Saturday

17th Apr 2021

Bosnia applies for EU membership

  • Dragan Covic (l) signed Bosnia's application to the EU with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini (r) and Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders (c). (Photo: Council of the EU)

Bosnia and Herzegovina formally applied for membership of the EU on Monday (15 February) in Brussels.

The chairman of the country's tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, said the move is "an opportunity for us to demonstrate that we can reform our country for the benefit of all citizens".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The EU describes the application as an achievement, primarily for the people of the Balkan nation.

But despite the niceties, there is little real appetite for enlargement in Brussels and any prospect of full membership is likely to take years.

The former Yugoslav republic remains gripped by poverty, corruption and high youth unemployment. Many of its young people are leaving the country.

The point was partly made by EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Speaking alongside Covic, Hahn said "membership is not possible within a couple of months or even a few years".

Instead, Hahn described the application in terms of "concrete European perspectives".

Hahn was broadly following the same line as EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

When Juncker took office in 2014, he told the Western Balkans that "no further enlargement will take place over the next five years”.

But the application is still seen as an important signal for EU leaders that Bosnia may mend its political and ethnic divides.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it also points towards further European unity.

"It is also a powerful message for the citizens of the European Union that our project of integration is still a powerful one," she said.

'Need to be credible'

Last November, the EU Commission gave Bosnia a positive report on its enlargement process. It noted Bosnia and Herzegovina "is back on the reform track".

In June, an EU pact was launched to deepen political, trade and economic ties with Bosnia.

"This is a year of many challenges, we need to improve our economy but also we need to be credible in order to become a member of the EU family," said Covic.

Bosnia is split into two political and ethnic entities, which renders decision-making complex.

Bosniaks and Croats mostly live in the region of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Republika Srpska is home to mainly Serbs.

The division followed the bloody war in the former Yugoslavia that left most of its infrastructure destroyed. Some 100,000 people were killed.

On Monday, police in the capital city Sarajevo arrested three men wanted by the UN for crimes committed during the Yugoslav war in the early 1990s.

Analysis

Bosnia's EU application masks turmoil

The former Yugoslavia republic said it will formally apply to the EU next Monday. But the country still faces a number of underlying problems that make accession an unrealistic possibility in the short term.

Bosnia political divisions laid bare in census row

Bosnia must publish much-delayed census data before 1 July, otherwise its EU membership bid could be torpedoed. It could radically alter the quota-based governing system put in place after the war.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us