EU Affairs and Foreign Affairs Committees discuss Balkan instability with Lord Ashdown

19th January, 2012

The European Union Affairs Committee, in joint session with the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, today heard an impassioned case for rigorous European Union engagement in the Western Balkans region from Lord Paddy Ashdown.

During the 1990s conflict in the Balkans, Lord Ashdown was one of the leading advocates for decisive action by the international community and he later served as the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

EU Affairs Committee Vice-Chairman Paschal Donohoe TD says: “We thank Lord Ashdown for a stirring contribution which served as a timely reminder to both Committees not to take peace in the region, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular, for granted.

“The Committees heard that the strong momentum in the first 11 years of peace has reversed in recent years, with Bosnia’s fledgling institutions undermined by political instability.”

“While Lord Ashdown was very careful to stress that a return to the dark days of conflict in the region was unlikely, he spoke starkly about the need for the European Union to wield its considerable leverage more proactively in the region. In particular, it should make better use of its soft power, such as attaching more conditionality to large amounts of EU money flowing to capitals in the region.”

“The Committee takes on board Lord Ashdown’s forceful argument that it would be a tragedy for Europe, as well as Bosnia, were the Europe to allow the region regress into a state of dysfunction, corruption and criminality.”

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee Chairman Pat Breen TD says: “Both Committees heard a lucid account from Lord Ashdown on the fragile political situation in the Western Balkans.

“The region’s journey to stability evokes a long-standing interest among Members of our Committee and we take on board fully Lord Ashdown’s advocacy of a more muscular EU policy with the states concerned.

“The Committee fully accepts that Ireland has a role to play in keeping this high on the international agenda. Ireland currently holds the presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and will hold the EU Presidency for the first half of 2013 and will make the case that the Western Balkans be a foreign priority for both important presidencies.”