Friday

24th Feb 2017

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".

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  2. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  3. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  4. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  5. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  6. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  7. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  9. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  12. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play