“Bosnia disintegration would be catastrophic”

British Shadow Foreign Minister William Hague and former High Representative in Bosnia Paddy Ashdown say the break-up of Bosnia would cause a “disaster”.

In an article the pair published in the Financial Times, dubbed, “Broken Bosnia needs western attention”, Hague and Ashdown described tensions between Sarajevo and Banja Luka and made an observation that the danger of Bosnia breaking up was “realistic”.

“We must impress on Bosnia’s leaders that the sovereignty of the country is unquestionable and its break-up unthinkable,” they write.

“But we must also say to European candidate countries Serbia and Montenegro that they are expected to uphold EU policy towards Bosnia.”

Even the Bosnian Croats increasingly talk of their own entity and a break with their federation with the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Hague and Ashdown noted.

The post-Dayton Bosnian-Herzegovina is made up of the Serb entity, RS, and the Musli-Croat Bosnian Federation.

“Bosnia may seem less significant than it used to be to the U.S. and her allies. Pressing challenges in Afghanistan and beyond need great attention. The breakdown of the country into independent ethnic statelets would be catastrophic,” Hague and Ashdown wrote.

“It would not only reward ethnic cleansing – surely a moral anathema – but would also risk the creation of a failed state in the heart of Europe; a fertile breeding ground for terrorism and crime, and a monstrous betrayal of all those who survived the concentration camps, mass graves and displacement of the 1990s.”

“Bosnia will not solve itself, nor will the prospect of EU integration be enough to pull the country back from the brink. We urge the US and EU to each appoint a special envoy to the region, who would work in lockstep to deliver a united message and drive forward progress,” the two British politicians wrote.

“A robust international approach should focus on a single goal: a central government in Bosnia effective enough to meet the responsibilities of EU and NATO membership. Each Bosnian leader should have to stand for, or against, that simple idea – and face consequences for his or her answer.”

Hague and Ashdown think that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) should only be closed once constitutional reform has been achieved. Also, in their opinion, the EU peacekeeping mission in Bosnia must be retained, and reinforced if necessary – “to send a strong signal that neither secession nor violence will be tolerated”.

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