Blog AnalysisBalkansInterview

Pierre Lellouche: "Bosnia must take itself in hand"

LellouchePlane2370a.jpg© NGV / Brussels2


(BRUSSELS2, Interview) During his stay in Sarajevo, we were able to speak with Pierre Lellouche, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, on several occasions (on the plane, around a table, at breakfast), at several times, on several subjects: visa liberalization (he is against it, at least, straight away), migration policy (Europe must strengthen its control and surveillance instruments), enlargement (he feels tired of enlargement and with the economic crisis requires some people like Bosnia to “take charge of themselves”). He also speaks on the closure of the post of High Representative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, OHR (he is in favor and as quickly as possible, read here). Finally, regarding the European External Action Service, he underlines how deplorable he finds the “rearguard battle between the European Parliament and the European Commission” (read there).


“Visa liberalization is not a negotiation bonus”

• The European Commission has just proposed to liberalize visas for Bosnians and Albanians. Decision hailed by several participants such as the Italian Frattini. You don't seem to share this enthusiasm (*)?

We are for the integration of countries into the European Union, for the liberalization of visas. But this must be done according to the principle “each according to his merits” in strict compliance with the conditions laid down by the EU Member States. To liberalize visas requires rigorous prerequisites: a solid rule of law, a border surveillance system, reliable biometric passports. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania still have to fulfill conditions, as the Commission points out. Visas cannot be a diplomatic bonus, a candy. It is the management of migratory flows. This is a very serious political question.

“Europe must be more serious about controlling border flows”

• Do you think that Europe does not take migration policy seriously?

No. We cannot constantly open our borders. We have serious political constraints in France and in several European countries. In a dozen countries, far-right parties reach 16-20%. We cannot turn a blind eye to this. The severe economic crisis, combined with uncontrolled migration flows, could prove to be a dangerous mix. Our main source of illegal immigration to Europe is through Turkey and Greece. Greece arrested more than 150.000 people last year. But she can't cope alone. With 14.000 km of borders, it's difficult. If Europe was serious about immigration, we should have a battery of planes and European coast guards to prevent Greece from being a landing ground for immigrants. This is what France supports. Europe must help Greece in its immigration control. This is much more significant than the deficits.

“We can’t come home with a closet full of corpses and war criminals on the loose”

• Coming back to the accession of the Balkan countries, how do you assess their progress? Do you think this can be done quickly?

We will help these countries to join the EU. But it will be very gradually. And “according to the merits of each”. Slovenia entered in 2004. And for Croatia it is ongoing: there is a stable government, there remain some problems with the ICTY (the international criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) and the border (with Slovenia). ). We are getting closer if they meet the conditions of human rights, of the war past... Serbia is starting this process, which is very difficult for it, and which we support. She has two important problems to resolve: Kosovo and the ICTY. It's very difficult for her. We must respect democratic time, accept that memory is settling. It is important. Europe is a set of values. We can't come home with a closet full of corpses and war criminals on the loose. It will take a lot of political wisdom from the leaders of these countries to overcome them.

© NGV / Brussels2

• And Bosnia and Herzegovina in this picture?

Frankly, every time I come here, it's a tragedy, it's not moving forward. It will be the last to enter the EU. The transplant does not take for deep reasons. The Dayton compromise is impossible to manage. We have invested a lot here. France has paid the price of blood. 80 soldiers died. We have also invested a lot in money with our partners in the European Union. But it can't go on any longer. We don't have a circle anymore. Europe is going through an economic crisis. The Bosnian state must take charge of itself now. I have the impression that they are sitting on a deck chair and begging for credits and visas.

“Europe is not a restaurant where you take the à la carte menu”

• Do you feel tired from the enlargement?

Yes, there is fatigue with enlargement, we must not deny it, even if Commissioner Füle does not feel that way. This is what I explained to the Bosnian/Bosnian friends I met. “You have to understand that Europe is not a restaurant where you take the à la carte menu. It is a set of rights AND duties. A democracy must therefore look to the past. And a majority must look at its minority. I repeat: war criminals, inter-ethnic tensions are incompatible with the values ​​of the EU. When the French and Germans signed the Schuman Declaration in 1950, it was 5 years after Auschwitz. They opted for reconciliation and reconstruction, but without hiding history.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) NB: Germany and France expressed a “tough” position on visas during the EU-Balkans conference on Thursday in Sarajevo. While countries like Italy have defended the rapid relaxation of this policy.

NB: a short version of this interview appeared on Saturday morning in Ouest-France.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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