Janša Denies Promoting Break-Up of Bosnia Along Ethnic Lines as Islamist Group Protests in Sarajevo

By , 19 Apr 2021, 12:14 PM Politics
Current borders (left), borders proposed in the non-paper (right Current borders (left), borders proposed in the non-paper (right Left: western balkans Adapted from Peter Fitzgerald CC-by-SA-3.0 Unported. Right: Twitter

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Updated 18:20

STA, 19 April 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has condemned extremism after members of a radical Islamist group in Bosnia and Herzegovina protested in front of the Slovenian embassy in Sarajevo Sunday over an alleged non-paper linked to Slovenia that speaks about the breakup of Bosnia along ethnic lines.

"Slovenian and other extremists who sow chaos are only causing damage," he said on Twitter after noting that Slovenia had stopped dealing with the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, when it became independent.

"We wish peace, progress and EU perspective to the remaining countries left on its territory," he said Sunday evening in response to news of the protests.

Media reports suggest a few dozen members of the movement Religion, Nation, Country (Vera, narod, država), formed by a radical cleric, gathered in front of the Slovenian embassy in Sarajevo chanting "Bosnia".

The rally came in the aftermath of multiple media reports implying that Slovenia had circulated a non-paper in the EU on the redrawing of borders in the former Yugoslavia.

In talks with a member of the Bosnian presidency on Friday, Janša said there was no non-paper containing border changes or efforts to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina's territorial integrity that could be linked with the Slovenian government.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama confirmed the existence of a non-paper in a TV appearance on Saturday. While he did not say this non-paper was authored by Slovenia, he said he had discussed it with Janša a while ago.

"I have seen the document and discussed it ... with the Slovenian prime minister," he said, adding that he would not comment further on that.

Responding to Rama's statement, Janša tweeted that "we have not discussed any maps of a divided Bosnia, neither with the Albanian PM nor with anyone else."

"The last time I had in front of me a map of a divided BiH was during a visit to the Pentagon in 1993, when we were looking for solutions to stop the armed conflict."

Foreign Minister Anže Logar also commented on Rama's statement as he spoke to the press after today's online meeting of EU foreign ministers, advising journalists to carefully read it once again; he said Rama's words were better subtitled or translated on commercial broadcaster POP TV than on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

What Rama said is just that he had discussed the issue of the Western Balkans with Janša, which is logical, said Logar, adding that reviving a debate on the alleged non-paper benefited neither Bosnia-Herzegovina nor Slovenia. The debate is in fact "very harmful to Slovenia".

"In this respect everyone should see for themselves what is more in their interest - to engage in political propaganda or make the best they can for Slovenia to do its EU presidency well and achieve progress in the Western Balkans field."

He believes those engaging in "spreading non-truths and half-truths" should ask themselves what consequences that could have. He pointed to the Sarajevo protest, which brought together extremists, while groups demanding a boycott of Slovenian goods are emerging online.

The minister said that both Prime Minister Janša and President Borut Pahor had denied the existence of any such document, so he had nothing to add to that.

He however avoided answering directly the question about Slovenia's stances on changing the borders in the Western Balkans when asked whether Slovenia agreed with the solutions in the alleged non-paper.

He said Slovenia's stance is very clear - it wants to do all in its power to achieve progress towards the EU as fast as possible under the condition that Western Balkan countries met membership criteria. As part of its EU presidency, Slovenia also wants to highlight the strategic importance the region's integration in the EU has.

As for the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, Logar said the five EU members which had not yet recognised Kosovo said clearly that a solution which both sides would agree with would mean the reason for non-recognition had been eliminated. Logar said he did not wish to speculate any further, leaving diplomacy to do its job.

He said any statement would be premature and could harm the dialogue between the two entities, but hailed the fact that both Kosovo and Serbia had strong governments, while adding that no progress could be made without the US and EU's consent.

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