Prospects for Trilateral Relations between Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Mulalic, Muhidin | Insight Turkey, Spring 2019 | Go to article overview

Prospects for Trilateral Relations between Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina


Mulalic, Muhidin, Insight Turkey


Introduction (1)

After the end of the Cold War and with the adoption of "Vision 2023: Turkey's Foreign Policy Objectives," Turkish foreign policy and diplomacy towards the Balkans changed. Consequently, Turkey began to play a proactive and mediating role in the Balkans, skillfully utilizing shared geography, history, economics, and culture. In 2009, initial steps were undertaken towards the adoption of trilateral relations between Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This tripartite diplomatic model was a step forward in enacting of new trilateral relations and a multi-dimensional model to tackle a number of regional problems. Turkey encountered a multi-polar world, whose changing security, political, and economic realities could be addressed more successfully by means of a trilateral relations model. (2)

Turkey had already adopted a trilateral relations model elsewhere; for example, Turkey-Russia-Iran, Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan, Turkey-Poland-Romania, Turkey-Azerbaijan-Georgia, and Turkey-Azerbaijan-Iran. (3) Nonetheless, the limited number of research studies on trilateral relations inhibits a proper understanding of Turkey-Serbia-Bosnia and Herzegovina political, economic, trade, and cultural relations. Thus, a proper analysis of the main declarations, agreements, and official statements is inevitable for determining to what extent trilateral relations as a diplomatic model has been successful. In particular, such an analysis would reveal how trilateral relations at the presidential, ministry of foreign affairs, and ministry of economy and trade levels contributed to political, diplomatic, economic, and trade trilateral relations between Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Trilateral Relations at the Presidential Level

Turkish foreign policy has significantly changed in the past few decades. The 1990s changes to the world order and Turkish internal political dynamism contributed towards a much more proactive and dynamic foreign policy. These developments went hand-in-hand with Turkey's ever-increasing population, its geopolitical and geostrategic position, resources, economic growth and development, its political continuity and stability, and its military power. "Turkish Strategic Vision 2023" projected the country as a great power with a global character and effective external relations. (4) In this regard, since the 1990s, Turkish involvement in the Balkans has been on the rise. The turning point of greater Turkish involvement in the Balkans, especially in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, began after the signing of the Istanbul Declaration in 2010. (5) The President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic, and the President of Bosnian Presidency, Haris Silajdzic, accompanied by their foreign ministers, met on April 24, 2010, in Istanbul at the first trilateral relations meeting at the presidency level. This historic meeting, which resulted in the adoption of the Istanbul Declaration, opened the door for much more dynamic tripartite relations between Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. (6)

The first trilateral meeting at the presidential level led to the opening of a new page in relations between these countries. At first, the leaders of Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina had to counter long-standing historical animosity and mistrust. Therefore, the initial beginnings of relations emphasized questions of peace, reconciliation, prosperity, stability, and territorial integrity. The major outcome of the first meeting was a regional reconciliation process and Serbian recognition of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbian President Tadic clearly stated, "Serbia would not undertake any steps that would destabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina, nor would it challenge its borders and its integrity, which would endanger the stability in the region." (7) Since 2010, Serbian leaders, often under political pressure from Bosniak state-officials, have made official statements, repeatedly, that they recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. …

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