22nd Sep 2021

Concern voiced over lack of EU progress in Bosnia

EU officials have told Bosnia Herzegovina that the bloc stands behind its progress towards stability and European integration but stressed that Sarajevo needs to fulfil key conditions if it wants to move forward.

"The European Union will stick to our commitment to your European perspective at the same time, we expect fulfil the conditions for closer EU integration," said Dimitris Kourkoulas, the EU ambassador to Bosnia Herzegovina, at a conference in Sarajevo last week.

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 conference – organised by the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation – was set up to help speed up talks on the EU-Bosnia Stability and Association Agreement (SAA) - the legal step before gaining EU candidate status.

Deep divisions between the two political entities that together compose the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina - the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina representing ethnic-Croats and Bosniaks and Republika Srpska representing the ethnic-Serb minority - are delaying the treaty.

The rift has seen Bosnia fail to push through EU-demanded police reforms and a new constitution designed to pull the country together, with Bosnia also tarnished by insufficient cooperation with the UN over war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

Effects of further delay

"We from the side of the European Union need you in order to complete the ambitious goal of creating a continent of democracy and stability," Mr Kourkoulas said.

Full scale EU engagement in the Western Balkans came about as a response to several armed conflicts in the region in the 1990s, with the bloody wars in Bosnia and Kosovo still fresh in Brussels policy-makers' minds.

"Let's be honest, progress of this country towards the European Union has been slowed down in the last 12 months," he said, adding that "the blame for any further delay lies with all political forces and their inability to reach an agreement."

"If your political system is not capable of producing results in the police reform area within two years of intensive efforts, I am wondering how many decades this country would need to reach agreements on the remaining reforms," Mr Kourkoulas said.

He explained that further delays could have serious negative effects for the country – not only concerning European integration but also for its economic and social development. He pointed out that Bosnia is losing out on regional and global investments that could lead to much needed economic growth in the country.

Time to bury the hatchet

Bosnian prime minister Nikola Spiric, who was also attending the conference on Friday (13 April) said his country had to overcome its internal differences and move on together.

"The only thing that will take us to Europe is the weakening of nationalism," he said, adding that "we have wasted so much time - while most people tried to bury the hatchet, we used it."

Bosnia saw some of the worst fighting in the Balkan wars during the early and mid-1990s with around 100,000 to 110,000 civilians and soldiers killed and 1.8 million displaced, according to the latest research in 2005 by the European Journal of Population.

"I hope that this year, which is 50 years since the EU was formed, will be the year when Bosnia Herzegovina will sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement," said Mr Spiric. "I will not hesitate to spend my time and energy to realise this goal," he added.

Brussels and Sarajevo clash on power handover

The European Commission and the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina disagree on the timetable for handing over of full power to the Bosnian government, with Brussels urging Sarajevo to take "full responsibility" for its own affairs next year.

Fragmented Bosnia urged to restart pro-EU reforms

The new Bosnian parliament must centralise political authority and police powers in Sarajevo to get back on track with EU integration reforms, the EU and its international partners on Bosnia have urged - but old ethnic divisions threaten to hold the country back.

No speedy Balkan enlargement as EU urges reforms

(Updated 08.11.2006 - 17:10 CET ) The European Commission has recommended holding off on Western Balkan enlargement until the "medium to long-term" in a keynote report today, urging all the six states in the region to do more on political and economic reform before the accession process can move forward.

EU entry carrot not enough for Bosnia, NGO says

The EU should take over as the main international player in Bosnia after the UN's office in the ex-Yugoslav country is closed by the end of this year, according to a new NGO report which also suggests Europe needs more than just enlargement promises to overcome Bosnia's ethnic divisions.


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.


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.


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 MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  2. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job
  3. Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year
  4. French outrage over US security deal exposes EU frustrations
  5. Auditors slam EU Commission on green investments
  6. Youth migration 'costing West Balkans up to €5.5bn a year'
  7. Central & Eastern Europe: What Merkel did for us
  8. Netherlands against more rights for rejected asylum-seekers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us