SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (AP) – Spain’s prime minister on Saturday expressed support for Bosnia to become a candidate for European Union (EU) 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.
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.
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.