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A woman prays at a graveyard near Srebrenica
Ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian war targeted Bosnian MuslimsImage: Reuters/D. Ruvic

Germany's Maas calls for end to ethnic tension in Bosnia

Wesley Rahn
December 13, 2020

The Bosnian War ended with the signing of the Dayton Agreement 25 years ago. However, Germany's top diplomat has said there is still the need for "reconciliation and cooperation" in the Balkans.


German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that it is time to end  persistent ethnic tension in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a video speech given Saturday during a virtual event marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War.

The agreement was reached at a US air force base in Dayton, Ohio and subsequently signed in Paris on December 14, 1995.

"Twenty-five years after Dayton it is high time for real reconciliation and cooperation," Maas said, adding that although the agreement did not solve the conflict in the Balkans, it "created a foundation for building bridges."

"It ended a terrible war and made peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina possible," said Maas during a video greeting at a virtual event hosted by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, an international body responsible for implementing Dayton Agreement.

Bosnia's EU aspirations 

More than 100,000 people died —the majority being Bosnian Muslims— and millions were left homeless during the Bosnian war, one of the bloodiest conflicts that accompanied Yugoslavia's disintegration in the early 1990s.

The conflict was fueled by ethnic tension between Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks, and Catholic Croats following Bosnia-Herzegovina declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. Although the fighting is over,these tensions persist

Maas said that although the country has "achieved a lot" since the conflict ended, including aspiring to join the EU, he called on leading politicians to "act together to initiate reforms and reduce corruption."

"Nationalist agitation, denial of war crimes or glorification of those who committed them have no place in a country that wants to join the EU," said Maas. 

However, the EU has drawn criticism for not being more active in promoting European integration in the Balkans. 

"It should be up to the EU to handle the problems of the region and actively promote the countries' further European integration. But back in the 1990s, when Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later Kosovo, were involved in terrible wars, it was US initiatives that put matters on the right track," former high representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schwarz-Schilling told DW in 2019. 

"To date, all the EU's undertakings have been lackadaisical and ineffective; we can only be grateful for the US initiatives, even if they've displeased some in Europe," he said.

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