Bbetter late than never ? The United States and Europe are finally showing signs of realizing the dangers Bosnia faces. A long-rooted crisis has worsened considerably, with the chief representative of the international community, Christian Schmidt, warning that the country could soon erupt. He described a “very real” prospect of a return to conflict, 26 years after the Dayton Peace Accords ended a war that claimed 100,000 lives, and the Srebrenica massacre of men. and Muslim boys which has been the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II. .
Since then, Bosnia is made up of the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnians and Croats, with a tripartite presidency composed of a Serb, a Bosnian and a Croat. Milorad Dodik, the denialist leader of the Bosnian Serbs, has been pushing them for years to follow their own path. The limited international hindsight has emboldened him. In response to the introduction of a genocide denial law by the former high representative, Mr. Dodik is threatening to resign from state institutions – including the national armed forces. It would be, as Mr. Schmidt noted, a secession in every way except the name. By creating a new army of Bosnian Serbs, it would also revive the very organ responsible for the genocide. Mr. Dodik said he would force Bosnian troops out of Republika Srpska and that, if necessary, his “friends” would support him.
At first, the High Representative used the post’s considerable powers to control politicians. But the role has been systematically weakened. Mr Schmidt was even more shocked when references to his position were removed from the renewed mandate of the Eufor peacekeeping force in Bosnia, after Russia made it clear that it would otherwise veto the resolution of the Security Council.
The larger context is the death of the European dream. that of Emmanuel Macron rejection of EU enlargement – ignoring warnings about the dangers of going back on promises made to the Western Balkans – has been a devastating blow, and the lack of coherence and stability in Europe has finished it. This left little to offer as an alternative to nationalism. Mr. Dodik found the support of Hungarian Viktor Orbán; Russia and, to a lesser extent, China and even Turkey have a growing grip. In a context of political and economic stagnation, many citizens are simply leave.
Mr Schmidt’s report put the crisis at the top of the agenda. Gabriel Escobar, the envoy for the Western Balkans, has just surrendered; US re-engagement crucial, though critics complain remain too eager to appease. The EU remains largely muted and the louder UK can no longer defend the cause from within. United States sanctioned Mr. Dodik in 2017 for obstructing the implementation of the peace agreement; what is needed now are firm sanctions against his circle, cutting off access to European markets and banks. However, belatedly, governments should also make explicit their support for Mr Schmidt and their conviction that Mr Dodik is responsible for this crisis. The West should make it clear that any attempt at violence would be countered by strengthening international forces, with NATO doing the job if the EU is unable to do so, as provided for in the Dayton Accords. The EU must also ask itself what hope it can offer Bosnia.
The question is not only whether the leader of the Bosnian Serbs is descending, as he has done in the past, but how confident he feels in future provocations. The fact that the best case scenario for the country now appears to be continuous and gradual deterioration must be an incentive to do better.