SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The European Union’s enlargement commissioner called on Bosnia’s rival ethnic leaders on Wednesday to return to dialogue and enact reforms or face losing 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in EU investment.
Bosnia is facing its gravest political crisis since the end of the 1992-95 war. Bosnian Serbs have blocked the work of the central government and their separatist leader Milorad Dodik has announced the dismantling of key state institutions.
“There is a clear and credible European perspective for Bosnia-Herzegovina,” EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi told a news conference after meeting members of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, central government and opposition leaders.
But Bosnia needs to address 14 key priorities identified by the European Commission in order to become a candidate for EU membership, he said.
“Withdrawing the Republika Srpska entity and dismantling the state institutions would take Bosnia further away from alignment with the EU ‘acquis’ and would put the EU path on hold for the entire country,” Varhelyi said.
Under the Dayton peace accords that ended the 1990s war, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and the Federation dominated by Croats and Bosniaks, linked by a weak central government.
Dodik has said the Serb Republic will pull out of Bosnia’s armed forces, top judiciary body and tax administration – three institutions representing the key pillars of state security, rule of law and the fiscal system.
Varhelyi said key decisions were pending, so investments for investment projects due to be financed by the EU could be lost and Bosnia could additionally be excluded from other programmes.
“We need a constructive dialogue and political will from all sides to move forward the EU path,” he said. “Boycotts or blockades are unacceptable… The divisive rhetoric and actions do not help.”
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Gareth Jones)