PARIS / SARAJEVO – President of France Emmanuel Macron has caused yet another backlash in the Western Balkans, this time for comparing Bosnia and Herzegovina to a “ticking time-bomb” due to the returning jihadists.
In an interview for The Economist, Macron said that the greatest concern in the region are not Albania and North Macedonia, the countries that were prevented to open accession negotiations with the EU last month by a veto from France, but Bosnia and Herzegovina “the time-bomb that’s ticking right next to Croatia”.
Member of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Željko Komšić responded to French President’s claim by stating that the number of foreign fighters from his country is small and that a much bigger security threat is keeping BiH outside EU and NATO.
Komšić also met with Ambassador of France to Bosnia and Herzegovina, informing him about the numbers of foreign fighters and their families, as well as BiH’s efforts in the fight against terrorism, N1 reports.
Other reactions were more harsh. Professor of Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz and BiEPAG coordinator Florian Bieber strongly criticized Macron’s statement on Twitter.
“The more Macron explains his views on the Balkans, the more it is clear that it is based on ignorance, bias and arrogance. Europe’s ticking time bomb is not Bosnia but in West European unwillingness to understand that Europe is bigger than just it’s Western half”, Bieber wrote.
Another BiEPAG member and Senior Researcher at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs Vedran Džihić wrote that Macron’s statement shows that Balkanism is still powerful in the West.
Students from Bosnia and Herzegovina also reacted to the statement by raising the flag of their country and inviting President Macron to visit BiH and see for himself that their country is not a ticking-bomb at the closing of World Democratic Forum in Strasbourg.
In the interview for The Economist, Macron also defended his decision to put the reform of the EU and the accession process before the opening of negotiations, claiming that half of the EU members were against the positive decision in the case of Albania, but “hid behind France”.
He pointed at the Russian and Chinese influence in Serbia, a country that is already negotiating, as a counterargument to the claim that his veto undermines EU’s geostrategic interest in the region.