EU chief fears war in Europe as Putin accused of ‘chipping away ‘ at bloc’s authority

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The international community’s chief representative in Bosnia has warned that the country is in imminent danger of breaking apart, and there is a “very real” prospect of a return to conflict. In a report, Christian Schmidt, the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that if Serb separatists carry out their threat to recreate their own army, splitting the national armed forces in two, more international peacekeepers would have to be sent back in to stop the slide towards a new war.

Mr Schmidt’s warnings were delivered as the UN security council was preparing its annual resolution renewing the peacekeeping mandate for Eufor and the NATO headquarters, with a vote as early as Wednesday.

Moscow is threatening to block the resolution unless all references to the high representative are removed.

The Kremlin opposed Mr Schmidt’s appointment by a Peace Implication Council, an ad hoc multinational body set up to implement the Dayton peace agreement, and refuses to recognise his authority.

“I suspect what Russia really wants is to chip away at the authority of the high representative’s office by stopping him briefing the council,” said a diplomat close to the discussions.

The report by Mr Schmidt, a former German government minister, warned that Bosnia was facing “the greatest existential threat of the postwar period”.

Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, is threatening to pull out of state-level institutions, including the national army built up with international assistance over the past quarter-century, and reconstitute a Serb force.

On October 14, Mr Dodik said he would force the Bosnian army to withdraw from the Republika Srpska (the Serb half of Bosnia) by surrounding its barracks.

Stating if the west tried to intervene militarily, he had “friends” who had promised to support the Serb cause, a presumed reference to Serbia and Russia.

The high representative said it was possible there would be clashes between Bosnian national law enforcement agencies and Bosnian Serb police.

“Should the armed force of BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] splinter into two or more armies, the level of international military presence would require reassessment,” said the official.

Mr Schmidt went on to say: “A lack of response to the current situation would endanger the Dayton agreement, while instability in BiH would have wider regional implications… The prospects for further division and conflict are very real.”

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US deputy assistant secretary of state Gabriel Escobar told Congress last week that the US is working with the EU to “make sure there are consequences for any illegal or any destabilising actions” in Bosnia.

However, it is unclear whether the Biden administration would support a return to NATO peacekeeping, and emulate the actions of President Clinton who effectively ended the war in Yugoslavia.

The war in Bosnia was one of the world’s bloodiest wars since World War 2.

It was originally estimated that at least 200,000 people were killed and more than two million displaced during the 1992–95 war.

One of the worst incidents occurred during the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,372 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered by Serb forces, many of them buried alive in mass graves.

With far-right populism rising once again in Europe, the EU and its commissioner, Ursula von der Leyen must act fast to control the situation
from spreading further.

Ethnic tension is still high in the Balkans in spite of an end to the conflict.

The creation of two Serbian forces would essentially create a catalyst back to conflict, and leave the EU with a significant humanitarian crisis in the making.

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