concern among Bosniaks.
Any such deal would mean that Serb passport holders in Bosnia would be able to travel visa-free to the EU. Since Bosnian Croats holding Croatian passports can already do so, a deal with Serbia would leave the Bosniaks as the only community not to enjoy visa-free travel.
Under such circumstances, "the Bosniaks would be left behind, and their victim feeling would be strengthened," Lajcak warned.
To address those concerns, EU leaders should travel to Sarajevo more often. They should also make it clear that EU membership will be achieved if Bosnia meets the EU's conditions, without making those conditions either too easy or too difficult, Lajcak said.
On Wednesday Bosnia's parliament is set to vote on a key reform to the country's ethnically-based police forces.
EU officials have set approval of the reform as the key condition for signing an SAA with Bosnia.
But Lajcak admitted that he was "not 100 per cent confident" of the reform's adoption, because of last-minute attempts by some parties to amend the law and long-running disputes between ethnic groups on the country's final constitutional makeup.