SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) – The European Union’s foreign commissioner used the 25th anniversary of the agreement that ended the Bosnian war to urge Bosnian political leaders to put their persistent ethnic divisions behind and prepare the country. to join the block.
“We must commemorate the past, but we must look to the future,” said Commissioner Josep Borrell during a visit to Sarajevo to mark the anniversary on Saturday.
The peace agreement for Bosnia, achieved through the mediation of the United States 25 years ago, ended “one of the most shameful episodes in the modern history of Europe,” he added.
The peace agreement, reached at a United States Air Force base outside Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 2015 and formally signed in Paris a few weeks later, ended 44 months of fighting between the top three. Ethnic factions in Bosnia – Muslim Bosnians, Catholic Croats, and Orthodox Christian Serbs – fighting for control after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia.
More than 100,000 people died in that conflict, mostly Bosnians and nearly two million, more than half of the Bosnian population, were forced from their homes during the conflict.
While the agreement ended the bloodshed, at the same time it formalized ethnic divisions in Bosnia by imposing a complicated and fragmented state structure shared through weak public institutions.
Over the years, the country’s complex governmental system has allowed ethnonationalist elites to take over all levels of government and loot the public coffers with impunity, using the same rhetoric that led to the war.
The European Union accepted Bosnia’s application for membership in 2016, but the government has not implemented the deep structural reforms necessary for the country to move forward in the process of joining the bloc. The EU hopes to see changes in the way the Bosnian judicial and economic system operate, intensify its efforts to combat corruption and respect human rights, among other reforms.
The EU’s priorities are mostly shared by the Bosnian population, but continue to be ignored by its ethnic leaders under the shadow of nationalist rhetoric.
After meeting with members of the country’s tripartite presidency, Borrell said that the “future of Bosnia is European,” but that in order to get to that point, “the authorities must intensify their efforts to deliver on priority reforms.”