The Role of the West in the Foreign Policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The Balkans have gained a place in the foreign policy of global actors due to its demographic structure and geopolitic position. Although the cosmopolitan structure of the states in the region has led to a rich cultural legacy, the orientation of different groups can overshadow on political stability. In this context, Bosnia and Herzegovina comes to the fore. Indeed, when the political structure of the country is analysed, the sides have different orientations. On November 1, 2023, Denis Becirovic, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who met with the President of European Comission Ursula von der Leyen sees country’s path towards Euro-Atlantic integration as the “only alternative” [1]

In spite of that, on 9 November 2023, Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska, uttered that Serbians in the Balkans have an oppurtunity to their own unmatched state.[2] These two phases could be seen as the reflection of different orientations in Bosnia and Herzegovina pn the political arena. From this point of view, while Sarajevo is striving to consolidate itself in the West, it is also trying to stabilise the Serbian presence. Because the relationship between the Republika of Srpska and Russia and the expressions of the dream of a Greater Serbia cause of security concern.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, sees its future in the West and accordingly seeks to deepen its relations with both Washington and Brussels. Indeed, even though it is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it has been in the partnership for Peace Programme since December 14, 2006. In this context, Sarajevo’s interest in both defence and integration into the West is obvious. Zukan Helez, Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Brigadier General Pamela Mcgaha, Commander of NATO Headquarters Sarajevo, met on November 3, 2023 to discuss cooperation between the two actors.[3] This meeting shows Sarajevo’s interest in the West, especially due to security concerns.

The relations between the West and Bosnia and Herzegovina are based on several issues, but it can be said that they are primarily shaped on the basis of security. Indeed, the sides are in various contacts under different umbrellas. The participation of a delegation led by Zoran Sajinovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Deputy Minister of Defence for International Cooperation, in the NATO meeting in Brussels on November 10, 2023 is an example of such contacts.[4] Furthermore, the United Nations (UN) Security Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the 700 person European Union Pacekeeping Force Mission (EUFOR) for one more year [5], which is expected to end on November 5, 2023 shows that global actors are closely related to the security equaions in the region.

EUFOR is mainly deployed to maintain peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the framework of the Dayton Peace Agreement. However, it isn’t the only actor considered suitable for ensuring peace and political stability in the region. Indeed, Christian Schmidt, the High Representative of the International Community for Bosnia and Herzegovina, was appointed to monitor and ensure compliance with the Dayton Agreement. Schmidt, like his forerunners, was expected to submit regular six monthly reports presented his usual report to the UN Secretary General on the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace for the period April 16, 2023- October 15, 2023.[6]

In that report, High Representative Schmidt noted the negative attitude of the Bosnian Serb authorities towards the Dayton Agreement and pointed out that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was deteriorating and that Serb leader Dodik had deliberately caused two major political crises in the country.[7] According to Schmidt, leader Dodik’s behaviour casts a shadow on peace. These statements will be effective in the West’s approach to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Indeed, there is an interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The geopolitical-geoeconomic importance of the country is seen as one of the strategic factors in the European Union’s (EU) opening out to the Western Balkans. At this point, Brussels continues its contacts with Sarajevo.The main reason for these contacts is that Sarajevo sees the future of the country both economically and politically with the West. Moreover, the West is seen as a balancer in terms of allaying concerns about Serbian-Russian relations.

Another important issue to be underlined is the EU’s approach to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In particular, Brussels sees the Balkans as a part of Europe and seeks to accord the region with EU policies. In this context, the relations between Sarajevo-Brussels are deepening. As a matter of fact, on November 8, 2023 Council of Europe (CoE) met to discuss the position of the EU counterparts and although the report on the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovins didn’t reach an agreement on the launch of negotiations, Sarajevo was given the green light on the issues to be fulfilled by March 2024.[8]

In the upcoming termi dooperation on various issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina-EU relations is likely to be ensured. Because, %20 of the EU’s 6 billion Euro package for the Western Balkans has been dedicated to Bosnia and Herzdegovina. This may be seen as a serious incentive for Sarajevo to consolidate in Europe despite of security concerns.

In conclusion, the Balkans is an important geography in geopolitical and geoeconomic terms. Therefore, the West wants to deepen its relations with the Balkan states. In this context, Bosnia and Herzegovina is of interest to Brussels. It can be mentioned that the EU is striving of the increase influence in Sarajevo with various incentives despite of the negative aspects cause of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cosmopolitan structure. Although Republika of Srpska causes concern due to its separatist expressions and relations with Russia, there is a weak possibility that the West will easily give up Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the last instance, it can be stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s priority in foreign policy is the EU as it wants to become a consolidated actor.

[1] “Becirovic on the Meeting with the President of the European Commission: A new Dose of Optimism”, Sarajevotimes,, (Date of Access: 01.11.2023).

[2] “Dodik ‘compared’ the Conflict in Gaza with BiH”, Sarajevotimes,, (Date of Access: 10.11.2023).

[3] “Good Cooperation between BiH Ministry of Defense and NATO”, Sarajevotimes,, (Date of Access: 03.11.2023).

[4] “The Text of the PARP Assessment for BiH was adopted in Brussels”, Sarajevotimes,, (Date of Access:10.11.2023).

[5] “Vijeće sigurnosti UN-a produžilo mandat EUFOR-a u BiH”, Aljazeera,, (Date of Access: 02.11.2023).

[6] “HR Christian Schmidt submitted his regular Report to the United Nations”, Sarajevotimes,, (Date of Access: 03.11.2023).

[7] “Schmidt upozorio Vijeće sigurnosti UN-a: Dodikov secesionizam prijeti miru”, Aljazeera,, (Date of Access: 01.11.2023).

[8] “Leyen: Pregovori o članstvu BiH u EU kad ispuni određene uvjete”, Aljazeera,, (Date of Access: 08.11.2023).