HUNGARY THROWS DIPLOMATIC WEIGHT BEHIND BOSNIAN SERBS DURING DODIK VISIT

The Hungarian government pledged political support to Milorad Dodik as it hosted the Bosnian Serb leader in Budapest, saying it would vote against the UN resolution on Srebrenica. But there was no new Hungarian aid announced.

The president of the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, was in Budapest on Wednesday, where he was given strong political backing by the government of Viktor Orban.

“The international community, including the European Union, should stop stirring tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto said at a press conference as he stood alongside the leader of Republika Srpska.

Dodik was also received by Prime Minister Orban, a long-time ally and political friend. Despite their close relationship that has been greased over the years by copious amounts of Hungarian funds – including 100 million euros in grants, 110 million euros in loans and recently another 140 million euros for energy and infrastructure projects – there were no new funds announced this time. From the first 100 million euros in grants, only 35 million euros have been allocated so far.

Dodik’s visit to Budapest comes just six weeks before Hungary takes over the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union, during which Orban’s government is expected to put EU enlargement in the Western Balkans high on the agenda. Yet instead of conveying the image of an honest broker in such a complex and contentious issue, the Hungarian government has proved once again that it is gravitating towards an excessively pro-Serbian course.

The Hungarian foreign minister lashed out against the EU and the international community, holding them as the prime culprits for rising ethnic tensions in Bosnia, yet avoided any criticism of Dodik and his secessionist tendencies.

Szijjarto accused Christian Schmidt, the international community’s High Representative for Bosnia since August 2021, with “violent and unilateral interference in the internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina” by changing the country’s electoral law.

He also announced that Hungary would vote against the UN resolution on 1995’s Srebrenica massacre, when more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were murdred by Bosnian Serb forces around the town, because the document would “demonise the entire Serbian nation” and put the fragile cooperation of the communities within Bosnia at risk.

In mid-April, Hungary also voted against Kosovo’s accession to the Council of Europe at the organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly, citing a lack of guarantees for Kosovo’s Serb minority. Insiders say this is yet another sign that Hungary – which often tries to portray itself as a champion of the whole Western Balkans within the EU – has become rather more a mouthpiece for Serbia and Republika Srpska.

Relaxing in the friendly atmosphere in Budapest, Dodik also called the UN draft resolution, which he warned would destabilise relations in Bosnia, a “unilateral attempt by the Bosnians” and a “product of the Bosnian ambassador to the UN”.

“These were truly horrific crimes [committed during the Srebrenica massacre], for which individual perpetrators should be made responsible. But the whole nation should not be collectively condemned,” Dodik complained, criticising Germany for co-sponsoring the resolution and therefore “undermining” cooperation inside Bosnia.

The former Hungarian foreign minister, Peter Balazs, told BIRN that Szijjarto’s announcement to vote against the UN resolution “once again breaks the unity of the EU. Orban is determined to pursue a provocative course that goes against the interests of our allies in the Euro-Atlantic community.”

But he added that Orban’s manoeuvres will have no concrete impact on EU policy in the Western Balkans and that even as president of the Council of the EU from July 1 he will carry no real political weight. “Orban thinks he can box above his waist, but he is often only used by outside forces,” the former minister said.

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