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Ashton in Bosnia, viability doubts linger

brussels bureau

Ashton in Bosnia, viability doubts linger


New EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, on a first visit to Bosnia, has said her top priorities will include integration with Europe of the countries of former Yugoslavia. She met Prime Minister Nikola Spiric in Sarajevo, to discuss Bosnia’s application for EU membership.

She urged Bosnians to vote for their “future in Europe” when they go to the polls to choose
presidents and parliaments in October.

The country, a federation of two autonomous regions, one Serb and one Muslim-Croat, is lagging behind its neighbours in its attempts to join the European Union.

Since war in Bosnia ended in 1995, nationalism, rather than stability and prosperity, has dominated politics, and the country is in an economic crisis and social unrest.

An Eastern Europe watcher, Jean-Michel De Waele, with the Université Libre in Brussels, voiced his scepticism over the near-term prospects:

“Is Bosnia viable? I think you have to be very, very optimistic to answer ‘yes’. I really am afraid that, seeing the stalemate, one must face up to it. Efforts have been made but it’s clear that we haven’t managed to create a Bosnian state. Therefore, I do not think that Bosnia is viable. But as soon as you say that, the awful question arises: what lies in the future, and what’s to be done if one doesn’t want to touch the borders?”

The Bosnian Serbs passed a law a few days ago to make it easier to hold referenda on divisive issues, such as the legitimacy of the Dayton accords that ended the war. Critics of the move fear that these referenda could prove politically and socially explosive.

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