The three members of Bosnia’s Presidency stand divided over Emmanuel Macron’s statement that Bosnia is “a ticking time-bomb” because of the threat of jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq. The Croat and Bosniak members have criticised the French President, while the Serb thanked him for the statement.
In an interview with the Economist, published on Thursday, France’s Emmanuel Macron said that Bosnia is a major concern in the Balkans.
"If you're concerned about this region, the first question is neither Macedonia, nor Albania, it's Bosnia and Herzegovina. The time-bomb that's ticking right next to (the EU member) Croatia, and which faces the problem of returning jihadists," Macron said, referring to escaped or released Islamic State fighters who could return to Europe.
The statement sparked outrage in Sarajevo. A spokesperson from Bosnia’s Islamic Community, Muhamed Jusic, pointed out that a lot more people left for Syrian and Iraqi battlefields from France than from Bosnia.
“Some 300 citizens, mostly women and children, have departed for Syrian-Iraqi battlefields from Bosnia and Herzegovina, while more than 1,900 have done so from France - double the number of any other western European country. These days it is expected that more than 450 of them will return to France,” Jusic wrote.
The Chairman and Croat member of the country’s tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, summoned the French ambassador for a meeting demanding an explanation for Macron’s statement.
But according to the Serb Presidency member, Milorad Dodik, whatever Komsic tells the French Ambassador does not represent the stance of Bosnia “as there is no consensus on it within Bosnia’s Presidency.”
Macron’s statement is true and denying it means “burying one’s head in the sand” and running away from a problem, he said.
“Instead of the problem of returnees from battlefields in the Middle East and the true threats of terrorism in Bosnia and Herzegovina being discussed where it would be most responsible to do so, here everyone who does not want to remain silent on it is being attacked, and now it’s the turn of French President, Emmanuel Macron,” Dodik said.
Dodik, who frequently called for the dissolution of Bosnia along ethnic lines, said he was “thankful to President Macron for informing the world and the French public about the truth which I am pointing out for a long time now when it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
He complained that he faced criticism by some in the international community every time he said the same thing Macron did.
Macron has admitted that “such a monstrously set up Bosnia and Herzegovina represents a danger to the EU because of Islamic terrorism and jihadist fighters who were recruited in Bosnia for battlefields in Syria and Iraq and are now returning to the country,” the Bosnian Serb leader said.
Dodik said that the situation in Bosnia is “unsustainable” and that if one of the world’s leaders describes a country as the main problem in the region and gives reasons for it, then he has nothing to add.
The Bosniak member of the Presidency, however, has a completely different stance.
“Since 2016 not one departure to battlefields in Syria was recorded. Bosnia and Herzegovina has undertaken measures to solve that problem,” Sefik Dzaferovic said.
“The basic problem of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the forces which want Bosnia’s division and Mr Macron knows that. The international community is also to blame for that,” he stressed.