Wednesday

14th Apr 2021

EU to implement Bosnia association pact

  • Commercial billboard on war-damaged building in Mostar, Bosnia (Photo: il desiderio di una vita normale)

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday (16 March) to "proceed with the conclusion and entry into force" of the Stabilisation and Association agreement (SAA) with Bosnia and Herzegovina, a first step towards EU accession talks with the country.

No date was set for the conclusion of the accord, but the EU called on Bosnia's leadership to "fully uphold its commitments and obligations".

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These commitments mainly include the respect of the Copenhagen criteria on democracy, rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities.

In the wake of last year’s protests in Bosnia, the EU insists that socio-economic reforms outlined in a compact for growth and jobs adopted last year are implemented to reduce poverty and inequalities.

Scarred by the sequels of the 1992-1995 war that killed around 100,000 people, paralyzed by institutions divided between the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian community and plagued by endemic corruption, Bosnia is the only Western Balkans country that has not yet formally applied for EU membership.

An SAA was signed by the EU and Bosnia in 2008 but no progress was made until late 2014 when the German and British foreign ministers launched an initiative to revive the agreement.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Philip Hammond proposed to conclude the SAA in exchange for a written commitment from Bosnia party leaders to make socio-economic and administrative reforms.

On 23 February, during a visit by the EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini to Sarajevo, the Bosnian parliament unanimously adopted a declaration committing the country to EU demands.

The SAA will allow Bosnia to benefit from EU financial and technical assistance and from tariff free access to EU markets for some of its products.

The next step for the country, formal accession talks with the EU, remain a long-term perspective, however.

"Meaningful progress on the implementation of agenda for reforms will be necessary for a membership application to be considered by the European Union," said EU ministers in a statement.

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