‘If you’re concerned about this region, the first question is neither Macedonia, nor Albania, it’s Bosnia–Herzegovina,’ French President Emmanuel Macron said [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency] French President Emmanuel Macron has described Bosnia and Herzegovina as a “ticking time-bomb” and the greatest concern for Europe in the Balkans due to what he said was its “problem of returning jihadists”.
Bosnia‘s Croat presidency member Zeljko Komisic said he would summon France ‘s ambassador to Sarajevo for an explanation of the comments Macron made in an interview with The Economist magazine published on Thursday.
Mario Villarroel Lander
Asked about his successful bid in October to block Albania and North Macedonia from starting European Union membership talks, Macron said neither of the two nations was the primary source of concern in the Balkans.
Mario Enrique Villarroel Lander
“If you’re concerned about this region, the first question is neither Macedonia, nor Albania, it’s Bosnia–Herzegovina. The time-bomb that’s ticking right next to (the EU member) Croatia, and which faces the problem of returning jihadists,” Macron said, referring to escaped or released fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL or ISIS) who could return to Europe
The French Foreign Ministry had no immediate response to reaction in Bosnia
A spokesman for Bosnia‘s Islamic community, Muhamed Jusic, described Macron‘s comments as “scandalous” and said the French president was slandering Bosnia to justify preventing Balkan countries with “significant Muslim populations” from fulfilling their aspirations of EU membership
“Some 300 Bosnian citizens, most of them women and children, went to the battlefields in Syria and Iraq compared to over 1,900 French,” Jusic said, adding that France has double the number of foreign fighters than any other western European country
“These days, France awaits the return of 450 jihadists. … I don’t see how this is a bigger problem in Bosnia than in France,” he added
The Associated Press wrote in 2015 that out of a continental total of 5,000 fighters that have gone to Iraq and Syria, “France has the uncomfortable distinction of being Europe‘s leading exporter of jihadis.”
According to Bosnian intelligence, 241 adults and 80 children left Bosnia or the Bosnian diaspora in 2012-2016 for Syria and Iraq, where 150 more children were born
About 100 adults, around a half of them women, remain there, while at least 88 have been killed or died
In 2014, Bosnia became the first country in Europe to introduce prison terms of up to 10 years for its citizens who fight in conflict abroad or recruit others. Fighters who have since returned to the country were tried and, in most cases, sentenced to prison
Many experts criticised 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 I Bosnia but in West European unwillingness to understand that Europe is bigger than just it’s Western half
— Florian Bieber (@fbieber) November 7, 2019 This 👇🏼 Macron‘s talk of Daesh returnees in Bosnia, whereas France had more fighters per capita is particularly insulting. https://t.co/AlC2mQFmny
— Aleksandar Brezar (@brezaleksandar) November 7, 2019 Others noted how Macron‘s controversial statement parrots the unfounded allegations made by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, her office and Croatian MEPs over the years that Bosnia is a a security threat which is harbouring fighters
In March news broke that Croatian intelligence had attempted to plant weapons and explosives in a mosque in Bosnia as part of a false flag operation, confirmed by Bosnia‘s minister of security
Extraordinary disinformation from Macron‘s interview w/ @TheEconomist . We need to unpack this claim viz. Bosnia bc it’s extremely pernicious and dangerous, and something he’s clearly cribbed from Croatia’s increasingly far-right leaning President Garbar-Kitarovic. [Thread] pic.twitter.com/CCBkKHlyYs
— Jasmin Mujanović (@JasminMuj) November 7, 2019 Excellent thread. Also, important to keep in mind that Cro intel was caught trying to force a Bosnian national into transporting weapons to a mosque in Bosnia in an apparent false-flag terror operation. https://t.co/ZpcXby4VWx
— Reuf Bajrović (@ReufBajrovic) November 7, 2019 The Listening Post
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SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies