EU Chief Diplomat Josep Borrell confirmed on Wednesday that the EU will continue supporting peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting that this has become particularly important after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Borrell arrived in Sarajevo at the end of his regional tour. He attended a ceremony at the EUFOR base outside Sarajevo, marking the completion of the process of strengthening the EU military contingent in the country.
Sometimes it is necessary to show strength to secure peace, the EU official said in an address at the event.
EUFOR has been strengthened by an additional 500 troops, meaning there is now a total of 1,100 troops tasked with the increased monitoring of the situation on the ground and rapid response in case of security threats.
Borrell told reporters the additional troops were deployed as a precaution even though currently there was no direct threat to security and peace in the country. He explained that the EU wanted to ensure the possibility of response in case of any crisis.
“To everyone thinking about destabilising Europe and the Western Balkans, my message is clear: Operation Althea is here to prevent it,” Borrell said, adding that the EU would keep the mission in BiH as long as necessary with the mandate to preserve peace.
Borrell called on everyone in BiH to work together instead of generating new conflicts and blocking state institutions, noting that that was a precondition for reforms based on which the country can obtain EU candidate status, including changes to the election law.
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Kalbukhov said that while Bosnia and Herzegovina has the right to decide whether or not to join NATO, he warned that Moscow reserves the right to respond to such a possibility.
“If (Bosnia and Herzegovina) decides to be a member of any alliance, that is an internal matter. Our response is a different matter. Ukraine’s example shows what we expect. Should there be any threat, we will respond,” Kalabukhov told the FTV entity broadcaster.
According to Kalabukhov, the West is posing a threat to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s security by claiming that Russia “is allegedly preparing a plan.”
“We do not have any plans. We will respond having analysed the strategic and geopolitical situation,” the ambassador said. NATO membership is not a reality for BiH given the current lack of consensus on the matter in the country, he added.