German media: New Russian strategy in Bosnia

Germany has welcomed the extension of the mandate of EU forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, EUFOR, for another year.

Source: Beta, Tanjug, Deutsche Welle
Sarajevo (freeimages.com, stock)
Sarajevo (freeimages.com, stock)

However, this country is also "concerned that this mission was not supported by all members of the UN Security Council," reports Deutsche Welle.

The UN Security Council on November 11 extended the mandate of EUFOR with 14 votes in favor and one abstention - by Russia.

"It is regrettable that this time not all members of the Security Council actively supported this mission. Britain and Germany have recently launched a new initiative to redefine the process of moving Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to the EU. This initiative is an offer to Bosnia-Herzegovina's citizens and is related to specific reform processes. Responsibility for the future course of this country lies in the hands of its leaders," a representative of the German Foreign Ministry told Deutsche Welle.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said his country abstained from voting because its objections to the text of the resolution that supports the integration of Bosnia "into the Euro-Atlantic framework" were not taken into account.

Churkin said it was the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina who should decide whether to move towards the EU, rather than make that a part of a peace framework, "because there are bad examples in which a country, based on outside pressure, has been imposed the direction of integration into the European Union".

Balkan expert from the European Institute CIFE in Nice Tobias Flessenkemper told the agency that Russia's UN move was a signal that the country has the potential to positively or negatively influence the course of events in the Balkans.

"Until now Russia, even taking into account that abstention during the vote, supported Bosnia's path towards the EU. The new statements by Vitaly Churkin are a reason for concern because it can be read between the lines that it is no longer the case," he said.

Flessenkemper added, however, that there is no reason for "dramatization" because "a convincing majority of the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, its authorities, parties that are now negotiating to form a new government, and even RS President Milorad Dodik, all support the process of European integration".

Churkin's statements, added Flessenkemper, could have a counter-effect. "I think Churkin's statements will only encourage the (British-German) initiative because European foreign ministers are now under pressure to act, and it became even clearer that Bosnia-Herzegovina needs greater support on the road toward the EU."

German dailyTageszeitung's correspondent from Sarajevo Erich Rathfelder said this development and the words of the Russian ambassador indicate that Russia is no longer only rhetorically on the Serb side in the Balkans.

"The new strategy is evident through the political support given to Dodik, not only in matters that have a direct connection with politics in Bosnia, but also a policy that would, in the long run, led to the secession of the Serb Republic from Bosnia-Herzegovina," he added.

Rathfelder said that the Western countries are still divided when it comes to Bosnia, but also in terms of Russia's activities in the Balkans.

"I hope that the British-German initiative will contribute to Germany starting to monitor more closely the developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and that the whole thing is not seen in a naive manner as until now," he said.

Russian Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Petr Ivantsov said on Thursday that Russia abstained during the UN vote because the text of the resolution was abused to promote Bosnia's membership in the European Union and NATO as a single process.

Ivantsov explained that Russia is not opposed to the country's EU membership, but it is against it joining NATO, because that there is no consensus on this between the three constituent peoples.

The diplomat stressed that Russia understands the importance of the EUFOR mission, dubbed "Altea," in the implementation of the Dayton Accords and the creation of a secure environment - but also believes that the UN Security Council should not be used to promote Euro-Atlantic integrations.

Ivantsov added that Russia had submitted an amendment to remove from the resolution the part that talks about Euro-Atlantic integrations, but that it was rejected, after which his country abstained from voting.

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