Nothing would prevent us from doing the reverse this time. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, we could for once organise a peace conference before and not after the war, before the massacres and war crimes have multiplied and not after they have claimed hundreds of thousands of new victims in addition to those of the 1990s, because finally…

All the lights are on. The leaders of the Serbian half of this confederal country are now threatening to form their own army, in other words to secede and then melt into Serbia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is less and less quietly encouraging a development that reinforces his nationalism, and behind the scenes, Vladimir Putin is savouring and supporting the self-assertion of his Slavic cousins and the crisis that could ensue at the EU’s doorstep.

As for the Croatian-Muslim part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, its nervousness is growing as civil war threatens and Muslims wonder what would happen to them if the country broke up, and Bosnian Croats and Croatia naturally envisaged the creation of a greater Croatia if a greater Serbia were to emerge.

If nothing is done, everything will inexorably lead to war and the question is what to do and to do it quickly.

The easiest thing to do, of course, would be to precipitate a new enlargement of the European Union by bringing in Serbia and all the other states of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia-Herzegovina. This would be the way to fix the current borders, to help the development of these countries and, at least partially, to protect them from the manoeuvres of Russia, Turkey and now China to capture them.

In the European Parliament and in several European capitals, there are many who advocate this acceleration, but it is neither possible nor desirable. European opinion today does not want further enlargement. The Union cannot admit new Member States before it has reformed its functioning and defined its political ambitions for the next quarter of a century. Nor can it admit States that have not settled their border issues. Finally, the Union would be shooting itself in the foot by opening its doors to states as small as Montenegro and Kosovo because they would give veto power to populations less large than those of many European cities.

Since enlargement to the whole of the Balkans is not an option today, the idea remains that a preventive peace conference should try to put a real end to the war of partition of Yugoslavia that tore the Balkans apart in the 1990s.

In the face of the threat of civil war, the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina should first be asked whether they wish to continue to live together in the common state that the United States and Europe had wanted Yugoslavia to survive through the Dayton Accords. If the answer is “yes”, new institutions will have to be proposed, respecting indispensable cultural autonomies but truly inclusive. If the answer is ‘no’, it will be necessary to negotiate a territorial division and pave the way for the creation of a Muslim Singapore and the attachment of the Serb and Croat parts to Serbia and Croatia.

The definition of this division will be complex since the Serbian and Croatian populations are intertwined in many parts of the country, but is it better to divide by the sword or by negotiation, by a regional conflagration or by a peace conference under the auspices of the EU ?

The answer is in the question and, in the same motion, it will be necessary to work on mergers between Albanian Kosovo and Albania on the one hand and Montenegro and Serbia on the other in order to create federal but unitary states.

The EU could help considerably by arguing that these would be sine qua non conditions for any process of rapprochement with the EU – a full association agreement at first and then gradual integration into one of the circles, economic, political or both, of the future EU.

Nothing will be easy. Success is not guaranteed but, faced with the danger of a new war, the Union would undermine its credibility if it did not even attempt to make peace.

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