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Baerbock announces a stronger presence in the Balkans

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DAccording to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Germany should pay more attention to the Western Balkan countries to avoid Russian-backed destabilization due to ethnic differences. At the start of a trip to the region in Sarajevo, Baerbock announced that Germany would “show more of a presence” in the future. She introduced the Greens member of the Bundestag, Manuel Sarrazin, as the new special envoy of the federal government for the Western Balkans. He will also be present in the area “when he is traveling elsewhere”

. During her trip, the Foreign Minister will hold talks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia. After meeting with Baerbock, her Bosnian colleague Bisera Turkovic said the war in Ukraine had “further destabilized” the situation in her country. Attempts to secede from the Serbian part of the Republic of Srpska are “a threat to the stability of Europe”. Turkovic said that the “aggression in Ukraine” follows a pattern of scenario seen in Bosnia-Herzegovina for decades. It is about reducing the functioning of a State.

The Bosnian Serb representative in the country’s tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, has been pursuing the broad separation of his part of the country from the state as a whole for more than six months. Turkovic said that all means must be used “to stop the disintegration processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to stop the separatists.” He demanded that his country be granted the status of a candidate country to the EU and that accession negotiations be officially opened; In his opinion, this is “the most effective contribution to stabilization”. Europe must live up to its foreign policy responsibilities. In addition to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the other Western Balkan states (Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia) are also striving to join the EU; only Bosnia and Kosovo do not yet have official accession status.

The message of the German Foreign Minister was addressed primarily to the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs. Baerbock warned that the country’s part of him could be excluded from German investments and German economic aid in the future if constructive cooperation in the common state did not return. The attack on Ukraine made it clear that in foreign policy economics cannot be separated from values. With a view to rapprochement with the European Union, it is also true that it cannot be concentrated solely on economic development. He threatened consequences for economic development in Serbian areas. Baerbock said that Germany and the EU did not want to “hold the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina hostage”; rather, there is a willingness to invest in all parts of the country. But if it is not guaranteed everywhere that “laws are applied and contracts are observed”, then it should be clear that investments are also subject to the condition. In that place, “democracy, the rule of law and international treaties” would have to be respected.

Baerbock also met with Dodik and the other members of the trio’s presidency in Sarajevo, and met with the High Representative, former German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt. Schmidt said that he had agreed that European integration could be the only way forward for Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, this also requires a contribution from the country’s politicians. Schmidt said, “In this country we also need clear statements against corruption and against those who want to see this broken and divided state.” “This country cannot be emptied from the inside, by anyone.” Baerbock warned that there have been political roadblocks over and over again in recent decades, which impeded Bosnia-Herzegovina’s path to the future. He urged overcoming current resistance to a new electoral law and warned that young people in particular will continue to leave the country if there are no forces for joint political reforms.

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