Spanish PM Sanchez backs EU candidacy for Bosnia

Spanish PM Sanchez backs EU candidacy for Bosnia
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez fears ethnic instability in Bosnia, as Bosnia's Serbs, who are backed by Russia, push for more independence.
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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visit Bosnia on July 30, 2022, as part of a tour of Balkan countries. [ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP via Getty Images]

Spain's prime minister on Saturday expressed support for Bosnia to become a candidate for European Union membership amid fears that uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine could fuel instability in the ethnically torn Balkan nation that went through a devastating conflict in the 1990s'.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez came to Sarajevo from Serbia, where he kicked off his tour of the Balkan region on Friday. Sanchez will also travel to Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania.

“During my meetings today I wanted to highlight the opportunity that would be for Bosnia and Herzegovina if the European Union would take its enlargement with a new sense of urgency," Sanchez said at a press conference.

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Yet Bosnia, still dominated by nationalist politicians long after the end of the 1992-95 war, has been locked in political and ethnic disputes that have stalled the country's EU membership bid. Bosnia's Serbs, backed by Russia, have sought to win more independence for their Serb-run half of the country, while disagreements between the Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslim, and Croats have blocked the normal functioning of their joint entity.

Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 resulted in the killing of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslims. [David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images]

The political stalemate has sparked concerns that Bosnia could face further ethnic divisions if left behind in the EU process. Some regional leaders have called for Bosnia to be granted a EU candidate status along with Ukraine and Moldova in June to show the EU's commitment to the volatile region.

Sanchez said Spain supports Bosnia's “European perspective.” He expressed hope the country would take necessary steps to become a membership candidate by the time Spain takes over EU's rotating presidency in the second half of 2023.

"During the last European Council (meeting), I told my fellow heads of governments (of) my full support in favour or Bosnia and Herzegovina being designated a candidate country.” said Sanchez.

Sanchez also noted the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, when Bosnian Serb troops executed over 8,000 Bosniaks months before the end of the war, a crime that has been designated as Europe's only genocide since World War II.

More than 100,000 people were killed and millions were displaced in Bosnia's 1992-95 war before it ended in a U.S.-brokered peace agreement.