Germany will increase its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the future, but will only support those who are committed to strengthening BiH, and not those who are working to destabilise the country, German Foreign Affairs Minister, Annalena Baerbock, said after meeting with her Bosnian counterpart in Sarajevo on Thursday.
Baerbock met with Bosnia’s Foreign Minister, Bisera Turkovic, amid the war in Ukraine and fears that it might cause destabilisation in BiH, which has been dealing with a major political crisis for months.
“I have come to find out what expectations you and your fellow citizens have of us Europeans. But I also bring a clear message, and that is that Germany will be more present in your country and the Western Balkans than in the past, and that is why we have introduced a special envoy for the Western Balkans for the first time who will work on bringing the issues of this area to the agenda in Brussels. That appointment is just the beginning of what we are planning,” she said, referring to Germany’s appointment of Manuel Sarrazin to the post of the country’s Special Envoy for the Western Balkans.
Baerbock noted that Europe is now dealing with a catastrophic war.
“I am aware that many people in BiH, when they look at images from Kyiv and Mariupol, remember the terrible times of the 1990s. It is not just an experience here in the region but something that also marked my generation in Germany,” she said.
“The Balkan wars were then a sign of alarm for my generation and Europe, and it is up to us to ensure peace. The question arose as to why I was visiting the Balkans during the war in Ukraine, and I think it is very important to visit Sarajevo in light of this situation. Peace is important because it protects us, our families, our dreams and our cities. That is why we must ensure peace in BiH, it is important to us and we must fight against those who threaten it. We will not allow that. As the largest bilateral donor, we can say that we will support only those who are committed to strengthening BiH, and not those who are working to destabilise it,” she said.
The German Foreign Minister stressed that ensuring democratic and fair elections is a requirement for ensuring the stability of every country.
“For BiH, we want the integrity of the election process to be improved. The European Court of Human Rights and its judgments are binding for every state and we want the new Election Law not to increase electoral problems in the country. It is important that the elections are held as planned in October, and there is not much time left for reaching an agreement,” Baerbock said.
She also said that the world is not the same now after Russia attacked Ukraine.
“But that did not shock us or prevent us from taking action. We acted quickly and decisively and together with our partners defined our policy. The European Union and Germany have not been as active in the region (Balkans) in recent years. We can and want to change that. Therefore, the short visit is just the beginning, many other visits will follow,” she concluded.
Turkovic said that Baerbock’s visit comes at a critical time, not just for BiH, but for all of Europe.
“We want to thank her and Germany for 30 years of commitment to peace and stability in the Western Balkans, for enabling our people who left BiH and found a safe and prosperous place to live and integrate into the German society and for its support for BiH and the regional stabilization projects,” Turkovic said.
She called for an urgent end to the war in Ukraine, “where civilians are killed, cities are destroyed and where we see everything we sincerely hoped was part of Europe's past.”
“Sarajevo, as well as all citizens and all cities of BiH know best what aggression and war bring. Our hearts are on the side of all those who fight for freedom, democracy and European values. That is how it is today and it will be like that tomorrow,” she said.