EU Commissioner accused of favoring Serbian plans to break-up Bosnia

Olivér Várhelyi Milorad Dodik Bosnia EU
Olivér Várhelyi (left) meeting with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (right) last November (@European Commission)

Tirana, Albania – | 14 Jan 2022 (Tirana Echo) – Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have asked EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to probe into the meddling of Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi in favor of a break-up of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The MEPs sent a letter to Von der Leyen on Wednesday January11th where they outline a series of concerns over information surfaced recently which alleges that Varhelyi is tied to Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik in potentially breaking up Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The letter refers to a recent document published by local Bosnian media, signed by the Head of the EU Delegation and Special Representative to Sarajevo Johann Sattler following the Commissioner’s visit in November.

According to the letter, the document notes that Commissioner Várhelyi ‘agreed’ with Mr Dodik regarding the date of a special session of Republika Srpska’s National Assembly and that a 6-month moratorium to pass legislation on the unilateral withdrawal from state institutions would be announced.

Commission representatives cannot appear to appease separatist movements in this manner or act beyond their mandate contrary to official EU policy pertaining to the Western Balkan region,” the letter said, which was drawn up by Hungarian liberal MEP Katalin Cseh and signed by several MEPs.

The letter calls into question the impartiality and neutrality of the Commission which threatens the fragile geopolitical balance in a region marked by continuous ethnic conflict.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has dominated regional news during the past few months, amid fueling speculation that its semi-autonomous entity Repiblika Srpska led by Milorad Dodik is preparing to split from Bosnia.

Mr. Dodik, who is openly supported by Belgrade and Moscow, has recently called on RS to withdraw from key state institutions, provoking the biggest political and security crisis since the 1995 Dayton Agreement was signed to end the war.

The European Commission has issued a statement confirming that Varhelyi “was informed” about Dodik’s intention to call for an assembly meeting and begin a process of withdrawing competences, however it has disputed claims by noting that “this does not in any way imply assent or acceptance of these plans”.

This is not the first time Commissioner Vahelyi has come under fire. During his confirmation hearing in 2019, several EU players expressed concerns that he would promote his boss’s agenda instead of the EU.

His boss at the time was Hungary’s PM and EU rebel Viktor Orban while Vahelyi was serving as Hungarian Ambassador to the EU in Brussels.

The letter sent by MEPs, echoes wider concerns about Russian meddling in the Balkans, given the close ties between Mr. Dodik and Mr. Orban, himself known for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Orban visited Republika Srpska around the same month of November as Commissioner Varhelyi and later shocked regional observers when he said that Bosnia’s 2 million Muslims will be a “challenge” to integrate if the country became part of the EU.

Orban later told the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network that his country is providing Republika Srpska with ($114.4m) 100 million euros in financial assistance and will block any EU move to sanction Dodik for his secessionist plans, adding that Serbia and Republika Srpska are “key to the stability of the Western Balkans”.

In the meantime, Orban and his EU Commissioner Varhelyi, have been championing Serbia’s EU integration aspirations, despite slow progress on human rights, rule of law and high levels of corruption, while enjoying a close relationship to Serbia’s President Alexandar Vucic. 

In January, the US Treasury sanctioned Milorad Dodik , accusing the Bosnian Serb leader of corruption and threatening the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The latest clash between MEPs and the EU Commissioner has again highlighted the failure of the European Union and other international players to find a long term solution for the running of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a fragile Balkan country which still functions under the Dayton Peace Agreement, a document which was never intended as a governance manual.


Copyright @2022 | All Rights Reserved