EU humiliated as Biden forced to send OWN envoys to defuse war threats on bloc’s doorstep

Serbia: EU urges Kosovo resolution before accession to bloc

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US officials have been on a two-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina since Sunday in a bid to defuse tensions in the region caused by frustration at the EU’s failed efforts to offer assistance.

A quarter of a century after the Dayton Peace Agreement brought an end to Bosnia’s civil war, the top international official in the country warned this week that it might be on the brink of breaking up once again.

United Nations High Representative Christian Schmidt said that if Serb separatists carried out their warning to create a separate Bosnian Serb army, the international peacekeeping mission might have to be expanded.

In a report, Schmidt described threats from Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik to pull out of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s state-level institutions including the military and create new ones for Republika Srpska as “tantamount to secession without proclaiming it”. But the worsening face-off in Bosnia is only one of several across the Western Balkans this year.

In September, Serbia sent troops and armoured vehicles to its border with Kosovo following a dispute over licence plates and cross-border access, one of the most serious confrontations since the 1999 war between NATO and Serbia. Political strains have also been rising within Montenegro, with regional powers accusing Serbia and Russia of once again deliberately fanning ethnic tensions.

What is clear, however, is that Western states and particularly the European Union, still lack a clear plan for a region in which Russia, Serbia and increasingly China are becoming increasingly assertive, and where long-promised expansion of the European Union and NATO to include multiple Balkan states seems stalled.

In early October, EU states recommitted themselves to Balkan nations joining the bloc but rejected more specific calls from current EU president Slovenia to admit Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania by 2030.

NATO membership for Bosnia and Kosovo appears similarly going nowhere, despite September’s Kosovo face-off prompting calls for its accession process to be prioritised.

For some European leaders, that is seen as opening up opportunities for Moscow and Beijing, as well as for an increasingly confident Serbia to again look to grow its regional influence with Russia’s backing.

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“Either Europe extends the hand and pulls these (Western Balkan) countries towards us, or someone else will extend a hand and pull these countries in a different direction,” Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins told the October Western Balkans summit.

Serbia, which long made a virtue of simultaneously wooing the European Union, Russia and China, appears increasingly to be siding more with Moscow and Beijing as it abandons its EU hopes.

In a bid to defuse tensions, Gabriel Escobar, the US special envoy to the Western Balkans arrived on Sunday.

After meeting with Dodik on Monday, Mr Escobar said he would be pressing for EU membership.

“I am confident that the Europeans will understand that you should be part of Europe within a reasonable period of time,” he said.

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While the EU is struggling to make tangible promises on sanctions against Dodik and his government, Mr Escobar said that any “future US sanctions would be much harsher and would include various companies close to Dodik and his government.”

Tanja Topić, a political analyst based in Banjaluka, told Politico that for Dodik, “sanctions from the EU or certain member states would affect him even more than US sanctions”.

She added: “Instead of insisting that problems be solved within Bosnia’s own institutions, they constantly talk to leaders of political parties directly and solve issues while having drinks and dinners.”

Last week, Peter Stano, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, stressed that the situation in Bosnia was “a source of great concern for the European Union.”

But analysts are worried the EU is missing an opportunity to avoid a dangerous conflict in the region.

Šelo Šabić, a senior researcher at the Croatia-based Institute for Development and International Relations told Politico: “I think that the lack of understanding of the situation in Bosnia — by the EU, in particular — is huge, and that unfortunately, the EU will pay the highest price for this lack of understanding and lack of timely reactions.

“Simply, the focus is elsewhere — which I completely understand.

“But unfortunately, Europe cannot avoid the consequences of the conflict or degradation of Bosnia to its own security and its own political and economic interests.”

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