French Ambassador Christine Toudic ended her two-day visit to Banja Luka with a meeting with the Republika Srpska (RS) entity parliament Speaker Nenad Stevandic, on Friday, confirming the EU’s request for Bosnia to introduce visas to Russian citizens.
“I met with [RS] President Dodik, the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, Education… In order to improve our bilateral relations, especially in the field of economy, where France doesn’t occupy the place it should. We also talked about the candidate status that BiH received in December. Now is the time for Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the RS, to make an effort to develop things in this direction. Our wish can be summed up in a saying – help us to help you. President Dodik said he would help me in two areas, the signing of the Agreement with the Development French Agency and the Development of the French Language”, said Toudic.
Stevandić said that he told the interlocutors that the RS wants to work on the relaxation of relations and economic development, which would be a shock absorber for overcoming all the differences in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I explained why we behave in such a way as to receive criticism in some situations. It is important to open a dialogue”, he said.
Ambassador Toudic expressed hope for a better understanding.
Bosnia must harmonize its visa policy with the European Union, as it was emphasized in the Progress Report. The Ambassador confirmed that the EU requested the introduction of visas for Russian citizens, as well as other countries, due to the many arrivals of people without visas, who only “land in the EU and cause problems”.
Speaking about the policy of sanctions, she said:
“The answer is simple. When we say that European legislation must be adopted, it includes everything. I can speak for France. Mr Sattler met with [BiH Foreign Minister Elmedin] Konakovic and it is clear that the legislation includes everything,” Toudic said.
The European Commission's Progress Report states that Bosnia and Herzegovina should introduce visas to Russia.
the RS National Assembly Speaker, Nenad Stevandic, was asked after the conversation with the French ambassador about BiH’s visa policy and whether EU diplomats are lobbying for sanctions against Russia.
“I wanted to avoid these questions. I have a couple of emails from colleagues from the EU Parliament. It is unacceptable to be pressured on topics we disagree with. No conditions will start that process,” Stevandic concluded.
The latest European Council conclusions from December last year, in which Bosnia received the candidate status, stressed the need to harmonize the visa regime with the EU and the application of restrictive measures was also mentioned. Although Russia is not mentioned by name, it can be concluded from the context that the conclusions were talking about that country, Nezavisne novine daily said.
They added that paragraph 92 calls for the full implementation of sanctions, while paragraph 89 talks about the need to harmonize BiH's visa policy with the EU.
A group of MEPs is coming to Banjaluka in late April, Stevandic announced noting that they will also discuss the complex topics of EU acquis and the process of Bosnia's EU integration.
“We're trying to focus on the story that we're not exactly at odds here,” Stevandic concluded.