MEPs have warned the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina could reignite a civil war in the country.
The warnings came amid a European Parliament debate over plans by Milorad Dodik — the current Serb president of the tri-presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina — to separate his region from the state.
Serbs have for years been advocating the separation of their mini-state from the rest of Bosnia.
The leader of the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska enclave upped the ante in recent days, announcing plans to create the area’s own army and judiciary by the end of November.
“This gives a very wrong signal and could lead again to conflict and ethnic violence,” said lawmaker Andrey Kovatchev, a member of the European People’s Party group.
Kovatchev’s comments were echoed by those of Pedro Marques from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group.
“Twenty-five years after the civil war, in which over 100,000 people lost their lives, Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the brink of collapse yet again,” he warned. “This could mark a return to the violence of the 90s.”
He called on the European Union to impose sanctions, if necessary, to preserve Bosnia’s territorial integrity.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, said the situation was a matter of concern.
“We are committed to support the country’s leaders in taking steps to de-escalate, resume dialogue and address the substance of issues that are fuelling tensions,” Dombrovskis said.
“All political parties should return to state institutions and make sure they function smoothly,” he added.
More than 100,000 people were killed during the Bosnian civil war during the first half of the 1990s, following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
A peace agreement in 1995 divided Bosnia into two regions — the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation.
The two regions have wide autonomy but remain linked by some joint institutions including the multi-ethnic presidency, the parliament, the army, the top judiciary and the tax administration.
Dodik has warned that if the West tries to intervene with his plans, he would call his Bosnian Serb “friends” for help.
He has tacit support from Russia and Serbia.